There is a saying about kinky sex: if you don’t understand it, it’s not for you. Just because you find something weird or abhorrent doesn’t mean it’s weird or abhorrent to someone else. In terms of horological tolerance, the struggle is real. There are strange watches that I find a bridge too far. Forgive me if I offend you with my selection and I’ll return the favor should you find these watches appealing . . .
Cloche de Cartier
It’s sideways. But why? According to HoDinkee’s Jack Forster, the cloche (French for bell) was originally a brooch watch, worn pinned to clothing like a nurse’s watch, lifted to read. Cartier offers no explanation – the Cloche is not yet on their website – so we’ll take Mr. Forster’s word for it.
Why did Cartier take a woman’s fob watch, give it lugs and sell it to men? It makes no sense. Ignoring historicism, this watch is hard to read. Both regular readers may note that I said I wouldn’t even wear the cocked Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921 for this reason. The mental or physical gymnastics required to reorient a watch off by a right angle are less than one skewed by 45 degrees.
Arguably one can play the John Mayer game: this strange watch can serve as a travel clock! This reminds me of the old joke about Mercedes station wagons. Sorry Doug Demuro, the gag is “if you can afford a Mercedes station wagon, can’t you afford a Mercedes and a station wagon?”
The price of the Cloche de Cartier is as yet unknown, but presumably the clientele can splurge on a desk clock. Robert Farago will mention that they also have smartphones and other digital gizmos to tell the time when at home or away. If you’re into that.
To make matters worse, the Cartier’s bell jar shape means that the big dome end protrudes past the band. For right-handed wearers (about 90 percent of us), this means the case and crown protrude over the back of the hand. Unless the wearer tightens it to dangerous levels. Odd looking, lacking interesting historicity, and both hard to read and hard to wear, I don’t understand these strange watches.
MB&F – Strange Watches Seen Sideways
There’s a reason we only get a split-second glimpse of MB&F’s insanely expensive “On the Road Again” watch on someone’s wrist in the video above. It looks weird. Goofy. Strange!
MB&F designed the timepiece’s top-mounted “louvres” to evoke the Lamborghini Miura’s [rear] engine cover. But they don’t. On the Road Again looks more like a Braun Series 1 Smart Control Electric Shaver than a vintage supercar trying to cool its 12-cylinder engine.
More than a few of MB&F’s strange watches display the time on the side of the watch, rather than the top (e.g., the HM8 CAN-AM WT above and the HM9 at the top of this post). The horologists use the layout to create a skeleton watch like no other, deploying their world class engineering prowess to further limit legibility.
Not that legibility is MB&F’s greatest concern. Or any concern whatsoever. “Respecting tradition but never constrained by it,” their website proclaims, “we reinterpret traditional, high-quality watchmaking into three-dimensional kinetic sculptures.”
I don’t understand why anyone would want to wear a sculpture on their wrist, especially one that looks like steampunk and Disney’s original Tomorrowland had a baby. It’s art! But these side-on strange watches are even more of a “look at me!” move than wristing a gold Rolex President. Don’t rich people have a better way of starting a conversation?
Repeaters – Any and All
Were repeaters – striking bells at certain intervals – ever really anything but novelty show-off pieces? Yes, it’s super-neato that a tiny mechanical contraption can mimic a church bell gonging out the time. But it all reminds me of portrait artists who paint subminiature canvases. It’s an impressive feat, but what’s the point?
I’m not convinced that a repeater watch ever served a practical purpose. Vision correction lenses existed well before they did, and would surely be less costly. I can’t think of any instance in which some blind codger, of considerable wealth, depends on counting the bongs from their portable timepiece.
In the modern day, there are better devices. (Just ask Siri.) I’m at a loss to understand why precise time mattered in the past, anyway. It’s not like our ancestors were missing their favorite TV show.
The repeater is just as silly as useless as the tourbillon – a device created to accurize “this end up” pocket watches. People cherish both extravagant mechanisms solely for the painstaking labor involved to create them. Were they cranked out by 3-D printers or some other commodifying mass manufacture, nobody would care.
But at least the tourbillon has continuous visual zing. They’re usually visible so that the Veblen consumption can be conspicuous. The private music box that is a repeater is not to be shared. Oops, never mind. That’s the appeal, I guess.
Like the exhibition case back, the repeater is one of those fetishistic things that people buy because they’re both exclusive and onanistic. Sure you can rope acquaintances into sampling the chiming demonstration – much like trying to get people to listen to that mp3 on your iPod. But it’s really a private indulgence.
One I don’t understand. So I guess it’s not for me. How about you? Do you find yourself strangely attracted to any of these strange watches? And don’t worry: you can use a screen name. And TTAW never shares your data with anyone for any reason ever. We’re kinky that way.