When showing this interesting watch to fellow horology lovers, I start with the tongue-in-cheek (but honest) statement that this timepiece is a collaboration between the Russians and the Chinese, and it most certainly is. What we have here is a version of the Joker watch that was produced by Chinese Behrens and designed in collaboration with Russian Konstantin Chaykin. The latter’s Joker watch has been one of the most popular “cult” watches over the last few years, developing a loyal following with its playful energy and unique method of displaying time. I’m not sure how Behrens and Konstantin Chaykin connected at first (perhaps they have shared suppliers), but this new version of the Joker is a true hybrid of the ethos of both companies, and it’s quite fun to wear.
Behrens is a brand that aBlogtoWatch intends to explore more. First founded in 2012, Behrens’ mission is to offer a lower cost for complicated dial layouts and mechanical executions. The brand is located in Shenzhen, China, a hub of micro-mechanical engineering and technology (and local watch enthusiasts). Even with only a few models available, Behrens has shown a deep level of innovation and ambition that is very rare from brands in this part of the world. There is both an interest in complementing the world of even more high-end complicated Swiss watches and also asserting a different aesthetic and set of values for a different generation of watch lovers. That doesn’t mean that Behrens watches are inexpensive, per se, but rather that in most instances its products are many times less expensive than something from Switzerland. This collaboration Joker watch really does emphasize a lot of what the Behrens brand is going for.
Those familiar with the Konstantin Chaykin Joker will immediately recognize the aesthetic on this watch’s dial, which includes the distinctive Joker-style face with hours and minutes indicators that double as “eyes,” a bridge structure that looks like a nose, and a mouth shape. While most Konstantin Chaykin watches have a moonphase indicator as the mouth structure, in this design, the mouth is a seconds indicator that follows a banana-shaped path due to its gearing, which uses some form of heart or oblong-shaped cam. Co-branding on the watch comes in the form of the Behrens logo in the center of the left eye and the Konstantin Chaykin logo in the center of the right eye. The rear of the case has an interesting (and amusingly weird) piece of artwork in relief, which I believe is supposed to be a parade mascot version of the watch itself.
Like most Russian Joker watches, this Chinese Joker also has an in-house mechanical module built on top of a base Swiss Made automatic movement. In this instance, the movement is a Swiss Made Sellita SW200 automatic, which operates at 4Hz with roughly 38 hours of power reserve. Behrens places its own system on top of the base automatic, which creates the distinctive regulator-style layout that separates hours, minutes, and seconds into individual subdials. Overall, this is done quite well, especially for the eyes, which are now visible in the dark thanks to entirely lume-painted backdrops.
I am not sure if the mouth-as-seconds indicator makes logical sense for the face theme (the moonphase indicator made for a good mouth’s tongue on the original Joker), but it still functions well and is interesting. Again, this watch is a very specific combination of Konstantin Chaykin’s famed Joker and some reinterpretation by Behrens as a creative and manufacturing collaborator. Overall the dial looks and feels interesting, even if there are small refinement issues, such as dial elements that are difficult to see and text that is hard to read. This is likely due to the fact that many of today’s wristwatch designs come from large-scale computer design software, and when they are shrunken down to the size of a watch dial, things don’t necessarily visually operate the same way as when they are blown up by 500% on a screen.
One of the best parts of the Behrens x Konstantin Chaykin Joker limited-edition watch is the case. It is the same 42mm-wide size as most Konstantin Chaykin watches, but it’s a different shape and actually thinner in terms of how it looks. The case is about 9mm-thick without the box-style sapphire crystal, and about 14mm-thick in total. The sapphire crystal has a bit of glare, but given how curved it is, the glare is actually kept to a welcome minimum through use of an effective crystal shape and generous AR coating on the inside. The case is also water resistant to 50 meters.
The case material is titanium but a different form than most people typically associate with titanium watch cases. The same material is used for the base dial layer that the three-dimensional dial elements are set above. The material is known as crystallized titanium, and I believe the structure is formed when titanium is flash-frozen. I’d be curious to know more about how this particular type of titanium metal crystal is formed, as it makes for an interesting aesthetic in a material that is up there with steel in terms of how appropriate it is as a watch case material.
Attached to the case is a black-colored fluoroelastomer strap that is attached to the case with a solid quick-release system. The strap itself is comfortable and nice, and that includes the attractive buckle and quick-release hardware. That said, style-wise, I am not sure how the strap complements the overall composition of the case and dial design. It does seem that Behrens has thought of this, however, given the quick-release spring bar system, and additional straps should be available in the future. The strap release system is also not proprietary and allows you to put any 21mm-wide strap (an admittedly uncommon size) on the case.
Since I started traveling to parts of China over a decade ago, I’ve written about the impending entrance of modern Chinese watch brands into the market. For a long time, most of the best Chinese-branded watches stayed in China or in nearby parts of Asia. I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before interesting things like Behrens and other brands broke out of their home market and entered the larger horological zeitgeist, mostly because of how original and ambitious many of its creations are. The most interesting aspect of this market is the pricing. Most of the objects Behrens produces would easily cost over $100,000 if coming from a Swiss brand, and yet some of their watches aren’t much more than $2,000. None of them are currently over $10,000. Nevertheless, we are still talking about real money, and most of it is going to come from hobbyists as opposed to mainstream luxury seekers. That means to truly gain acceptance and popularity in the West, brands like Behrens needs to primarily wow watch enthusiast hobbyists and similar folks who are the most likely to have the personality necessary to pull off one of these interesting statement watches. Given the rich level of originality and personality here, I happen to love it. Behrens will produce just 200 pieces of this reference BHR028 Behrens x Konstantin Chaykin Joker limited-edition watch. The price is $9,200 USD. Learn more at the Behrens website here.
>Model: Behrens x Konstantin Chaykin Joker Limited Edition reference BHR028
>Price: $9,200 USD
>Size: 42mm-wide, ~14mm-thick, ~51mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: The Behrens Joker is comfortable, the time is legible, and it makes for a good conversation among fellow collectors.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Open-minded watch collector interested in products that make you smile, from up-and-coming brands that don’t take themselves too seriously.
>Best characteristic of watch: Overall well made with a comfortable case. People seem to love the crystallized titanium. Fun interpretation of the Joker dial concept and feels like a satisfying collaboration product.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Dial text and some dial elements hard to see.