Konstantin Chaykin Joker
Watch reviewed is part of a private collection
When one hears of Russian watchmaking, images of rugged, utilitarian pieces often come to mind. This is no surprise: after all, while the Swiss were busy innovating and refining their processes in the 20th Century, Russian watches from the Soviet era were often more focussed on functionality. Today, almost three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, this form of watchmaking is still dominant. Despite the growth of independent artisanal watchmaking in the early 21st, Russia, with its sizeable population, has only managed to produce a single noteworthy candidate.
Konstantin Chaykin, the current president of the AHCI, has been the sole Russian independent watchmaker in the Academie, having joined in 2008. Curiously, Chaykin is one of the few independent watchmakers also actively making clocks (the others include David E Walter and Beat Haldimann). His 2016 creation the Moscow Comptus Easter Clock became the most complicated clock made in Russia with over 2500 components and four patents, is an absolute mechanical and artistic masterpiece.
While novelty watches are released yearly by a multitude of brands and often to media fanfare, most remain just that, novelties. Many of these pieces lack most of the basic merits that traditionally designed watches offer and some don’t even tell the time. Released at 2017’s Basel Fair, Konstantin’s Joker quickly gained a cult following amongst collectors and enthusiasts alike.
The primary attraction of the watch, of course, is the design. A cheeky and slightly mad face is continuously staring at you while rolling its eyes. One often anticipates for specific times to see particular faces the face pulls. Colours are applied liberally to the dial and strap to brighten up the watch. The silly grin is painted a bright red, a subtle green ring surrounds the face, and the strap backed in purple with green contrast stitching. The piece is brilliant fun, often bringing joy and laughter to those around the wearer, especially young children.
The dial is composed a multitude of layers, all of which are given a different and brilliant finish. A deeply cut wave-like guilloche pattern covers much of the silver dial that plays brilliantly with the light. Upon that, sit the satin finished hour and minute chapters, a ruthenium-plated barley-corn guilloche nose and the polished lips. The case itself features short and stubby lugs that are brushed on the upper and side sections and mirror polished on the back. The four playing-card suits are subtly placed on the bezel and given a delicate finish. The solid caseback and the two crowns (the left crown features a pusher for the moonphase and does not rotate) are both finished with a mix of polishing, brushing, and beadblasting.
The most surprising element of the Joker, however, is not that it manages to be useful in both telling the time and tracking the phases of the moon nor the amusing expressions it generates but the amount of detail and care that has been put into the watch. Konstantin, with his experience in creating masterpieces such as the Cinema Watch and the Compus Easter Clock has put the same amount of care into the build of the Joker. So, despite its reasonable asking price of €6990 and novelty focus, it manages to offer the level of detail and finish that is associated with more traditional independent watchmakers.
The problem with it is...
Perhaps the biggest let down of the piece is the buckle, which serves its purpose, but offers little else to the watch. On the wrist, the Joker wears quite tall due to its thicker profile and short lugs. Nevertheless, it is quite comfortable and well weighted. The strap is soft and durable and is well suited for daily use. As for the movement, being a modified ETA 2824, it will undoubtedly tick away for a long time to come and remain simple to service.
Would we own one?
I absolutely enjoyed every moment of wearing this watch and couldn’t help but look at it longingly throughout the day. Even with my smaller wrists it sat relatively comfortably, although the height of the watch means fitting it under the cuff was basically a no-go. The comical face aside, the wavy guilloche of the dial was also fun to play with in the light. The Joker is unique in how it combines elements from different areas of watchmaking in a cohesive and fun package, and is immensely enjoyable to wear.
While I enjoy this piece immensely, it’s not something I would wear. The novelty of the design is certainly fun to look at (those eyes! So clever). The size of the case, though, is just a bit overbearing on my small wrist. My mind may change if Chaykin ever releases a smaller version.
Yes. I find many things to like about the Joker especially the nuances details on the case and dial. If there was ever a 'novelty' or 'fun' watch to own it would be this one for me. Saying that, it's very wearable on my large wrist with the short tapered lugs hugging my wrist nicely. It's the type of watch that would make me smile every time I look at it and that, would be a wonderful thing.