There is always something fascinating about watches. The fact that it is mechanically driven by a series of gears and springs is already a marvel in itself.
Beyond that, watchmakers and manufacturers have always found ways to value-add and include complications to take the products even further. We are certainly fans of that, considering the technical challenges to even construct or incorporate a seemingly simple function. It is truly immense.
When it comes to such watches, watchmakers and brands always try to showcase it as conspicuously as possible. After all, these complications – especially the highly complicated ones – are a challenge to make and they can be considered as a way to highlight the brand’s prowess in executing such demanding functions.
This brings us to today’s topic. On one hand, brands are proud of their achievements and the products that they crafted. On the other hand, some brands tend to play it more discreetly, which is curious yet cheeky in our opinion. We think that it is certainly interesting, especially if it possesses some spectacular complication that is only revealed if one is acquainted with the timepiece. In other words, they are hidden in plain sight.
Hence, for this week’s column, we will be taking a look at six watches that have a hidden feature. These watches typically should have the function or complication that people cannot tell at the first sight, or they are simply hidden somewhere else. What have we selected? Let us find out!
Habring² Foudroyante Felix
The first watch that we are featuring today is the marvelous Habring² Foudroyante Felix.
Habring² is the brainchild of Richard and Maria Habring, a husband-and-wife duo that produces incredible timepieces from Austria. The Foudroyante Felix is one such piece. At the first glance, the watch seems like a simple dress watch. But a closer look reveals a fast beating hand at the 9 o’clock position, which displays the Foudroyante complication. This hand ticks 8 times per second. While it does not serve any particular function, the animation is quite a fascinating sight to behold – especially for a seemingly simple-looking dress watch.
Priced at €6,550 (approximately S$10,510), the 38.5mm timepiece is a lovely dress watch that is a little different from the norm. We highly recommend this for collectors who wish to enter into the world of independent watchmaking.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Face to Face II
For a brand that produces some pretty cool watches (think of the X-01 or the Ventura), Hamilton is a highly underrated brand that is often overlooked by many collectors.
The Jazzmaster Face to Face II is yet another intriguing piece from the manufacturer. First launched in Baselworld 2013, the watch features a rotating case that has two different dials – one on each side. The Face to Face II is an updated version of the original, as the 2013 version featured two separate movements to power each of the dials.
What we like about the watch is its unusual take. The oval case is uncommon, and the rotating case is also something that is rarely seen as well. The entire concept thus works rather well with the contemporary looks and modern cues that are present throughout the piece.
The 53mm watch is priced at S$5,730, and it is limited to a production of 1,999 pieces. This is an uber-cool piece, and it will certainly be a hit with collectors who have a thing for funky and conversational designs.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Nonantième
The Reverso is certainly an icon in the horological scene, but it may not be that well-known outside the circle. This makes it a really fun watch when it is being introduced to non-collectors and enthusiasts.
As its namesake suggests, the reversible case is something that makes the Reverso such an icon. Over the years, Jaeger-LeCoultre has introduced many complications and features on the reverse side of the case. For the Reverso Tribute Nonantième, the brand had incorporated a semi-jumping hour indicator and a rotating minutes disc to showcase another way of expressing time. This version is certainly unique, and we like how you can have two ways of telling time with a single watch.
This particular version is produced in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the collection. Available only in pink gold, the watch is priced at S$58,500. In addition, this is a boutique-only edition with only 190 pieces in circulation. This is one stunning Reverso indeed.
H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar
H. Moser & Cie is a brand that many of us are familiar with. We like their approach to watchmaking, which includes the brand’s minimalist and clean take on designs.
The Endeavour Perpetual Calendar is perhaps one of the models that best encapsulates the brand’s ethos. On the surface, the watch appears to be very simple and basic. But as one examines further, the Endeavour Perpetual Calendar certainly has more than what meets the eye. Yes, as its nomenclature suggests, the watch features the highly complicated perpetual calendar function. H. Moser & Cie had managed to successfully distill the complication to its most basic form with just an additional central hand (for indicating the month) and a large date window.
Another noteworthy point is that the movement – in the form of the in-house HMC 341 – is well-finished. Coupled with the stunning fumé dial and the ingenious flash calendar function, this is pretty much a complete package that ticks all the right boxes.
The watch is priced at S$83,790. If a collector is contemplating getting a mechanically complicated watch with a twist, look no further.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5101
Tourbillon has always been a fascinating complication. Its intricate finishing, coupled with the animation, definitely makes it a conversational complication.
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5101 does things a little differently though. While most brands love to expose the tourbillon on the dial-side of the watch, the Ref. 5101 hides the complication at the back instead. This makes it highly discreet, and we believe Patek Philippe has done it to ensure that the face of the watch remains as clean as possible without the cut-out. It is also a little cheeky too, since only those who are aware will know that this watch also houses the elaborate and special complication.
Finishing-wise, the Ref. 5101 is excellent. Great attention has been given to the movement, especially on the bridge and cage of the tourbillon. This is a very well-made piece, and one that reminds us of the greatness of this venerable watch manufacturer.
Sadly, this model has been discontinued for a while. However, the Ref. 5101 does make occasional appearances in the secondary markets, and we reckon that a good example should set the collector back by about S$250,000 conservatively.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater
We round up the article with the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater.
This timepiece, at first glance, appears to bea crisp and clean three-hand dress watch without much fanfare. For the geeks, the subtle actuator at the side is the component that can perhaps hint of something that is rather special. Indeed, that is the actuator for the minute repeater – a highly-exclusive complication that is reserved for some of the most coveted timepieces of all-time.
For the uninitiated, the minute repeater is a special complication that tells time using the gongs within the movement itself. The gongs are struck against the case, in which the resonance allows the owner to tell the time. This particular Vacheron Constantin watch – according to our Chief Editor is perhaps one of the best-sounding minute repeaters around, and that significantly increases the allure of the timepiece for sure.
All these certainly come with a price. The 41mm platinum watch retails at S$633,400, which is pretty hefty even for such an incredible masterpiece. This is perhaps one of the best minute repeaters out there, and we do have to admit that there is surely a huge premium on perfection.
We hope that you have enjoyed this week’s article. It has been really fun for us to select the watches that have some “hidden” features, and we are sure it is ten times more fascinating for collectors who have had the chance to own some of these watches.
Most of these features are highly exclusive, and hence these are generally restricted to higher-end luxury watches who have the client base and capabilities to produce such watches. On this note, we do hope to see some entry-level brands attempting similar concepts as well – some of the features do not need to be haute horlogerie complications after all.
Finally, let us know your thoughts on our selections today. What are some of your favourite watches on the list, or the watches that you think deserves a spot as well? We do think there are also a few other strong contenders that should easily fit into the list. Share with us in the comments section below!