However complex a watch may be in its array of functions, or how individual in its design, the vast majority of them still adhere to the familiar two-handed analog style when it comes to the basics of displaying hours and minutes. Here are five that do it a little differently.
MB&F HM3 FROGX
Max Büsser and Friends have long specialized in audacious, off-the-wall designs in their “horological machines,” one of the most memorable being the HM3 Frog, which leapt into the watch world in 2010. The 10-year commemorative edition, launched last year, keeps the tradition alive with its two globular “eyes” that are actually thin aluminum domes rotating under markers to indicate the hours and minutes. The frog-shaped case (48.3 mm x 52.7 mm) is made of sapphire and constructed from 59 individual parts, including specially colored gaskets to ensure a 30-meter watch resistance. The FrogX, in three limited editions of 10 pieces, is the first in the series in which the case is designed to show off the high-tech movement, created by Jean-Marc Weiderrecht, and its emblematic battle-axe rotor in a color matching the gasket’s. Price: $152,000.
URWERK UR100-V “T-REX”
Urwerk’s stock-in-trade is using orbital rotating satellites for a dynamic 3D indication of the time. The brand showcases the latest evolution of this unusual and technically complex system in the UR100-V “T-Rex,” whose dinosaur nickname is derived from the textural scaled pattern on its 41-mm x 49.7-mm bronze case. The automatic UR 12.02 caliber inside its reptilian hide powers a set of three orbiting satellites, each of them representing four hours, rotating on a four-armed carrousel. Each satellite also carries a red pointer along a 60-minute scale. The movement has a planetary gear device that prevents overwinding and excessive wear on the rotor, and in addition to the hours and minutes, it includes 20-minute scales indicating the Earth’s orbital and rotational distance. Price: $57,000.
LUDOVIC BALLOUARD UPSIDE DOWN
Released in 2015, the Upside Down lives up to its name with its unconventional dial, upon which only one of the 12 Arabic hour numerals is facing in a right-side-up direction at a time. Each hour numeral is set on an independently rotating disk with an indicator dot. Every 60 minutes, as the blued, feuille-style minute hand makes a full sweep of the dial, a new numeral flips upright 180 degrees to start a new hour while the previous one rotates back to its upside down position. It’s all the work of Ludovic Ballouard’s Caliber B01, whose patented jumping-hour complication uses 12 mechanical Maltese crosses to control the hour disks. Even the 41-mm case hews to the Upside Down theme, with its convex curved sides reflecting an inverted view of its wearer. Prices start at CHF 75,000.
KONSTANTIN CHAYKIN JOKER
Russian watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin has become renowned for his creative takes on calendar complications, most notable among them the Joker, released in 2017. Its dial appears at first to be a straightforward depiction of a clown face but is actually a cleverly designed regulator-style time display: hours and minutes are indicated on the two subdial “eyes” by rolling eyeballs, and the wide smile-shaped mouth is a frame for the unusual moon-phase display, the moon itself painted in red to resemble a tongue. At 12 o’clock are small symbols representing the spade, heart, diamond, and club from decks of playing cards. Inside the 42-mm steel case is Chaykin’s K07-0 automatic movement, based on the ETA 2824-2 and enhanced with a module created in the watchmaker’s atelier in Moscow. Prices start at €12,909; pictured is the 2017 limited edition that retailed for CHF 7,500.
The watches from the Swiss startup Vault, like the 39-mm V1 (available in steel and titanium) and the Vault V1+ in rose gold (pictured) feature a unique roller bearing system allowing the movement to rotate 360° in both directions. While the minutes are displayed in a classical way with a central minute hand, hours are displayed on a sapphire crystal disc positioned above the gears of the dial. The disk is smoked and changes gradually from fully transparent to fully opaque. The line between the transparent and the opaque parts of the disk indicates the current hour. The V01 automatic movement that powers this wildly inventive complication boasts a power reserve of 50 hours at beats at a frequency of 21,600 vph. Prices start at $42,000.