A watch with no hands then? 'Ha! Easy!' you say. It's either a digital watch (mechanical or electronic), maybe a nice piece from Urwerk, or perhaps even one of Beat Haldimann's amazing creations (which may or may not have hands - if only you could see through the blacked crystal!). And you would be right of course - all of the above would qualify. But this a Harry Winston Opus with no hands, and that in itself says that it is by default, going to be different.
Because when Harry Winston unveil their once-yearly Opus edition, you can bet your house that it's not going to be something that you'll have seen before. You won't be able to look at it and say 'ah, I see where they got that idea from...' because as a rule, a Harry Winston Opus is a perfect exercise in defying convention.
The Harry Winston Opus 12 has just made it's public debut in Baselworld 2012. Although there are thousands of new pieces on show at this amazing city of watches, there are a small few which demand immediate attention, and skip the queue, as eager visitors beat a trail to those booths. The Harry Winston booth is one of those few.
O my! The Opus 12 is a wonderful thing indeed. Created in conjunction with esteemed master watchmaker Emmanuel Bouchet, the Opus 12 is a timepiece which wears it's undies on the outside, bold as brass, for all to see. Where other watchmaker's amazing complications are often concealed beneath the dial and watch case, M. Bouchet's creation is a hugely engaging eye-catching festival of motion, with the hands being dispensed with in favour of a fascinating cascade of 24 leapfrogging bi-colour metal 'swords'!
So, what have we got? There is so much going on, so let's build it up shall we, starting with the little off-centre small seconds dial which is suspended just high enough above the face so as to provide a bridge for the thin blue retrograde minutes and power reserve pointer, both of which originate in the dead centre of the dial, to pass under and address the reserve indicator immediately beneath the five minute arc. These elements themselves make this a beautifully thought out and executed combination of solutions - but they are not the party piece, oh no, not at all......
Apart from the constant beat of the small seconds, and the gradual sweep of the retrograde minutes hand as it moves from one to five, all is at peace and any movement is graceful. The main hours and minutes (to the previous five minutes) are displayed as curious steel blades around the dial, with the time denoted in blue - long for the minutes, shorter for the hours. Seeing what happens next for the first time is completely jawdropping. As the retrograde minutes pointer pulls up to reach the fifth mark, it springs back to start over again, but at the same instant there is a flurry of metal and a flash of steel as one of the five minute markers rotates 180° on itself, giving up it's sentry in blue and returning to the bare steel, having served it's duty, as its subsequent neighbour, next in line, goes through the same motion and spins in a blink to show it's blue face.
It all happens in that one second every five minutes and is delightful to see. It is quite a trick indeed, and you will not want to miss watching it every time it happens, but it's still not the full fireworks - yet.
No, that explosion of mechanical and visual conjury is reserved for the passing of the hour, as the whole watch bursts into a flash of spinning blue and steel blades, appearing like a dozen close-quarter swordfights in miniature. As the hour moves forward, the outgoing marker (which is short, remember) rotates the 180° to revert from blue to bare, but it also exchanges place with the longer minutes blade (sorry, that's how I see them) which has been transported downwards and out of sight by means of a turntable mechanism.
Emmanuel Bouchet could well have been quite happy with that, one might imagine, because in effect what has just occurred is that the retrograde minutes have just sprung backwards, the five minutes have moved forward in one movement and two little blades have each rotated 180° and they have swapped places with each other in another movement! 'But,' M Bouchet thought to himself, 'why only move from one hour to the next when you can lift your skirts high and perform a mechanical Can-Can?' and so the process just described is repeated a dozen times more as the hour dance sweeps riotously right around the dial like a flickering blue and silver Mexican Wave until arriving back to rest in short blue position at the next hour and tranquility is restored once more..... until that little flash of the 'change of the guard' five minutes from now.
All of this entertainment is made possible via a mechanism which activates the rotating and turntable actions by means of a toothed ring which orbits the movement and which engages the gearing, itself partially visible beneath a translucent disc bearing the Harry Winston name.
Presented in an 18Kt white gold 46mm round case with sapphire crystal caseback, revealing the 607 part, 80 jewel, two barrel movement, the Opus 12 will surely be one of the stars of the show. Awards will flood in, honours bestowed and glasses raised - and when they do, they will be well deserved. Only to the lover of classic understatement might it not appeal, but it's the sheer naked exuberance and playfulness which I love about it.
There will be 120 examples of Opus 12 and if you have to ask the vulgar question, then it's probably not going to be for you, but rest assured demand will outstrip availability, so getting a clearance piece at a knockdown price in a year's time seems somewhat unlikely...
It's something else.