Give Me Five! Skulls Grinning From Behind The Crystal At Baselworld 2016 Featuring Speake-Marin, Hautlence, Edelberg, HYT, And Hublot
Skulls are much more than a depiction of the bones that hold the human face in shape and our brains in place. Used in many types of art, they are deeply symbolic, often representing themes of mortality. A skull can also represent lifelong loyalty, poison, and even piracy.
Several years ago skulls were widely used in fashion; the late Alexander McQueen is said to have introduced it to the modern fashion world, thereby creating a fad. As is often the case in fashion, such trends tend to depart quickly again; this one was passé by about 2011.
In high-end watchmaking, trends don’t generally tend to be faddish – or not as faddish anyway. And the use of skulls as a decorative emblem is not new, nor do I believe it will ever entirely leave.
Mary, Queen of Scots is said to have owned a memento mori in the shape of a large silver watch carved in the form of a skull and decorated with lines from Horace’s poems. Corum’s previous owner Severin Wunderman was obsessed with memento mori and depicted them in many of his self-designed Bubble watches.
There is always a skull lurking somewhere in the world of watches, which makes it fairly unsurprising that we were able to find five examples grinning up at us during Baselworld 2016. I have not listed Fiona Krüger’s Petit Skull here as it has already received its own posting at Fiona Krüger’s Unusual Petit Skull Watches Have Made Me A Fan.
Speake-Marin Face to Face Tourbillon
Peter Speake-Marin’s timepieces very often have a philosophical message or concept behind them. So you can bet your boney cheeks that a watch featuring a skull will have deeper meaning.
“Being aware of death makes you more aware of life,” the British watchmaker living in Switzerland told us. And while the detailed depiction of the bones beneath a human face created using a special etching technique (see Ancient Drums Are Booming: The Speake-Marin Dong Son Tourbillon for more on this technique) may remind us of our own mortality, the message is still upbeat: let’s appreciate the time we have.
Speake-Marin gets many requests for unique pieces – a philosophy that dominated the watchmaker’s core business before the individual artisan transformed into a brand. He is also very happy to continue obliging his ardent fans in their quest for originality, using different finishes for each watch in this line and ensuring that every Face to Face watch in the edition is a unique piece.
For more information, please visit www.speake-marin.com/fine-art-pieces/face-to-face.
Quick Facts Speake-Marin Face to Face Tourbillon
Case: 42 x 12 mm, red gold with baguette-cut diamonds on the bezel
Dial: exceptionally finely chemically etched Skull motif, circular grained German silver
Movement: automatic Speake-Marin Caliber Eros with five-day power reserve and one-minute tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 150,000 Swiss francs (excluding tax)
HYT Skull Bad Boy
The skull image became an instant favorite among the numerous variations of the liquid-time-telling HYT watch.
At Baselworld 2016, the boutique brand introduced a new version of the Skull in black, the Skull Bad Boy. While this may sound like a simple variation on the theme, rest assured it’s not: coloring the Skull black meant that the mechanical hydrologists also had to develop a new black liquid for the time-telling display – which was not entirely easy.
The opaque black liquid needed more than 12 months to develop due to the precise chemical and physical properties required, including viscosity, expansion coefficient, and UV resistance. Another side effect of the black liquid was that the brand’s engineers needed a way to lighten it up so that the time could be read in the dark – and then they decided not to.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Another side effect of the black liquid was that the brand’s engineers needed a way to lighten it up so that the time could be read in the dark – and then they decided not to.[/pullquote]
“It was a deliberate decision,” explained Vincent Perriard, CEO of HYT. “There were other solutions [like the new backlighting that HYT invented -ed], which would have made the time visible at night. But if we wanted to play with the darkness inherent to the Skull Bad Boy, we had to go all the way. Night is part of the world of shadows and darkness; perfectly in tune with the spirit of the skull.”
It was this change in the liquid’s color that prompted the idea for the “Bad Boy” design, not the desire to make a new color available for 2015’s HYT Skull.
For more on the HYT Skull, see The HYT Skull: Fad, Trend, Style, Or Movement?
Quick Facts HYT Skull Bad Boy
Case: 51 x 17.9 mm; titanium, black DLC-coated titanium
Dial: skull coated with “Neuchâtel Damascus,” a composite material of steel and carbon that resembles Damascus steel
Movement: manually wound HYT caliber with 65 hours of power reserve
Functions: hours (fluidic), seconds (in left eye); power reserve (in right eye)
Limitation: 50 pieces
Price: 90,000 Swiss francs
Hublot Big Bang Broderie Sugar Skull
The original Big Bang Broderie took home the top prize in the Ladies category of the 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (see Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Ladies Category Of The 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève).
The embroidered elements produced in St. Gallen are added to Hublot’s Big Bang in a process akin to the manufacture of carbon fiber components: the elements are encased and molded in carbon fiber to amplify the texture. This process is new and exclusive to Hublot.
This watch is incredibly compelling, even if your personal style does not generally include gemstones, embroidery, skulls, or the Big Bang.
Quick Facts Hublot Big Bang Broderie Sugar Skull
Case: 41 mm, black ceramic or stainless steel or red gold with bezel set with 36 red spinels
Dial: carbon fiber and organza silk with embroidered Lurex thread; 12 red spinels as hour markers
Movement: automatic Caliber HUB1110, water-resistant to 100 meters
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 200 pieces
Price: stainless steel $13,600; black polished ceramic $15,700; red gold $30,400
Hautlence Invictus Vida Loca
The idea for this bespoke customization in Hautlence’s Invictus collection came from a meeting between Joachim Besomi, Hautlence’s master watchmaker, who also happens to be a passionate biker; Manu Vionnet, founder of Vida Loca Choppers; and Sébastien Mottier, one of Vida Loca’s owners.
This timepiece is embellished front and center with the Vida Loca Choppers logo, which comprises a skull wearing a crown. The skull is engraved by hand and placed on a black background surrounded by a poisonous green honeycomb dial.
For more information on the Invictus line, see Hautlence, Branding, Eric Cantona, And The 10-Year Anniversary.
Quick Facts Hautlence Invictus Vida Loca
Case: 42 x 49 x 14 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Soprod A10 with Dubois Dépraz 293 module
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, chronograph
Limitation: 28 pieces
Price: 19,500 Swiss francs
Edelberg Sloop To Be Or Not To Be
One of the best-known examples of skull symbolism can be found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the title character recognizes the skull of an old friend: “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest. . .”
Our own Ian Skellern recently quoted that very line, which inspired the fictitious Hamlet to a bitter rant of despair and ironic humor. Ian’s usage came about in Photo Caption Competition No. 12: Alas, Poor Yorick . . . just after we’d spied the gem-set skull seen above lurking within a glass case at the de Grisogono booth at Baselworld 2016.
Edelberg takes the irony and runs with it, using a skull to symbolize a connection between “being” (“to be or not to be . . . “) and “writing,” reinterpreting Hamlet in the family-owned company’s best tradition of creating writing instruments.
The focus of the barrel of this ballpoint pen is the hand-painted image of a human skull inspired by the Shakespeare play’s theme of mortality – and the potential to make one’s own thoughts immortal by writing them down.
Each of the 88 skulls (one for each of the pens in the limited edition) was hand-painted by multilingual Spanish/German singer-songwriter Álvaro Soler.
Quick Facts Edelberg Sloop To Be Or Not To Be
Barrel black carbon fiber with hand-painted image of human skull
Cap: stainless steel with Super-LumiNova
Clip and end pieces: stainless steel
Limitation: 88 pieces