The is always something fascinating in watches. The fact that it is driven mechanically by a series of gears and springs is already a wonder in itself.
Beyond that, watchmakers and manufacturers have always found ways to value and include complications to push products even further. We’re definitely fans of that, given the technical challenges of even building or incorporating a seemingly simple function. It’s really huge.
When it comes to such watches, watchmakers and brands always try to showcase them as clearly as possible. After all, these complications – especially the more complicated ones – are a challenge to achieve and they can be seen as a way to highlight the brand’s prowess in performing such demanding functions.
This brings us to today’s topic. On the one hand, brands are proud of their achievements and the products they have made. On the other hand, some brands tend to play it more discreetly, which in our eyes is curious but cheeky. We think it is certainly interesting, especially if it has a spectacular complication that is only revealed if one knows the timepiece. In other words, they are hidden from view.
Therefore, for this week’s column, we’ll be looking at six watches that have hidden functionality. These watches should generally have the function or complication that people cannot tell at first glance, or they are just hidden elsewhere. What have we selected? Let’s find out!
Habring² Foudroyante Félix
The first watch that we present to you today is the wonderful Habring² Foudroyante Felix.
Habring² is the brainchild of Richard and Maria Habring, a husband and wife duo who produce incredible Austrian timepieces. The Foudroyante Felix is one of these pieces. At first glance, the watch looks like a simple dress watch. But a closer look reveals a rapidly beating hand at the 9 o’clock position, which displays the Foudroyante complication. This hand clicks 8 times per second. Although it does not perform any particular function, the animation is quite fascinating to see, especially for a simple looking dress watch.
Priced at € 6,550 (around S $ 10,510), the 38.5mm watch is a pretty dress watch that’s a bit different from the norm. We highly recommend it to collectors who wish to enter the world of independent watchmaking.
Hamilton Jazzmaster Face to Face II
For a brand that produces some pretty cool watches (think the X-01 or the Ventura), Hamilton is a very underrated brand that is often overlooked by many collectors.
Another intriguing piece from the maker is the Jazzmaster Face to Face II. First launched at Baselworld 2013, the watch features a rotating case with two different dials, one on each side. The Face to Face II is an updated version of the original, as the 2013 version featured two separate movements to power each of the dials.
What we love about the watch is its unusual grip. The oval case is rare, and the rotating case is also something that is rarely seen. So the whole concept works pretty well with the contemporary looks and modern cues that are present throughout the piece.
The 53mm watch is priced at S $ 5,730 and is limited to a production of 1,999 pieces. It’s a super cool piece, and it’s sure to be a hit with collectors who have a soft spot for funky and conversational designs.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hommage Nonantième
The Reverso is certainly an icon in the watchmaking scene, but it might not be that well-known outside of the circle. This makes it a really fun watch when presented to non-collectors and enthusiasts.
As its namesake suggests, the reversible case is something that makes the Reverso such an icon. Over the years Jaeger-LeCoultre has introduced many complications and features to the reverse of the case. For the Reverso Tribute Nonantième, the brand had integrated a semi-jumping hour indicator and a rotating minute disc to highlight another way of expressing time. This version is definitely unique, and we love how you can have two ways to tell the time with just one watch.
This particular version is produced in conjunction with the 90th anniversary of the collection. Available only in rose gold, the watch is priced at S $ 58,500. Plus, it’s a boutique-only edition with just 190 coins in circulation. It really is a superb Reverso.
H. Moser & Cie Endeavor Perpetual Calendar
H. Moser & Cie is a brand that many of us are familiar with. We love their approach to watchmaking, which includes the brand’s minimalist and clean design.
The Endeavor Perpetual Calendar is perhaps one of the models that best sums up the spirit of the brand. On the surface, the watch appears to be very simple and basic. But if we examine in more detail, the Endeavor Perpetual Calendar certainly has more than what we see. Yes, as its nomenclature suggests, the watch has the very complicated perpetual calendar function. H. Moser & Cie had succeeded in distilling the complication in its most basic form with just an additional central hand (to indicate the month) and a large date window.
Another remarkable point is that the movement – in the form of the house HMC 341 – is well finished. Coupled with the amazing smoke dial and the ingenious flash calendar feature, it’s pretty much a complete package that ticks all the right boxes.
The watch is priced at S $ 83,790. If a collector is considering getting a mechanically complicated watch with a twist, look no further.
Patek Philippe Ref. 5101
The tourbillon has always been a fascinating complication. Its complex finish, combined with the animation, definitely makes it a conversational complication.
The Patek Philippe Ref. 5101 does things a little differently though. While most brands like to display the tourbillon on the dial side of the watch, the Ref. 5101 rather hides the complication at the rear. This makes it very inconspicuous, and we believe Patek Philippe has done this to make sure the watch face stays as clean as possible without the cutout. It’s also a bit cheeky, as only those in the know will know that this watch also houses the elaborate and special complication.
On the finishing side, Ref. 5101 is excellent. Great attention has been paid to the movement, particularly on the bridge and the tourbillon cage. It is a very beautifully crafted piece, which recalls the grandeur of this venerable watch manufacturer.
Unfortunately, this model was discontinued for some time. However, Ref. 5101 makes occasional appearances in secondary markets, and we think a good example should set the collector down around S $ 250,000 in a cautious manner.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Minute Repeater Extra-thin
We complete the article with the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater.
This timepiece, at first glance, appears to be a crisp and clean three-hand dress watch without much fanfare. For geeks, the subtle actuator on the side is the component that maybe can hint at something pretty special. Indeed, it is the actuator of the minute repeater, a highly exclusive complication reserved for some of the most coveted timepieces of all time.
For the uninitiated, the minute repeater is a special complication that tells the time using the gongs inside the movement itself. The gongs are struck against the case, the resonance of which allows the owner to tell the time. This Vacheron Constantin watch in particular – according to our editor is perhaps one of the loudest minute repeaters on the market, and that greatly increases the watch’s appeal for sure.
All of this certainly comes at a price. The 41mm platinum watch sells for S $ 633,400, which is pretty high even for such an incredible masterpiece. This is possibly one of the best minute reps, and we have to admit that there is surely a huge premium to perfection.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s article. It has been really fun for us to select the watches that have “hidden” features, and we are sure it is ten times more fascinating for collectors who have been lucky enough to own some of these watches.
Most of these features are very exclusive and hence are generally limited to high end luxury watches which have the customer base and capabilities to produce such watches. On that note, we’re hoping to see some entry-level brands attempting similar concepts as well – some features don’t need to be. high quality watchmaking complications after all.
Finally, let us know your thoughts on our selections today. What are some of your favorite watches on the list, or watches that you think deserve a spot as well? We think there are a few other serious competitors as well that should easily fit into the list. Share with us in the comments section below!