Independent Watchmaker Waxes Philosophical About Complicated Watches
Konstantin Chaykin develops complicated watches, and not just those with well-known complications, but invents his own unprecedented indicators and functions. Here are some of the most eye-catching and impressive examples. Let's begin with the pointer date indicator for the upcoming Orthodox Easter, analemma display, and smart power reserve indicator with three types of power reserve alerts created for the ultra-complicated astronomical Moscow Computus Clock with 27 complications. The latter is the most complicated clock ever made in Russia, and one of the most complicated clocks in the world.
Then there is the graphic numeric hour indicator with Roman numerals (from one to twelve), formed by a chain wrapped around a drum, first used by Chaykin on the Lucomorye Clock. There is the natural 3D moonphase display with a fixed lunar sphere and a rotating hemispherical shadow, developed for the Lunokhod watch. There is the Martian Tourbillon Only Watch 2021 with the tourbillon rotating in rhythm with the rotation of Mars and a combined date and day of the week display for the Martian calendar system originally conceived by Thomas Gangale.
These are but a few examples. We could go on and on about the list of never-before-seen complications invented by the master. Chaykin currently has 94 patents to his name. Tell me about another watchmaker who is as fruitful when it comes to inventions. (Hint: There aren't any others around).
Konstantin Chaykin sometimes reminds me of a modern watchmaking wizard, who always has another ace up his sleeve. Maybe not an ace, but perhaps a joker. Information appeared on the website Only Watch on June 29 about his latest creation, the Stargazer. The latter is a super complicated "wristmon," Chaykin's most complicated wristwatch. This is perhaps the most complicated watch being presented at this auction, both in terms of number of parts and number of complications.
Just a necessary disclaimer here: Patek Philippe has not yet revealed which watch they will put up for this auction, yet, judging by the teaser, we're talking about Philippe Stern's favorite watches, that is, a perpetual calendar. It is unlikely that Patek Philippe will put up their Grandmaster Chime for a second time.
I'll add my five cents here to say that Chaykin found two more unheard-of astronomical complications for Stargazer. Just think, not everything has been done in this most ancient area of watchmaking. So I decided to ask Konstantin a few questions about complicated watch/clock mechanics, because in light of everything mentioned above I am especially interested in the questions: What makes him tick? What's going on in his head? Because the finished product for both complicated and simple watches are already well known to us.
– Konstantin, you have stressed many times in your statements and communications that the most important thing in creating a new watch for you is concept, whether it be philosophical, design, or technical. What about developing complications?
– I only ever launch a project when I have a clear concept in mind, and indeed it may be quite removed from the watch business itself. By and large, this may be kinds of associations, perhaps cultural, philosophical, designer, or artistic. All of this also applies to the project you mentioned. For the time being I'll refrain from any full disclosures, because the project hasn't yet been officially launched. Just wait, you'll find out soon.
I'd like to talk about another aspect of watchmaking, something that I've been thinking of a lot during the design and manufacturing process. Imagine the Stargazer based upon my "wristmon" collection with 16 complications and a caliber assembled from 664 parts. This is an extremely complicated watch in all respects. In the process of developing this project, I've repeatedly thought about the philosophical interpretation of complications in watchmaking.
What makes a watchmaker when they are just starting out? I don't mean only watches. Everything that is created by an intelligent being in this universe requires four components: matter, energy, time, and information. This idea seems to me both philosophical and fundamental in the truest sense of these words. Of course, my educational training wasn't in philosophy, and I don't think I'll uncover something new in philosophy, yet I have been looking for something similar from various thinkers. All to no avail so far. I hope your readers will help me.
For the most part, the process of creating a watch (or clock) begins with the raw materials – metals, alloys, composites, and synthetic sapphire. This is the first component, matter. The remaining components then also come into play. Second is energy. It is, however, relatively modest when compared to other types of human creativity. Third is time, which in our case is enormous, because watches aren't made quickly. And then there's information, the fourth fundamental factor. When creating a watch, a lot of unique information is used; information accumulated both by the watchmaker themselves and by the industry as a whole.
Therefore, when we talk about the information factor we need to account for the immense amount of experience accumulated. For instance, I worked on the Moscow Computus Clock for two years, but it would have been practically impossible to make the Moscow Computus Clock from scratch in just two years if not for my extensive experience in developing and manufacturing super-complicated computus astronomical clocks, because the base component here is my many previous developments.
– Very interesting. To be frank, I've never come across such an interpretation in watchmaking. Then what makes a very complicated watch special?
– We're talking about a very complicated mechanism that has complications, which significantly exceed the three to five, maybe six standard functions of a simple watch. At first glance, it would seem that everything is the same when producing very complicated watch or simple watch. Some would say: just more parts, and nothing else. Yet, based on my 20 years as an independent watchmaker I can say that complexity accumulates in an avalanche-like fashion, while the main factor behind development is the information possessed by a watchmaker.
Here's where the interesting part begins. There is a physical and, I believe, also a philosophical concept called entropy, a measure of disorder. Entropy is one of the main tenets of physics and can encompass the entire universe. It's also believed that information is the opposite of entropy. When a highly ordered clockwork mechanism with a multitude of additional functions is created from disordered matter, in this case, a set of simple raw materials, something opposite to chaos and disorder, that is, entropy, clearly arises here. I believe that watch mechanics as an ordered entity is the material embodiment of information, that is to say, the knowledge and experience that a watchmaker has accumulated. Not just by a particular watchmaker, but also by all of the representatives of this profession over the centuries. Modern watchmakers, who one way or another make use of this heritage in their work, continue to add to it when they create, invent, and think up new things.
But entropy does not throw in the towel! Adding any subsequent complication to the mechanism substantially increases the project's complexity. The impact of the new complication is diverse, and goes well beyond the few new parts that have to be manufactured and installed. It is absolutely necessary to integrate a new mechanism into an already established caliber. That is, you need to find a space for it, which is limited by the internal volume of the watch case.
You need to constantly recalculate the energy flows again. All functional modules, both new and existing ones, must receive sufficient energy in a complicated caliber. You need to revise the design, because the embedding of new indicators shouldn't interfere with previous displays or worsen the readability of the dial as a whole. Aesthetics also shouldn't be overlooked. The watch's appearance should remain harmonious.The appearance of new parts with a complication to the watch caliber immediately affects all other areas of the system. Integration requires careful analysis so that there is no unaccounted for harmful interaction with other parts and modules. This integration includes not only the interaction of specific parts, but the interaction of complications. In terms of an example, I'll tell you about just one indicative question out of many that arise during such situations: How will stopping the split seconds hand affect switching the perpetual calendar displays when these two processes coincide in time? And vice versa.
All of this leads to the complexity of the project snowballing. It reminds me of the famous parable about the reward given to the inventor of chess. Do you remember it? The rajah agreed to the inventor's reward, when the latter asked him to put one grain on the first square of the chessboard, two on the second, four on the third, etc. It would appear to be a very modest reward when counting each subsequent square, but by the 64th square it begins to exceed all rational limits. When it comes to super-complicated watches, the difficulties do not add up, but are multiplied with each new complication.
One more fact should also be noted. You'll find very few super-complicated watches with new, never-seen-before complications. It's much simpler to work with existing complications and classic function combinations, tried and tested by many generations of watchmakers over the centuries, while novel, unique complications are unknown territory for a watchmaker.
If you gather information regarding super-complicated wristwatches, then there will be a very limited circle of famous brands on this list. Only they are capable of developing such watches. This is largely due to the experience they have accumulated over many generations of watchmakers. There are complications that have been practiced by some brands for a century or more! Of course, contemporary computer-aided design technology make the work of a watchmaker easier than it was in the 19th or 20th century, at least until the late 1980s when CAD systems appeared in the industry. Nonetheless, as a rule the entire process of super-complicated watch design is combined of individual module designs earlier developed by the watchmakers themselves or somehow obtained by them.
If we're talking about a new complication, then it needs to be tested in a separate layout, which is made on an enlarged scale via 3D printing. For example we use 10:1 scale model in plastic and then 1:1 scale model in metal as a separate module, where we again check how it functions. Please note that all software, all well-organized development and production steps are not a guarantee that the watch will work without problems. Such situations occur all the time. They are simply part of the development workflow.
– Please tell us about these kinds of problems as you've experienced them.
– Significant problems arise when you try to embed a new function, but there's no room for it. You either have to rebuild the entire caliber or push apart individual components to make space for it. This calls to mind the watch Martian Tourbillon created for Only Watch 2021.
If you recall, there's nothing standard about this watch. All of the complications come under the heading "first-ever" like a tourbillon rotating in rhythm with the rotation of Mars, Martian hours and minutes, as well as a Martian calendar with a combined indicator for both date and day of the week. The work therefore was extremely stressful and challenging, because everything was a first for me on this one.
The least difficult part was probably the tourbillon even though it worked at a non-standard rate, which meant it needed a carefully adapted the balance and hairspring pair, but otherwise it was more or less run of the mill. For a tourbillon, of course. And yet it was the tourbillon that presented me with the most unpleasant surprise. It was difficult to catch such an incident in advance. It went unnoticed in computer dynamic testing, and was discovered, if not at the very last moment, then nearly so. The caliber was ready and I conducted on-duty tests.I remember when the work on the movement as a whole was completed. I installed a tourbillon carriage in the caliber, ran it, and left the workshop, leaving it overnight. When I returned in the morning, I saw that the caliber had stopped. What's the matter? It turned out that the escapement wheel tooth stopped on the ledge of the transmission wheel bar at a particular angle of rotation of the carriage. We needed to change the shape of the bridge as a result.
– Was the development process behind Stargazer a smooth one?
– As for the new Wristmon for Only Watch, the increase in complexity wasn't simply to embed new indicators, but to arrange them in well-thought-out positions, all while maintaining the anthropomorphic style of the dial. It was a rather difficult challenge.
I must say that the trajectory behind making Stargazer a reality wasn't an easy one. It was rather confusing. When I was thinking about what kind of piece to create for Only Watch 2023, I decided that I'd try my hand at making a super-complicated watch. There were a great many options as you understand. At first, we intended to create an incredibly complicated watch with an enormous number of complications, probably twice as many as Stargazer ended up with. However, I realized that such a project wasn't feasible, because there wasn't enough time. I reduced the number of functions to a set that I'd have time to implement by the date of this auction, eventually coming to the conclusion that the name previously given to the project – something like "The Watchmaking King" – was no longer suitable.
I began looking for a new name, and because nearly all of the complications I planned were astronomical, I understood that Stargazer would be a completely logical fit. The astronomical functions for Stargazer watch are a quite right choice, but then I thought there must be stars! Of course, I included stars in the design, which I placed on both bezels and both dials. By the way, I'd like to suggest a quiz to your readers. Become a stargazer. Tell us, how many stars are there on the Stargazer? But just having stars in the design wasn't not enough for me. I needed star-related function. It would seem that the answer is obvious, a planisphere, that is, a map of the starry sky. There was, however, absolutely no room for a large detailed map on the dials of this Wristmon, so I decided to put a small display with a star map.
I suggest taking this as a bit of watchmaking humor – the smallest star map that has ever appeared on a wristwatch. I believe it is true, although this fact is extremely difficult to verify. There's a continuation to this joke, though. The planisphere is on the forehead of the anthropomorphic dial, giving the Stargazer a kind of a third eye. Just imagine it watching the stars with its astral gaze.
The original article: WatchPro.