February 19, 2023
by Mike Razak
Known for his bold, avant-garde watch (and clock) designs, Konstantin Chaykin has always managed to balance fun and interesting impulses without making sacrifices, even to his horological craft. No truer is that idea than with the Wristmons collection, which sees the Russian watchmaker at the height of his whimsy by turning the face of the watch into actual faces. What started in 2017 with the Joker has become an ongoing series of limited-run watches—21 so far—including everything from a jack-o’-lantern to a Minion from Despicable Me. For the latest iteration, inspired by the Chinese zodiac and bringing a few new tricks to the table, Chaykin has just announced the Konstantin Chaykin Smilodon.
In naming and designing the watch, Chaykin was again inspired by the Chinese zodiac, but as with the Minotaur and the Unique Pig, didn’t want to be too conspicuous (as many brands are). Instead, what’s offered here is an ancestor of the tiger, with quite a lot of spunk. The Smilodon is not the first bronze watch in the anthropomorphic Wristmons collection, but it does have a few things that are new. The 42mm case features a fixed bezel that, like with other Wristmons, has the model’s name inscribed, with triangular divots in between. Smilodon, if you didn’t know (I didn’t) is the genus of saber-toothed cat, long extinct. In addition to the bezel, the case features upper lugs in the form of cat ears (as has been done on other animal-inspired Wristmons). Most notably, and departing from most of the line’s models, the Smilodon features a single 6 o’clock crown, instead of one each at 3 and 9. A first for the collection, Chaykin likens using the crown to scratching the Smilodon’s chin, which is rather playful (and much safer with a watch than a real tiger). The watch is paired with a custom-made leather strap with a clasp that pushes the theme even further: the clasp mimics the jaws of the Smilodon, with two pins and the holes along the strap to match. While many artistic, creative watches come with proportions that are as astounding as the watches themselves, at a manageable 13mm, and with a slim titanium caseback, this one is sure not to overwhelm on the wrist (if you don’t believe me, check out our review of the original joker, which has a similar case but is .7mm thicker).
Let’s move on to the bronze-colored feline dial, depicting the ferocious visage of the Smilodon. Featuring four different guilloché finishes, texturing is used to bring the tiger’s face to life. The eyes, as the brand says, are a “crazed yellow,” the left acting as the hours indicator, the right as the minutes. The vibrant yellow is achieved through countless layers of lacquer. Most intriguing, though, is the saber-toothed maw of the Smilodon. In lieu of a day indicator, the watch shows a rotation of seven petroglyphic representations of the prey that the Smilodon would have eaten—including man, which Chaykin himself uses for Sunday, “the seventh day of creation.” But wait, there’s more: The jaw of the Smilodon actually closes at night, acting as a day/night indicator!
The automatic movement of the Smilodon is a heavily modified Swiss Vaucher caliber VMF 3002, with ray-like striping and perlage, and a custom rotor with a Smilodon head. The functionality of the Smilodon is afforded by an in-house module mounted to the Vaucher, which brings the total of jewels to 50. The caliber beats at 28,800 vph (though without a seconds hand, you won’t really notice), and has a respectable 50-hour power reserve. It’s all visible though a sapphire crystal set into the titanium caseback.
While the general idea of the Wristmons collection is no longer as groundbreaking and exciting as it was when the Joker was first released, there’s no wonder why Chaykin continues to revisit the design: It’s arguably one of the most fun watches on the market at any price point. With the Smilodon, he gets rid of the quirky, if symmetrical double crowns and adds perhaps the most novel complication of the series with the opening and closing jaws of the fearsome tiger. The Konstantin Chaykin Smilodon is priced at $34,300 USD and will be limited to eight pieces, with production time estimated at 12 months. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.