We all know that watches run the gamut in prices, design, color, and materials from the affordable to the ultra-high-end Haute horology pieces. The thing is, some watches tell time differently than we are used to. The traditional watch has a dial and hands to indicate the hours, minutes, and seconds. But many of today’s watches – especially those created by independent brands – shun tradition and go for three-dimensional architectural designs that can be mesmerizing. Here we take a look at four incredible watches that tell time differently.
Independent Swiss watch brand MB&F is known for its extraordinary watches. Founder Max Busser relies on his love of space, cars, and other objects of inspiration when creating his horological machines. One of his machines included a tiny sculpture of an alien that acts as the power reserve indicator, while another features cylinders formed like a spaceship with windows at the wide end to indicate the time.
The newest Horological Machine No. 10 is designed to replicate man’s best friend and is aptly nicknamed Bulldog. Inspired by the stocky French Bulldog, MB&F (Max Busser and friends) designed a compact rounded case with two raised round domes at the front that resemble the dog’s eyes. One indicates the hours, while the other showcases the minutes. The lugs of the watch are moveable so that they wrap the wrist firmly and emulate the dog’s legs. A studded collar allows for winding and setting of the time.
Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the Bulldog is its power reserve indicator. Beneath the front of the case and visible when the watch is at a slight angle, is a hinged jaw – showing the dog’s teeth that open and close depending on the power reserve in the watch. The shining teeth mean Bulldog is full of fight and fully charged with 45 hours of power reserve. When the jaw is shut, Bulldog is down for the count and needs to be wound up.
Engraved on Bulldog’s belly is a message: “Forget the dog, beware of the owner.” While this all sounds playful, the watch is actually quite serious. Created in either grade 5 titanium or 18-karat 5N rose gold, it houses a complex 301-part manual-wind movement with a flying balance wheel that is visible beneath the sapphire dome crystal. The domes that indicate the hours and minutes are made from aluminum so they are light enough to rotate and feature Super-LumiNova for easy readability.
HYT H5 – $55,000
Known for their hydromechanical horology, independent watch brand HYT uses fluid flowing through capillaries to indicate the time. Essentially, the watches house mechanical movements, as well as bellows that push the fluid through the capillaries on demand. The brand has created many different versions of the fascinating watch since its founding just over about a decade ago in 2012. The most intriguing include its double-bellow versions and its recent Soonow Rainbow series with skull motif using a variety of colors and the round 3D case and background set with a rainbow of gemstones.
From a technological perspective, though, the newest HYT H5 watch may be the most complex. Several years in the development stages, this watch uses the fluid differently than previous versions and boasts a new mechanical transmission system inside the new Caliber 501 movement. Essentially, the colored fluid flows from the lower-left out from the bellows and travels around the dial until it reaches the lower right point – passing each hour of the 12-hour tracking period. With its 12 hours complete, instead of entering the bellow on the right, it rewinds back to the starting point – a visual delight to experience.
This reversal of the fluid – usually offered in red, blue, green, black or other shades –is made possible by a cam-and-lever system that works with the patented fluid module. Another nuance of the watch: each time the fluid returns to the bellows, it is mixed into a new molecular concentration before being pushed back into the capillaries. The highly scientific brand has collected a cult-like following.
Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari
Hublot’s first-ever MP-05 LaFerrari watch was unveiled to the world in 2013 as a tribute to the supercar. The result of a close collaboration with Ferrari’s design director, Flavio Manzoni, Hublot was able to create a super movement to reflect the car. The movement features a tourbillon (that compensates for errors in timekeeping due to the effects of gravity when the watch is in certain positions on the wrist) escapement pulled out from the rest of the movement and showcased via a cylindrical opening. It also boasts a remarkable record-setting 50 days of power reserve thanks to 11 series-coupled barrels that resemble the mechanics of the car. That movement, still used in the LaFerrari watches today, boasts a massive 637 parts.
Since that first release, Hublot regularly creates new versions of the beloved LaFerrari – with perhaps the most intriguing being with a see-through sapphire case that takes about 600 hours to machine. The case alone was 18 months in the making. It seems like the perfect house for its most complicated three-dimensional movement yet, which looks as though it is suspended in space. The watch is wound with a tool that looks like a miniature power drill. The unique time display is found on the moving cams on the left and right of the barrels. The left side indicates the power reserve, and the hours and minutes are shown on the right side.
Urwerk UR-100 Gold – $58,000
Known for its use of satellite disks and orbs in watchmaking, independent Swiss brand Urwerk has been turning heads since its founding in 1997. Among its many watches, the UR-100 is one of the most sought-after by collectors because of its space-age appeal. Recently released in 18-karat yellow gold and nicknamed by fans C-3P0 (after the Star Wars droid), the Urwerk UR-100 watch boasts a domed sapphire crystal through which the wearer can view the time.
That time, though, is a complex yet highly readable journey around the dial. The master watchmakers use three rotating satellites, each of which has the numerals for the hours on them. As the satellites turn and rotate, the exact hour is displayed in the center of the satellite above what would be 6:00 on an ordinary dial. The minutes are displayed with an arched-shaped ring (from 4:00-8:00 on the dial) and a white-tipped red arrow points them out. When the arrow hand reaches 60, it goes behind the subsidiary dial and displays some astronomical information, including distance traveled by Earth. The space-age watch is created in a limited edition in yellow gold of 25 pieces.
About the Author
Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.