Angus Davies discusses the remarkable work of Russian independent watchmaker, Konstantin Chaykin and explains why he is captivated by this ingenious and exceptional artisan.
This detailed article about Konstantin Chaykin includes live images and provides an overview of the various watches created by this Russian watchmaking talent.
Examining the shops gracing the various high streets of Great Britain, I am struck by the apparent homogeneity in evidence. The same large retailing groups offer similar products and services across the nation, presumably expecting the population to behave in the same way.
While individuals often talk of expressing their own personalities, they continue to wear similar clothes and behave within accepted norms.
Watches from Germany and Switzerland often share many features in common. While I adore many of these timepieces, they are invariably produced by watchmakers who share similar backgrounds and there is often an analogous thread which links the watches they produce.
It is for this reason that I am often attracted to the world of independent watchmakers. The degree of creativity is not inhibited by feedback from focus groups. Radical designs sometimes lead one to question the source of inspiration such is the incredible degree of innovation shown.
Konstantin Chaykin is not typical of the watchmakers I meet. The Russian artisan is self-taught and creates timepieces infused with breathtaking originality. While I am accustomed to seeing chronographs, GMTs or tourbillons, Konstantin proffers surprise with his watches that are equipped with unusual complications.
The first time I saw the Konstantin Chaykin Cinema I was captivated by the sight of an animated galloping horse depicted at the base of the dial. Since first making the acquaintance of Konstantin, I continue to remain fascinated by his designs and always enjoy seeing his latest work.
Named after a Soviet lunar robot, the Lunokhod shares a similar side profile to its namesake. Centre stage is a 12mm facsimile of the earth’s satellite. A silver half-sphere orbits a three dimensional depiction of the moon, replicating the earth’s shadow.
The moon phase indication faithfully depicts the lunar cycle with its striking form. Above the moon phase is an arc-like scale which displays the hours using a sun or moon to denote the applicable daylight or nocturnal hour.
A subdial at the base of the watch reveals the minutes. The case material is made of wootz steel, the same metal used for the miniature moon at the heart of the watch. It has a unusual texture which appears distressed and almost utilitarian but remains strangely attractive.
Decalogue Luah Shana
Konstantin was said to be “inspired by the complexity and astronomical precision of the Jewish Calendar”. His hand-wound Decalogue watch incorporates hands which rotate counter clockwise. The display includes a moon-phase indication and moon calendar.
The movement is beautifully decorated and includes stripes which are similar in concept to Côtes de Genève motif. The Star of David is tastefully depicted on the upper surface of the ratchet wheel.
At Baselworld 2014, Konstantin revealed the Cape Diem watch. In this instance, breathtaking artistic prowess is exhibited with the watch dial being used as a substitute for canvas and oils.
Chronos, the Greek mythological god is creatively depicted, appearing to almost sit upon a circular subdial displaying the prevailing hour. This watch resembles no other timepiece I can recall to memory. Its imaginatively conceived minutes display, resembling an hourglass, ingeniously reproduces the motion of sand.
Adjacent the crown, the day of the week is indicated using astrological symbols.
Like a magnificent painting, its creator lucidly conveys the meaning behind his design and the background to the choice of nomen selected for his work. Konstantin was keen to capture the fleeting nature of time and the importance of living in the moment, hence his choice of latin name.
The artistic creativity extends to the case which is adorned with sumptuous engraving, imparting a pronounced sense of luxury. It is this attention to detail, ingenuity and matchless finishing which is deserving of bountiful praise.
A few weeks ago at SalonQP, I met Konstantin Chaykin again. On this occasion he was exhibiting his latest creation, the Genius Temporis.
One elongated hand indicates the hour. By pressing a push piece, positioned at 2 o’clock, the sole hand moves to impart the prevailing minutes. The simplicity of the display is wonderful and the complication led me to smile with appreciation on seeing it at work.
As I busily took photographs of the watch, Konstantin was at pains to point out that it was merely a prototype and the finishing was not complete, nor too his exacting standards. To be honest, the finish looked superb to my eyes, but I agreed that any pictures I used would be labelled with the word ‘prototype’ in unequivocal text.
A refreshing perspective on watchmaking
I always marvel at the originality shown by independent watchmakers. They dare to be different when business wisdom may well suggest following a mainstream path. It is a business approach which attracts more risk, but greatness seldom comes from mediocrity.
As I await my 2015 diary to arrive, I contemplate those brands I will choose to visit at the forthcoming Baselworld. Rest assured, Konstantin Chaykin is a name which will be added to my agenda in bright indelible ink as I look forward to seeing further examples of the Russian watchmaker’s blue sky thinking.