Fratello Friday: 5 Very Unusual Timepieces

Urwer UR202SSince I started writing my thoughts and ideas about watches on my blog, Fratellowatches, I have been visiting the big watch fairs like Baselworld and the SIHH in Geneva. Sometimes, one comes across some very odd-looking watches at these fairs — watches that perhaps should not be defined as watches, but as mechanical art or — as MB&F’s Maximilian Büsser puts it — horological machines.

These unusual timepieces tend to have a few minor setbacks for most enthusiasts. With a few exceptions, they tend to be a bit uncomfortable on the wrist. Their large and/or unusually shaped cases make them hard to wear under a cuff, and hard not to bump into everything you come across.  Sometimes legibility is more or less the issue; without explanation or demonstration, it might take you quite a while to figure out what time it is on one of these watches. Perhaps the most serious concern for the average luxury-watch consumer are the price tags on these unusual timepieces. Although surveys tell us that our readers have some money to spend on luxury items, prices that equal that of a nice villa with a few acres of land might be a bit daunting for even the highest horology budgets. WatchTime’s Mike Disher offered his list of “Off the Beaten Path” timepieces last week and in the current issue of WatchTime. Here are the top five unusual timepieces I would like to share with you. They are not picked or ranked on price, shape or color but on the “Oooh” and “Aaaah” effect they had on me I saw them for the first time.

1. Jean Dunand The Palace

The first time I laid eyes on The Palace by Jean Dunand, created by Christophe Claret, I was told that my eyes became bigger as soon as Thierry Oulevay (CEO of Jean Dunand) revealed it. This timepiece was introduced during Baselworld 2010 and made a huge impression on me. At first sight, especially in photos, this watch might look a bit clunky and strange. But the strength is in the details. This watch is based on the Art Deco style of the period in which artist Jean Dunand lived, characterized by streamlined and geometric shapes. It also utilized modern materials like chrome, stainless steel, and inlaid wood. The Palace timepiece makes you relive the period in that very period in which Jean Dunand worked and lived his life. The Palace includes a lot of neat referrals to  the Eiffel tower, skyscrapers, racetracks, et cetera.

A detailed overview of this watch can be found here.

Jean Dunand Palace

2. MB&F Horological Machine No 2 ‘Only Watch’

Sometimes a watch can move you – not only with its beauty, but also with the idea behind the timepiece. One of the watches that certainly moved me in both ways, is the Horological Machine No.2 by Maximilian Büsser and Friends (MB&F). Each year, the Only Watch auction event is held in Monaco. The goal of Only Watch is to draw attention (and financial resources) to the fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. This is a serious illness (genetic disorder) that affects children (boys only) and reveals itself by progressive weakening of muscles. Unfortunately, there is no cure yet, and eventually this illness will result in cardiac problems that will become fatal.

Many watch brands have donated Only Watch editions — mostly unique pieces — to have them auctioned for this cause. In 2009, MB&F made a special version of its Horological Machine No.2 for the Only Watch event. As shown in the photo below, the movement is surrounded by 3D “barbed wire,” which symbolizes the illness trapping the child’s body. The butterfly represents innocence and hope, and as you can see on the picture the blue butterfly has one of its wings clipped, because, unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for children suffering from DMD. More information on this timepiece can be found here.

MB&F HM2 - OnlyWatch


3. HYT H1

The HYT H1 was the buzz of BaselWorld 2012. HYT creates timepieces that indicate time by fluids. WatchTime presented a detailed a detailed report on that watch that you can read by clicking here. The liquid-filled capillary tubes give HYT timepieces not only a very futuristic and almost unreal look, but the unconventional system actually works! The liquid – available in several colors – is ‘pushed’ by the compressed reservoir. There is another liquid inside, with a different color, that makes sure the other reservoir is being filled as the first reservoir pushes the colored liquid through. In 2013, HYT introduced the H2 watch. It uses the same concept, but with a different design. I like the look of the HYT H2 perhaps a bit more, but the H1 was the first to hook me.

More on the HYT H1 can be read here.

HYT H1 watch


4. Urwerk UR202S

I am a sucker for Gérald Genta’s Royal Oak design for Audemars Piguet, but we can hardly call it unusual anymore. Perhaps the very first reference, the 5402A from the 1970s, still fits the bill, but it comes in so many forms and shapes now that exclusivity is mainly dictated by its relatively high price. This Urwerk UR202S somehow reminded me of that first Royal Oak design, especially after seeing and handling the bracelet. Urwerk was founded by Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei and is renowned for its “satellite” time indicators. The UR202S is no different, but comes with an integrated all-stainless steel bracelet (instead of a leather strap). The Urwerk UR202S uses two turbines that control the air friction inside the movement so the speed of the spinning rotor can be tempered a bit during heavy-duty activities. In the case of extreme conditions, you can block the rotor from spinning and block the turbines as well. (You could also, of course, ask yourself whether you want to wear an expensive piece like this when you are in such conditions.) More about the Urwerk UR202S can be found here.

Urwerk UR202S


5. Audemars Piguet Tradition Tourbillon Minute Repeater Chronograph

The Audemars Piguet Tradition Tourbillon Minute Repeater Tourbillon bears the most well-known brand name in this article, but the watch is far from average. It was introduced last Winter, during the SIHH 2013 in Geneva. Although the Royal Oak is my favorite collection from that brand, the Tradition certainly made my horological heart tick faster last January.

The very large (47-mm) rectangular case crafted out of titanium is a feast for the eyes. Audemars Piguet super-sized this classical timepiece for a reason; the minute repeater complication. To get the most out of the minute repeater complication, you will need a case that is able to transmit the sound of the hammer strikes as efficient as possible. Besides the minute repeater complication, this Tradition also has a tourbillon and a chronograph… just because. This piece clearly shows that Audemars Piguet is not only about creating fashionable Royal Oak Offshores, but is also in the league of the Patek Philippes and Vacheron Constantins of this world when it comes to high complications.

You can read more about this watch here.

Audemars Piguet Tradition Tourbillon
Leave a Reply