In watchmaking parlance, highly desirable generally translates to carats, complications or, if you’re Asian, lucky number 8. Putting a skull on a dial is a thumb to the nose of horological chic, and yet to see our bony friends tucked beneath an elegant cuff confirms that they too have a certain charm, even class of their own. They are the watch of the dark, romantic hero, the dandy rebel. Think Johnny Depp, version earrings and bandana. Punk and civilised.
It follows that the skull is to the fashionable man what the car is to the bobo: a digression. Eager to inject some rock n’ roll attitude into a nine-to-five life, over-35s are getting up close and personal with provocative but no less technically accomplished styles such as HYT’s Skull Maori. Like other HYT watches, it tracks time by means of a capillary whose four angles, including two almost right angles at the base, had its developers breaking out in a cold sweat. “We had to look again at how we could generate enough power to move through these sharp angles while ensuring that the fluid always indicates the correct time, moving at the right speed and with perfect regularity over twelve hours,” says HYT Chief Executive Vincent Perriard. The Skull Maori is a reminder that time is passing us by; a memento mori with tribal tattoos or, if you’re the kind of guy who likes to burn life’s candle at both ends, an incitation to seize the day.
Make no bones
The message from watchmakers seems to be, it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Now that skulls are everywhere, from scarves to rings, even candy, brands turn to symbolism to justify their steampunk aesthetic. Bell & Ross stays faithful to the talismanic powers of its skull. The BR 01 Skull Bronze Tourbillon Only Watch 2015 proudly displays its pirate-flag, skull and crossbones bezel, secured by four screws. The honeycomb dial makes room for hands shaped like cutlasses, the pirate’s weapon of choice. Here, the Jolly Roger that struck fear into sailors’ hearts is both decoration and legend.
You can’t put a price on life. Death, on the other hand… Fiona Krüger, who is something of a specialist in skull watches, sells her designs at prices ranging from CHF 13,000 to CHF 25,800. You can buy street cred but it doesn’t come cheap. Petit Skull, Krüger’s latest creation, appeals to admirers of horological craftsmanship. Presented as limited series of 18 pieces, each “little skull” is equipped with a fully skeletonised, automatic mechanical movement. The dial is delicately cut into a skull shape that is more artwork than devil’s work.
Death becomes you
Some women wear their heart on their sleeve and their skull on their wrist. For them, death hangs by a thread at Hublot. Embroiderers at Bischoff in Saint Gallen, near Zurich, have produced a floral arabesque on silk organza for the dial of the Big Bang Broderie Sugar Skull. Its elder sibling claimed the Ladies’ Watch title at the 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. Hublot resurrects the theme this year, in a more subtle vein: look closely to see the colourful skull framed by the gem-set bezel.
An entire evening spent text messaging, exaggerated it’s-hot-in-here gestures, crimson red nails are all ploys women would rather avoid in order to draw attention to their watch. Fortunately, de Grisogono has imagined the Crazy Skull. Totally offbeat, incredibly glamorous and downright mad, this extraordinary haute couture timepiece took almost an entire year to develop. As the jeweller whose rocks grace actresses on the red carpet at Cannes, the “wow effect” is guaranteed. Imagine a skull with two dials where its eyes should be, a galuchat strap fastened by bones paved with diamonds or rubies, and 7.70 carats of white baguette-cut diamonds for a grin. To die for !