A watch is an intensely personal possession. Some people may want to read the time during the day, others in the dark, others underwater; they may want to see what time it is somewhere else in the world, or use it to time their running schedule. Luckily there is an enormous variety of watches available, and every year, imaginative new designs are launched. Here is a small selection of some of this year's more unusual watch designs.
Longines recently celebrated its 180th anniversary, and its collection includes some rare historical pieces such as the asthmometer-pulsometer chronograph, ideal for doctors, and the telemeter chronograph, great for soldiers. The Avigation Watch Type A-7 is characteristic for its angled dial. It is based on 1930s models designed for pilots who flew with gloves, and so it has a large crown, and is very large, 49 millimetres in diameter, for easy visibility. In the cockpit it was worn on the inside of the left wrist, so it could be seen when the hands are on the control column. In that position, the dial is perfectly vertical, and aligned with the aircraft's instruments.
History features strongly in another watch, the Radiomir 1940 Chronograph by Panerai, based on the 1943 Mare Nostrum designed for the Italian Navy but never put into production. One of the versions, PAM519, has the famously eccentric dial (now known as the 'California' pattern), with Roman numerals in the top half and Arabic numerals below. Its origin is part of Panerai legend: the prototype was made as part of a commission from the Italian Navy, and Panerai decided to present them a choice of two possible dial designs, with either Arabic or Roman numerals. For the sake of easy comparison, they presented the two options on the same dial. The admiral responsible for the commission forgot that he had to make a choice and simply approved the hybrid, which became the final design.
The Tonda Mambo by Parmigiani Fleurier achieves an unusual combination, between the precision of its 30-second tourbillon, the exceptional 7-day power reserve of its manually-wound Calibre PF510 movement, and the funky wooden mosaic on the dial depicting a Cuban guitarist. Every year, Parmigiani Fleurier makes timepieces linked to the world of music – the brand has a long-standing partnership with the Montreux Jazz Festival – and this piece, in complex wooden marquetry, is a true work of art, made from different timbers. The contrast between the jazzy dial and the sumptuously technical finish of the movement visible through the sapphire caseback is wonderful.
SevenFriday is an interesting new brand, founded in May 2012 by Daniel Niederer in Zurich. The watches that he designs have movements made by Japanese company Miyota, and they are assembled in Hong Kong and China. The result: great-looking mechanical watches at about €800. This year's watches are M1 and M2, the first inspired by turbines, the second by old radios. Both have discs, for hours, minutes and seconds, and an engraved metal caseback that heightens the industrial feel.
Freak was revolutionary when Ulysse Nardin launched it in 2001, and it still looks amazing today. While most watches have movements locked securely into position at the heart of the watch, in Freak the movement forms the minute hand, and so rotates around the dial. In the latest version, Blue Cruiser, the movement is entirely free-floating, and hairspring and escapement are in silicon. The rotating bezel is used to adjust time, and so there is no crown. The watch, with case in white gold, retails for €73,000.
To conclude, two more dramatically different watches. Belgian brand Ressence makes two watches shaped like bubbles of sapphire crystal glass, with the indications that magically seem to float on the surface. In the Type 3 watch, the three subdials rotate around the dial, and so the watch is always different in appearance. €23,000. The Dream Watch 5.2 by De Bethune is a sci-fi fantasy, with a shell in blackened zirconium, and time indications with jumping hours, minutes disc, and phases of the moon. About €134,000.