It is hard to fathom that a scant three years ago Basel World was the event of the horological calendar. Retailers and horophiles were feverish with anticipation for the novelties that were debuted at each Basel World. Behind all this mayhem, besides a forgotten staircase, somewhat far from the glamorous halls of Basel World was a rather small area dedicated to Independent Watchmakers. A lackluster showing in 2017 for the larger brands resulted in newfound recognition for a certain independent watchmaker named Konstantin Chaykin. Chaykin is currently the only Russian watchmaker admitted to the prestigious Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (ACHI) and served as president of the Académie from 2016 till 2019. The tremendous upheavals that Russia has endured over the last two centuries have left its watch industry in a recondite state. Not only is Chaykin a highly respected watchmaker, he also acts as a mentor for up and coming talent who would without his philanthropy not be given a chance. Above it all Chaykin is a patriot who prides his “Made in Russia” seal above everything else. Whereas many other new unestablished brands would have relied on the crutch of “Swiss Made” for legitimacy, Chaykin was confident enough in his creations to forgo the designation. According to Chaykin, Swiss brands produce rather simplistic standard production perpetual calendars, whereas the Russian maverick creates watches taking into consideration the Hebrew and Islamic calendar, as well as the movements that determine the date of the Orthodox Easter.
The steel Joker limited to just 99 examples brought admiration and levity to an otherwise serious business, its cheerful and completely WOW facade won over the so many diverse admirers and cemented Chaykin’s place in the world of Horology not withstanding the fact that it was one of his simplest movements. Chaykin developed a module with a double-disk time indication ;hours and minutes as Joker Eyes; and moon-phase display; Joker’s recognizable smile. The module has only 8 jewels for friction reduction; interestingly mounted on to the Swiss Made ETA 2824-2. The inner part of the crown on the left-hand side of the case functions as a corrector for the moon-phase display. The caliber K07-0 beats at 28’800 vph and provides up to 38 hours of power reserve. All 99 pieces were spoken for by the end of Basel World 2017 along with a substantial waitlist. Several months later, after the overwhelming demand for the Steel Joker, Chaykin decided to reintroduce the Joker in a new metal, he opted for Titanium due to its lightness as well as its darkish properties.
The Joker was the foundational reference that went on to form part of the Konstantin Chaykin collection “Wristmons” since then several references have been introduced. To celebrate occasions Chaykin is known to release special edition Wristmons, this year for Christmas, the Santa 2021 Special Edition was released and is just limited to 3 examples, our friend SJX covered its recent release. The manufacture is also known to be flexible when commissioning your own Wristmon, provided the order quantity satisfies their appetite. What makes both the steel and titanium Jokers unique is the fact that these were the first serially produced Wristmons, before that collection was even created or named by Chaykin. Below is a comparison between the two, showing signs of production maturity as well as subtle tweaks to the overall design of the piece.
Despite the difference between the Steel and Titanium case, a majority of the updates are actually found on the dial. For example, the pattern of guilloché found on the nose of the joker has evolved on the Titanium version (left). Additionally, the unique guilloché found around the nose is far more concentrated on the Steel Joker, for the Titanium example, Chaykin drew inspiration from famed jeweler Carl Faberge and has named this ‘relief’ design.
Another interesting difference is the darkness of the overall nose and eyes of the Steel Joker (right). The roman numerals also differ in both examples, the numerals found on the Titanium example seem to have only been used on this particular model. The other iterations of the Joker use the numerals found on the Steel Joker (for now). Lastly, the moon phases seem to have different textures, the Steel Joker has a shimmery surface that is rather vibrant whereas the Titanium Joker possesses a ‘flat’ one-dimensional surface and the inner pin buckles differ.
The Wristmon collection is arguably Chaykin’s most successful collection and allows enthusiasts to purchase something rather unique. The price of the original Steel Joker was a modest CHF 7’900 in 2017 since then the prices for the Wristmon collection seem to have gradually increased. To say that the current Wristmon collection is priced too high would simply be unfair.
Both of Chaykin’s Only Watch results have been promising his first in 2017 (far left) The Joker made in Zirconium sold for a tremendous CHF 45’000 and the second mindboggling Unique Selfie Joker made in Bulat Steel (center) sold for an equally impressive CHF 70’000 in 2019. When the event presents itself, Chaykin seems to be able to lure international interest and achieve remarkable results for a relatively young brand. It would seem the both the Steel and Titanium Jokers were Chaykin’s equivalent of ‘production’ watches with a total of 197 pieces made (99 in Steel and 88 in Titanium). Since then we have not seen him offer other Wristmons at that production output. A possible theory could be that both the Steel and Titanium Jokers were meant to provide collectors a taste of Chaykin’s creations with the hopes of them appreciating his other remarkable inventions.
In 2018 both renowned independent watchmakers, Andersen and Chaykin, collaborated on a project together. The outcome was rather unique, Andersen an industry veteran is well known for the use of the Automaton (a certain erotic white house piece comes to mind), in this instance, he opted for a more ‘sober’ automation which is found on the case back of their joint project. We remain interested to see who Chaykin decides to collaborate with next, if at all and continue to be a fan of his non-traditional complications, who knows what’s next?