Call me a hopeless romantic, if you like, but I’ll ask this anyway: When was the last time you reflected on how a watch made you feel? The Konstantin Chaykin Joker did just that with me, precisely because it had made me feel something new and different when compared to other watches. This is my analysis of my Joker, half review and half emotional reflection on how watches work — not just mechanically, but also emotionally. Consequently, there are two ways of looking at the Joker: as an ordinary watch with wearability, refinement, and utilitarian aspects; and as a fascinating concept that goes where so few watches before or after it will dare to go.
Most all other luxury watches are about ticking or missing boxes — like top trumps or the options list for cars. For watches, it’s always about how precise they are, how refined their details are, how precious their materials are, how rare, exclusive, and cutting-edge they are. That’s all fun, of course, but the Joker is all, and yet none, of those things at the same time. And that is why I love it so very much. The way the Joker has made me feel allowed me to realize that I haven’t loved any other piece of watchmaking before it — only appreciated, perhaps lusted after, or just deeply liked.
It is a nearly impossible challenge to explain it, but I’ll try. The vibe this watch radiates, how it looks and operates, has removed it entirely from that aforementioned arms race defined by anglage and guillochage and karat counts and claimed (!) chronometrical performance. It is a proud, yet strangely discreet, middle finger right in the face of everything and everyone who would disapprove it. The Joker is taking no hostages. You either love it, or you hate it, and either is fine because both are a genuine reaction, something so few watches today are capable of evoking.
And while there are awe-inspiring, dare I say poetic, watches by the likes of Van Cleef & Arpels, Jaquet Droz, Hermès, and others, they are all stupendously expensive, way into the five-, but mostly rather six-figure range. By contrast, the Joker used to cost (back when it was available) €6,990 or just under $8,000, without missing one bit of character and definitely without a painful lack of refinement when compared to those much, much more expensive “alternatives.” Mind you, at the time of writing, Konstantin Chaykin Joker watches are listed from $14,000 to $19,600 on Chrono24. You tell me when was the last time you saw an appreciation like this in this segment from any brand, small or large, other than the usual suspects like Rolex and a select few Omegas.
Technical Details As Amazing As the Concept Itself
This story on visiting the Konstantin Chaykin Manufacture tells you everything you need to know about not only where this watch is made, but also about one of the most creative watchmakers to have ever lived: Konstantin Chaykin. Sound like high praise? It’s well deserved.
The Konstantin Chaykin Joker is made almost entirely in house. The only sourced parts are the ETA base caliber (more on that soon), the jewels, the sapphire crystals, and the leather strap. Everything else is produced in the Konstantin Chaykin Manufacture in the Nagatinsky Zaton District of Moscow. “Everything else” includes, but is not limited to: the case, the bezel, the crown, the laser etched logos, the dial, the mouth, the plates for and painting of the moon phase and eye discs, the nose assembly, and the Joker module and all its parts. That’s a nice list, for sure, but this performance becomes truly appreciable only once you spend some qualitative time admiring any one of these in detail.
Take the dial, for example. CNC-milled from a single plate of brass, it is an exquisite piece of craftsmanship, way beyond what the Swiss corner-cutting solution of high-pressure stamping could produce, and extremely close to being on par with the crispness of guillochage. Pictured above is the dial blank for the Clown watch, but that and the Joker are close enough for you to be able to judge the quality of execution.