Weird and wonderful high-end watches
Watch designs like these pieces from Roger Dubuis, Urwerk and others might be what the industry's future needs.
I am always amazed at how deep the rabbit hole of the watch world really goes. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, something new and incredible comes along and proves me wrong.
Perhaps I am a little conservative, and my personal temperament will always favour the classic vintage masterpieces. Having said that, though, the avant-garde watchmakers of recent years have come up with some designs that are so imaginative, and at the same time so mechanically intricate, that I can’t help but admire their work.
After all, watchmaking is about precision, genius, and personal artistic expression, isn’t it? So with that in mind, here are a few weird and wonderful new watchmakers that challenge the ideas we have of what a wristwatch should be.
Yvan Arpa is a bit of a rogue in the eyes of traditional watchmakers. Flying in the face of tradition, this ex-mathematics teacher, together with the team at ARTYA, create some of the most unusual, and possibly the most ‘hip’ timepieces in the world today.
Their “Son of Sound” range is inspired by high-end musical instruments, like the headstock of a guitar, complete with tuning pegs, shown here in the main image.
Though often criticized for turning longstanding design rules on their head and taking ‘design shortcuts’, there is something truly inspiring about the end results.
The “Son of a Gun” range actually includes live ammunition, so if you’re planning on taking it through airport security, be warned, it might get you into more trouble than you bargained for!
Fans of the legend of King Arthur will love this one – the Excalibur Knights of the Round Table, from innovative watch company Roger Dubuis.
What first catches the eye are the twelve individually micro-sculpted knights surrounding the watch dial on the twelve hour positions. They are only 6.5mm tall, and set on a ring of satinated cobblestones made of white gold.
Shown in the images are two versions of this unique design idea, the earlier Mark I below, and the Mark II in the larger image above. The original has an engraving on the back that reads in part:
"The best, the noblest and the purest of men were at King Arthur's (King of Camelot) side in combat, companions whose strength of arm was equalled only by their strength of character.”
An incredible amount of thought, not to mention work, went into crafting this unusual piece, inspired by the medieval legend. I can’t help but admire the craftsmanship and superb artistry. Something about it stirs that boyish spirit of adventure.
Greubel & Forsey
The GMT 3D titanium Globe from the watchmakers at Greubel and Forsey features an incredible miniature representation of the planet, mimicking the earth’s rotation in 24 hours as seen from the North Pole.
The masterful movement contains no fewer than 436 component parts, and both sides of the case have visible features. The front shows the globe, the time, a second time zone and more. The back shows a ‘world-time’ disc with 24 cities, each from a different time zone.
The designers at Urwerk love to push the limits of materials, shapes and function. Their non-traditional approach certainly makes one take a second look, as if to ask “What on earth is that?”
But as you find out more about the precision engineering, it becomes more and more interesting and appealing. The lines and finishes are all very high-tech and industrial. The retrograde indicators are like something from a sci-fi movie.
Besides looking unlike anything else out there, the mechanical movement itself is also completely unique, and quite a few design steps away from the traditional hands moving around in a circle.
Urwerk combines the best of high-tech with an unmistakable sense of style. Weird, perhaps, but definitely wonderful too.
Now you might be thinking – fantastic, they’re great to look at, but I would never want to wear one. The watchmaking industry of years-gone-by, to be sure, was based on dependability. They had straight, conservative ideas, and produced very few surprises.
But perhaps designers like these are just what the industry needs, going into the future.
Tariq Malik is owner of Momentum Dubai, the UAE's first and only vintage watch boutique. Visit momentum-dubai.com.