Five Unusual Watches
Watchmaking can be a little unadventurous at times, a little safe. Outside the realms of companies like MB&F and Urwerk, it's not often that a watch brand takes a risk with something unusual. Every now and then, however, something unexpected happens. Whether the accountant was off sick or simply wasn't paying attention, sometimes a designer gets something through the system that's a bit more interesting. Here are five examples.
Watch our video to see our five unusual watches
Inspired by the German aeronautical instrument manufacturer Sinn, Bell & Ross is famous for its big, square cases that mimic the flight apparatus that graces an aircraft's cockpit. But for the BR-01 Horizon, Bell & Ross went a step further. At the very real penalty of legibility, the designers at Bell & Ross slapped the design of a horizon gauge on the dial in homage to the device that helps a pilot keep their plane right side up.
The distinctive Bell & Ross instrument case is based on aircraft dials
'And what kind of mechanical trickery', the aghast accountant on returning from sick leave might say, 'is required to make all of this work?' Well, none, actually. The hour hand is still the hour hand, the minute hand still the minute hand. Once you've figured out that the chunky white tip reads the hours and the white half of the hand stretching across the dial reads the minutes, the operation of the watch materialises back to normality again.
The hour and minute hands make the display look like a Horizon gauge
Looks like a Cartier , right? Rectangular case, roman numerals, blued hands. Nothing unusual here. Although the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that the famous blue cabochon that usually resides on the tip of the crown is actually at the top. That's because this little Cartier has a party trick—or rather, two.
The rectangular case and Roman numerals are distinctive Cartier
French for 'tilting'—and Romanian for 'dump', make of that what you will—the 1933 Basculante has a folding frame that allows the middle case to be lifted from its shell, rotated and returned with the dial facing down, protected.
Seems a lot like the concept for the 1931 Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, and you'd be right to think that. You see, the man who came up with the idea for the Reverso, César De Trey, was an executive at a company called Spécialités Horlogères—the same company that made the Basculante for Cartier two years later. To make matters more interesting, Spécialités Horlogères was in fact owned by the same holding company that controlled—and consolidated—Jaeger and LeCoultre. The more you know.
But the best bit about the Basculante, its other party trick, is this—if you pause the folding process midway, you're left with a perfect little bedside clock.
The folding display is reminiscent of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso
It's certainly unexpected to see a watch that looks like it came from the future made by the third oldest watchmaker in the world, Vacheron Constantin. This delightfully tiny Classique Saltarello Jump Hour may seem simple, but it packs a horological punch.
This most unusual Vacheron Constantin has a unique display
Powered by the ultra-thin, Jaeger-LeCoultre designed calibre 1120—which has been used not just by Vacheron Constantin but by Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet as well—the Classique Saltarello hides a small jumping hour complication at twelve o'clock, while the minute hand slides behind the floating dial like a retro-futuristic speedometer. Cased in platinum, it's a most unusual and rare find.
The hours are told by the jumping display and the minutes by the floating triangle
Omega isn't shy when it comes to producing a limited edition Speedmaster. After all, this is a watch with arguably the best slice of heritage in the world, and Omega is understandably keen to let people know. This limited edition Speedmaster, however, has a cartoon dog on it. Why?
Omega has added a medallion with the Snoopy character to the dial of this Speedmaster
Rewind back to 1970, two days into the Apollo 13 mission. The Service Module, crippled by an explosion from an oxygen tank, was off course by 60 miles—enough to bounce the craft off Earth's atmosphere and irrevocably back into space. The unused Lunar Module was the astronaut's survival cell, and a timed burn from its thrusters was needed to put it back on course, of exactly 14 seconds.
With the on-board clock not working, astronaut Jack Swigert timed the burn with his NASA-issue Speedmaster, safely returning the crew back to Earth—as well as three small silver Snoopys. Following the tragic Apollo 1 fire, NASA had pushed harder for safety, recruiting Snoopy as its mascot for wellbeing. From 1968 onwards, every NASA astronaut has worn a little silver Snoopy pin which, on return to Earth, is gifted to a civilian who was key to keeping them safe.
For its part in the recovery of the Apollo 13 astronauts, Omega was presented with a Silver Snoopy award. This watch proudly displays that award.
The Speedmaster earned the Snoopy award for its part in the Apollo 13 rescue
Hublot is known for its use of unusual materials as part of its 'Art of Fusion' mantra, with some notable mentions including palladium, tantalum, tungsten and osmium—but this Big Bang is decorated with the most unusual material of all of them.
Hublot has used some strange materials in the past, but this is the strangest
No, that's not carbon fibre you're seeing, or pavé diamonds—the dial of this Big Bang is made of denim. Jeans. You know, the stuff usually seen hanging halfway down a construction worker's behind.
With a dial and strap made of jeans, this Hublot commits a heinous fashion crime: double denim
Encased in black ceramic, this Big Bang's dial features a processed denim that's been hardened for easier moulding—and it has a strap to match. Unlike ordinary jeans—which manufacturers say you should never wash—this denim-clad timepiece can be submerged to a depth of 100 metres.
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