July 28, 2011
by Ariel Adams
Ikepod timepieces have been around since I started getting into watches about a decade ago. An elusive brand, seeing these watches in person isn’t all that common. The brand has had its ups and downs but seems to be in good hands at this time. The politics there are interesting as Marc Newson is the designer and has an incredible amount of creative control (though he doesn’t involve himself with day-to-day operations at all). Basically, if he wants it made, it gets made.
A good example of this is with the Hemipode, which, for its time, was a very large watch (in the 1990s) at 44mm wide. The Megapode is 47mm wide and, again, was considered massive. Today, they look just fine on the wrist. Over a decade later, Marc decided to do a 180 in his approach and built the two-sided Solaris watch that is just 30mm wide. He just does whatever he feels like doing, really.
Ikepod watches feel like exactly what they are: Timepieces designed by someone who isn’t strictly a watch designer but is a really good designer. Quality and craftsmanship is good, and the prices are high, but these are satisfying pieces. The Hemipode is probably their most famous watch. The case comes (came) in a variety of materials from steel, to gold, to platinum. And at 44mm wide you have an almost perfectly smooth pebble on your wrist – just how Newson wanted it. Legibility is as good as the watches are unique. Distinctive components, like the strap, ensure that the watch both looks fascinating and is comfortable. My interest, over the years, for the brand is well-founded and finds them on my wrist.
The Hemipodes currently use a modified Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement. Newson wanted perfect symmetry for the dial (good man) so he removed the day of the week indicator and opted for a date dial (versus a window). The movement is further modified by removing the 12 hour counter for the chronograph and replacing it with a 24 hour GMT hand – adjusted by the pusher on the left side of the case. In the past, these pieces sometimes offered other dial styles and movements. The hands are smooth looking and legible when you read the time from the UFO on your wrist. This is high-end design, people!
I don’t think that Ikepod makes steel or titanium versions of the Hemipode anymore, their current catalog only lists gold and platinum models and they are spendy! Retail prices start at around $35,000 for the gold versions and go up over $50,000 for the platinum models. Not cheap, sure, but part of the reason for the cost is the sheer amount of metal in the cases. The other part of the value proposition in getting one of these is Marc Newson’s work as a piece of art.
The Megapode is still offered in steel and is considerably less in price due to that fact. This is Marc’s aviator watch complete with a rotating slide-rule bezel. This time, the movement was flipped around for the pusher to be on the left side of the case – the idea was to make the crown for the slide-rule bezel easier to grasp. I wonder if a Marc Newson designed instruction manual on how to use slide-rule bezels comes with the Megapode watches? These very elegant pilot watches have the same awesome strap that all the round Ikepod watches have and works somewhat like a belt. It is rubber and has a nice clean clasp system that really is more clever than it looks. Very neat in appearance as well. Ikepod Megapode watches are currently offered in titanium, retailing for $17,500.
The newest round-cased Ikepod offering is the Horizon collection. These simple two-handers are more about art than pure function. They look stunning in person and offer a fascinating re-imagining of the look that Movado made popular with the Horwitt Museum Face watch. The watch dial features inset, almost perforated, holes of various sizes that emphasize the look of a sphere. Looking at the dial from various angles is very much a treat. This is one of my favorite “hard to read” watch dials out there. Like all of these watches, the Ikepod bird logo (named after a type of bird in Australia) is applied on the bottom of the sapphire crystal. Prices for the Horizon watches have a wide range from about $14,000 to around $70,000. The top models being in gold with diamond studded bezels.
If you haven’t yet experienced Ikepod, I highly recommend you check them out – at least to know what a non-traditional watch-maker can do. While pricey, these watches are also high quality art.