These mechanical watches are bold, brash, and brilliantly made
The mechanical watchmaking industry continues to top itself and confound expectations when it comes to creating the most thrilling concepts in telling time
Karlo N.B. Samson | Oct 12 2018
None of these exquisitely crafted mechanical watches will measure your workouts or monitor your health. Instead, they exist for their own sake, opting for esoteric complications, radical design, and attitude with a capital A.
HUBLOT MP-OE LAFERRARI SAPPHIRE
First unveiled in 2013, the timepiece is a tribute to the hybrid supercar, developed by Hublot in collaboration with Ferrari's design director Flavio Manzoni. The MP-05's ultra-complex architecture evokes the superlative engine and speed of the LaFerrari ROC K. It was a technical and artistic achievement, breaking the record for the highest number of components in a Hublot watch—a total of 637 elements that worked together to create a truly unique statement. Hublot forged a new path in its pursuit of horological innovation with this transparent design, following the reception of the titanium and all-black editions. The entire case middle is composed of seven precision-machined sapphire pieces that fit together to form a custom setting for the 905. JX.0001.RT movement. These sapphire components alone take some 600 hours of 3D machining,which shows the lengths to which Hublot will go to create something special. A translucent silicon strap with a sapphire and titanium deployant clasp completes the transparent look. Only 20 of these exist, but if you are in the market for something similar material-wise, Hublot has sapphire versions of the Big Bang Unico—one clear, the other all black. These are also limited runs but are nowhere as dear—or as scarce—as the LaFerrari Sapphire.
ANGELUS U10 TOURBILLON LUMIERE
Among the casualties of the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s was the Le Lode manufacture Angelus, well regarded since the late 1800s for its clocks, chronographs, and multi-complication wristwatches. The brand has been resurrected by the Le Joux-Perret and heralded by the Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumiere. The timepiece is striking, a curvilinear retro-futuristic piece that features a 60-second flying tourbillon that is positioned away from the dial, suspended in its own sapphire crystal vitrine. The sapphire panels let in an amazing amount of light (hence the name Lumiere), offering an unfettered view of the complex intricacies of the tourbillon and creating an air of almost religious veneration.
Design-wise, the Lumiere unabashedly takes inspiration not just from Angelus's own modernist heritage but also German and Italian design icons of the 1960s and 1970s. Hints of the borderless convex screen of the Doney 14-inch transistor TV designed by Richard Sapper and Marco Zanuso may be seen in both the time display and the tourbillon vitrine. The large, rounded appearance of the case is similar to the aesthetic of Achille Castiglioni, designer of the Arco lamp, and the modularity of the RR126 stereo system that Castiglioni designed with his brother Pier Giacomo. Evident in both the curved corners and the deliberate zoning of functions within the watch is the design philosophy of Dieter Rams. Drawing from a litany of designers may sound like overkill but the Lumiere just looks gorgeous.
HYT SKULL BAD
HYT's almost all-black Skull Bad Boy works on the hydrodynamic properties of a special fluid pumped through a transparent glass capillary that runs along the side of the skull. A pair of visible bellows regulates the pressure upon the viscous and black fluid—something HYT's sister company Preciflcx took more than a year to get chemically right—pushing it through the sculpted capillary as an hour marker. The previous editions of the Skull used colored fluids that reflected light. By using black, HYT knew it would render the fluid invisible in the dark.
There is also no minute hand or indicator, just a disc that hints at the seconds hidden in the skull's left eye, and a power reserve in the right. With the decision to go dark, the company also delved into material development to create the appropriate finish on the skull. The new composite is designed to mimic the striated, wavy texture of Damascus steel. Produced for HYT by a foundry in Neuchatel, the compound is a mixture of steel and carbon that folds in on itself 256 times before being cut and milled into the skull centerpiece. Due to the nature of the material, no two skulls will ever have exactly the same pattern. So, the HYT Skull Bad Boy can't tell you the exact time and is impossible to read in the dark. But it exudes so much coolness, it may well be a tribute to the gods of death metal.
MB&F HMX BLACK BADGER
The MB&F's Horological Machine No. 10, a.k.a. HMX adheres to the DNA of the brand—a visually stunning, technically proficient, and daring and playful statement of eff-you proportions. The HMX was inspired by supercars and the love of driving, displaying time not on a traditional dial, but as analog digits reflected on prisms set on the watch's side, just above the lugs of the sporty strap. The case resembles the hood and lines of a supercar, with a curved piece of sapphire crystal that reveals the "engine" inside. A pair of faux rocker covers with oil filler caps adds to the gearhead appeal. The HMX was available in the four traditional racing colors: black, green, red, and blue.
In 2017, MB&F collaborated with industrial designer James Thompson, founder of Black Badger Advanced Composites in Sweden, to come up with performance art versions of the HMX. Thompson's specialty is working with lume, a solid material that is phenomenally efficient in absorbing, storing, and releasing light. For the HMX, he embedded three new colors—radar green, phantom blue, and purple reign—into each of the rocker covers of the watch. MB&F created the HMX with the intent to make a relatively more affordable "horological masterpiece" for the folks it fondly calls "friends," cutting margins without sacrificing quality and craftsmanship. It isn't overly complicated like other MB&F HM projects, yet with its extremely limited quantities and superlative styling, it still works fabulously as an object of lust.
JACOB & CO. ASTRONOMIA SKY CELESTIAL PANORAMA GRAVITATIONAL TRIPLE AXIS TOURBILLON
The Astronomia Sky is more functional kinetic sculpture than wristwatch. Like its predecessor, it retains the four satellite arms that rotate around a central spindle every 20 minutes. Each arm plays a specific part in this mesmerizing mechanical dance. One arm keeps the time, displaying hours and minutes upon a subdial that holds its upright orientation as it goes around the dial. Opposite this is the tourbillon, which compensates for the effect of gravity on the timekeeping movement by rotating around two contained axes and around the dial every 20 minutes. A third arm is a titanium wheel that functions as an orbital seconds display. Acting as counterweight to this is a "Jacob Cut" red moon, a spherical orange sapphire with 288 facets that revolves at the same rate. Improving upon the original Astronomia, Jacob & Co. added astronomical complications, including a sidereal display combined with an oval sky indicator and a 24-hour day and night display.
Covering the internal surface of the watch case is a blue titanium celestial dial, which completes a full rotation around the Astronomia in one sidereal year, which is the actual time it takes the earth to make one full rotation around the sun relative to the fixed stars.This dial features 18-karat gold stars and hand-engraved zodiac symbols. Above these is an oval sky indicator, which shows the portion of the stars visible from the Northern Hemisphere. This makes one full rotation in one sidereal day, which is 23.5640916 hours. Atop the central spindle is the 24-hour day/night display, a hand-engraved titanium globe that rotates on itself inside a half-dome of sapphire that indicates day or night. Only 18 of these timepieces exist, but you can likely count on Jacob Arobo to unveil versions festooned with diamonds and other precious gems. He's not the jeweler to the world's A-listers for nothing.
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue No. 23 2016-2017