For all their supposed devotion to tradition and restraint, plenty of luxury watchmakers like to let their freak flags fly. And never has that been truer than this year, as a tide of wild and wacky timepieces have come to market.
Granted, we expect weirdness from some watchmakers, who’ve made pushing both mechanical and aesthetic boundaries a signature of their work (here’s looking at you, Jacob & Co.), but when steady and predictable Rolex comes out with a new Day-Date 36 with a “puzzle dial” featuring emojis in the date window, all bets are off.
Below, we highlight seven of the funniest, most irreverent, and just plain peculiar watches introduced this year. And yet it’s only August. There’s always time to get weirder.
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Alexander Shorokhoff Crazy Balls
Oh, let us count the balls. In Alexander Shorokhoff’s “Crazy Balls” anniversary edition, enameled balls of varying colors and sizes — look closely and you’ll spot a tennis ball, a technical representation of the globe, even the zero in the numerals “60” — decorate a dial layered with materials, from brass to mother of pearl. The 39 mm steel case, blue or red stingray leather strap, and 38-hour power reserve all add to the aura surrounding this automatic timepiece: Refined watchmaking by a maker gone delightfully mad. $2,050; alexander-shorokhoff-shop.de
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Tourbillon “Spider-Man”
Audemars Piguet excels at many things—honoring pop culture, and luxury-style is certainly one of them. The prestige watchmaker proved that in 2021 when it unveiled the first of its collaborative timepieces with Marvel, a Black Panther watch that was both polarizing and popular. In May, the brand introduced its second Marvel piece, an ode to the Amazing Spider-Man. The newest superhero edition of 250 pieces comes in a 42 mm titanium case that frames a mesmerizing openworked movement featuring a 3-D silhouette of the iconic red and blue web slinger. The brand also produced a unique piece, laced with luminescent material, depicting Spider-Man in a black suit (see 1984’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” #252). Both models run on AP’s new hand-wound Calibre 2974, housed within a transparent framework that allows Spider-Man, cut from a block of white gold, to appear as if he’s floating beneath the sapphire crystal. CHF 195,000 (about $222,915); Audemarspiguet.com
F.P. Journe FFC
F.P. Journe gave new meaning to the phrase “having time on your hands” when it unveiled the F.P. Journe FFC, a regular production model based on the FFC Blue “Francis Ford Coppola,” a prototype timepiece created for the 2021 Only Watch auction. The result of a years-long conversation between Journe and the filmmaker Coppola about how to represent the passage of time, the watch is dominated by a central titanium hand inspired by a drawing of a prosthesis made by the 16th-century French barber-turned-surgeon Ambroise Paré. The hand indicates the hours from one to 12 by extending or retracting its digits, while a rotating disc displays the minutes. Powered by the Octa caliber and encased in platinum, the wristwatch offers a medieval-looking example of Journe’s mechanical wizardry—hands up if you agree! Price on request; fpjourne.com
Gucci G-Timeless Planetarium
Don’t let the joyful spirit or sparkly halo of gemstones decorating Gucci’s new G-Timeless Planetarium watch, introduced in four new designs this March, distract you from the serious watchmaking contained within. At the touch of a button, the gem-set wheel begins to spin. At the model’s heart lies the Dancing Hours Flying Tourbillon, aka GGC.1976.DS, which borrows its name from the Orion Nebula NGC 1976, one of the galaxy’s brightest nebulas. Price on request; Gucci.com
Jacob & Co. Casino Tourbillon
From the brilliant and bonkers minds at Jacob & Co. comes a timepiece that takes a serious gamble—and wins. Equipped with a fully functional, free-spinning roulette wheel, complete with 37 pockets (one green, 18 red, and 18 black), the watch is activated by a pusher that propels the wheelhead. As it spins, a white ceramic ball bounces inside, landing in a random location. The details, including the 44 mm 18k rose gold case, a dial made from a single slab of mirror-polished black onyx, and applied rose gold indices in distinctive kite shapes, lend the playful piece its gravitas. As does a surprise flying tourbillon tucked into the caseback! $280,000; jacobandco.com
Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata
Automatons meet in-house enamel artistry in the new Tambour Fiery Heart Automata from Louis Vuitton, a 42 mm 18-karat rose-gold timepiece designed to remind its wearer of the sweet and spiky nature of time. Thorns and briars decorate the dial, which comes alive with the press of a pusher at 8 o’clock. The Monogram flowers at the center of the red enamel roses at 12 and 4 o’clock begin to spin, as diamond pistils fire rays of refracted light. The flaming heart at 9 o’clock, emblazoned with the word “Sweet,” cracks open to reveal a caveat: “Sweet but fierce.” Even the gold tongues of fire atop the heart mimic real flames. Complete with seven animations, a flying tourbillon, and, let’s not forget, the ability to display the hours and minutes, this work of horological art is a cheeky rejoinder to the sweet, diamond-set watches that once defined the “ladies category.” $370,000; louisvuitton.com
Rolex Day-Date 36 “Puzzle Dial”
The Crown’s trademark pragmatism gives way to unbridled emotion in the hard-to-get “Puzzle Dial” edition of the Day-Day 36. The arc-shaped aperture at 12 o’clock displays seven inspirational keywords (Happy, Eternity, Gratitude, Peace, Faith, Love and Hope) while the window at 3 o’clock reveals one of 31 exclusive emojis in place of the date. And let’s not forget the dial itself, a masterpiece of champlevé enameling in a colorful jigsaw puzzle motif. Available in 36 mm in Everose gold, yellow gold, and white gold, the timepiece gave fans of the brand an unexpected delight, even as it left some a tad, well, puzzled. $55,000 in yellow gold, $57,900 in white gold or Everose gold; Rolex.com