Why I Bought It: Konstantin Chaykin Joker
Over the years, I’ve looked at a lot of watches – and over the past ten years visited many, many booths at watch shows – but none of that quite prepared me for what I saw when I met up with independent watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin at the A.H.C.I. booth at Baselworld in 2017: a fanciful yet thoroughly considered timepiece he called the Joker.
I had briefly met Chaykin once before and had long admired his ingenious, and often technically complex, timepieces. These include the Moscow Comptus Easter Clock, which displays 26 indications including the date of Orthodox Easter, and his Cinema watch, which incorporates a zoopraxiscope, a tiny recreation of Eadweard Muybridge’s very first moving picture device, which displayed a galloping horse.
The Joker was like none of these, at least not on the surface: instead, the “face” of the watch was literally just that with two googly eyes showing the hours and minutes with their respective pupils and a lolling red tongue displaying the phase of the moon.
I was transfixed and moments later I placed my order.
How it fits
In my pal Terry’s collection taxonomy, it’s pretty easy to see where this piece fits: squarely atop the divide between fun (has there ever been a watch that brings more smiles?) and patronage of the independent watchmakers.
For me, it’s at least as interesting to consider how this watch fits within Chaykin’s portfolio of pieces and business model. Certainly, it must have presented some risk for him to decide to create a series of 99 steel watches at an affordable price point based on an ETA ébauche, with a comic feel.
The result has been to catapult Chaykin into the consciousness of a much broader set of potential customers while at the same time bringing substantial revenues into the till and reinforcing, rather than diluting, his well-earned reputation for thoughtful innovation.
Why I love it
First and foremost, I do love this piece for its inventiveness. Even more, it’s creativity that works; for instance, I was a bit concerned that there would be only a few positions of the “eyes” that looked natural, but I’ve found that no matter what time of day it is the Joker’s expression seems engaging. And for anyone who has read a regulator dial of any kind before, the hours-then-minutes reading of the time rapidly becomes second nature.
There’s also the fine balance between affordability and quality. I think that Chaykin has made just about all of the right calls here, for instance using the workhorse ETA 2428-2 movement as a foundation but adding a custom module for the time and moon on top that is attractively finished with hand-applied perlage.
And let’s admit it: a “fun” watch should be fun and this one certainly is! While photographing this piece, I moved pretty quickly through the standard sets of positions but really started to enjoy myself when I started playing with making the Joker become more of an active observer, or even action figure, and taking more advantage of “his” ability to make different fun faces.
The fun is backed up with lots of substance, too.
Chaykin has made good use of efficient techniques like laser etching on the bezel and case back to make fairly complex shapes like the four suits of cards and Joker logo that engage the eye. The multi-piece dial construction catches and throws light from all angles and has just enough splashes of color to keep us entertained.
I particularly like the slightly domed, sparkly surfaces of the “eyeballs.” It would have been simple enough to use flat, matte disks but as with many of the other design elements of the watch, Chaykin went the extra mile.
The deeply etched time-setting crown displays Chaykin’s eagle-meets-K logo. It is located directly across from other “ear” on the face, a false crown that incorporates a pusher for the moon phase adjustment.
And as you’ve probably noticed by now, even the strap has that little bit extra with bright green stitching and lurid purple backing that makes me smile each time I see it.
Speaking of smiles, that’s what the wearing experience with this watch is all about. I kept the Joker on my right wrist throughout the SIHH week after taking delivery, and every time anyone saw it they broke into a big grin. The CEO of a major brand asked to try it on once he saw it, and at two separate Geneva brand boutiques staff members who had seen my Instagram photos of the watch asked whether I had it with me!
And it’s not just watch lovers; everyone who meets the Joker seems to love him.
Even better, the fun with the Joker doesn’t stop with the watch itself.
My personal example hadn’t been completed at the time of last November’s Only Watch auction, but Chaykin was in attendance and passed along my set of custom Joker cufflinks, which on their own were enough to light up people’s faces the rest of the weekend.
I’m also fortunate to have one of the limited number of Joker card decks to help while away those dark winter evenings.
Did I mention that the watch comes from Russia?
As an American who has been bombarded pretty much nonstop over the past year with anti-Russian claims and reports, I’m pleased to do my bit to remind folks that the people of Russia and America likely have much more in common than we have differences; that the Russian traditions of arts and crafts are incredibly rich; and that one of the best ways to avoid the tendency to demonize people from another culture is to meet them and learn about them.
If my new friend the Joker helps remind us of that, all the better!
Within the scope of what it is intended to be, I think the Joker performs almost perfectly. I do have to say that on delivery my particular piece didn’t seem absolutely pristine, but after a few days of wear it was going to look that way anyway so I’m not too bothered.
I’m also not too fussed by Chaykin’s announcements of a second series of Jokers in titanium and a series of “Clown” watches with a similar design to the Joker; Konstantin has held to his promise of making only 99 pieces in steel, and if he can take advantage of the strong demand for these watches by making other variants, I’m only too happy to see it.
Basically, I’m a happy boy!
But, is it right for you?
You may wish to jump on the bandwagon for the titanium Joker or keep your eye out for a pre-owned steel version if:
- The Joker’s combination of a sense of humor and solid horology appeal to you.
- You are looking for a painless and fun entry to the world of independent watchmakers.
- You like seeing other people smile when you share your hobby.
- Like me, the suggestion of staging a “Joker vs. Batman” battle with your Rolex GMT-Master II Batman BLNR sends you running to the light tent.
On the other hand, this watch is clearly not for everyone! Signs you should pass include:
- Your tastes run to the conventional and you would keep passing over the Joker when you saw it in your watch box or safe.
- Your budget at this price point is better spent on an everyday wearer.
- The whole Joker concept simply doesn’t make sense to you as a watch design.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Joker – and on the Joker-Batman battle – in the comments below!
For more information, please visit www.chaykin.ru/manufacture/konstantin-chaykin.
Quick Facts Konstantin Chaykin Joker
Case: 42 x 13.7 mm, stainless steel, 36 parts; sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Dial: silver and ruthenium plating, two types of guilloche stamping; 9 parts
Movement: automatic Caliber K07-0, based on ETA 2824-2 with module by Konstantin Chaykin manufacture; 4Hz frequency, 38-hour power reserve
Functions: regulator hours and minutes; moon phase display
Limitation: 99 pieces in steel (sold out)
Production years: 2017-2018
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Thank you for such a wonderful article. Love the watch too. Enjoy!
Thanks, Rumi! I’m very pleased you enjoyed the article, and as you can tell I love the watch as well!
Great article, I think this is an amazing piece for the price. I’m almost always critical of watch pricing but I have to sing Konstantin Chaykin’s praises here, It’s an unusual, funny and fascinating watch and to bring it in at that price is amazing. I agree its not a daily wearer, but it’s certainly a conversation piece.
Agreed! I think that Konstantin did a great job of economizing where possible and spending resources in areas that have high impact in order to hit this price point — and the strong demand for the watch (and its Titanium successor) are great endorsements of his approach.
I REALLY wish I’d been able to grab one of the original steel versions. I’ve seriously considered the titanium, but it moves the piece firmly into five figures which is a bit dear for my current watch budget. Hopefully I’ll be able to pickup a preowned steel one of these days. One of my favorite watches in a long time!
I was fortunate to see the piece first-hand at Baselworld last year and to be able to place an order on the spot! Happy hunting, and thanks for commenting!
I think the logo of Konstantin Chaykin is actually supposed to be not an eagle, but a seagull as the surname of the Konstantin is derived from the bird’s name in Russian (“чайка” of chayka). Being Russian, I am very happy for Konstantin’s success as it seems the only watch thing Russia had to offer were very much loved but still inferior Vostok watches. By the way, great article Gary! I keep coming to this blog to read and re-read you articles (with my favourite being your quest for Boucheron cufflinks). And thank you for your kind words regarding Russia and Russian people. The disgusting anti-USA propaganda is strong here as well unfortunately. So every little positive message counts!
Victor — thank you for writing, and thanks for the correction on the logo — I should have done better research!
I’m very pleased that you enjoy my articles here, and like you I hope that Americans and Russians will remember what I always say about the watch hobby: it’s all about the people!
Gary… Love the Joker vs Batman picture 🙂 hee hee
Full credit to you for the suggestion!
I absolutely love the Joker and have since I saw the first press releases! Thanks for sharing. Wear yours in good health and with a smile on your face Gary!
BTW, I’m doing my part in American-Russian relations as my wife (who is an ardent lover of haute horlogerie as well) is from Ukraine (not technically Russia but close enough).
Many thanks, Bruce! And here’s to continued improvement of global relationships through WISdom!
where can I purchase?
Greetings — I am fairly sure that all of the Jokers are sold out, but you can contact them at [email protected] to check on availability of Konstantin’s watches.
Looking to purchase a joker watch ?
I am wondering how mutch prototypes of the konstantin joker are at the market… does somebody know?
Loved your article. Just a few questions:
The watch you bought showed a list price of 6990 euro (about $7811). Yet on ebay, Mr. Chaykin has listed a number of his Joker watches (in stainless steel) for $386 + free shipping. Why the outrageous price difference? Is he now mass producing them, so that they no longer have exclusivity? I am confused.
Also, I saw on another site that Mr. Chaykin is coming (or has come) out with a Dracula version of the Joker watch in which fangs come out at night (an Am/PM indicator of sorts). It lists for 18,790 euros (about $21,200). Will that be coming out on ebay also at a ridiculous discount???
Hi Barry — thanks for asking! One of the unfortunate side effects of the breakout popularity of the Joker and Mr. Chaykin’s other Joker-related watches is that a slew of counterfeiters and fraudsters are out there claiming to sell authentic watches but delivering either non-functional, cheap knock-offs or nothing at all. Buyer beware!
I can assure you that Mr. Chaykin is not selling Jokers at the price you mention, as all of them were sold out a long time ago and (happily for the original buyers) resale price for pre-owned authentic original pieces is now above $15,000.
Given all of this I think it is entirely fair that the limited run of 13 more complicated Dracula watches has a retail price of 18,790 Euros.
You should expect to see the same sorts of criminals with their fake Jokers on eBay also listing “Dracula” watches for sale for much less than retail, even using borrowed/stolen photographs of the correct original watch, but I can guarantee that attempting to buy an actual Chaykin watch at an immense discount will result in a case of a fool and his money soon being parted.
All the best, Gary
Ok I’ll admit it, when I first heard/read about the Joker it seemed like a ridiculous idea to me, and I actually actively disliked how the watch looked at first. However, after reading this, I now see the fun appeal of the watch, and the face (pun intended) now looks cute and happy. It’s still not the kind of thing I’d buy/wear, but I’ll be honest, reading about the firsthand experience of you as a Joker owner and the people you interacted with, and how happy this watch makes those who see it, completely changed my view on it!
Sorry for the (extremely) slow response! I’m glad that my perspectives gave you a different view — and that even though it’s not a piece for you, you can see why other watch maniacs might find it appealing.
Thanks for commenting!
Hi, i have a question: does the Thongue moves with the eyes movement? Or it moves only with the adjustment button? Or how does the moonface funcion?
Hi David — the tongue moves across the mouth over a period of 29.5 days just as a normal moon phase function on other watches, and is also adjustable with the pusher.
Hope that helps!