October 31, 2017
by Ariel Adams
The Angelus U10 Tourbillon Calavera reference 0LUAS.B01A.C001F is a totally unique piece, meaning that there is just one of these versions of the already super-rare Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumiere (hands-on here). The watch takes the seriously weird (but in a cool way) U10 Tourbillon and gives it a few cosmetic changes – most notably the Mexican Day of the Dead “Calavera” painted skull and the bund-style strap.
It’s challenging for me to write about Angelus, because as a brand I respect, I don’t know what the future has in store for it. Angelus is a historic brand that was revived by La Joux-Perret and master lead designer Sebastien Chaulmontet (best know for his work at Arnold & Son). Since Angelus was reborn (with the U10 Tourbillon being the debut piece) La Joux-Perret was purchased by Citizen watches in Japan, and Sebastien Chaulmontet later left the company. So what I feel is a legitimate question – is who will run the brand now and give it the creative spark it needs?
That the U10 Tourbillon Lumiere and U10 Calavera (to a greater degree) are niche-appeal timepieces with strange looks is a good thing for the purposes of this conversation. Angelus proved that you could be innovative when it comes to design these days, and still be familiar enough to satisfy high horology purists. What Chaulmontet did with Angelus is make most of the designs actually original. Without him though… who will spearhead originality? If there is anything I know for certain about the watch industry, it is that independent thinkers, who can design and manage projects, and who understand the nuances of watch production (like Sebastien) are damn hard to find. So while he isn’t the only of his ilk out there, replacing the man outright will be impossible.
That means the future of Angelus might be closer to Dia de Muertos than even this one-of-a-kind watch suggests. Whether or not what I’ve described makes the brand remarkably more collectible, or fade faster into the dusk is something we have to wait for and find out. Nothing like an uncertain future to keep prospector-style collector’s on their toes.
Here’s when I ask big questions about watches with skulls on them. At best, such symbolism is meant to remind us mere mortals that conscious life is a gift and to cherish it. At worst, skulls on watches or most fashion-related objects is the epitome of cliché trends that promotes a morbid curiosity thinly veiled with artistic credibility.
I’m not saying the right type of “skull watch” isn’t cool, but I have yet to own one. I still think some of the most appropriate skull watches are those by Daniel Strom, which just take the Gothic theme and run with it. I’d likely wear one of those if someone handed it to me. But when I think about rewarding myself with a luxury watch purchase, I prefer to think of one that celebrates what I’ll be doing with it while I’m alive. Not something which is akin to an aggressive reminder that “while others perish in my wake, I continue to live.”
I’m not Mexican and I’m not someone who grew up with Day of the Dead (I did play Grim Fandango though), but the sole individual who purchased this U10 Calavera watch may very well have. Don’t, however, mistake yourself by thinking that Angelus was randomly inspired by this colorful celebration of the dead. For a few years now, Mexico and other parts of South America have intrigued watch brands keen to put their timepieces on the luxury-loving wealthy elite of Central and South America. While the separation between rich and poor in these parts of the world can be intense, so can the competition between successful people and families. Thus, the importance of owning not only luxury goods, but nuanced and sophisticated luxury goods is a major responsibility to anyone trying to make or maintain a name for themselves in many regions of this part of the world.
The contrast between the brightly colored Calavera skull painted into the dial where the time is told and retro-modern look of the U10 watch is a bit striking. The entire composition of the watch only works because we simply will it to given most people’s respect of the brand’s interesting products. In the abstract, a dial design such as this has no business being on a watch dial such as this. Then again, in defense of art – that I would make such a comment at all gives this watch merit. Its art might just be in confusing our expectations.
To compliment the purples, blues, and greens of the Calavera skull, part of the flying tourbillon assembly is painted magenta. The “electric shaving razor-shaped” steel case is mostly sober-toned save for the colorful treatments on these areas and on the watch’s indicators (hands). The colors are stunning, as is the detail. It’s a fantastic assembly of hues and lines. Even though I think the concept of the watch is silly as hell, I do love how it felt on the wrist. Viva la Calavera!
On the wrist, the Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumiere was always more comfortable when worn than its awkward case shape seemed to suggest. On the new bund-style strap, the U10 Calavera wears even better. The case is 62.75mm wide and 38mm tall. It is also 15mm thick and water resistant to 30m. All the sapphire crystals around the case help you see both the dial and the important parts of the movement. This includes the side-mounted power reserve indicator – that I’ve always found to be extremely elegant in its execution.
The black alligator “cuff” strap is bigger but more comfortable than previous straps. It is another trendy element, but it works. Note the hole on the back of the strap designed to let the wearer see the movement. This is an important distinction point because most straps that extend along the back of a watch case act to obstruct the view of the movement – not promote it as in this case.
Produced in-house at La Joux-Perret, the Angelus U10 contains the caliber A100 manually-wound mechanical movement. The reason why nerds love the U10 is because the movement is actually more complicated than the case design – and that is saying a lot. The movement features the time with a dead-beat seconds hand (mechanical watch but the seconds hand ticks), linear power reserve indicator (full power reserve is 90 hours), and the very large flying tourbillon (operating at 2.5Hz, 18,000bph). The movement is nicely finished – though super meticulous decoration isn’t where La Joux-Perret excels in the scheme of things.
If a Dia de Muertos-themed, super-niche appeal, high-end watch that is likely already sold out appeals to you, then Angelus has a watch just for you. More realistically, the U10 Calavera is a successful attempt at combining the appeal of Day of the Dead and memento mori, with the counting down (or up) of time on your wrist. If anything, skulls belong on watches worn by those who want to recall their mortality because there is no better reminder that your time is limited than a wrist watch idly ticking away our time on this planet. Until then, wear more bright pastels (and tourbillons). Price for the piece unique Angelus U10 Tourbillon Calavera reference 0LUAS.B01A.C001F watch is $120,000. angelus-watches.com