Each January, luxury imitation watch online collectors, retailers, and journalists converge on a chilly Geneva for the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie, the watch industry’s first major trade show of the year. Sure, there are watches made of gold and covered in diamonds, but things get way more interesting than that. Here are seven of the craziest time-keeping contraptions you’ll find anywhere on planet Earth. This story was created in partnership with the online watch publication Hodinkee. Be sure to read all of their excellent behind-the-scenes SIHH coverage.
Imitation Richard Mille RM 50-03
Split-seconds chronographs let you time two overlapping events using an extra hand to calculate the time difference between them. Collaborating with Formula One car maker McLaren, Richard Mille has created the lightest split-seconds chronograph ever, which weighs in at just 40 grams, including the elastic strap. The case is a proprietary carbon composite called Graph TPT that includes graphene—only flakes are used in the composite though, so it’s essentially marketing fodder. Pick one up and it’s so light it feels like a toy, making it easy to forget the engineering that goes into making tiny high-performance machine like this.
Imitation Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos Clock 568 By Marc Newson
OK, so it’s not a watch, but there was no way I was leaving this clock off this list. Manufactured by Jaeger-LeCoultre, the Atmos 568 was designed by Marc Newson and is essentially massive block of Baccarat crystal that magically tells you the time. The movement contains a pressurized gas–filled capsule that expands on contracts with changes in temperature and is connected to a bellows system which in turn winds the clock. One degree of change equals two days of power. Want to make your Common Projects-wearing, Vitsoe shelf-having friends jealous and have $28,000 to burn? This is your answer.
Imitation Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication
There are complicated watches and then there’s this insanity. The Celestia has 23 complications—distinct mechanical functions other than showing the hours, minutes, and seconds—all focused around astronomy. There’s a tide indicator with a tiny little model of the Earth, hands for showing solar time vs. sidereal time (star time), sunrise and sunset trackers, and even a translucent sapphire crystal star chart on the back side. Each is made to order and the functions are calibrated for exactly where the wearer lives. Craziest of all? This thing is only 45mm across, meaning it’s actually a wearable size. This watch costs approximately $1 million—Vacheron won’t give an exact price, and it’s available only by special order.
Imitation MCT Sequential One S110 Evo Vantablack
Comprised of densely packed carbon nanotubes, Vantablack is the blackest material ever made by human beings. Watchmaker MCT teamed up with artist Anish Kapoor (who has exclusive artistic rights to use the material) and created this special edition of the Sequential One watch. The inside back of the watch is coated in Vantablack, making the mechanical movement look like it’s floating above a bottomless pit. It’s actually kind of disorienting if you stare into those corners for too long.
Imitation Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious Hour Skeleton
For over 100 years, Cartier has been making so-called “mystery” clocks, which use a secret, proprietary system to make it look like the hands are floating in the middle of an empty space. What’s turning them, you ask? It essentially works with gears and wheels around the edges, with the hands mounted on transparent discs. Here, Cartier has miniaturized the system and then skeletonized the section around the dial itself, showing off some of the 192 mechanical components—but not those final, secret ones.
Inside the black titanium case, behind the black and red dial, there’s a really serious engine lurking, with two separate mechanical halves. The first is rather simple and it’s balance (the little wheel and spring system that actually keeps the time) beats at 4 Hz and tells you the time. The second half’s though beats at a whopping 50 Hz and lets you use the chronograph (stopwatch) function to time things down to 1/1000th of a second, all using one large button at the top of the cast to start, stop, and reset the mechanism. When you stop it, the little hand in that red gauge at 12 o’clock snaps into position instantly to read out the last 1/1000th. Now you better get started working on that reaction time.
Imitation MB&F Horological Machine No. 7 “Aquapod”
MB&F has made watches that look like fighter jets, ’70s sports cars, and space ships. This one is inspired by a jellyfish that stung founder Max Büsser’s wife, but it looks more like something from Ridley Scott’s lost movie, Jacques Cousteau: Alien Hunter. The large sapphire bubble on top holds a spinning tourbillon that keeps the time on the concentric rings below, all surrounded by a pseudo diver’s bezel that reminds one of Saturn. Despite being a little tough to wear for most people, this is a watch with a sense of humor, meant to put a smile on your face every time you look at it.