Unconventional Timepieces Challenge Tradition and Break the Bank

by Barbara Wilson

Prepare to enter a realm where watchmaking transcends the ordinary and embraces a radical vision of time. In the hallowed halls of Swiss watchmaking, a group of audacious independent brands is boldly redefining horology with avant-garde creations that push boundaries and disrupt conventions. But be warned, these groundbreaking timepieces come with a hefty price tag, reserved only for the elite collectors who dare to sport contemporary works of horological art. Brace yourselves as we delve into a world where timekeeping knows no bounds.


At the prestigious Geneva Watch Days event, five iconoclastic watches emerged, stealing the show with their breathtaking designs.


De Bethune DB28XP Kind of Blue:

The limited-edition De Bethune DB28XP Kind of Blue (priced at an astonishing US$125,000) is a marriage between the ultra-thin DB28XP of 2020 and the mesmerizing DB28 Kind of Blue of 2018. De Bethune’s signature blue hue is achieved through a unique process of heating titanium to more than 700 degrees Celsius, creating a captivating surface oxidation. This timepiece boasts an unconventional architecture, featuring a crown positioned at noon like a pocket watch, floating skeletonized lugs that provide utmost comfort, and the iconic Delta-shaped main plate at the heart of the dial, offering a tantalizing glimpse of the twin barrels. The dial showcases three-dimensional spheres as hour markers, adorned with Microlight—a pioneering radial engraving technique that breathes new life into traditional guilloché.


Ulysse Nardin Blast Free Wheel Marquetry:

Ulysse Nardin, a pioneer in incorporating silicon into movement components, presents the groundbreaking Blast Free Wheel Marquetry (available at a staggering price of US$137,200). This remarkable watch proudly displays silicon on its dial for the first time in the esteemed Blast collection. The dial is a fusion of 103 exquisite blue silicon slivers, crafted with varying matte and mirror-polished surfaces and two thicknesses to create a mesmerizing play of light and depth. The UN-176 Manufacture caliber takes center stage, showcasing its intricate wheels, tourbillon with Ulysse Anchor Constant Escapement, barrel, and a seven-day power reserve indicator. The 45mm white-gold Blast case mirrors the marquetry motif with its unique negative-angle facets, meticulously crafted using an intricate laser technique. With an ultra-glass box crystal, the enigmatic movement remains visible from all angles.


Urwerk UR-100V Stardust:

Prepare to be dazzled by Urwerk’s stainless steel UR-100V Stardust (priced at approximately US$99,500), adorned with a mesmerizing spectacle of 400 brilliant-cut diamonds, totaling nearly 1.90 carats. The technique of snow setting bestows a frosty effect by artfully arranging gems of various sizes in a random pattern. The captivating automatic UR 12.02 wandering hour movement features orbiting satellites with red pointers, indicating the hour as they glide across the minute scale at the bottom. Uniquely, when a pointer reaches the 60-minute mark, it continues its journey around the dial. The apertures on each side of the dial serve as kilometer counters, tracking the Earth’s rotation on its axis over 20 minutes (555 kilometers) and its journey around the Sun (35,740 kilometers) during the same period.

Hautlence Sphere Series 1:

Hautlence, the independent brand renowned for its innovative approach to displaying time, unveils the Sphere Series 1 (priced at approximately US$75,000). Limited to just 28 pieces, this exquisite timepiece revamps the popular HL Sphere of 2019. Encased in stainless steel and secured by an integrated rubber strap, the 43mm-by-50.8mm watch features a beveled sapphire crystal with a small dome, showcasing a captivating blue titanium sphere engraved with numerals as it elegantly rotates to indicate the hour. A retrograde minute hand glides along a curved 60-minute track before snapping back to zero, synchronized with the sphere’s movement. Open the dial, and you’ll discover a mesmerizing display of gears, the freewheel, and the snail cam that triggers the jumping hour. The minute numerals, crafted from Globolight, a ceramic-based material charged with Super-LumiNova, remain white during the day and emit a stunning blue glow at night.

HYT Conical Tourbillon Infinity Sapphires:

Prepare to be enchanted by the mesmerizing HYT Conical Tourbillon Infinity Sapphires (available for a jaw-dropping price of approximately US$440,000), an extraordinary evolution of the brand’s unparalleled Conical Tourbillon. Since its debut in 2012 with its revolutionary fluid time display, HYT has pushed the boundaries of traditional watchmaking. Inspired by German watchmaker Walter Prendel’s inclined balance tourbillon, master watchmaker Eric Coudray has created a captivating suspended tourbillon movement. Set within a robust 48mm 5N rose gold and black DLC titanium case, the intricate tourbillon completes a clockwise rotation every 30 seconds. Orbiting around this magical mechanism are three faceted 2.5mm colored sapphires, each accompanied by a complementary colored spherical counterweight. The trio dances at different rates, creating a mesmerizing ballet on the dial. Six smaller colored sapphires are meticulously placed within the brackets of the tourbillon. Completing the masterpiece is HYT’s signature retrograde liquid hour display, where two immiscible fluids converge within a glass capillary tube to indicate the hour, accompanied by a luminous minute hand.

Get ready to witness the horological revolution with these avant-garde timepieces that are rewriting the rules of watchmaking. Immerse yourself in a world where artistry meets innovation, and time takes on a whole new meaning.


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