On Time, Off-Center: Five Watches With Asymmetrical Time Displays

Most watches, even those equipped with numerous complications, still place the primary timekeeping indications — hours, minutes, and seconds — in the center of their dials and strive for symmetry in their overall design. Here are a handful of timepieces that do it differently.


No listing of timepieces with asymmetrically arranged dials would be complete without the Lange 1, the now-iconic model introduced by the reconstituted A. Lange & Söhne brand as its modern flagship in 1994. The original Lange 1 provided the template for an entire family of timepieces, equipped with an array of complications from moon-phases to tourbillons to perpetual calendars, but its core model has changed little in over a quarter-century: an off-center subdial at 9 o’clock for hours and minutes, a smaller subdial at 4:30 for running seconds, a bold Grande Date display in a dual-window aperture at 2 o’clock, and an analog power-reserve indication (from “auf,’ or full, to “ab,” or empty) at 3 o’clock. Inside the understated 38.5-mm gold case, behind a solid silver argenté dial, ticks the manually wound manufacture Caliber L121.1, with a 72-hour running autonomy and a host of traditional Saxon decorations. Price: $39,900.

A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 in white gold


The fewer functions a timepiece must perform, so reasons Armin Strom, the better it can concentrate on accuracy. The Pure Resonance model, launched in 2018 and released in a special “Sky Blue” edition this year, is a timepiece created in service to this mission statement. It is equipped with two balances that oscillate in resonance to provide energy, as well as chronometer-level precision, to the time display, which is hosted on an off-center, guilloché subdial with Roman numerals, hand-made by revered independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen. Another subdial at 7 o’clock counts the running seconds while the visible bridges of the in-house Caliber ARF16 are decorated with an unusual straight-lined côtes de Genève motif. The movement, inside a 42-mm white gold case, stores a two-day power reserve in two mainspring barrels. Price: 74,000 Swiss francs, “Sky Blue” edition limited to three pieces.

Armin Strom Pure Resonance Sky Blue


Established in 2005, Breguet’s Tradition collection pays tribute to the one-handed “subscription” pocketwatches invented by founder Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1796, and their successors, the so-called “tact” watches, by placing major movement components on top of the mainplate alongside an off-centered subdial. The Tradition Quantième Retrograde 7597 adds a retrograde date display, a complication that Breguet’s eponymous founder was among the first to develop. The 40-mm gold case houses the self-winding Caliber 505Q, equipped with silicon horns and a silicon balance spring. Its solid gold rotor is evocative of those used in the very first self-winding watches, called Perpetuelles. Balancing out the engine-turned, clous-de-Paris-enhanced subdial is a retrograde date scale, stretching between 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock, with an curved hand indicating the date as it moves in a vertical plane. Price: $37,800.

Breguet Tradition Quantième Retrograde 7597


F.P. Journe, long a proponent and purveyor of elegantly off-center time displays, introduced the original Octa Automatique Lune in 2007, and in 2019 the independent watchmaker refreshed its emblematic moon-phase watch with an updated dial and crown, and new case sizes. Now available in 40-mm and 42-mm sizes, in either platinum or 6N rose gold, the watches feature a distinctive silk-rope motif on their otherwise flat crowns and offer dials in either silvered white or Havana brown (pictured). The dials have an outer railroad-track minute ring, blue- or gold-printed Arabic numerals, and a clous de Paris guilloché center. At 9 o’clock lies an indicator for the timepiece’s 120-hour power reserve; at 4 o’clock, a small seconds subdial; and at 7:30 the signature feature, an updated moon-phase display with a new sapphire disk. Inside is the F.P. Journe in-house Caliber 1300.3, whose major parts are also made of 18k gold. Price: $49,100.

F.P. Journe Automatique Lune - Havana dial, PT case
F.P. Journe Automatique Lune


Jaquet Droz introduced its first skeletonized watch in 2018 and took it to a more high-tech level two years later by replacing the first generation’s precious-metal case with a new one in plasma ceramic. Made by treating white ceramic with superheated gas for a sleek, anthracite-gray sheen, the material also boasts exceptional hardness and scratch resistance. The gray tones are echoed on the bridges of the skeletonized Caliber 2663 SQ, on display behind the clear sapphire dial, as well as in the gray textile strap, which fastens with a folding clasp that uses the same plasma ceramic as the 41-mm case. The dial’s classic figure-eight configuration, a longtime emblem of Jaquet Droz watches, displays the hours and minutes on a subdial at 12 o’clock, made of gray-treated white gold with white gold hands and indices; and the large, “Grande” seconds on a larger subdial at 6 o’clock. Price: $23,600.

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Plasma Ceramic
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  1. Walter Hass

    Gee, you picked the one none sundial journe. Was that a mistake? Or are you not familiar with FP’s work?

    • Walter Hass

      Sorry auto correct. It was supposed to say “one non-subdial watch”

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