Azimuth Mr. Roboto Bronzo Artist Series
by Tim Mosso
There exists a droll class of watch for which telling time takes a back seat to the packaging itself.
Often, this coterie of ironic instruments includes wallet-crushing devices from the likes of Urwerk, MB&F, Greubel Forsey, Genus and certain entries in the Harry Winston Opus series. Considering that company, the Azimuth Mr. Roboto Bronzo Artist Series emerges as an unlikely value leader of its genre.
Azimuth, a Singaporean-Swiss hybrid independent, is run by its co-founder Chris Young. Young and the business office operate out of Singapore while watchmaking activities take place in Neuchâtel under horologist Giuseppe Picchi. Azimuth isn’t young by independent horology standards, and its 2003 inaugural year places the brand temporally proximate to De Bethune, MB&F, Greubel Forsey, and Moser, all of which debuted between 2002 and 2005.
“Mr. Roboto” wasn’t Azimuth’s first model line, but the retro robot has become the most emblematic of its maker’s offbeat design philosophy. The original version of the watch bowed in 2008 as a concept timepiece before entering regular production the following year. 2017 brought a larger version called the R2 and a bronze variant that was offered on a limited basis for the Hong Kong market.
Inspired by the 1950s vision of future robot servants – or overlords if you’re a pessimist – Mr. Roboto owes less to the 1983 Styx song and more to the toy “tin” robots of the late Buck Rogers era. Azimuth cites a particular model, the “Lantern” robot as the spiritual father of Mr. Roboto, but there’s a possibility that Rosie from “The Jetsons” might sue for custody.
The 2022 Artist Series combines hand-engraved pop culture imagery with the 2017 “Bronzo” case and the 2009 watch’s smaller size.
Before literally and figuratively unpacking this wrist robot, a time-telling tutorial is worthwhile.
Azimuth spreads the time displays across the physiognomy of the ‘bot. His right eye – your left – portrays the local time; his left eye features a second time zone in a 24-hour format. The mouth is a retrograde minute display encompassing a modest constant-seconds star wheel at its top.
Due to the partition of hours, minutes, and seconds, the robot face becomes a regulator dial with a retrograde display. Lume is abundant to the point that the time is easier to read by night than by day. However, none of this is unique to the Bronzo Artist Series…
…which leaves the FTX-sized elephant in the room; this Artist Series Roboto is festooned with a hand-engraved homage to cryptocurrency. The imagery includes Bitcoin logos, symbols of decentralized finance, representation of electronic payments, and rebuses for the phrases “bull run” and “to the Moon” previously associated with crypto and NFTs. The crypto winter of late 2022 hit after Azimuth commissioned a small run of Artist Series watches.
But the presence of so much DeFi exuberance makes this Bronzo the ultimate period piece. In fact, there’s a sort of historical irony at play. The Eisenhower era’s view of robots aged rapidly; it failed to envision today’s reality of social media troll-bots and dust-sucking domestic hocky pucks. A 1950s tin robot is an article of dated nostalgia, and Azimuth’s Bitcoin-boosting ‘bot might be on its way to the same kind of iconic status as an avatar of our era.
While the subject matter of this Bronzo Artist Series is open to debate, there’s no arguing with the appeal of the execution.
Each of these low-volume watches is engraved using hand tools; no drill bits or lathes are involved. Just as the Azimuth collection offers a lower price of entry to avant-garde time displays, the laborious execution of the Artist Series will appeal to those who crave the burin-borne extravagance of Patek Philippe’s 5160/500G or a handwerkskunst Lange sold for an Omega price. Each example of the Artist Series is a unique piece, so each carries a 1/1 edition number.
Buyer beware: some of these depictions are weird. Cryptocurrency ranks as one of the tamest themes. Among others, Azimuth’s R-rated take on Swatch’s immortal Bunnysutra is offered to enthusiasts of the swinger’s scene and NSFW fashion accessories.
Case detail is a strong suit of the Bronzo Artist Series. Aside from the engravings, smooth satin finish graces each surface. The bezel and caseback feature soft bevels to remove a degree of severity from the tonneau shape. It isn’t curved on its reverse like a Richard Mille, but the ends of the Roboto case angle downward to remove some of the plank-like harshness from its profile.
Patina takes hold rapidly on Azimuth’s German-sourced bronze alloy, and some burnishing appears to have been applied. The metal does a passable impression of rose gold due to a darker orange hue than the yellow-tinted bronze often used in watchmaking.
Allen screws are employed for case assembly, and their polished rims contrast with matte-finished wells. In profile, some of the channels for the screws are visible within the recessed case flanks. Undoubtedly used in lieu of flathead screws for their capacity to take more torque, the Allen heads also impart a fittingly industrial vibe to the watch face.
Vintage robot elements dominate proceedings. The Bronzo’s crown takes the form of a burnished ‘bot-winding key that would have looked at home in 1950s toy chest. Both “eyes” double as magnifiers and sit elevated within quasi-hyperboloid bezels for a goggle-faced look. The border of the retrograde “mouth” display rises above the upper tonneau to add a nuanced change of plane.
Azimuth appears to have realized what Panerai discovered in 2011 with its PAM 382; bronze looks gonzo great alongside olive green. Plenty of the latter can be found amid the retrograde minutes scale, the interior of the hour displays, and the strap itself. Azimuth fits a hybrid strap with an olive-green textile top and matching calf skin below. Gold double-stitching is a fine touch, and a bronze pin buckle is employed.
Despite its exotic visage, Mr. Roboto’s engine room is modest. A modified ETA 2834-2 provides automatic winding, 36 hours of power reserve, split time zones, and a hacking function. Azimuth adds the time module that provides separate time zone displays, the retrograde minutes, and the regulator layout.
That said, many haute horlogerie avant-garde outfits follow this model. Urwerk is well-known for using Zenith Elite bases, and several MB&F models have used Girard-Perregaux and even Sellita automatic base calibers. In its earliest days, De Bethune borrowed movements from A. Schild and others.
Fit is a surprising strong suit for Mr. Roboto. The watch measures 42.6mm wide by 49.5mm lug-to-lug. That might sound horrific, but this isn’t the brick it appears to be. On a 16cm circumference wrist, the Bronzo was manageable and surprisingly compact. As a reference point, most solid-end-link Rolex Daytonas measure roughly 51mm across the wrist. But with a height of nearly 20mm, Mr. Roboto doth bestride your narrow cuff like a colossus.
Weight is a definite factor to consider when wearing Mr. Roboto, and a wrist strapped with this watch carries massive momentum through its swing. But mass also implies a kind of class, and collectors who detest the toy-like lightness of titanium, carbon, and ceramic will adore the juggernaut heft of the Bronzo.
And those collectors will find the bronze ‘bot impossible to wear with any degree of anonymity. If I may break the fourth wall for a moment – hi, I’m Tim – the Mr. Roboto Bronzo drew more attention and comment than any watch I’ve worn since the original Devon Tread. I’ve worn dozens if not hundreds of watches, and Mr. Roboto is the pointed peak of Olympus among extroverted wrist statements. It’s a magnet for the attention of human beings. Introverts need to avoid this watch.
Mr. Roboto’s boxed set is simple but entertaining. The outer carboard box depicts a literal 1950s “Lantern” robot in model-specific bronze tones. Opposite sides of the box feature the corresponding front and rear of the robo-mascot. Amusing text adds context: “This is not a toy. For serious collectors only.” Only Azimuth knows whether that is a warning in earnest or a subtle commentary on the absurdity of the luxury watch hobby itself.
Within the outer box, a simple warranty card promises 24-month global protection. That’s on the stingy side of the current warranty landscape. Each Artist Series watch is identified therein as a piece unique. The card, which folds open to double as a user’s guide, is printed on luxurious linen-like cardstock. The ambiguously wooden inner box – it might be plastic – opens to reveal Mr. Roboto against a suede-like inner lining.
The Azimuth Mr. Roboto Bronzo Artist Series is fabulous a mass of contradictions. It’s a 1950s vision of the future festooned with today’s finance fads. It’s made for adults but shaped like a toy. It’s a skeuomorphic robot that happens to be a watch. None of the that matters, because this gadget appeals to raw emotion, not reason.
Watches created by watch enthusiasts for watch enthusiasts are the ultimate inside-baseball style statements. Most times, this recursive world view yields products that are discreet, small, and bound to antiquarian notions of elegance. Massena LAB, Ming, and Fears cater to this crowd.
Mr. Roboto appeals to a different kind of nostalgia. He – or she – is a creature of pure wonder, absurdity, and juvenile appeal. It’s a watch for the 40-year-old version of your eight-year-old self.
For more on Azimuth and Mr. Roboto, please visit https://www.azimuthwatch.com/universe/sci-fi
Quick Facts: Azimuth Mr. Roboto Bronzo Artist Series
Case: 42.6 wide mm x 49.5mm lug-to-lug x 19.5mm thick, bronze construction.
Movement: Automatic caliber AZM 1500.2 based on the ETA 2834-2; 36-hour power reserve with Azimuth complication module.
Functions: Hours, retrograde minutes, seconds, GMT.
Limitation: Each Artist Series piece is unique.
Year of release: 2022
Tim Mosso is media director and watch specialist at Watchbox.