Konstantin Chaykin And Svend Andersen Joker Automaton: Haute Horlogerie Irreverence (On Video)
A healthy dose of irreverence can be the best recipe for smiles on even the stodgiest countenances.
Taking life and work too seriously can really lead to an unhealthy obsession with seriousness that infects the rest of one’s life. And while there are definitely times for seriousness, making situations fun and light is good for the soul.
Police officers, firefighters, surgeons, bomb technicians, soldiers, and others with dangerous jobs know that stress can build up and needs to be let out in fun and healthy ways. We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of soldiers in war zones making prank videos or group song-and-dance performances as a way of letting off some stress and not taking every minute of every day too seriously.
We could learn from these people and look for ways to make the boring or serious (like client meetings perhaps?) into something inspiring laughter and frivolity.
Watchmakers aren’t immune to taking themselves too seriously, and – minus some interesting characters – it seems that the profession as a whole supports a strict adherence to a straight-laced work ethic and a healthy dose of humility. Honest, hardworking people can be found across the industry and especially in Switzerland and Germany, where the craft is treated with an almost somber respect.
But every rule has its exceptions.
A couple of watchmakers that don’t tend to follow the norms are Svend Andersen and Konstantin Chaykin, two men that in some ways couldn’t be more different, but in other ways are like two peas in a pod. The pair recently collaborated on a watch bringing the most irreverent side of each watchmaker together with the Automaton Joker.
Chaykin and Andersen: creative kindred spirits
Chaykin has a history of not only being a genius watchmaker but also being a bit of a “joker” (pun definitely intended), working on serious horology and playing with it at the same time.
Despite Andersen resembling a wise father figure, he has also become famous for some rather racy creations involving erotic automata, pointing to an attitude that watchmaking doesn’t have to be bland or boring.
Both men are members of the A.H.C.I. so there is a familiarity between them, having spent many Baselworld afternoons in the group’s booth. And both watchmakers have achieved success with their imaginative creations. When inventive and playful people spend enough time together they likely start to imagine ways of doing something creative together.
And the first thing this duo has decided to create together has arrived: a unique combination of Andersen’s automaton and Chaykin’s immensely popular Joker timepiece. The new watch, the Automaton Joker, takes its frivolous-looking cues from both of the watchmakers’ most lighthearted elements, resulting in something probably never expected to appear in the world of haute horology.
Andersen is well known for a lot of things, most notably his erotic automata depicting adult content on the rear of the case. Each of these watches is unique, displaying a different love scene often chosen by the owner.
He began producing these Eros watches in 1994, all handmade, hand-painted, and truly displaying exceptional mechanical skill. Over the last 24 years, Andersen Genève has produced more than 170 pieces, providing ample evidence that plenty of fans of good watchmaking share a zest for the atypical.
Andersen is also known for the Montre à Tact, a watch read by feel, very rare in modern mechanical horology. One of the most well-known versions of this watch featured a recreation of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s “A Bold Bluff,” which might be more popularly known as “Dogs Playing Poker.”
That’s right: the velvet-painting-and-black-light darling found its way onto a very serious piece of horological creativity intended to be read by unconventional means.
Chaykin’s body of work focuses on unique innovations and creative solutions for very specific problems. He created a watch named the Cinema in which he placed a mechanical animation driven by a zoopraxiscope-like mechanism showing a horse at full gallop.
For another piece called Carpe Diem he created a mechanism that displays the minutes using an intricate animation replicating an hourglass. But his horological chops go much further, with many patents to his name and a variety of watches that would stand out in any collection.
But even with all his mechanical successes, everything changed when Chaykin made the Joker: a seriously irreverent watch that uses the hours, minutes, and moon phase to create the face of a “joker” that is always smiling and seems to be at least a little tipsy thanks to the wandering eyes.
This watch brings a smile to nearly everyone’s face and is so unique it was readily showing up across the internet in non-watch related locations, something very few watches can claim (except perhaps Andersen’s Eros watches).
Combination for silliest eyes only
The success and silliness of the Joker (and subsequent Clown and Halloween models) cemented the need for collaboration between Andersen and Chaykin, also ensuring that the combination would be a strange one. Andersen felt the Joker needed to meet the dog that deals cards, but not in the way you might expect.
Since the Joker of Chaykin’s watch was a playful representation of a joker, Andersen decided that the Joker, the one made famous by the Batman franchise, needed to accompany the card-dealing dog. It isn’t the exact Joker, you know, but a cartoonish version that to my eyes seems different enough to avoid any legal liability.
The front of the Joker Automaton is a pretty standard Chaykin Joker dial, with a prominent change being to include both the Andersen Genève and Konstantin Chaykin logos to make it clear that this is watch is very different from the normal Joker pieces. The only other thing giving it away (besides perhaps the greatly increased thickness of the case) is a small pusher at 8 o’clock, which would seem to have no function for the front. Flipping the case over, however, reveals its true intention.
The rear of the case shows an automaton scene based on Andersen’s Eros mechanism. It has been formatted to animate a poker scene involving the Joker, the Penguin, a woman resembling Poison Ivy, and let’s not forget the beloved Rough Collie made popular by the TV show Lassie.
The four card players all have their sights set on winning the hand, but each is also animated in different ways. The Joker is casting eyes at the other players, trying to pick up on a bluff. The Penguin is exposing his hidden fourth king, hoping it is enough to claim the pot.
Poison Ivy is taking the opportunity to hide some chips in her dress while the other players are focused on the table, and Lassie is laying her hand down fair and square, realizing that the Joker truly has the upper hand.
The animation has enough power to run for up to two minutes when fully wound as long as the pusher is depressed. The automaton is wound via the crown by rotating it clockwise, while the movement is wound counterclockwise keeping the interaction simple and uncluttered. The case resembles the Montre à Tact watch a bit with the inward sloping case middle.
Making the animation on the rear easier to view, a special lug style was added with a rotating bar secured in the center, allowing the strap to rotate freely out of the way without any weird contortions.
The special lugs also mimic a floating lug style that provides a great fit on a variety of wrist sizes. Given that the watch is 42 mm in diameter and 16.8 mm high, it is no shrinking violet. But it isn’t as large as some of the super complications or out-of-the-box creations seen from other independent brands. And weighing in at 97 grams, it isn’t pushing the weight limit for large watches.
The true purpose of the Automaton Joker
It is large, make no mistake, but given the unique displays on both sides of the movement, which basically requires two modules, this watch could have been much thicker if developed by other brands. But its true purpose isn’t to be an efficient watch or the pinnacle of fine watchmaking, even though it can compete on those levels.
This one is all about how it makes you feel.
People need their spirits lifted no matter where they are in life, and this watch attempts to do just that. The Joker watch brought joy, smiles, and giggles from collectors and journalists alike, and Andersen’s automata always create a buzz. Even people who may seem reserved on the outside are fascinated by a mechanical version of a somewhat taboo topic and can’t help their gaze returning again and again to the figures on these dials.
Taking all of that and even turning it on its head, the Automaton Joker seeks to bump against that secret jokester or hidden nerd inside all of us, hopefully getting us to laugh just long enough to feel a spec of happiness.
This is why the Automaton Joker isn’t just a funny watch with some interesting mechanics, instead it is a question. It asks of each and every one of us, “Do you want to be a little silly?” I find that many people, when given the choice and a safe space to do it in, prefer to answer yes to that question.
The movement modules are awesome, and the craft behind both of the watchmakers’ contributions is clearly impressive. I feel like this watch could give rise to an entire collection of collaboration pieces between the two if the reception is good enough.
And with both of their extensive histories there is definitely enough to draw inspiration from. I am excited to see more; I know that smiles are sure to be had!
So let’s take this duo and break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.9 Even though I was already wowed by the Joker, the new combination is simply ridiculous and I love it!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 99.9 » 979.684m/s2 The lusting is a bit different with a piece like this, it is more of a desire to keep on smiling!
- M.G.R. * 68.8 Take a base movement and add the Joker module from Chaykin on one side and an automaton module from Andersen on the other for a piece that truly has been touched by masters!
- Added-Functionitis * Serious A moon phase and an automaton count for at least three added functions in my book, so there is definitely a need for extra strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the silly swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 10.4 Squishing a fingertip between a table top and base! You always have to watch your fingers when carrying anything heavy and/or dangerous, so I wasn’t entirely surprised, just annoyed. Still, I would happily do it again if it meant getting this on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Who did what now? Just hearing about the collaboration is enough to make me start putting together a guest list for the ceremony!
- Awesome Total * 880 Multiply the lug width in millimeters (22) with the number in the limited edition (20) and multiply that by the number of watchmakers with their name on the dial (2) and you get on seriously silly awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.andersen-geneve.ch/andersen-chaykin.
Quick Facts Andersen Chaykin Automaton Joker
Case: 42 x 16.8 mm, red gold
Movement: manual winding caliber with upgrades by Andersen Genève, 36-hour power reserve, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; moon phase, automaton
Limitation: 20 pieces
Price: 88,000 Swiss francs
You may also enjoy:
Why I Bought It: Konstantin Chaykin Joker
Worldtimers, Erotic Watches, And Poker-Playing Dogs: A.H.C.I. Co-Founder Svend Andersen Has (Semi-) Retired, But His Brand Lives On
Why Independent Watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin Is A Movie Star
Konstantin Chaykin’s Diana Romances The Moon
Also published on Medium.