Meet the craziest watches of 2021. These new models go far beyond the usual idea of “steel, round and three hands.”
Comic Hero: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon
In 2021, AP’s President François-Henry Bennahmias announced the collaboration between his watchmaking company and the Marvel comic book franchise. The first watch to emerge from this partnership is the Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon. This model didn’t exactly win over the fans of traditional watches, but one of its achievements is undeniable: it faithfully depicts the animalistic superhero Black Panther, who was most recently portrayed by the late Chadwick Boseman. Clad in a high-tech suit and wearing clawed gloves, the Black Panther’s hand-painted white-gold figure seems to be getting ready to pounce. His lower body elastically embraces both the shaft of the main hands at the center of the dial and the tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock, while the skeletonized barrel is clearly visible under the superhero’s right arm. The 42-mm case of the Royal Oak Concept model series is made of titanium; the bezel and crown are made of scratch-resistant ceramic. Complicated hand-wound manufacture Caliber 2965 heroically keeps time inside the case. This comic-inspired wristwatch is limited to 250 timepieces. Price is upon request.
Stun Gun: Hamilton Ventura Elvis 80 Skeleton
Today’s Ventura automatically winds itself, but Hamilton created it in 1957 as the world’s first battery-powered wristwatch — and gave it a nearly triangular case. As in the early days, a stylized zigzag voltage line traverses the dial of some new models to symbolize the former electrical power supply. Elvis Presley was the Ventura’s most famous fan: he wore the original model not only in private life, but also in the 1961 film, Blue Hawaii. One of the latest Ventura models is the watch shown here, which not only attracts attention thanks to its modern reinterpretation of the case shape, but also with its skeletonized dial and its combination of elegant rose-gold plating and a sporty rubber wristband. ETA’s automatic Caliber Powermatic 80 ticks inside the 42.5-mm-by-44.6-mm stainless-steel case. The Ventura is by far the most accessibly priced watch in our roundup of crazy timepieces: it sells for an affordable $1,795.
Transparency Artist: MB&F Horological Machine No. 9 Sapphire Vision
Max Büsser and Friends have opened their streamlined Time Machine Number Nine to the eyes of mechanics-savvy viewers. For this, the Geneva-based think tank used an extremely complex sapphire crystal cover with multiple curves and domes. A symmetrical architecture is created inside the rear of the transparent sapphire shell by a hand-wound manufacture movement with two balances. It collaborates with a centrally positioned planetary differential, which averages the time kept by the two movements and thus ensures optimal timekeeping. The vertical dial shows the hours and minutes. MB&F builds models in rose and white gold, each with two differently colored movement bridges. Each of the four model variants is made in a strictly limited series of five watches. Each timepiece is priced at $440,000.
Breaking Tradition: Hublot MP-09 Tourbillon Bi-Axis 5 Days Power Reserve 3D Carbon
The design of this “Masterpiece” (MP) from Hublot carries all visual habits to the absurd. The bezel breaks out of its conventional circular shape at the 6, where it also slopes downward to approach the back of the case. This creates a unique “hanging jaw,” where a tourbillon rotates on two axes, and keeps on turning for five full days after the watch has been fully wound. The running autonomy is shown by a large-format inscription at the 7, while the current status of the power reserve is indicated at the 3. The skeletonized, three-dimensional main dial is enclosed by a skeletonized semicircular date display with two arcs of numerals. The crazy frame for manufacture hand-wound Caliber MHUB9009.H1.RA.B is formed by a 49-mm-wide and 18-mm-high case made of so-called “3D carbon,” a composite material that Hublot makes from multiple layers and can shape into even the most complex forms. The MP-09 is made in four series of eight watches each: in yellow, green, blue and red. Each watch sells for $200,000.
Shining Piece: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Single Flying Tourbillon “Glow Me Up”
This Geneva-based manufacturer is known for its tourbillons and double tourbillons, but it also likes to experiment with new forms of gem-setting. The latest result is this creation, which looks like a jewelry watch by day, but becomes colorfully avant-garde at night. Glowing diamonds? You’ve never seen anything like this! The appearance is striking, but the technical background is not that complicated. The settings of the 60 baguette diamonds along the bezel are filled with differently colored Super-LumiNova, so the gemstones glow in different colors at night. Luminous material is also applied to the star-shaped movement bridge, the rim of the tourbillon and the outer ring of the nearly non-existent dial. This results in a unique light spectacle of at night. When the sun rises, this timepiece transforms back into a technically sophisticated but visually almost demure jewelry watch. Each of the eight 42-mm rose-gold watches encases in-house hand-wound Caliber RD512SQ and sells for $215,000.
Flaming Beacon: Urwerk UR-220 SL “Asimov”
The Geneva-based manufacturer Urwerk has been making a name for itself for years with its satellite displays. Now these moving and rotating display blocks for the hours also start to light up. And that’s not all: in addition, luminosity usefully highlights the numerals on the arcing minutes scale, along which the glowing hour numerals sweep, and also accentuates the brand name on the plate as well as the power-reserve display, which appears on two indicators at the upper left and right. Despite the new and radiant optics, the patented hour display remains the most astonishing feature of this new watch. A skeletonized arm serves as the frame for the hour cone on this display. The hour cone turns its correct side upward as it quickly moves back to the beginning of the minutes scale, where it’s picked up by the hour hand and gradually carried forward along the scale. After the frame hand has completed one hour-long task, it hurries back to the start of the scale and picks up the next hour cone. Hand-wound manufacture Caliber UR-7.20, which runs for 48 hours after it has been fully wound, is responsible for this function and for several other technical tricks. The case, which measures 43.8 mm by 53.6 mm, is made of 81 layers of TPC carbon composite. Urwerk uses a special manufacturing method to give the case a concentrically circular texture. The price for so much innovative spirit? $168,000.
A version of this article first appeared in the WatchTime 2022 Special Design Issue, on sale now.