Artya  Son of a Gun Raging Skull
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BASELWORLD 2017: Day 6 – The skull trend

For a while now, watchmakers seem to have been drawing inspiration from timepieces referred to as memento mori, originally watches from the 16th century with cases that were shaped like skulls. The works of today, whether done up in an artistic or humorous style, continue to remind us that each second of life to be a blessing. Amen !

By Vincent Daveau
Managing Editor France

The idea of taking a look at watches with a skull on the dial comes from a something Grégory Dourde, CEO of HYT, was saying recently, namely that quite a good percentage of the brand's sales comes from the Skull model. You might have thought that this type of reference would have been marginal, but for people who have everything, a little provocation can't do any harm. Decorating a watch with a skull is like flipping life the bird. But this motif, which appears most often on the dial, can also be considered like the transfiguration of a pirate's flag. Of course, those with a restrained sense of humor will have a bone to pick with this kind of decoration, but there's no use getting a headache trying to figure out all the possible interpretations, because the bottom line is: Take advantage of the day, carpe diem.

HYT Skull Pocket

Life's good

The skull has been an integral part of the watchmaker's "stable" ever since the 16th century and the memento mori fashion. These old pocket watches are often seen in museum display cases, where they draw attention thanks to the special shape of their cases. The allegory of the fragility of life is one that has an impact, what with its recalling the "to be or not to be" of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Considering all the potential, it would be a shame to not use it as a kind of graphical symbol that is comprehensible to all concerned. So the company Epée chose to re-interpret the skull in almost real size and to introduce it in cast aluminum. The hours can be seen in the left eye, the minutes appear in the right one. This wonderful work recalls another, which, also in 3D, is by rights a 3rd-millennium skull. It is for bikers and rebels, and could be found over at Artya along with a number of other similar representations. HYT released its latest product, the H0, a version of its bestselling Skull as a pocket watch with integrated illumination

L'Epée Requiem

Voodoo myths

One thing is sure: The deeply religious character of the first message tends to become a symbol of a desire to rebel and defy the established authorities. "The skull is punk" said one of the creative fellows when asked about the usefulness of putting a skull on a dial. When Bell & Ross did it a few years ago, it did raise quite a few eyebrows. Whereby that company, which essentially produces more general models, was actually exhibiting an iconography initially reserved for watchmakers with more intimate production numbers. Obviously, the décor offended the more Cartesian spirits, who felt that the presence of the skull was sort of like a pirate flag fluttering on a ship's mast.

ArtyA Son of Art Mother of Pearl

Christophe Claret has taken up the relay this year with his X-Trem1-StingHD, whose tourbillon cage features the same motif. As a symbol of convention-busting, it can be used in different ways. At Corum, the element is indirect, viral and reserved strictly for the Big Bubble Magical Voodoo, which was authored by photographer Matt Barnes. The timepiece has a powerful visual impact, it almost casts a spell on the beholder. And that was the idea.  

Christophe Claret X-Trem 1 String HD

The Voodoo idea appears with other watchmakers as well. The appearance of the skull on the Angelus almost makes one forget the originality of the movement. One also finds this style with the watches designed by Fiona Krüger, whose collection was launched in 2013. It is well worth taking a longer look at her breathtakingly poetic skulls.

Angelus U10 Calavera Tourbillon

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HYT illuminates the Skull Pocket