Moritz Grossmann Introduces the Benu Emirates Watch Club

A twist on the artisanal dial.

Typically known for its classically-styled watches with top-class movements – the Hamatic being a good example – Moritz Grossmann occasionally embarks on more adventurous projects. Its latest is a collaboration with Emirates Watch Club, a band of horology enthusiasts in the United Arab Emirates.

Based on Grossmann’s signature wristwatch, the Benu Emirates Watch Club retains the wonderful cal. 100.1 movement, but with an unusual dial of German silver that’s finished with a pronounced linear graining as well as hand-engraved hour numerals.

Initial thoughts

The Benu EWC has a raw, industrial feel that’s starkly different from the average Grossmann watch. But the impression it creates at a distance belies the artisanal decoration of the dial, a paradox that makes it visually interesting.

Conceptually the dial is also interesting, because it extracts key elements of the movement and transforms them into the dial. Made of German silver just like the movement plates, the dial is diagonally brushed, and then the numerals and logo at all hand engraved, just as the balance cock is.

The dial design makes it necessary to forgo both the minute track and seconds at six, which means part of the Benu’s functionality is lost. The button at four o’clock is Grossmann’s patented hacking-release mechanism, which helps aid precise time-setting since the seconds hand can be restarted in sync with the time signal. Here the seconds is absent, as is the minute track. Still, it is probably a worthwhile concession for the design.


Named after an Egyptian god as most first-generation Grossmann models are, the EWC edition is near identical to the standard Benu. The case is steel and 41 mm in diameter with broad, long lugs that give it a largish footprint on the wrist.

Inside is the masterful cal. 100.1, a hand-wind movement with all of the decorative flourishes that mark out Grossmann movements as excellent.

Though the EWC edition was only available to club members, Grossmann does offer customisation for all of its models, so a watch along the same lines is not out of the question.

The lateral-screw regulator index that’s unique to Grossmann in modern watchmaking

Key Facts and Price

Moritz Grossmann Benu Emirates Watch Club
Ref. MG-002970

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 11.35 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Dial: German silver with hand-engraved numerals and logo

Movement: Cal. 100.1
Functions: Hours and minutes
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Winding: Manual wind
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Limited edition: 12 pieces
Availability: Only to EWC member, but Grossmann offers customisation for all models
Price: AED91,000, equivalent to US$24,800

For more, visit

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Zodiac Introduces the Super Sea Wolf Aquamarine Dream

Designed by Ariel Adams of aBlogtoWatch.

Zodiac has in recent years revived most of its best-known sports watches, namely the Sea Wolf divers produced from the 1950s to the 1970s. Appealing because they are reassuringly retro and eminently affordable, the Sea Wolf remakes are mostly offered in the same colours as the vintage originals were.

But now Zodiac has just debuted the Super Sea Wolf Aquamarine Dream, a special edition conceived in collaboration with Ariel Adams, the founder of American watch magazine aBlogtoWatch. Inspired by the marine colours of Nassau during a 2019 trip to the Bahamas, Ariel’s creation is rendered in several shades of green-blue, right down to the hue of Super-Luminova and the “tropic” style rubber strap.

Initial thoughts

Ariel founded aBlogtoWatch (ABTW) in 2007, making him a watch-blog pioneer. I’ve known Ariel for about a decade or so and respect him for his frank, accessible approaching to covering watches. Granted, I don’t always agree with his opinion, but certainly appreciate the unpretentious style of ABTW, especially Ariel’s editorials and podcasts.

Priced at just under US$1,500, the Aquamarine Dream combines cheerful and vintage-inspired looks along with an accessible price tag – an honest product I would expect from Ariel. It reminds me of another recent remake that I like, the Longines BigEye in titanium, which also preserves the design of the vintage original but adds a healthy dose of modern colour and texture.

Notably, it is not a limited edition, and although the initial batch is sold out, it can be reserved in advance as additional production runs are in the works.

The watch is also delivered with a “tropic” style rubber strap that’s certainly the better look

Super Sea Wolf

The Aquamarine Dream is a variant of the Super Sea Wolf, a 200 m dive watch modelled on the 1960s original of the same name.

Featuring the same shape and profile as the vintage original – but scaled up – the steel case is 40 mm, compared to the 36 mm or so for the original, but still moderate in size by modern standards.

While the case has a sapphire crystal, the bezel is fitted with a hardened mineral glass insert that mimics the Bakelite bezel found on the original. A scratch-resistant sapphire insert would have been a welcome upgrade, but mineral glass, while more prone to scratches, is stronger and less prone to cracking.

And the screw-down case back features a lacquer medallion reproducing Ariel’s handwriting: “I’d Rather Be Swimming”.

Swiss Technology Production

Underneath the solid back is a proprietary movement of sorts, the STP3-13, a dressed-up clone of the ETA 2824 produced by Swiss Technology Production (STP), a sister company of Zodiac.

Zodiac is owned by Fossil, the American watch conglomerate that owns a variety of brands, including Skagen and Michele, while manufacturing others under license, including Emporio Armani, Michael Kors and Kate Spade.

The STP3-13 as seen in another Zodiac model, recognisable as an ETA 2824 but upgraded with a swan’s neck regulator index and screws in blued steel. Image – aBlogtoWatch

Fossil acquired STP in 2012 to ensure a supply of Swiss-made movements for its upper end brands. Now STP produces movements for several Fossil brands along with several smaller marques and “micro brands” like Sartory Billard.

Located in the canton of Ticino that borders Italy – where costs are lower than in traditional watchmaking regions – STP makes a cost-efficient family of movements that are all based on the architecture of the ETA 2824. aBlogtoWatch detailed a visit to the STP facility in 2016.

The Aquamarine Dream is powered by one of these calibres, the STP3-13. Though hidden under a solid back, the movement resembles an ETA 2824, and has identical specs, including a power reserve of 40-ish hours.

Key facts and price

Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Aquamarine Dream
Ref. ZO9283

Case diameter: 40 mm
Case height: Unavailable
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: STP3-13
Features: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 40 hours

Strap: Steel bracelet, and additional rubber strap

Limited edition: No, but only available via preorder for now
Availability: Direct from Zodiac online or authorised retailers
Price: US$1,495

For more, visit


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Highlights: The Creatives at Phillips’ Hong Kong Watch Auction

Independent watchmaking.

Having rounded up some of the interesting and probably overlooked at Phillips’ upcoming Hong Kong watch auction, we now take a look at some of the independent watchmaking highlights in the sale.

The auction includes big ticket headline lots like a F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain, and of course the F.P. Journe tourbillon disguised as Harry Winston. But it also encompasses the less obvious, including a Alain Silberstein Tourbillon Marine, Singer Reimagined Track 1, a Bulgari-era Gerald Genta perpetual calendar in gold and tantalum, and an early-generation H. Moser & Cie. Perpetual 1 that’s excellent value.

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XII takes place in the evening of June 5 (lots 801-852), and on June 6 (lots 853-1112). The full catalogue and registration for bidding are available online.

Lot 809 – Alain Silberstein Tourbillon Marine Black Sea

Cheerful and eminently affordable, the Tourbillon Marine is typical Alain Silberstein. Mr Silberstein’s once explained his approach was to create unique, personalised wristwatches that arouse the emotion. By that measure, the Tourbillon Marine succeeds – it sets itself apart from every diving watch.

In his 1990s heyday, Alain Silberstein was rebellious and avant-garde, standing in stark contrast to the strictly conservative style that dominated high horology at the time. This watch is from the early 2000s, but still very much a quintessential Alain Silberstein creation.

The dial is quirky and playful – the deep sea rendered in cartoon. Despite its whimsical style, its design is excellent. Made up of myriad elements in terms of colours and shapes, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The diving bezel evokes a porthole, through which a fish and starfish amidst the seagrasses can be observed. And the dial motif is painted on mother of pearl, reinforcing the marine theme.

Like all Silberstein tourbillons of the period, this is powered by a movement made by Swiss Time Technologies (STT), a company once known as Progress Watch that established to produce affordable tourbillon movements. STT was later acquired by Bovet, and is now known as Dimier 1738, which supplies most of Bovet’s complicated movements.

This Tourbillon Marine is the first of its nine-piece edition, and is completed with all original accessories. Offered with no reserve, it has a modest estimate of HK$70,000-140,000, or about US$9,000-17,900, making it one of the best value propositions in the sale – full lot details here.

Lot 849 – De Bethune DB25 Starry Night

If Alain Silberstein was representative of 1990s independent watchmaking, then De Bethune is quintessentially 2000s. Along with contemporaries such Urwerk and Richard Mille, De Bethune is one of the most prominent independent brands today, albeit on a far smaller scale.

The present example is discreet – it’s a wearable 40 mm case with a striking but simple dial done in the brand’s trademark night sky motif. But up close, the DB25 Starry Night reveals subtle flamboyance.

Most obvious are the baguette-cut sapphires that ring the case flanks, inspired by early 20th century formal-dress pocket watches. Furthermore, the dial is set with a handful of brilliant-cut diamonds to go along with the white gold studs, all representing stars of the night sky. Similarly, the spherical moon phase is covered in 44 diamonds and an equal number of sapphires.

Under the subtly bling dial is a surprisingly advanced movement. Not only does it have six days of power reserve, the calibre incorporates several patented features, including a triple para-chute shock absorber, titanium balance wheel with white gold weights, and a silicon hairspring with a proprietary terminal curve.

The finish of the movement draws on 19th century Chinese market pocket watches, with mirror finishing on the delta-shaped barrel bridge as well as the base plate.

The DB25 Starry Night has an estimate of HK$235,000-490,000, or around $30,100-62,800 – full lot details here.

Lot 864 – Gerald Genta Arena Perpetual Calendar

The late Gerald Genta was definitely an outlier amongst watch designers, being successful early in this career, and even now, almost five decades later. His twin 1970s designs – the Royal Oak and Nautilus – are some of the hottest watches now.

Genta’s success allowed him to set up his own brand in 1969 and went on to produce extraordinary complicated watches such as the Grand Sonnerie. He later sold his brand to Singapore retailer The Hour Glass, which then sold it on to Bulgari.

This Arena Perpetual Calendar is a Bulgari-era watch that adopted the round case designed by Genta himself in the 1990s, but on a larger scale and in unusual materials.  It has a distinctive aesthetic, along with an extra-large case of 46 mm that is white gold with a tantalum bezel.

The white gold case has vertical fluting on its flanks, a detail still found in the current Bulgari-Gerald Genta lineup

The watch is unusual in style, being relatively sporty in size and build – the case is rated to 100 m – but still being a classical perpetual calendar.

The dial is partially open-worked with a perforated pattern revealing the calendar mechanism underneath. Also open-worked, both the day and month discs are exposed in their entirety. And thanks to a large case, the dial accommodates an second time zone display at 12 o’clock along with the date at six – both large enough to be instantly legible.

It’s powered by a Girard-Perregaux base movement finished entirely with perlage

The Arena Perpetual Calendar has an estimate of HK$45,000-85,000, or about $5,800-10,900 – great value for a perpetual calendar, especially considering the novel mix of case metals – full lot details here.

Lot 960 – Urwerk UR-110

A pioneer in atypical displays of time, Urwerk’s defining complication is the satellite cube complication that debuted in the collaborative Harry Winston Opus V of 2005, which follows below.

Urwerk later followed up with its very own satellite-cube watch with the UR-201 of 2007. Though the complication was historically restricted to the top-of-the-line models of the “UR-2” series, namely the UR-210 and UR-220, Urwerk once installed it a “UR-1” series model.

Something of an outlier in the Urwerk catalogue, the UR-110 isn’t as fancy as the watches of the “UR-2” series – it lacks a retrograde minutes display – but still boasts the satellite-cube hours.

Patented by Urwerk, the satellite cube is very much a highly complicated mechanism, but telling time is eminently easy – the cube displays the hour, while the tip points to the minute.

The triple satellite cubes tell the hours, with each cube having four faces, thus adding up to twelve hours. Each cube rotates on its own axis, as well as orbits around the centre of the dial on a carousel.

And the case is interesting in its own right, with an avant-garde, asymmetric form that’s distinct from other Urwerk models that are typically symmetrical.

On the back is an intriguing regulating system for the winding rate. Made up of a pair of “turbines” or spinning discs, the system controls the winding rate according to the activity of the wearer to maximise winding efficiency and minimise wear on the winding mechanism.

Numbered 53 out of a 55-piece limited edition, the UR-110 is completed with all original accessories and has an estimate of HK$200,000-400,000, or about $25,600-51,300, which is a fraction of its retail price of around US$90,000 in 2011 – full lot details here.

Lot 1053 – H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner Center Seconds

Launched just last year as a follow-up to the Streamliner Chronograph, the Streamliner Centre Seconds is H. Moser & Cie.’s first time-only sports watch with an integrated bracelet. Despite joining the faddish luxury-sports watch game late, the Streamliner manages to be different, with a case and bracelet that are original.

Interestingly nuanced, the case and bracelet bring to mind designs of the late 1970s and 1980s. The case architecture is squarish in broad strokes but enhanced with with fluid, curved edges. And despite having a stepped case side that evokes sandwich construction, the case is one piece. Flowing into the case is a bracelet with broad links that echoes the case shape, making it a truly integrated bracelet.

While the case is novel, the dial is quintessential Moser – a fumè affair in smoked green. The colour was unconventional when the watch was launched last year – most of integrated-bracelet sports watches were dressed in blue – the colour has become fashionable this year, which conveniently adds to its desirability.

The Streamliner Centre Seconds has an estimate of HK$80,000-160,000, or about US$10,300-20,500 – the low estimate is less than half the retail price. Despite not having a strong historical presence, the Streamliner is well made inside and out, making it a steal at the estimate. Admittedly, the popularity of the Streamliner makes it unlikely that this will sell for anywhere close to the low estimate. Full lot details here.

Lot 1057 – Harry Winston Opus V

Urwerk’s most important complication, the satellite-cube display premiered in 2005 in the Harry Winston Opus V.

While the satellite cube display is no doubt the most potent feature of the Opus V, the aesthetics of the watch are impressive. The look is strikingly different from Urwerk’s house style, yet contains enough of the watchmaker’s DNA to make it an Urwerk.

The pink gold is hefty and stunning – massive enough that it’s unwieldy on the wrist – evoking a richness that brings to mind classical Greek architecture, which was exactly the inspiration behind the three bands on the lugs that are modelled on the archway that fronts Harry Winston’s New York store.

Numbered “34/45”, the Opus V has an estimate of HK$468,000-780,000, or about US$60,000-100,000 – full lot details here.

Lot 1070 – Singer Reimagined Track 1 Hong Kong Edition

Best known for its heavily-modified Porsche 911s – specifically the 964 of the early 1990s – Singer Vehicle Design ventured into watchmaking four years ago. Despite its youth, Singer Reimagined’s debut was a significant one: the Track 1, a chronograph impressive in both design and engineering.

Modelled on 1970s auto-racing chronographs, the Track 1 is a “bullhead” chronograph –meaning its pushers are at one and 11. The present example is a Hong Kong Edition of the Track 1, dressed in a high-contrast orange and black that evokes the livery of race cars.

It’s made even more unusual with the starkly clean dial, possible thanks to the innovative Agenhor chronograph movement within. One of the most the most legible and intuitive chronographs on the market, the Track 1 shows the elapsed seconds, minutes, and hours on the same central axis.

Time-telling, on the other hand, is moved to the outer edge of the dial – the orange pointer at six indicates the hours and minutes, both on discs.

The Agenhor movement is cleverly designed and engineered to a high level. For starters, it’s an automatic movement with its rotor in between the base plate and the dial, leaving nothing to obscure the chronograph mechanism on the back.

Beyond its novel architecture, many key sections of chronograph mechanism were re-invented, such as the “AgenClutch”, which combines the best features of the vertical and horizontal clutches, namely precise engagement and a flat layout. In short, it’s one of the most innovative modern chronograph movements.

The very first of the 50-piece Hong Kong Edition, this is “full set”, with box and papers. It has an estimate of HK$150,000 – 250,000, or about US$19,200-32,100 – full lots details here.

Lot 1076 – H. Moser & Cie. Perpetual 1

H. Moser & Cie. was revived in 2005 with the Perpetual 1 as its flagship watch for good reason – it is a novel and clever perpetual calendar that remains unrivalled in its minimalism.

Somewhat unbelievably, the dial packs in the date, month, and power reserve indicator, while the leap year indicator sits on the back. The smartest – and simplest – feature is the month indicator, which makes use of a tiny hand on the central axis that uses the 12 hour indices to show the months.

But its practicality goes beyond mere readability, as its has a convenient, week-long power reserve, particularly for a perpetual calendar that requires setting. Admittedly, it’s less of a hassle to set the Perpetual 1 than its peers – everything can be set backwards and forwards via the crown.

This example is an early-generation model, with a tone-on-tone aesthetic of a radially-brushed silver dial matched with a white gold case. Later versions of the perpetual calendar typically feature smoked dials, which are now a Moser trademark.

The classical dial finish means this is less fashionable than the later models with fume dials, but that brings the upside of affordability. This has an estimate of HK$115,000-195,000, or about US$14,700-25,000, which is tremendous for the complication – full lot details here.

Preview and auction details

All lots will be on show during the preview in Hong Kong during the run-up to the auction.

June 2-5
10:00 am-7:00 pm daily

June 5, 7:00 pm – lots 801-852
June 6, 12:00 pm – lots 853-988, 4.30 pm – lots 989-1112

Both take place at the JW Marriott in Hong Kong.

For the full catalogue, as well as viewing appointments and online bidding, visit

This was brought to you in partnership with Phillips.


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Editorial: The Strategic Genius of the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic

Quietly clever.

Tudor just debuted the Black Bay Ceramic, an appealing watch that is compelling value. I like it, but it is a well-executed dive watch in black ceramic – not majorly significant in the grander scheme of things.

But actually it is significant – shrewd and strategic in its concept, and a neat illustration of Tudor’s clever and patent strategy.


The answer lies in the industry landscape. Tudor’s parent is Rolex, the biggest luxury-watch brand in the world. According to Morgan Stanley estimates published in March 2021, Rolex sold almost CHF8 billion of watches at retail value in 2020. The equivalent number at Omega was a little under CHF3 billion, making it the second-largest luxury-watch brand.

In the same report, Morgan Stanley pegged the retail-value sales for Tudor at CHF633 million, the result of having enjoyed double-digit growth for several years. Though it’s a modest number relative to Rolex and Omega, it is substantial. The figure puts Tudor a hair below Jaeger-LeCoultre’s CHF681 million, and bigger than Panerai’s CHF520 million.

Tudor’s solid growth is attributable to many factors, most of which are encapsulated in the Black Bay Ceramic. Most obvious are the historically-inspired and thoughtful design, and of course the strong value proposition it represents.

But more than that it is a masterstroke. Specifically, the METAS certification that makes the Black Bay Ceramic a Master Chronometer is a brilliant move.

To be clear, Tudor officially has no comment on anything related to strategy or positioning – I asked and they responded – so this is just mildly informed conjecture.

Mighty METAS

Short for Metrologie und Akkreditierung Schweiz, or “Metrology and Accreditation Switzerland, METAS is the Federal Institute of Metrology, describing itself as “the most accurate place in [in the country]”.

The body concerns itself with all things related to measurement in Switzerland. For instance, METAS ensures the speed measurements taken by Swiss traffic police are exact. The measurement of time naturally falls within the purview of METAS. A watch that passes the METAS watch test is conferred the title of Master Chronometer.

Omega was the first brand to debut METAS-certified watches in 2015, having helped develop the Master Chronometer testing process. The brand invested significantly in promoting METAS certification as a key differentiating factor for its watches, with a key selling point being resistance to magnetic fields of up to 15,000 Gauss.

The Co-Axial escapement and METAS certification together were the twin features meant to elevate Omega watches to another level. Omega promised several years ago that all Co-Axial movements would be Master Chronometers by 2020 – a goal which it achieved.

In fact, the historical timeline found on the Omega website states in no uncertain terms: “Omega established a new watch certification process approved by [METAS]… This a revolutionary process established a new quality standard in the watch industry – you’d expect nothing less from Omega.”

And now you can expect nothing less from Tudor – for a lot less money.

Flanking the enemy

The Tudor Black Bay Ceramic costs US$4,725.

The most affordable Omega dive watch that’s a Master Chronometer is the Seamaster Diver 300m with a steel case and rubber strap that costs US$4,900. But the closest substitute for the Tudor is the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black launched in March. It costs US$8,650 – double the Black Bay Ceramic.

The fact that Tudor – which is to Rolex what Longines is to Omega – is now offering the same vaunted certification for much less money is a strategic triumph. The Master Chronometer appellation enhances Tudor’s standing, thanks in part to all of Omega’s marketing.

Granted, the METAS certification is now only found on a single Tudor model. But if history is a guide, Tudor’s slowly-but-surely approach means METAS certification will propagate throughout the lineup over time. That will give the brand a hefty competitive advantage, at least in the segments where Tudor is strong, namely dive watches and sports chronographs.

Hypothetically, if Tudor’s dive watches and sports chronographs are considered competition for the same products at Omega, it would end there. Omega is still far larger, both in terms of revenue and breath of offer. At the same time, a majority of sales at Omega come from watches like the Constellation and De Ville, best described as everyday dress watches.

But in the everyday-dress watch category Rolex has smartly rolled out Oyster Perpetuals with colourful dials and Datejusts with patterned dials – all instant bestsellers. Again the handful of new models are a modest beginning but they are probably the first of many.

Is it a clever pincer move by Rolex and Tudor, flanking the competition from above and below?

Five years

Another salient element of the Black Bay Ceramic was the cheerful launch video. The narrator declared that the watch is accompanied by a “a five year transferable guarantee with no registration and no periodic checks required”.

If it had been voiced in a typical Swiss German accent – grüezi – it might not have stood out, but the gratingly millennial tone almost made it seem like Tudor is trolling its competitors, which have all been eagerly seeking customer data in exchange for a warranty extension.


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Patek Philippe Unveils the Aquanaut Chronograph in 18k White Gold

In olive green or blue.

First introduced in 2018 in the lively colours of grey and orange, the Aquanaut Chronograph ref. 5968A was a surprising execution from a brand typically conservative in style. Patek Philippe now expands the model line with the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968G in white gold, available in either midnight blue (ref. 5968G-001) or khaki green (ref. 5968G-010).

Initial thoughts

The new Aquanaut Chronograph iterates an existing model by drawing on elements from other Aquanauts. The midnight blue and khaki green dials are familiar because they are found on the time-only Aquanaut Ref. 5168G that’s also in white gold. Dial and case metal aside, the new chronographs are identical to the ref. 5968A of three years ago.

Although the colourways aren’t novel, they are good looking, conveying a contemporary aesthetic that complements the sporty nature of the Aquanaut Chronograph. The bright colours, juxtaposed against the case of white gold – traditionally a metal for formal occasions – exemplifies the modern concept of a sports watch where it’s more luxury than sport.

Between the two, my pick would be the midnight blue: its gradient finish is striking, and better reflects the elegance and historical style that are quintessentially Patek Philippe.

My pick out of the two

The retail price of the new chronograph is a hefty US$69,190, which is about 50% more than the steel version. Though steep, the increment is conventional for a precious metal case relative to steel.

But given the surging popularity of the Aquanaut – and all luxury-sports watches – the price of the ref. 5968G probably matters little; many will pay much, much more just to land one.

Blue and green

Introduced in 1997, the Aquanaut was conceived as an affordable, casual sports watch for younger clients. Naturally, the Aquanaut is no longer as accessible as it once was, but it retains the youthful style.

Though the colours are new, the new chronograph is very much like its steel counterpart. The dial features the stamped chequerboard motif that’s an Aquanaut trademark, paired with applied hour markers and hands of solid white gold.

The hands and indices are also filled with Super-Luminova, but of different types on each dial: white on the midnight blue dial and slightly greenish on the khaki model. Both, however, glow pale green in the dark.

And like its steel sibling, the case is finely finished, with alternating satin-brushed and polished surfaces on the bezel, case ,and pushers. But because the ref. 5968G is in white gold, it will look a little bit more lustrous than the steel version.

Unlike most chronographs that rely on multiple sub-dials to record the time, the ref. 5968G has a single 60-minute totaliser at six o’clock that has a rounded octagonal shape that echoes the Aquanaut bezel.

That’s thanks to the CH 28-520 C movement under the hood.

An automatic, flyback-chronograph movement equipped with both a column wheel and a vertical clutch, the CH 28-520 C is distinguished by its clarity of layout. Elapsed seconds are indicated by the central seconds hand, while the sub-dial at six is the 60-minute counter. Even the version of the movement with a 12-hour register as found in the ref. 5960 combine both the hour and minute totalisers on the same sub-dial at six o’clock.

Because the vertical clutch allows the chronograph to operate without diminishing the amplitude of the balance wheel – as would happen in a laterally-coupled chronograph – the chronograph can be kept running constantly, allowing the chronograph seconds hand to double up as a running seconds indicator.

In addition, the movement features Patek Philippe’s trademark innovations such as a Gyromax adjustable-mass balance fitted to a Spiromax silicon hairspring.

Each version of the ref. 5968G is fitted to a matching blue or green rubber strap with an 18k white gold folding buckle. Unlike the steel version, the white-gold models are only delivered with a single strap.

Key facts and price

Patek Philippe Aquanaut Chronograph
Ref. 5968G-001 (Midnight blue)
Ref. 5968G-010 (Khaki green)

Diameter: 42.2 mm (measured from ten to four o’clock)
Height: 11.9 mm
Material: 18k white gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 120 m

Movement: Cal. 28-520 C
Functions: Hours, minutes, date, and flyback chronograph with 60-minute counter
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 45-55 hours

Availability: At both retailers and boutiques
Price: US$69,190, or 91,200 Singapore Dollars

For more, visit

Addition May 29, 2021: The ref. 5968G does not have a constant seconds hand, unlike what was implied in an earlier version of the article. However, chronograph seconds can function as a running seconds.

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Seiko Reinterprets the “62MAS” and “Turtle” (Again)

Now with a special fabric strap.

Twenty-twenty marked 55 years since Seiko’s first foray into dive watches, which was the ref. 6217 “62MAS” of 1965. Naturally, it introduced myriad vintage remakes to mark the occasion – not only of the “62MAS” but also other dive watches of the era like the ref. 6105 “Turtle”.

A year on, Seiko continues with a pair of remakes: the 1965 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretations “62MAS” (ref. SPB239) and the 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretation “Turtle” (ref. SPB237), both powered by the mid-range 6R35 movement, making them affordable.

The “6105” remake with a textured grey dial

Initial thoughts

There have been numerous remakes of Seiko dive watches, including several limited editions – but all are practical, affordable watches, so more isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The result is a variety of iterated case and dial combinations with something for almost everyone.

The new models are as good looking as their immediate predecessors, since they are essentially alike save for minor tweaks, namely the woven-fabric strap and dial colour.

The “62MAS” remake with a brown “sunburst” dial

Each model is delivered with a pair of NATO-style fabric straps that add a bit of vintage charm to the look, especially compared to the rubber straps usually found on dive watches.

Although the fabric straps are merely, well, fabric straps, they are special. The straps are braided with the technique known as seichu, traditionally used to weave obijime, the cord used to secure a kimono. According to Seiko’s internal testing, the braided weave of the strap is four times as strong as an ordinary Seiko fabric strap, making the new band a perfect match for a no-nonsense dive watch.

The pair of straps do cost a bit more, as the new watches are US$200 more expensive than their equivalents that were delivered only with a rubber strap. For example, last year’s SPB147 was US$1,000, but the new SPB239 costs US$1,200. That still leaves both the new models relatively good value.

The fabric strap is braided with a cord-braiding technique known as Seichu

1965 and 1970 vibe

Both models have similar colours that are warm and earthy, a palette that is commonly found in vintage remakes since the hues evoke the faded dials of vintage watches.

Between the two, the “6105” remake is more unusual. It’s the first affordable 6105 remake with a textured dial. The “Naomi Uemura” editions announced earlier this year did feature patterned dials, but they cost substantially more because both were powered by the 8L55, a movement that’s basically a first-generation Grand Seiko movement without the fancy Grand Seiko decor.

The 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation “Turtle”

The “62MAS” remake, on the other hand, is too similar to the SPB147 introduced last year, which had brown dial in similar shade as well as cream numerals on the bezel. The differences between the two are minor: the hands and indices are silver instead of gilded.

The 1965 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation “62MAS”

Key facts and price

Seiko Prospex 1965 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation “62MAS”
Ref. SPB239

Diameter: 40.5 mm
Height: 13.2 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: 6R35
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Winding: Self-winding
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Brown fabric strap, with an additional beige fabric strap

Limited edition: No
Availability: At Seiko Boutiques and selected retailers from June 2021 onwards
Price: US$1,200

Seiko Prospex 1970 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation “Turtle”
Ref. SPB237

Diameter: 42.7 mm
Height: 13.2 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: 6R35
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date
Winding: Self-winding
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Green fabric strap, with an additional grey fabric strap

Limited edition: No
Availability: At Seiko Boutiques and selected retailers from July 2021 onwards
Price: US$1,300


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Urwerk Debuts the Tantalum Swansong for the UR-105

Closing the series with the dense, blue-grey metal.

Launched in 2014 as a successor to the foundational UR-103, the UR-105 was a more elaborate version of Urwerk’s satellite-disc, wandering-hours watch. After a seven-year run – it’s been replaced by the entry-level UR-100 – the UR-105 series will now be retired.

Urwerk is giving the model a grand send-off with the UR-105 TTH, which has the front plate and lid of its case made of tantalum, the bluish-grey metal that Urwerk has only used in one other instance with the UR-110 TTH.

Based the UR-105 CT Streamliner with its characteristic hinged lid, the UR-105 TTH is all about its case material. A dense metal with a distinctive colour that’s used for surgical implants, turbine blades, and even artillery shells, tantalum is difficult to machine and finish due to its hardness. Consequently, while tantalum has been used for watch cases since the 1990s, but it is uncommon. Urwerk is one of a handful of brands, alongside Omega and F.P. Journe, to use the metal for a watch case.

Initial thoughts

All good things must come to an end, and Urwerk is closing the chapter with aplomb.

With the distinctive hue of tantalum, the case fits the sci-fi industrial spirit of the brand well. Striking and futuristic, the UR-105 is sleek in tantalum. The metal will make it substantially heavier than the standard steel version of the UR-105, which would make it less easily wearable.

Priced at CHF77,000, or about US$86,000, the UR-105 TTH is 20% more expensive the base-model UR-105 CT in steel. Given that the edition is just 12 pieces and the unusual, appealing case metal, the price hike is well worth it – especially since it’s the last of its kind.

Tantalum goodbye

“TTH” is short for for “tantalum hull” – referring to the front plate of the case and hinged cover over the face of the watch. In contrast, the standard UR-105 has no cover on the front.

Etched with deep fluting, the hinged lid accentuates the strong, angular lines of the case, giving the UR-105 TTH sci-fi style with a hint of Art Deco – Urwerk designer Martin Frei was inspired by the skyscrapers of New York City when he penned the UR-105.

With the cover down, the watch is reminiscent of the first-generation UR-103, with only the hours and minutes visible along a narrow window, along with the discreet, honeycomb seconds wheel. Graduated in 10-second segments – more to show the watch is running than for precise reading of the time – the seconds is highlighted within a blue, U-shaped frame.

Lifting the cover requires releasing the locking mechanism, which is accomplished by sliding the oblong button on the middle of the face upwards. That reveals the entirety of the wandering hours mechanism that’s an Urwerk signature.

Comprises of four hour satellites on a carousel, the wandering hours indicates the time with the current hour numeral pointing to the minutes on a scale located on the lower edge of the face. Urwerk didn’t invent the wandering hours, it is a centuries old display that originated in a Papal clock, but the Urwerk interpretation of the complication is one of the coolest ways to tell time in contemporary watchmaking.

A power reserve indicator is tucked away on the lower right corner of the dial, with the honeycomb open-worked seconds wheel on the left

Flipping the watch over reveals the “control panel” on the back of the case. That includes the Urwerk “turbine winding” system that’s designed to optimise winding efficacy.

That requires setting the winding speed via a lever that sets the spin rate for the rotor so that the watch winds most efficiently relative to the wearer’s physical activity. With a low level of activity, being at the office for instance, the setting should be “Full”, which means maximum winding to compensate for the stationary wrist.

Key facts and price

Urwerk UR-105 TTH

Case diameter: 39.5 mm
Case height: 17.8 mm
Material: Tantalum and titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: UR 5.03
Features: Satellite hours; minutes, digital seconds, power reserve
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Fabric-cover rubber strap with pin buckle

Limited edition: 12 pieces
Availability: At Urwerk retailers
Price: 77,000 Swiss francs

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Tudor Introduces the Black Bay Ceramic

That's a METAS Master Chronometer.

Tudor hit it out of the park at Watches & Wonders 2021 with the surprising pair of precious-metal Fifty Eights (in 18k gold as well as sterling silver), but it’s clear the brand is not done with the year yet. Tudor has just taken the covers off the Black Bay Ceramic.

The new 41 mm diver is the brand’s first regular-production dive watch with a ceramic case, but more significant is the fact that this is Tudor’s first watch to obtain METAS certification, making it a Master Chronometer.

Initial thoughts

The Black Bay Ceramic is a surprise. Tudor hinted at a new launch recently, but given it just announced a partnership with French Navy, or Marine Nationale, I was expecting an “MN” dive watch with blue dial.

That said, it was inevitable a ceramic dive watch was in the pipeline after. For one, the brand already had a ceramic case chronograph in the catalogue with the usually overlooked the Fastrider Black Shield. And more importantly, the unique Black Bay Ceramic One – essentially the forerunner of the Black Bay Ceramic – sold for CHF350,000 at charity auction Only Watch 2019.

The Black Bay Ceramic One from 2019

The Black Bay Ceramic

While inevitable, the Black Bay Ceramic is still very much welcome. Its aesthetic is a good one, managing to feel contemporary despite the all-black aesthetic having had its heyday about decade ago.

I would have hoped for a 39 mm Fifty-Eight case, instead of the 41 mm that it is, but its dark colours will make the case appear smaller on wrist, meaning it will wear friendlier than its 41 mm counterparts in steel.

Still, the Black Bay Ceramic is slightly thinner than its steel equivalent, standing 14.4 mm high, compared to the 14.75 mm of the steel model.

Crucially, the watch is good value at US$4,725, especially when set against to comparable dive watches from Omega that start at US$8,100.

Going against convention, the depth rating is absent from the dial, and instead replaced by the METAS label

The all-Black Bay

While the case middle is ceramic, as is the bezel insert, the case parts that are more prone to wear or impact, such as case back, bezel, crown, and buckle, are black-coated steel.

Being a hard, scratch-resistant material, ceramic is nevertheless brittle in that it can fracture under stress. That makes it incompatible with torsional or shearing forces, which is why components like the screw-down back and screw-in crown are steel (which is also the norm for most watches). For those wondering, the screw-down back screws into a steel inner ring secured within the ceramic case middle.

Reflecting the Black Bay Ceramic’s status as a highlight in the catalogue, the watch is supplied with two straps, a leather-topped rubber strap as well as a fabric, NATO-style strap, each with its own black-coated steel buckle – folding for the rubber and pin for the NATO. The twin-strap package was once the standard for Tudor but is now reserved for high-end models Black Bay Fifty Eight 18k and Pelagos.

A new look inside

Like the Black Bay Fifty Eight 18k, the new ceramic model has an open case back, revealing the MT5602-1U within. Instead of a movement with the customary frosted, rhodium-plated finish typical for Tudor, the MT5602-1U within has been dressed up to match the case and dial – a welcome upgrade.

Movement decoration has never been a thing at Tudor, which makes the MT5602-1U unusual. It’s not only been treated to match the case, but equipped with bridges that have a relief grid pattern finished in alternating grained and frosted surfaces.

The MT5602-1U is a variant of the MT5602 found in the standard, 41 mm Black Bay, as well as the Black Bay Bronze. Like all of the brand’s proprietary calibres – which are mostly produced by Kenissi – the MT5602-1U is tested both in-house and at the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, better known by its French acronym COSC.

As a result, Tudor’s manufacture movements are rated to within -2/+4 seconds a day. But now Tudor is going one better. In a first for Tudor, the MT5602-1U is certified by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS). This makes Tudor the second major brand, after the giant of Bienne named after a Greek alphabet, to subject its watches to METAS certification.

METAS magnetism-resistance testing

Unlike COSC testing that only examines uncased movements, the METAS test covers the entire watch. Amongst other criteria, the METAS standard dictates a maximum daily range of deviation of five seconds in six positions, two temperatures, and two levels of power reserve (fully wound and one-third remaining).

That’s a higher standard than the 10-second range (-4/+6 seconds) of COSC, or the six-second band (-2/+4 seconds) for Tudor’s internal testing. Importantly, METAS also requires resistance to magnetic fields of 15,000 Gauss, which is many times the magnitude of magnetism encountered in everyday objects like speakers and mobile phones.

Key facts and price

Tudor Black Bay Ceramic
Ref. M79210CNU

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 14.4 mm
Material: Black ceramic
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: Cal. MT5602-1U
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Additional features: METAS and COSC certification
: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Rubber strap with leather inlay, and additional fabric strap

Availability: Now at Tudor boutiques and retailers
Price: US$4,725; or 6,510 Singapore dollars

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Tudor Introduces the Black Bay Bronze

Bigger and made of bronze, the new Tudor Black Bay is also powered by an in-house, self-winding movement. Specs and price below.

Introducing the Tudor Black Bay Dark in Black PVD

Featuring a familiar all-black look, the new Black Bay Dark is powered by the in-house MT5602 movement. Read on for specs and price below.

Tudor Introduces the Black Bay 36

Smaller and more affordable, the Heritage Black Bay 36 is the new entry-level watch is Tudor's line-up of sports watches.

In-Depth: Recreating the Vacheron Constantin American 1921 One Hundred Years Later

Painstakingly replicating the vintage original.

As one of Vacheron Constantin’s most distinctive timepieces marks its 100th anniversary, the watchmaker rolled out a handful of jubilee models during Watches & Wonders 2021 for the occasion, most notably the extremely good looking American 1921 Collection Excellence Platine.

But Vacheron Constantin had something else up its sleeve for the 1921’s century – something really special – a near-exact recreation of the vintage original from 1921. Christened the American 1921 Pièce Unique, the watch is a one-off created as a joint project by the brand’s Restoration Workshop and Heritage Department, overseen by Style & Heritage Director Christian Selmoni, whose long tenure at Vacheron Constantin means he is practically the brand’s institutional memory.

The watch is more than just a visual replica – an identical case and movement is a given – but even the most minor of details have been reproduced faithfully, right down to the gold alloy of the case and period-correct vintage parts from its archives.

Initial thoughts

While the modern-day American 1921 is a fan-favourite, it necessarily omits some of the finer details of the vintage original, in order to cater to current tastes as well as production methods. As such, even the most-delicious Collection Excellence Platine edition can be critiqued, for the mismatch in hand colours or the seemingly misaligned seconds register.

In contrast, the recreation is satisfyingly spot on, which give it an attractive, bona fide coinage feel that’s absent in today’s American 1921. Minor details such as typography on the dial, and even the Vacheron Constantin logo, are rendered with finesse – capturing subtle but crucial elements needed for a genuine vintage feel.

It’s practically impossible to distinguish between the modern recreation (left) and the vintage original

While it is a feat to accurately replicate a watch, the 1921 Pièce Unique is even more impressive for being period correct in materials and techniques. Components such as the hands are actually vintage spare parts, while other components were made from scratch, but using the traditional tools and methods as well as period-correct materials.

In short, the 1921 Pièce Unique demonstrates not just the eye for detail possessed by the people at the brand’s Heritage Department and Restoration Workshop, but also the artisanal and technical skill. In fact, it was the very same craftspeople who restored the historically-important “Don Pancho” minute repeater that sold for over US$750,000 in 2019.

Time travelling to 1921

To faithfully remake the vintage 1921, the brand turned to the singular example in its museum collection – one of the 24 made in the 1920s – studying the vintage original in forensic detail. That meant disassembling the watch as thoroughly as possible and then measuring every part.

At the same time, some production techniques, such as the original process for pressing the jewels into the bridges, are now obscure, leading to lengthy research and experimentation to reverse engineer the original methods.

The case of the 1921 Pièce Unique is not only identical in size – it’s a minute 31 mm wide and distinctive in shape – but also a perfect replica in composition and consequently, colour. Using a spectrometer, a device able determine the make up of a metal alloy, the development team analysed the original yellow gold case. The case was discovered to be 3N yellow gold alloy, which allowed them to replicate the alloy, giving the new case the same sheen as the original.

With the same alloy as a raw material, the case was then reproduced as the original would have been made in the 1920s. Techniques closer to those of a jeweller – as opposed to the automated, precise processes of modern-day case making – were employed, including filing, sawing, and stamping.

The thin sheet of gold that will be pressed to form the case back

Sawing the pinched corners of the case back

Soldering the lugs onto the case

A vintage crown

The 1921 is distinguished by its eccentrically-positioned crown

The polished back of the 1921 Piece Unique

Just like the case, the dial was fabricated with traditional method in several painstaking steps.

It’s a two-part, grand feu enamel dial comprising the main dial with a cutout at six to accommodate the small-seconds register. Each part of the dial is produced separately, then welded together after each disc is complete.

Both sections of the dial requiring several layers of enamel and accompanying trips to the oven, before being printed with enamel and fired once again create the markings like hour markers and scales. The hour numerals are Breguet style, as was common during the period, while the Vacheron Constantin logo is period correct.

The reverse of the dial is painted to create “counter enamel”, which prevents warping of the dial during firing

Smoothening the edges of the aperture for the seconds with a file

The dial is printed with the modern technique of pad writing, but printed in enamel

The fonts on the dial evoke a reassuring nostalgia that’s absent on the modern 1921

Unlike the dial on which they sit, the hands are actually vintage. The steel Breguet hands – for the hours, minutes, and seconds – are drawn from Vacheron Constantin’s inventory of vintage spare parts.

But as is often the case with vintage parts and watches – components were then hand made and not immediately interchangeable – the hands had to be finished by hand. They were cleaned, polished, and flame blued before being installed in the watch.

But the star of the 1921 Pièce Unique is its movement, the 11-ligne “Nouveau Amerique” calibre originally developed for ladies’ pendant watches. Undoubtedly the most difficult aspect to replicate by virtue of the number of parts, the movement is a reproduction of the original, built from scratch with both new and vintage parts.

Though hidden beneath a solid case back, the movement is a perfect fit for the 1921 Pièce Unique. Its styling fits the aesthetic of the watch, in contrast to the contemporary cal. 4400 in the modern-day 1921

A drawer full of spare parts in the Restoration Workshop

After studying the vintage movement, the development team proceeded to assemble an exact copy, using as many vintage parts as possible.

They were successful: except for the bridges and main plate, which were produced by the Restoration Workshop, the movement is comprised of vintage components from the spare-parts inventory of the Restoration Workshop.

Installing the vintage hairspring and screwed balance

Even though the bridges are newly-made, they were finished exactly as the would have been in the 1920s. The brand’s logo on the crown-wheel bridge, for instance, was hand engraved with a graver.

Hand-engraving the crown-wheel bridge

Additionally, the team used century-old tools, both to drill the jewel holes on the bridges as well as press fit the jewels – a once forgotten technique that the watchmakers of the Restoration Workshop rediscovered during the project.

Vintage jewels in a modern bridge

The fate of the American 1921 Pièce Unique is undecided. For now, the watch will embark on a world tour, with stops at Vacheron Constantin boutiques around the world, starting with New York from June 14. Subsequent destinations have yet to be announced.

Key Facts and Price

Vacheron Constantin American 1921 Pièce Unique
Ref. 1921H/000J-B949

Diameter: 31 mm
Height: 8.75 mm
Material: 18k yellow gold
Water resistance:
 30 m

Dial: Grand feu enamel

Movement: Cal. 1921
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Hand wind
18,800 beats per hour (4 hz)
Power reserve:
 30 hours

Strap: Alligator with pin buckle

Limited edition: Pièce unique
Price: Undetermined

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Book Review: Konstantin Chaykin: Haute Horlogerie, With Russian Soul

The Russian master watchmaker's story.

Konstantin Chaykin: Haute Horlogerie, With Russian Soul. By Alexey Kutkovoy.; €230

Just glancing at Konstantin Chaykin’s repertoire tells you that there must be many stories behind his watches and clocks – they are markedly out of the ordinary.

To tell some of those stories behind the timepieces – and his own story – Konstantin recruited renowned Russian watch journalist Alexey Kutkovoy in 2019.

Despite Konstantin being a perfectionist, Mr Kutkovoy had journalistic freedom. “I was not bound by his control, so I had the privilege to compose my own independent vision with some nice subjects discovered, and I’m happy he left that untouched,” mentions Mr Kutkovoy.

The Joker Selfie made for charity auction Only Watch 2019

His life and work

The result is Konstantin Chaykin, a wide-ranging book that’s both an overview of Konstantin’s first 17 years of watchmaking as well as the myriad tales about his watches and clocks. Konstantin Chaykin is 384 well-filled pages, laid out in an unusual design that befits the individualism found in his watches. Originally published in Russian, the book is now available in English in a limited edition of 1,000 copies.

Mr Kutkovoy decided to present Konstantin’s story in two separate threads – a timeline and an evolution of Konstantin’s clock and watch inventions – that presents a detailed history in a most accessible way.

The opened cover of Konstantin Chaykin

The first section is a chronological narrative, covering Konstantin’s life, interspersed with events in his professional career. The in-house calibres are presented in a separate chapter, followed by a catalogue raisonné featuring all the clocks and watches Konstantin has conceived since the Foundation Tourbillon Clock of 2003, up to the recent variants of the Joker from last year, each explained within a dedicated chapter of two to eight pages.

In between sit the chapters that explain the Konstantin Chaykin logo or cover a visit to his manufacture, all livened up with interesting tidbits of knowledge. The book closes with a timeline of milestones for Konstantin Chaykin and his brand as well as a glossary, incorporating Mr Kutkovoy’s thoughts on the peculiarities of Konstantin’s watches. With the glossary, Mr Kutkovoy says he “tried to add some fun in a horological way… [since] it is like the universe of Konstantin Chaykin and there should be unique language.”

This structure of the book makes it easy to dip into a specific section, while also ensuring that the enthusiast gets a reference on Mr Chaykin’s work despite the surprising lack of an index.

On the other hand, the structure has the inherent risk of annoying repetitions in the content. But Mr Kutkovoy said an effort was made to avoid this pitfall by writing about different details or from another perspective when a subject is repeated in the book.

A glance at the chapter on the Russian Time wristwatch, proves that is mostly fulfilled. In the timeline section, for example, the key facts of Russian Time are summed up, including its principal functions, the clock in the 18th century Peterhof Palace that served as inspiration, and clinching the public’s vote in a Russian watch competition, along with other pertinent information.

Russian Time

A separate chapter that details all of Konstantin’s calibres reveals the base movement within the Russian Time (a Poljot 3105), then explaining the redesign – it was modified beyond recognition – and the in-house module added on top.

Later in the book, the chapter dedicated to this model elaborates on Konstantin’s ideas and goals, while also covering in depth the Krusenstern, a one-off version of the Russian Time. Crucial but esoteric information is not left out: the patent filed for the model takes up one line in the appropriate chapter, and the Russian time system is finally explained in brief in the glossary. This structure applies to all the timepieces covered in the book, which becomes an encyclopaedia of sorts about Konstantin’s clocks and watches.

Serious horology

The subject on the cover of Konstantin Chaykin is unsurprising. Together with the other Wristmons watches, the Joker gets quite some acreage within the book. “It was my proposition and he agreed”, said Mr Kutkovoy, “I believe the Joker is one of the most recognisable watches in the world – it’s the real value of the brand”.

As reported in the book, the genesis of the Joker watch is a sample of the honesty found throughout the book. Konstantin’s signature watch only came about because he had to create something quickly for Baselworld 2017 at the last minute, after discovering in November 2016 that the movement of the original watch he wanted to present was not working.

A phenomenal success almost as soon as it was launched, the Joker put Konstantin on the map internationally. The volume of Joker sales provided him with the financial ability to go fully independent by establishing his own manufacturing facilities.

Nevertheless, reading the foreword penned by Konstantin makes it obvious that he wants to be known for more than the Joker, desiring that his complicated clocks and watches become better known to readers outside of Russia.

Konstantin was the author of Horology in Russia – Masters and Protectors, a 2012 book about complicated watchmaking in Russia before him. Now he adds to the body of work with his own biography, which he hopes will “destroy the myth that Russians do not know how to make watches … as it is not only false but also defames the glorious history of our country and sullies the names of great people who have given their lives to creating the most complicated watches and movements.”

After the foreword, though, the book is fortunately devoid of dramatic proclamations. The reader will find an uncommon openness in the content – individuals are named, figures behind business ventures are tallied, third-party movements or parts revealed, and Konstantin’s own failures described.

For the collector thinking about commissioning a watch from Konstantin, it is reassuring to learn about the watchmaker’s easy-going demeanour, never slamming a door even when faced with disappointing partners, but still staying in touch after the partnerships have been dissolved. Through sentences filled with facts the reader can vicariously experience the single mindedness and hard work – consequently neglecting his family as Konstantin notes – needed to make a career as a master independent watchmaker.

There is one omission, likely a consequence of Konstantin wanting international recognition for his highly complicated clocks and watches. Putnik, a brand of low-cost watches Konstantin established a couple of years ago is not discussed.

Mr Kutkovoy managed to squeeze in just one sentence mentioning this entry-level brand. Putnik is significant, in Mr Kutkovoy’s opinion, because the watch offers superb quality – it’s powered by a Swiss-made Ronda quartz movement – that’s far above what one would expect at its US$300 price point.

The hidden Putnik

The life of a master

As recounted in the book, Konstantin considered a second education in art after leaving college with a formal education as radio engineer. Feeling obligated to earn a living, he instead took a job as a locksmith for a steel-door manufacturer, before becoming a dealer in low-end Chinese watches. With a lack of money to hire a watchmaker, Konstantin taught himself to repair the watches he was selling.

His drawings are now mostly destined for his Moleskine notebooks, where he notes down ideas for new movement constructions and watches. Konstantin’s illustrations have been reproduced throughout the book, showing how he develops ideas while proving that the designs are truly his own.

Scattered throughout the book are many hints that Konstantin would like to be seen as an inventor first and a watchmaker second. Listing all 85 of technical patents granted to Konstantin in a one chapter provides proof for his inventiveness – and an additional 62 design patents go unlisted. It is unlikely that another living watchmaker has ever so many patents to his name.

The patents also reveal Konstantin’s diverse mind. He works on one theme for a spell, most recently Martian time, before moving on to another. The book makes it obvious that his watches follow no house style but are each completely different, which does not necessarily help in the building of his brand.

The Cinema and Carpe Diem are typical of his works, each inspired by themes Konstantin found outside horology. Typical of Konstantin, but unusual for a watchmaker, is the fact that there are no customer commissions that spurred these original creations.

In contrast, Konstantin’s ultra-complicated clocks required a patron to finance the development. Amongst them is the Moscow Computus, a table clock shaped like Saint Basil’s Cathedral that incorporates all of the calendars that fascinate Konstantin, including the Orthodox Easter indication. The same fascination with calendars also reveals itself in his wristwatches, which feature the Hebrew and Islamic calendars.

Whether for watches or clocks, Konstantin had not only to design the timepieces, but also acquire the manufacturing know-how because he lacks the network of specialist suppliers that his peers in Switzerland and Germany can rely on. For example, early in Konstantin’s career, even rhodium plating for movement parts was unavailable in Russia.

The same can be said for growing his business. There is also no watchmaking school in Russia, so Konstantin had to train his employees from scratch. The book reveals that Konstantin strongly encourages his employees to take their own initiative to become creative – he allows them to use the production facilities in their spare time – which emphasises his intellectual generosity, but simultaneously risking the loss of talent like Anton Suhanov, a former employee who eventually embarked on his own career.

Concluding thoughts

The design of the book was Mr Kutkovoy’s call. “I believe the layout should be performed by an artist”, says Mr Kutkovoy, adding, “I insisted we should work with [Russian artist] Varvara Alay; she has the perfect feeling for proportions and she finds fresh perspectives.”

The book is well illustrated, with over 770 photos and drawings, often captioned in the margins. Sturdily bound in hardcover, the book’s pages are heavy, coated art paper with a satin finish and excellent printing. Like Konstantin’s watches, the tome is also mechanically well-crafted.

As for quibbles, they exist but are mostly minor. There is a lot of captivating information in the book, which matched with the smallish font size results in masses of dense text that can tax the reader’s concentration.

I would have bigger photos, with some images within not seeming to maximise the space available on the page. But I was told by the author that was not technically possible in some cases, as the photos of Konstantin’s earlier work was not of sufficient resolution for larger photos.

The catalogue raisonné could do with CAD drawings of the complicated mechanisms employed by Konstantin, in addition to the simple line drawings taken from patent applications. Such technical diagrams would satisfy the nerds amongst us.

A fan of Konstantin who is keen on detailed information on the watchmaker’s oeuvre, or more broadly an enthusiast who loves the unexpected and genuinely new, will all find the book a treasure trove. I hope more collectors use the book as an opportunity to go beyond the Joker and learn about Konstantin’s real watchmaking talent.

Beyond the specifics of Konstantin’s life and work, I also found the book to contain an abundance of information about the problems that independent watchmakers in general face. The fact that investors are not necessarily a solution to overcome financial and marketing shortcomings is concretely described in the book, illustrated by Konstantin’s own experiences. That’s a bonus the book offers, rare insight into the business workings of independent watchmaking, something usually hidden in watch journalism.

At €230, or about US$281, the book offers commensurate quality of content and compares well with its peers. Available to be shipped worldwide, it can be ordered directly from Konstantin Chaykin.

Correction June 6. 2021: The Moscow Computus is modelled on Saint Basil’s Cathedral, and not the Kremlin as indicated in an earlier version of the story.

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