May 20, 2010
by Ariel Adams
Vonlatomic is a special collection of watches for the Volna watch brand by talented watch design Yvan Arpa. I’ve discussed Mr. Artya at length because I respect his masculine, artistic approach to watch design. The careful designer spends a lot of time thinking about the best way to execute his wild ideas. His work feels very much like an extension of himself. Each watch being something he himself would proudly wear – truly art for the artist. Many people don’t like Yvan’s creations. It is easy to be mystified by the thought behind the pop-art style, or sometimes just plain weird watches. Though most passionate artists tend to attract a degree of controversy when it comes to the tastefulness or appeal of their work. For Yvan, timepieces are a palette – the medium through which he likes to create.
Yvan’s past laurels include designing the Titanic DNA and Moon Dust DNA collection watches for Romain Jerome, starting the Black Belt watch brand, and earlier, being one of the key designers at Hublot when the now iconic Big Bang come out. Currently Yvan ones the Artya watch brand, and works with Volna on this collection. The Volnatomic collection is all about putting Yvan’s touch on Volna’s theme of having watches that are thematically related to Russian submarines. For Yvan, the most interesting part of submarines as applied to timepieces if their atomic power. He was inspired by this in creating the Volnatomic collection of watches that look like something Roy Lichtenstein might wear. At the top of the collection is the wonderfully artistic Volnatomic Tourbillon watch, which is seen here, but I first wrote about it on Luxist here.
I sat down with Yvan to have him show me the new collection of Volnatomic watches. Please note that these are prototypes, and it isn’t clear which will reach production and what changes will be made. The collection is all in Volna’s watch case style that is in PVD black steel and 46.5mm wide (and 50 meters water resistant). The bezels are interesting because the black and yellow colors (if applicable to the style) are really bold. They are designed to last as well – not merely being paint. They are actually a complex mixture between ceramic and I think either lacquer or enamel. Apparently they are a pain in the ass to make, but come out looking pretty good.
Each watch has an interesting and often clean looking dial. The hands on each are quite easy to read as well, often due to high contrast. Without hour markers not all of the watches are a breeze to read, but these are more art type watches that serve to tell the time – and they look pretty cool while doing so. Liking the Volnatomic collection doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Fans of the designs like the watches the say way you like a tattoo. You either just want one or you don’t. It is sometimes hard to explain why. Yvan has a way of making things that look simple, but no one else has done it. While his creations don’t emanate “complexity” they aren’t obvious either.
The collection will initially have a few pieces with a couple of different movements. In addition to the wild looking tourbillon, there is the Volnatomic Radioactive (Yellow and Black models pictured at the top), Volnatomic Crime Scene, Volnatomic Atomic Central (central seconds indicator in shape of atomic symbol), and possibly others when the final models are released. Each watch has a Swiss automatic movement – not sure which though, but I know that the Volnatomic has a Dubois Depraz movement with a big date and small seconds indicator. Also, the Volnatomic Tourbillon movement is made by Concepto.
Europeans will understand one of the imagery plays on the dial, though it will need to be explained to others. Many of the pieces have a skull and cross bones image on the dial, along with a little picture of a man running and an arrow. This latter image is the European international symbol for “Exit.” Thus, the idea is to communicate that if and when there is an atomic disaster (or personal disaster), you are in danger and should run. It is tantamount to wearing some type of “WARNING” label on your wrist. According to Arpa, it is like wearing something that is symbolic for “forbidden” on your wrist – that you carry around with you.
I really like the implementation of the caseback window. There is a sapphire crystal over with a skull and crossbones shape in it that is over another rotating disc with the atomic symbol on it. That disc is attached to the automatic rotor and moves around creating a fun image to watch of moving black and yellow color under a skull shaped window. The watches are on comfy rubber straps – with yellow or black stitching (for style).
Personally I like some of the models enough that I would gladly wear them when I am in the mood for such a bold and fun piece. I think something like this has the potential of being a real fashion icon. Yvan isn’t trying to make ripples in the world of haute horology, but rather offering fun pieces of wearable watch art that have a masculine edge, and are highly original. Price for the main Volnatomic collection is going to be several thousand dollars each.