What continues to impress me about the luxury watch industry is that no matter what is happening in the market (or the world), there continues to be a latent desire for many entrepreneurs to start their own watch brands. Many of those brands end up being necessarily simple, to begin with, focusing on inexpensive products with the ultimate goal of offering more interesting items in the future. In other rarer circumstances, new brands exit the gate with something wildly ambitious, ready to make a splash on the industry with a strategically impressive product at launch. That’s the case with Austria-based Doppelganger, who in has recently launched the Doppelganger NGC-42 watch collection in Salzburg — a boldly unique mechanical watch creation ready to find its high-luxury niche.
I caught up with the gentlemen from Doppelganger in Geneva at the Time To Watches event that occurred during the Watches & Wonders 2022 show week. This was the first major exhibition for Doppelganger, which is important because its products do need to be physically handled to be appreciated and understood. At launch, the brand has one major model, the NGC-42, which is rendered in a few different versions offering different case materials such as titanium or gold.
While the NGC-42 watch doesn’t have a name that exactly rolls off the tongue, the product is a lively assemblage of an innovative mechanical movement system along with a bold, futuristic design that has fans in the marketplace. Of course, the more conservative quotient of the watch enthusiast community will bark about the avant-garde nature of this watch, its large size, and its peculiar style of indicating the time — but they did the same with pretty much everything from URWERK to MB&F when those brands originally came to market. Where Doppelganger has it right, and where many brands can learn a lesson, is that novel products like this are almost never greeted by the established watch industry space with open arms. Rather, brands like Doppelganger must persist through several important start-up years before they gain acceptance by enough of the more established voices in the industry.
Of course, I’m typically an exception to this rule of conservatism given my love of novel concepts and fresh ideas applied to the old concept of using a mechanical system to indicate the time. So how exactly does the Doppelganger NGC-42 approach the concept of telling the time? At first, I thought the “NGC-42” name was an homage to Star Trek because the names of Federation vessels in it go by “NCC-XXXX” (with the Xs being numbers). Rather, I believe NGC is a reference to astronomy and the cataloging of galaxies. The NGC-42 watch has a movement with hands that orbit around the movement, similar to how galaxies rotate around a central axis point. This is more or less exactly how the movement works, with hour and minute indicator “bars” that rotate elliptically on chains around the movement.
While you can only view one minute or hour indicator bar on the dial at any given time, as they pass the visible front of the watch and recede to the back, a doppelganger (hence the name of the brand) hand presents itself at the bottom of the dial. The company calls this their “Double Orbital Indicator” system. The hands, as well as the indicators on the dial, are painted in luminant material for rather decent visibility in the dark. Time is read easily via the dual linear scales on each side of the dial for both the hours and minutes. It takes a bit of time to get used to reading the time, but it is actually just as convenient as reading the dial on most URWERK products.
Then, there is the matter of how it all works. The strange “Exosphere” case and overall theme of the Doppelganger brand is one thing, and then there is the fact that they developed the movement in-house. The company offers the simple name of “4M” to the name of the mechanical caliber and proudly spend several years trying to make it work and to perfect the novel architecture and shape. The 4M movement is more rectangular (versus round) in shape and is comprised of 446 parts in total.
In addition to the unique Double Orbital Indicator systems for the time, the 4M movement has a flying tourbillon as well as a new form of constant force system that allows for more consistent power to be fed to the gear train. This is done via a system that Doppelganger calls its “Random Impulse Controller,” and it works a bit differently from other systems that do similar things. The reason it has “random” in the name is that it relies on small bits of power that are emitted from the mainspring in little bursts as pressure adds up. The timing of these bursts is difficult to predict given that various factors including the measure of current power reserve and the physical position of the watch, can affect it. Visually, the Random Impulse Controller looks a bit like a balance wheel and is place in the lower center of the dial under the exposed flying tourbillon regulation system.
Visually, the Random Impulse Controller seems to sputter to life every few seconds — truly randomly, as the name implies. I think it is a rather clever system for translating inconsistent energy being released from the mainsprings to consistent power necessary to power a timing device. The overall system operates with a frequency of 3Hz, and between three mainspring barrels (that are visible through the caseback and have turbine-style designs to them) the manually wound NGC-42 watch has 100 hours of power reserve.
Above I said that the movement has 446 parts, but that is actually a low count since it doesn’t include the roughly 600 parts needed to assemble the four steel micro-chains used to move the hour and minute bars, which and are this watch’s unique take on a belt system. Chains of similar design have been used for a very long time in mechanisms like a fusee and chain transmission system. Here, Doppelganger opted to use metal chains as the conveyor system to move the hands. Other brands have done theoretically similar things using tiny rubber-based belts (Christophe Claret, for example, comes to mind). That said, even metal-reinforced rubber belts will wear out over time. Doppelganger’s decision to go with metal chains as the conveyor system for the hands simply means they are focused on longevity, something I recommend people always look for in the context of a high-end, exotic mechanical watch.
At launch, there are three versions of the Doppelganger NGC-42 watch with the variety coming in the case color and material. Doppelganger offers the NGC-42 case in steel, black-coated titanium, or 18k yellow gold, each on a fitted rubber strap with a matching metal deployant clasp. The case shape is probably one of the visually avant-garde features of the NGC-42 product and is built around the movement in an attempt to have it wear as comfortably as possible on the wrist. As I said above, Doppelganger calls the NGC-42’s case the Exopshere, and that’s just a fancy way of referring to it as the house for the movement on the inside. While it is large, the wrapping nature of the strap and the curved design of the lugs do allow for the NGC-42 to be worn with comfort, though that isn’t going to stop it from looking quite sizeable on a lot of wrists out there.
Water-resistant to 30 meters, the NGC-42 case is 49mm-wide by 16mm-thick and 54mm long (lug-to-lug distance). The case is made from 20 different components and has a challenging-to-get-right AR-coated curved sapphire crystal over the dial and the caseback. It is a very impressive system to wear on the wrist, especially if you are a fan of mechanics and love the idea of wearing a spirited concept from a freshly minted European luxury watch brand.
Doppelganger is off to a great start with the NGC-42 collection. Right now, the brand’s mission is to really get off the ground and have the NGC-42 watch enter the market. aBlogtoWatch has been told that the plans for Doppelganger extend beyond just this lead model, so it will be interesting to see how things go for them over the next few years. While the watches are not part of a limited edition, Doppelganger will always maintain very little stock, as most of the NGC-42 watches will be produced only to order. Price for the Doppelganger NGC-42 watches is 156,000 Euros in steel, 175,000 Euros in black-coated titanium, and 200,000 Euros in 18k yellow gold. Learn more at the Doppelganger watches website here.