Telling The Time With Watches that Have Atypical Hands
Could we tell the time without the usual hands? 99% of brands say ‘no’. It’s a question of habit: from our earliest years, our brain learns to tell the time using at least two hands. For most people, taking hands off the dial would be like taking the time off the watch. Still, many independent brands, keen to invent new watchmaking codes for the new millennium, have created some efficient ‘hands-free’ models.
Urwerk is probably the most iconic of them all. What Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei invented has become more than an idea: it’s now the brand’s trademark. In the current collections, the UR-210 is the model that best embodies their satellite invention for reading time: a cube featuring four hours engraved on four of its faces, flying above a 0-60 scale indicating the minutes. Simple and obvious – and also very creative.
The HYT H3 is more extreme. In a huge rectangular case more than 50 mm across lives a fluid caliber that tells a linear story: a series of cubes describes a 0 to 6-hour period of time, while a 0-60 retrograde linear scale shows minutes.
Max Büsser and his friends are playing another game, especially with their HM5. Still, nothing really new here as this “Horological Machine” uses a digital display, similar to a quartz watch. While the main challenge was that of powering the watch with a genuine mechanical Swiss caliber, the HM5 reading is anything but intuitive, as it uses the well-known jumping hour display, in which each hour instantaneously switches to the next, in the blink of an eye.
When it comes to Ulysse Nardin, the Freak is on the center stage. With neither dial nor hands, it is constructed so that the movement turns about its own axis. Connected together at the center of the watch, the lower deck displays the hours, while the upper deck – which carries the gear train, the balance wheel and balance-spring unit and the exclusive Dual Ulysse silicium escapement – shows the minutes.
If there’s one outsider to mention, it’s Spero Lucem. The Geneva-based brand has created a watch where hands can’t be trusted: ask their La Clemence to repeat the time (literally, let its chimes ring the number of hours and then minutes), and the hands on this minute-repeater, created in 2013, will go crazy. This playful world premier is pregnant with meaning: after all, the purpose of the minute-repeater mechanism is to indicate the time by sound, so it makes sense to help the user concentrate on that, without being tempted to use their eyes to confirm what they’re hearing!