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Erotic watches: the end of an era

Erotic watches: the end of an era

Sunday, 04 February 2018
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Fabrice Eschmann
Freelance journalist

“Don't believe all the quotes you read online!”

“In life as in watchmaking, it takes many encounters to make a story.”

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1 min read

At SIHH, Ulysse Nardin shattered a taboo by presenting an erotic watch.

Erotic watches have a long history. From the seventeenth century, risqué scenes made a discreet appearance inside the back cover of pocket watches in the form of engravings or miniature paintings. Some makers, wanting more, repurposed the minute-repeater movement and its jaquemarts to play out these immodest scenes with automata, still on the back of the watch. At a time when a well-bred gentleman was expected to refrain from pursuing amorous interests, in public at least, such an item was the pretext to the kind of conversation one wouldn’t ordinarily have in the drawing room.

Voyeur in platinium © Ulysse Nardin
Voyeur in platinium © Ulysse Nardin

Blancpain was first to revive this tradition in the 1980s, this time on wristwatches. Others followed suit, including Chopard, Audemars Piguet and Ulysse Nardin. All with the utmost discretion, with respect to both the watches themselves and their buyers. Rumour has it that the actor Michel Simon, King Farouk and the singer Elton John are, or have been, fans.

Rare, but also deliberately hidden from view, these watches periodically resurface at exhibitions or at auction. Brands have been unanimously coy about openly discussing this aspect of their production. Until now, that is. Ulysse Nardin created something of a stir at SIHH when it presented its erotic watch to assembled journalists. The brand even transformed part of its booth into a boudoir, just for this watch. Then to top it all, it hosted two burlesque parties at one of Geneva’s luxury hotels. Discretion ain’t what it used to be…

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