Status symbols have been prevalent in society for about as long as society itself, and watches have long fallen into the status symbol category. Even today, the “status” watch is alive and well as a sort of unofficial sub-category that contains famous models like the Rolex Day-Date and pretty much anything Richard Mille makes. However, while you may be very familiar with those “flex” watches, there’s a sub-category of the status symbol watch that’s been around for centuries that I’d wager you’re not too familiar with, the erotic timepiece. These are watches that depict, in one way or another, some erotic imagery, and they’ve been around for centuries. Here we’ll do a deep dive into a modern-era erotic timepiece, the Ulysse Nardin San Marco Erotic Hour Striker reference 769-80 in platinum.
Erotic watches have been around since the 1700s when they served as status symbols for the elite who could afford to wear a timepiece that prioritized sex and fun over telling the time. The category is broad and while some watches are subtle, others are incredibly loud. Erotic watches can come in all shapes and sizes and with all manner of complications because the only real requirement for a watch to be deemed “erotic” is that it depicts some sort of erotic imagery or message. Sometimes this is done via an intricately painted enamel dial or simply by a naughty hidden message tucked away on the caseback. The Ulysse Nardin we have here is among the more bold erotic watches, with animated sculptures that perform different sex acts when the hour striker chimes.
This watch, which was released in the 1990s, is one of a few different erotic versions that all share a similar movement and case design, which were based on the non-erotic reference 756-22. The more family-friendly timepiece features a person striking a bell when the hour striker is active. The collection, in its erotic and not-so-erotic variants, pulls inspiration from the St. Marco Clock tower in Venice. The real tower chimes and has various sculptures, including a lion and a depiction of “Moors,” striking the hours. The hour-striking image is depicted very similarly on the 756-22, and while the 769-80 replaces the historically accurate bell strikers with sexual images, it doesn’t forget where it came from. If you flip this reference over, you’ll still find the St. Marco inscription and lion as a tribute. Overall the 769-80 is sexy but still grounded, which is not a bad combination.
While some erotic timepieces keep their seductive messages or imagery hidden, this watch does not. In fact, this watch prioritizes the erotic art over timekeeping. The beautiful baby blue mother of pearl dial with its contrasting white mother of pearl center serves as an angelic backdrop for a couple making love in the top half of the dial and a woman being pleasured by a snake in the bottom half with nary an hour marker or minute track in sight. In fact, besides the sexy dial furniture, the only other objects on the dial are the Ulysse Nardin logo, the white gold leaf hour and minute hands, and the on/off indicator for the hour striker. There is no confusion about what the priority of this watch is, sexy art first, timepiece second.
Both of the sculptures animate either automatically or manually, depending on the setting the wearer chooses. They will chime automatically at the hour-and-half-hour mark when the top pusher is activated or chime on demand when one uses the pusher at 4 o’clock. The sculptures move in sync with the chiming giving the watch an audio and video-like party trick experience that elevates what is normally a static visual experience. Unlike other modern erotic watches, this type of display is very traditional, and it’s easy to imagine it being playfully utilized even a hundred or more years ago. This is a stark contrast from, say a, Richard Mille RM 69.
While the erotic visual and audio experience is undoubtedly the highlight of the watch, this is a high-quality timepiece from every angle. The beautifully polished platinum case is so smooth and flowing that it almost looks liquid, and while at a glance, it might come off as plain, little details like the concaved bezel and subtle steps on the flanks of the lugs add the perfect amount of character. With the striker disengaged and a bit of distance, one could easily mistake this for a standard but elegant dress watch, which instantly inspires my mischievous brain to ponder situations into which one could sneak this watch without anyone noticing.
Inside this seductive piece of wearable art is the automatic winding caliber UN-75, which has the “Sonnerie En Passant” striking hour-and-half-hour complication. As described, when activated, the movement will automatically chime at the top of the hour and play a single chime at the half-hour. The movement is based on the very reliable and well-regarded ETA-2892, which has been used through the years in legitimate icons like the Omega Seamaster and IWC Pilots watch. Ulysse Nardin modified this base movement with some excellent finishing and added the striking module to give the wearer a workhorse movement that can be put through its paces despite the fact that most will not employ this as their daily wearer.
Versus The Competition
This watch combines two niche but enduring categories with its erotic imagery and striking mechanism. I wouldn’t say competition is rare as much as you need to know where to look. Here are two alternatives to consider.
This Blancpain Minute Repeater Erotica also combines the erotic genre with a chiming complication; however, it’s much more subtle about it. Nothing on the dial side indicates this watch’s naughty nature. It’s only when you flip the watch over that you find hand-engraved lovers with a white gold landscape background. The ability to easily hide and show this image, I think, is huge and would be much more my speed if I were shopping for erotic timepieces. However, this particular watch will be very hard to get a hold of as it is a piece unique and the only version in yellow gold.
If you find the erotic dial furniture to be a bit too much but have found yourself smitten with other aspects of this timepiece, then you should check out this 759-20 San Marco Hour Striker. This is essentially the same watch, just with a more family-friendly dial. Honestly, if you have the means for both, they make an exceptional two-watch collection that lets its wearer indulge multiple facets of their personality. Tuesday lunch meeting, this is your watch, but date night calls for a bit more spice.
This is a rebellious and confident watch. It proudly displays its erotic imagery and even announces when it’s acting its most scandalous. This is for someone who isn’t worried about what others think; it’s for someone confident who embraces the idea that sex isn’t such a big deal, and that watches are meant to be fun.
A solid gold watch is a timeless status symbol, but there is something about an erotic watch like this that blows normal “flex” watches out of the water. Sure, spending tens of thousands on a gold Patek Philippe sends a message that you’ve done well for yourself but spending that on a platinum watch with people having sex on the dial takes things to a whole new level. It says your grail cost as much as my party trick.