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Peak Obscurity: Konstantin Chaykin Joker Titanium ref. K07-O.Ti01.03

Russian watches are a bit of a well-kept secret in the watch world. They don’t have the cachet that Swiss or German brands have, but they bring an original approach to watchmaking, and often produce timepieces that punch well above their weight class. Of these, no Russian brand pushes the boundaries more than Konstantin Chaykin

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Konstantin Chaykin is the only Russian watchmaker who’s been admitted to the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants, and he focuses on creating watches for “free-thinking individualists – people unburdened by stereotypes or prejudices.” His goal in making his timepieces—he makes watches and clocks—is to reinvent them in the form of kinematic pop art. This is most exemplified in what is his most notable watch, “Joker,” from his most famous collection, Wristmons. However, you can see it strongly represented in other collections such as Mars Conqueror or Lunokhod. 

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The Joker has some strong visual connections to the popular villain from the Batman franchise, but the design is more than just some well-done dial work. This watch reimagines how one tells the time and the owner’s relationship with a timepiece. Immediately you can see the iconic joker face displayed on the dial with the two eyes serving as hours and minutes subdials. The left eye displays hours indicated by the location of the pupil, and the right displays minutes. Below this is the mouth in a wide grinning Cheshire smile with the tongue acting as the moon phase display. While at first, this layout might seem odd given the style and the fact that it’s a face, it’s actually super easy to tell the time this way. 

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It also has the effect that the face and expression of the Joker change with the time. At 4:40, he’s cross-eyed, at 9:45, he’s looking away from you, unimpressed. This type of display is a novel take on the way we read time and changes one’s experience with the watch. This isn’t a high brow delicate timepiece. It’s a fun, artistic watch. It does not take itself seriously and has a unique youthful charm that I haven’t seen in any other wristwatch. 

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Its fun personality is deceptive, however, as this is a high-quality timepiece. This specific model is a limited edition of only 88 pieces made in lightweight titanium, requiring special technology to finish it to the steel model’s standards. Intricate laser-etched engravings representing five of a kind—the strongest hand in poker—surround the bezel as a symbol of good luck. The titanium is also darker than the steel version giving it a slightly more serious aesthetic.

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The dial is CNC-milled from a single plate of brass in a wavy relief guilloche inspired by Russian jeweler Carl Faberge. The nose and brow plate is done in a diamond-shaped guilloche pattern designed especially for the Wristmons collection by Konstantin Chaykin. The eye minute and hour displays, as well as the moon display, are all hand-painted and hand polished one by one. The process is so challenging to get right that only one in ten make their way to a watch dial. 

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The movement is an automatic caliber K070-0, which is swiss made ETA 2824-2 with an in-house module placed on top of it. It has a power reserve of 38 hours when fully wound, and you’ll also notice it is set with the use of two crowns. The crowns visually give the appearance of ears and allow you to set the hours and minutes independently, with the addition of a hidden pusher in the left crown for setting the moon phase. Another small detail here which may get overlooked is the Joker tie leather strap. This is not the standard strap for this watch, and it gets its design from a request from a friend of Chaykin’s to make the watch “look like a politician,” and while I’m not sure which politician it’s supposed to represent, it looks great and really adds to the whole Joker vibe. 

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Unique gets thrown around a lot when talking about watches, and though technically a truly unique watch design is effectively unheard of (an element, a curve, a case profile, or a movement is reused somewhere or somehow 99.9% of the time), but we will give it to the Joker that its design language is in a league of its own. This watch, as Chaykin intends, is absolutely for free-thinking individuals. It can also serve as a reminder that watches, while useful, are mainly fun pieces of jewelry, and we mustn’t forget that. This watch and by extension, its wearer goofily smiles at the rest of the watch world and says, “Why so serious?”

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