Watches with That One-Two Punch

Posted April 4, 2024 in Watches & Jewelry by Mike Espindle

Investing in a mechanically exquisite or unique timepiece offers a world of satisfaction and fascination to a watch-lover. However, recent models from some of the top watchmakers are tapping into often unexpected inspiration and collaboration to add beaucoup style quotient to the impeccable micro-engineering of their unmatched wrist instruments.

Ulysse Nardin

Freak [ONE OPS]
Volumes can be written about the impact of Ulysse Nardin’s Freak platform. Introduced two decades ago, the mind-bending new vision of telling time with all of the movement components loaded up on a kinetic flying carousel that also serves as the minute hand for the watch was a brilliantly disruptive innovation that evoked an objet d’art vibe to the collection. Over the ensuing years, Ulysse Nardin released new versions that tended to play up the uniqueness of the approach, to the delight of boundary-pushing watch lovers.

However, in the new Freak [ONE OPS] execution, while no less artful than any Freak out there, the out-of-the-box package is delivered in the deceptively familiar and, even, humble, guise of a military-inspired field watch. To say this new 44mm timepiece gets the “camouflage” treatment is something of an understatement. While the unique Carbonium bezel, a material created from residual aircraft fuselage offcuts for 40 percent less environmental impact than other carbon composites, stands out visually, the understated, utilitarian khaki and black presentation belies that technical complexity and just screams a level of in-the-know “stealth wealth” enjoyment. Maneuvers begin at $66,500.

Roger Dubuis

Excalibur Spider Revuelto Flyback Chronograph
This new 45mm Excalibur model from watchmaker Roger Dubuis packs a big dose of high-velocity design appeal via the brand’s ongoing collaboration with Italian sports car maker Lamborghini’s Squadra Corse racing program. Inspired by the lines and details of the milestone $604,000 V12 hybrid plug-in Lamborghini Revuelto supercar, there’s a lot of track-ready style that becomes wrist-ready. But you’d be a bit remiss to fall in love with the look without considering the prodigious “engine” of the watch itself. Powered by a fifth-generation in-house chronograph movement, the RD780, the timepiece carries its own high standards of performance.

First, the chronograph is a specialized “flyback” chronograph, allowing the wearer to instantly set the counter back to zero with a single button push (instead of the start, stop, reset action of a traditional chronograph that requires two pushers); obviously, a great benefit to timing quickly occurring multiple events (like an auto race). A chronograph function on a watch is generally added to a movement as a separate module, but the artisans at Roger Dubuis have created the function from scratch, and it is fully integrated into the RD780 movement, and more visible, to boot. Fold-in cutting-edge automotive-inspired materials like C-SMC Carbon and titanium, as well as straight-up luxury elements like white gold, and you can start your engine for $107,500.

Richard Mille

RM 35-03 Automatic Rafael Nadal
Iconic watchmaker Richard Mille scores a service ace with the fourth timepiece associated with the brand’s most notable sports affiliation. While the RM 35-03 Automatic Rafael Nadal packs all the next-gen lightweight material DNA (via four executions in state-of-the-art quartz and Carbone TPT with titanium construction), and the signature skeletonization, uncanny styling, and stunning visual depth befitting the 22 Grand Slam title-holding tennis player, let’s not ignore the horological innovations going on inside the court.

The timepiece is powered by the RM 35-03 movement, which, for the first time according to the watchmaker, now features a new “butterfly rotor” to deliver a new level of selectable winding power, all visible through the case back. The development of this innovation took three years of research and development, which literally “spreads its wings” depending on the wearer’s level of activity. Consisting of two grade 5 titanium arms, weighted metal segments can be deployed on a separate gear train with a dedicated “Sport Mode” pusher at 7 o’clock. This aligns the weights at 180 degrees and minimizes the winding process so you don’t overwind the movement when you, say, do your own impression of a court-charging Nadal (or some other equally kinetic activity). Want to win the game, set and match? Expect to pay about $238,000.


L.U.C. Skull One Calavera Pop Art
The generally stately House of Chopard liberally dips its brush into the world of art and south-of-the-border celebration with this new “Day of the Dead” inspired L.U.C. model. This fourth version of the Skull One series is limited to just 25 colorful pieces, in resplendent white-grey, green and red tones that fold in some decidedly Roy Lichtenstein-referencing Pop Art dot details.

Framed by a slim 40mm black bead-blasted, DLC-coated steel case — secured to the wrist with a simple, single-stitch black with green-backed leather strap — and carrying a whimsical mustachioed skull L.U. Chopard logo with no indexes or indicators on the dial, it is an artful departure for a fine Chopard timepiece. Yet, it is in every respect a high-end L.U.C. timekeeper. Under the lively dial, and visible through the case back, the L.U.C. Skull One Calavera Pop Art sports the in-house L.U.C. 96.53-L automatic caliber with signature “twin” technology employing two co-axial barrels that work in sequence to deliver no less than 58 hours of power reserve, a flat-terminal-curve balance spring for elevated accuracy, and more traditional horological adornments like Côtes de Genève stripe finishing. For just $16,600, you can honor Dia De Muertos well into the spooky night.

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