Throwback Sundays: Six Recommendations for an Unusual Watch to Kickstart the New Decade, from Our Archives

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2020, at this current juncture, is not just a new year. This also marks the start of a new decade. This is perhaps a sign of change, if you may.

Humans are creatures of comfort. We tend to stay within our comfort zone, and not venture into unchartered territories for the fear of facing the unexpected. This is ironic, considering that most of us enjoy the status quo and yet we complain about how life can be boring at times.

The same can be said for watch collecting as well. Most of us tend to buy watches from certain brands, and we tend to shun the rest. In Singapore, for example, most of the people tend to stick to brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. We are glad to see more people venturing beyond the “holy trinity”, although we think that there’s still a large room for improvement.

Hence, as part of the “brainwashing session”, we will be introducing six unusual watches that we think are compelling enough for one to step out of their comfort zone and buy something different. What are the watches that we have selected? Let’s find out!

Gorilla Fastback GT “Elise”

We begin the column with one of the latest kids on the block: Gorilla Fastback GT “Elise”.

The brainchild Octavio Garcia and Lukas Gopp, Gorilla aims to target adventurous watch collector with their unusual take on timepieces. The 44mm Fastback GT “Elise”, notably, features the elusive “wandering hours” mechanism – typically seen on high-end independent brands such as Urwerk and H. Moser & Cie.

Powering the Fastback GT is an ETA 2824-2 movement, coupled with a Vaucher module. The use of such a combination ensures that Gorilla can keep its prices modest, and yet allow consumers to enjoy an unusual complication without compromising on the quality or performance. Additionally, the self-winding movement beats at 28,800 bph and it has a power reserve of around 36 hours.

The Gorilla Fastback GT “Elise” is limited to a production of 350 pieces, and this special model has a case that is made up of four different materials: Ceramic, aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre. It is priced at S$5,088, and it is certainly a well-priced timepiece that makes it relatively more accessible for collectors who are looking for a conversational piece with an uncommon complication.

Konstantin Chaykin Joker

Konstantin Chaykin Joker oblique

In the more recent times, there is an interesting watchmaker that had caught the attention of many with an intriguing timepiece. His name is Konstantin Chaykin, and the eponymous watchmaker’s said creation is called the Joker.

Launched in Baselworld 2017, the 42mm Joker caught the attention of the horological world immediately. Lauded for its whimsical take on horology, the Joker was also praised for incorporating the various indicators on both the eyes (hour and minutes disc) and the mouth (moonphase display). The highlight of the piece is how the expression of the “Joker” changes, as the various disc rotates on its own axis. The googly eyes certainly gives it a rather light-hearted touch as well.

The watch is fitted with the Calibre K07-0. This is a hybrid movement built on the classical ETA2824-2, and modified to allow the “Joker” to have its signature looks. The original variants – cased in stainless steel – is priced at €6,990 (approximately S$10,485), but all 99 examples have been sold out. It is also available in other case variants, and we highly recommend this timepiece to collectors who wants a breath of fresh air in their watch collection.

Bell & Ross BR01 Laughing Skull

When it comes to watches from Bell & Ross, its signature aviation-inspired timepieces will surely be one of the first things that would come to mind. But the brand is much more than that, as seen from the BR 01 Laughing Skull.

The BR 01 Laughing Skull is a fascinating piece at first sight, but this is not the first timepiece that Bell & Ross had incorporated the skull motif. The honour was actually given to the BR 01 Skull, launched in 2009. Several iterations came along subsequently, before the brand launched its latest interpretation of the Skull collection.

The latest version is cased in its iconic 46mm square case, decorated with the “Clous de Paris” pattern. The watch is also available with encrusted diamonds, but we shall save that for another occasion. In addition, the skull is an automaton – its jaws move up and down as the watch is being wound. Notably, it uses an in-house movement – the BR-CAL.206 – which is shaped like a skull as well.

This is a controversial piece, but it is nonetheless a conversational timepiece. It is priced at S$14,900, and for collectors who are looking for something a tad different, the BR 01 Laughing Skull might just be something special that you might want to do a double take on.

Sarpaneva Korona K0 Northern Lights

The Northern Lights: One of nature’s mystical wonders, and a captivating sight to behold. But Sarpaneva had his own ideas and went a step further, by bringing this onto our wrists. Cue the Korona K0 Northern Lights.

Sarpaneva is a Finnish-based independent watchmaker, most known for producing contemporary-looking timepieces and his signature “Moon Face” that many grew to love. However, the Korona K0 Northern Lights is a tad more special than his usual creations. Collaborating with Black Badger Advanced Composites, Sarpaneva had produced three different variants (green, blue, and violet) of the timepiece that glows brilliantly in the dark. The end result, as seen in the picture above, is simply spectacular.

Fitted with Soprod’s A10 movement, the automatic timepiece has been modified to accommodate the signature moonphase indicator. The 46mm stainless steel watch is priced at €14,500 (approximately S$21,742), and we think that it is an interesting and unusual timepiece to include in any collector’s collection.

Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu

Following that, we have yet another interesting timepiece that was produced in collaboration with an incredible figure out of the horological industry. Cue the mesmerising Hublot Big Bang Sang Bleu.

Sang Bleu, for the uninitiated, is a high-profile tattoo studio based in London. The idea of the collaboration is to bring together the commonality between the two entities – in their manner of building bridges between materials, techniques, and cultures. The end result is an amazing timepiece that revolves around the themes of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and the play of geometric shapes. Proportion, notably, is another recurring theme on the watch as well.

The 45mm watch leverages on the octagonal rhodium discs to tell time. The two main discs are each fitted with a tip that is coated in white SuperLumiNova, enhancing its legibility in telling time. In addition, the watch is fitted with Hublot’s in-house Unico HUB1213. The self-winding movement is built with 255 components, and it has a decent power reserve of around 72 hours. The movement was also further redesigned to feature the triangular codes of the Sang Bleu logo and re-engineered to incorporate the discs to tell time.

The Sang Bleu is a tasteful piece, no doubts about that. We like how it is bold and unique, and yet it is still aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Finally, the Sang Bleu comes in a limited release of 200 pieces and it retails at US$18,800 (approximately S$25,350). We reckon the only way to acquire this is through the secondary markets, but for something as unique as this, we do think it is worth the trouble to hunt for this timepiece.

Ulysse Nardin Freak X

The Ulysse Nardin Freak is a game changer in the horological scene. First launched in 2001, the Freak was an experimental piece that brought us many different technological breakthroughs within the industry. The use of silicium, for instance, is one innovation that can trace its roots back to this particular timepiece.

One of the latest iterations of the Freak X – launched in SIHH 2019 – is the entry-level model in the incredible collection. The 43mm timepiece is available in four different variants, each with a different case material. The timepiece is powered by the in-house Calibre UN-230, a self-winding movement that boasts a power reserve of around 72 hours. The special features of the movement includes the flying carousel and a super-lightweight balance wheel in silicium, reinforced with nickel flyweights and stabilising micro-blades. The finishing is decent, although it is not as spectacular as some of the other timepieces from the brand itself.

Priced at US$21,000 (approximately S$28,317), the Freak X is a compelling timepiece for someone who is looking for something that is different from the rest of the crowd. It is also a horologically significant watch, and it is certainly something that would definitely add a new dimension into any watch collection.

Concluding Thoughts

We hope that in this week’s column, we have showcased some of the more unusual watches that are less common within the watch collecting circle. These watches are brilliant in their own ways, and they certainly do deserve some recognition and mention as well.

Conscientiously, we have made sure that the watches we’ve selected are priced below S$30,000. This is because collectors might not be keen to splurge too much money on something that is beyond their comfort zone. While we agree that S$30,000 is a sizeable sum of money, but unfortunately, most of these “interesting” pieces are priced at the sub-S$20k range. Hence, our selections are slightly skewed to the higher end of the scale.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this week’s column of Throwback Sundays. What we have envisaged is greater vibrancy in the local watch collecting scene – and we think that 2020 might just be the right time to do something different. It is the start of a new decade after all.


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1 Comment

  1. Hi Robin,

    Fun choices! Thank you for the article. I think I like the Joker the most, but frankly the face terrifies me, so while I can appreciate the watch, I don’t think I could wear it. I also like Gorilla…there’s this bit of me that likes the oversized sporty watch made with non-traditional materials. I don’t think I would shy away from any of these watches on the basis that they aren’t mainstream (I was thinking about the Freak X for the longest time…).

    May I suggest two other brands for consideration: Reservoir – which has interesting complications like retrograde minutes and jumping hours, all within a reasonable price (US$4,000) and Ochs und Junior – which allows for a huge amount of choice when it comes to materials/colours on every visible aspect of the watch (albeit at a higher price, but within the price bands you mention!).