The latest member of the Konstantin Chaykin Wristmon watch family is the limited-edition Kolobok. At first glance, you might think that this new Joker-style watch honors Spongebob Squarepants. However, you’d be mistaken, as this watch is meant to honor a children’s story character popular in Russian-speaking parts of the world known as Kolobok, or “the little round bun.” This interesting and artistic creation will be another sold-out member of the Wristmons watch family, and upon deeper inspection, reveals a nuanced political message from Konstantin Chaykin to the world.
The last time I spoke with Chaykin, he was in the process of moving major parts of his watchmaking operation from Moscow to Switzerland. The Russian watchmaker is a true internationalist, but like many businesses, his been caught up in the expected geopolitical crossfire resulting from the current Russian war in Ukraine. Konstantin Chaykin, and companies like it, are in highly politically sensitive positions, especially when their real goal is to remain non-partisan and simply continue their craft and business. That means anytime a message is crafted, it must be carefully nuanced so as to neither offend nor choose a position on delicate matters. More so, within the context of 2023, any product from Russia or a Russian person is going to carry some stigma. How can a company like Konstantin Chaykin communicate as it needs from a marketing perspective, but also avoid sticking its head in the beam of so much vitriol from the war? In my opinion, the Kolobok watch is an attempt by Konstantin Chaykin to strike this delicate balance.
First is the origin of the Kolobok story, which, according to my research, is probably Ukrainian. That said, the popularity of this story and character have made it something that most children in Russia, Ukraine, and other Russian-speaking parts of the world grew up with. Chaykin thus chose a friendly face that has emotional meaning, and familiarity, to each side of the conflict. More so, it promotes a celebration of Ukrainian culture, as it is distinct from Russian culture, historically.
The little round bun character is part of a group of myths that involve a couple or person who wants a child, but for whatever reason cannot have one. There are stories all around the world that are variations on this theme and often involve an otherwise inanimate object being given life, or a human being delivered via sometime of divine creation (or some combination thereof). The Kolobok story begins with an elderly woman or an elderly couple who want a child. The woman in the story (Grandma) then creates a ball of bread dough which then comes to life Similar to the character of Pinocchio, Kolobok has too much youthful confidence and decides to run away from Grandma and Grandpa. What ensues is a short series of interactions with characters before the little round bun gets manipulated into being eaten by a wolf or fox. And then, the story tragically ends. The thing which the Grandma and Grandpa want so much escapes through their fingers, and the little round bun character, full of enthusiasm for opportunities and brimming with self-confidence, is talked into its own demise by a soothsaying predator. Going back to Konstantin Chaykin, what I found interesting about this watch release is the time and effort his company put into explaining/justifying the focus on the Kolobok character for their latest watch (nearly three full pages of writing), without ever mentioning the above context or goals. That’s good politics, Konstantin!
The mouth part of the face on the dial of the Kolobok watch cycles through some of the story’s lead characters, as opposed to acting as a tongue. The system is based on a moonphase indicator, so the cast of characters revolves slowly over the course of a month. The eyes are indicators for the minutes and hours, and this is all based on Konstantin Chaykin’s in-house caliber K. 18-20 module (which sits over a base Swiss Made ETA 2892-A2 automatic movement). The movement operates at 4Hz with 42 hours of power reserve. On this model, you can see the movement through the caseback, which is where you can see one of the special features of this limited-edition timepiece, the automatic rotor. On it are engraved elements of the Kolobok story in further detail.
For the Kolobok watch, Konstantin Chaykin chose his mid-size 40mm wide case (12.6mm thick) in steel. The case is paired with a black alligator strap with yellow stitching that is meant to match the little round bun face dial color. Over the dial is a sapphire crystal, and the case bezel is engraved with Cyrillic characters honoring the Kolobok character. While inherently niche (especially given the luxury price point) the goal of this watch is, on a basic level, to show a softer side of Slavic culture today, while also trying to create a product that will have appeal “across the aisles.” This is not an easy time for a company like Konstantin Chaykin to be doing business, but you can see that, through art, experimentation, and creativity, one can still thrive. The Konstantin Chaykin Kolobok Wristmon watch will be produced as a limited edition of 99 pieces. The price is 18,800 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Konstantin Chaykin website.