Just like the two watches by Louis Moinet and Ulysse Nardin dedicated to oil barons that I wrote about a few days ago, these two pieces, by Richard Mille and Ulysse Nardin, are designed for another “captive audience,” men who have one thing on their minds. In their press release, Richard Mille says apologetically “Erotic timepieces are part of watchmaking history. Designers of yore played with the theme of libertinism by mechanically recreating suggestive scenes.” In their new piece there is a lot of tongue-in-cheek (it’s going to be difficult to avoid double meanings in this article) irony, starting from its reference, RM 69. Designed in cooperation with Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi, the Richard Mille RM 69 Erotic Tourbillon uses words rather than images, displayed on three engraved titanium rollers at the top of the dial in the so-called Richard Mille “Oracle” complication, which produces a random combination of subject, verb and object. If you don’t like what the watch is proposing, you just have to push the top pusher on the left-hand side and the phrase changes. To improve the legibility of the phrase, you can momentarily eliminate the hour and minute hands by pressing the lower left-hand pusher. They reappear when you release the pusher.
The time-keeping part of the watch is a hand-wound tourbillon, with the tourbillon in full view in the lower part of the watch. When you turn it over, you find that the mainspring barrel is exactly underneath the tourbillon, so that the entire movement is located in the lower half of the watch, leaving the upper part free for the suggestive rollers. This was obtained by means of the compact movement design. Just to the right of the tourbillon is the power reserve indicator. The watch runs at 3 Hertz and so, notwithstanding the single barrel, and the tourbillon complication that tends to absorb more energy than a less complicated watch, it has a good power reserve. How many hours? 69 of course!
The case is in titanium, large at 50 mm x 42.7 mm, and 16.15 mm thick, ergonomically curved, and held together with the brand’s characteristic spline screws. Water resistance is 50 metres. The Richard Mille RM 69 Erotic Tourbillon is a 30-piece limited edition, available only in Richard Mille boutiques. If you want to know what the other phrases on the rollers are, I’m afraid that you’ll have to visit a boutique and find out for yourself: the brand hasn’t provided the vocabulary, and the phrases in the photos are presumably the most demure alternatives.
Ulysse Nardin, on the other hand, does it in pictures, with their Hourstriker Erotica Jarretière, which combines an hour striker with two jaquemarts (the technical word to describe automaton figures on clocks and watches) who bounce up and down on a chaise longue in time with the striker. They do it every hour on the hour, unless you deactivate the striking mechanism by pressing the top pusher. When activated, the watch also strikes the half-hour. If you want, you can activate the couple on request by pressing the lower pusher. The scene is set in a curiously unartistic view of Venice, with terrace railings at the front, the Rialto bridge at the back, and various other accoutrements including an armchair, abandoned high heels and suspenders, the chaise longue, and a square-section post on the right that I just can’t identify. The watch has a 42 mm case in rose gold or platinum, with a black onyx dial and a sapphire caseback. The UN-611 movement is self-winding, providing a power reserve of about 42 hours. The two references, 6116-130 in rose gold, and 6119-130 in platinum, are limited editions, each of 28 pieces.
With the Ulysse Nardin, the scene is very much “in your face” all the time, and this reminds me of another watch that I saw a few years ago, by Jacob & Co., in which there was an equally graphic animated scene that could be hidden by a sliding screen so that the watch became a normal timepiece. That was at Baselworld 2013, and I asked the public relations lady about the potential market. “I suppose there are some parts of the world where this sort of watch doesn’t really have a market, because of, um, cultural or religious restrictions,” I said innocently.
“You’d be surprised,” she replied, “I know where you’re thinking of, and that area is our largest market!”