Wristwatches, Reimagined

New ways to tell time: From disks to dragons to rotating diamonds, innovative creators are straying from the conventional three-handed design.

April 2, 2024  |  Joshua Hendren


The Grip. (Gucci)

At Italian fashion house Gucci, the Grip — a streamlined, unisex quartz watch that debuted in 2019 — continues to charm collectors. This watch gets its name from its snug fit and the movements involved in skateboarding. Its rounded square case has three windows, each with a white rotating disk: one indicating the hour, one the minute, and one the date.

The latest renditions add a retro-futuristic leaning to its jumping-hour design, with red jasper and chrysoprase embellishment in pink gold, and matching red or mint disks and alligator straps.


Ressence Type 1° Round Multicolour. (Ressence)

Belgium-based independent watch label Ressence — founded in 2010 — uses a series of rotating disks to mark the time. Indeed, its dials do not have individual hands at all. Instead, the two-dimensional dials slot together, with laser-engraved hands and indexes on disks that not only rotate, but revolve around the watch face like planets.

The brand has dubbed this display mechanism the Ressence Orbital Convex System, or ROCS. It appears in all the brand’s watches, including the Type 1° Round Multicolour with its complementary red, blue, yellow and green hues. The Type 2, meanwhile, is the first mechanical watch with a smart crown, and can switch time zones at a tap of its sapphire crystal.

Ulysse Nardin

How does one indicate time with no dial at all? The Freak, an avant-garde timepiece that Swiss watchmaker Ulysse Nardin introduced in 2001, is the first model in which the movement itself rotates to tell the time in lieu of hands.

With internal components made of silicon — the brand’s signature material — to mitigate any abrasion of the moving parts, the Freak has no crown and relies on a visible movement: Its one-hour orbital carousel tourbillon relays the minutes, and a pointer on a rotating disk replaces the hour hand.

For Dubai Watch Week this past November, the brand released the khaki and black Freak One Ops, replacing the usual rose gold bezel with one of Carbonium — a composite material containing carbon fiber from the production of aircraft wings and fuselages.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton Tambour Opera Automata. (Louis Vuitton)

Fashion house Louis Vuitton debuted the Tambour Opera Automata in March of last year. This watch uses animations on the dial to reveal the time at the push of a button on the case.

Building off the mechanical marvel that was 2021’s Tambour Carpe Diem, the Opera Automata pays tribute to the traditional Chinese dramatic art of Bian Lian, or “face-changing,” which is prominent in Sichuan opera. In this watch, a dragon’s head rises off a Chinese mask to showcase the jumping hours on the latter’s forehead, while the dragon’s tail displays the minutes in retrograde fashion.


Bulgari Diva’s Dream, Peacock Dischi edition. (Bulgari)

The Diva’s Dream line of jewelry watches is arguably Bulgari’s most technically impressive. The Peacock Dischi edition takes — as the name suggests — the peacock as its inspiration: The limited run of 50 watches features 24 hand-cut natural peacock feathers trimmed, glued, and pieced together in a marquetry dial.

With its in-house BVL 308 Dischi automatic movement, the Diva’s Dream forgoes traditional hands in favor of two diamonds — one round, one pear-shaped — that sit atop two rotating disks to indicate the hour and minutes, respectively. Sapphires mark the indexes within rings of diamonds lining the edges of the disks.

Main image: Ulysse Nardin Freak One Ops watch. (Ulysse Nardin)

This article is from the March-April 2024 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

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Wristwatches, Reimagined

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