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Skulls - Head-turning, headstrong skull watches

Skulls Head-turning, headstrong skull watches

Macabre symbol turned fashion item, the skull is everywhere this year on bags and clothes, including in the luxury sector. Watchmaking is no exception.

Honour to whom honour is due
The skull has made its entry to the world of Fine Watchmaking and even gained access to one of the most prestigious watchmaking prizegiving ceremonies, although it must be said that Hublot had adopted a particularly gentle and dainty approach to the theme with its Big Bang Broderie. Winner of the Ladies’ Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2015, this surprising watch combines the delicacy and laciness of St. Gallen (on tulle) with the robustness of the Big Bang case in steel, softened with diamonds. One can safely bet that the nimble fingers of the lace-makers have rarely embroidered skulls, and also that the results of their graceful work have even less frequently been moulded and encased in carbon fibre. Yet that was exactly how the dial of Hublot’s Big Bang Embroidery was made.

Emblème macabre devenu fashion, la tête de mort s’affiche partout cette année sur les sacs et les vêtements, de luxe aussi. L’horlogerie n’est pas en reste.

The age of pirates
Another headline launch of a watch featuring this distinctive effigy was that of the BR-01 Skull Bronze Tourbillon by Bell & Ross. In line with the sales philosophy of the Only Watch auction, for which it was created, this was a one-of-a-kind model that sold for CHF 100,000 on November 7th in Geneva. There is however a popular version of this watch, albeit issued in a 500-piece limited edition, which was presented at Baselworld this year. The BR01 Skull Bronze follows on from the first skull watch made by Bell & Ross, the 2009 BR 01, and pays tribute to the World War I paratroopers whose uniform bore a skull-and-crossbones insignia. The skull-shaped dial is extended by a pair of crossbones – a nod to the pirate flag – and screwed to the impressive 46 mm bronze case, which will acquire a distinctive patina and in time acquire the same aged appearance as the strap. The photoluminescent skull is crisscrossed with a dagger and a sabre acting as hours and minutes hands powered by the automatic BR-CAL 302 movement. This week, Bell & Ross has just announced the launch of the  BR01 Skull Patine 1120 Chronopassion limited edition.

Bell&Ross BR01 Skull Bronze

The soul of death
At HYT, the dead are animated and colourful. The first two Skull models, Green Eye and Red Eye, launched at the beginning of the year and featuring cases in titanium and black DLC titanium and gold, have been followed by the Skull Diamond with a gem-set skull and by the Skull Maori, adorned with a tribal tattoo. The head of each model is surrounded by an extremely fine capillary that transports the fluid indicating the time. The occasionally sharp angles taken by the capillary required the development of two vertical bellows enabling the liquid to spread evenly. The right eye socket houses the power reserve: brightly coloured when at a maximum 65-hour power reserve, it gradually darkens as the reserve decreases and death threatens the watch. The left eye conceals the rotating disc which imperceptibly ticks away the seconds. And as for the minutes? There aren’t any. Death is filled with absences.

HYT Skull RedEye

Draped in the colour of eternal night, the Challenge Jet-Liner Inkvaders Skull by Cvstos displays a terrifying and realistic skull carved out of steel from a design by Geneva tattoo artist Christian Nguyen. This 100-piece limited edition makes extensive use of new materials: grade 5 titanium, nitrile inserts and strap, as well as a plasma-coated CV350 movement with a 42-hour power reserve. The automatic movement is – quite logically – skeletonised and powers the hours, minutes, seconds and a date that is also skeletonised.


Before 2015
Back to a few skull watches pre-2015. The Crazy Skull by de Grisogono was one of the most unexpected, with its skull-shaped case (rather than merely a dial motif) set with nearly 900 diamonds in more than 20 different sizes. The eye sockets accommodate the two time zones and the jaw can open up to stick out a tongue adorned with pink stones.
At Richard Mille, death strikes at number 52. The RM 052 Skull (2012) and RM 52-01 Skull Nano-Ceramic (2013) are hand-wound tourbillons whose baseplate and bridges form a head that holds the jewels of the tourbillon cage between its teeth. On the reverse side of the watch, the back of the skull acts as the centre bridge.

Perrelet’s Turbine Toxic exists in precious, black, masculine (48mm) and feminine (41mm) versions. The discreet diamond-set skull appears on the dial when the turbine blades start to turn (watch the video).
And when it comes to Speake-Marin’s Skull, not one but two mirror-image skulls occupy the dial of this unique piece, reflecting the image of our mortal destiny.


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