3 CRAZY WATCHES THAT GOT EVEN CRAZIER July 12, 2018 – Posted in: Editor's Choice

Whether we like them or not, big watches are here to stay. Thick, chunky and in your face, these are timepieces that hide under no man’s cuff. Like a low, wide car, or a window-shattering concert, there’s something inherently appealing about a watch that lets you know you’re wearing it. Just as the Bugatti Chiron is too fast for its own tyres, and as the heavy metal band Manowar’s 1994 129.5db performance was louder than a jackhammer to the face, there are a few watchmakers out there who want to see just how far they can stretch the limits. Here are three watches that took crazy to the next level.

PANERAI LUMINOR 1950 PANGAEA DEPTH GAUGE PAM00307

Panerai’s long history as a military supplier started with the supply of re-cased Rolexes to the Italian Navy during the Second World War. The simple design, daubed with Panerai’s patented luminous ‘Radiomir’ paint, evolved over the years to grow lugs, a crown guard, and in 1956, a rotatable timing bezel.

Panerai Luminor Submersible Royal Navy Clearance Diver PAM00664

Panerai Luminor Submersible Royal Navy Clearance Diver PAM00664

It was that 1956 watch that was inspiration for this watch, the Luminor Submersible. With Panerai’s dwindling military supply forcing a turn in the tide towards the civilian market, it was with watches like this that Panerai built a loyal and dedicated following.

And you can see why: there’s no confusing a Panerai for anything else. The crown guard is unmistakable, the looping font at 6 and 12 as striking now as it was all the way back in the 1930s, and there’s nothing quite like this rounded square case.

But what if Panerai dialled up the ‘Panerai-ness’ a bit? Well, wonder no more, because with the Pangaea Depth Gauge, Panerai has already done that wondering for you. At 47mm, it’s a stout watch, built for South African explorer Mike Horn’s expedition to study oceanic ecological issues. The boat Horn sailed, the Pangaea, was built to be as environmentally sound as possible, using solar panels to separate the hydrogen in water to be used for fuel.

Panerai Luminor 1950 Pangaea Depth Gauge PAM00307

Panerai Luminor 1950 Pangaea Depth Gauge PAM00307

In support of the expedition, Panerai built the Pangaea Depth Gauge, complete with, well, a depth gauge. Powered by a lithium battery, the depth gauge is activated by the pusher at 10 o’clock, and reads the depth using a sensor on the back of the case. In order to make the depth gauge fit, the PAM00307 is a whopping 20 millimetres thick. When you wear it, you know you’re wearing it—even though it’s made of titanium.

HUBLOT KING POWER OCEANOGRAPHIC 1000 732.QX.1140.RX

When Hublot, only 25 years old, released the Big Bang, its divisiveness was almost tangible. If you loved it, you loved it, but if you didn’t … let’s just say that things were said that weren’t very nice. Either way, the Big Bang presented a watch that—for those who did like it—looked great, featured unique and interesting materials—such as the carbon fibre dial and ceramic case on this Big Bang—and presented a modern, stylish alternative to more traditional brands like Audemars Piguet and Rolex.

Hublot Big Bang Black Magic 301.CI.1770.RX

Hublot Big Bang Black Magic 301.CI.1770.RX

But even those who liked it couldn’t say what the Big Bang really was. Is it a sports chronograph? No tachymeter, so no. Dive watch? No timing bezel and negligible water resistance, so no there as well. It’s just a … Big Bang. Unfazed, the people who liked it shrugged their shoulders and went on with their day.

Not so, apparently, with Hublot itself, because the brand decided to build a watch that did have a dedicated use, and they did so in a way that could leave no person in any doubt as to its purpose. What Hublot gave us was the Oceanographic 1000.

Cased in 48mm of hulking carbon fibre, and with a bristling array of, frankly, quite menacing appendages, Hublot made a dive watch. Well, they didn’t make a dive watch, so much as forge it in the fires of Mount Doom. Suddenly the Big Bang feels dainty.

Sourcing its name from the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco—a place that may well have the highest concentration of Hublots in the world—the Oceanographic wasn’t developed for a splash around in the rock pools or even a little dip beneath the cresting waves; Hublot decided that if it was going to be taken seriously, 1,000 metres of water resistance would have to be the absolute minimum.

Hublot King Power Oceanographic 1000 732.QX.1140.RX

Hublot King Power Oceanographic 1000 732.QX.1140.RX

The addition of a timing bezel—activated by flipping the protective lever at 10 o’clock, unscrewing the crown and turning it clockwise—may seem a little bit redundant when the—albeit slightly luminous—text is black on black, but this Oceanographic has a little trick up its sleeve. Those other doo-dads aren’t here to make it look like Darth Vader’s knuckle duster; they actually serve a function, because this dive watch is also a chronograph.

Unscrew the pushers and the metal fingers binding them watertight slide apart, allowing the user to activate the chronograph, and here’s where it actually gets kind of clever: the chronograph runs both its second and minute hands centrally, so a diver can track the minutes elapsed on this very bright blue and yellow scale with the equally bright yellow hand.

Just one thing to note: the Oceanographic employs the same quick release strap buttons as other King Powers, so try not to press them when you’re on a dive …

AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK OFFSHORE SURVIVOR 26165IO.OO.A002CA.01

When Audemars Piguet released the Gérald Genta-designed Royal Oak in 1972, people were aghast. It was big, angular, excessive and expensive—nothing like anyone had ever seen before. The old guard hated it. The new? They loved it. The Royal Oak changed the company’s fortunes almost overnight, taking a manufacturer of a tired technology into the 20th century as an avant-garde trend-setter.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 25721TI.OO.1000TI.01

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 25721TI.OO.1000TI.01

Then, in 1993, the brand released the follow-up Emmanuel Gueit-designed Royal Oak Offshore—a bigger, thicker, chunkier version of the already imposing Royal Oak—and pulled the same trick off again. Gérald Genta was rumoured to have absolutely despised it. Even Max Büsser, who would go on to found the off-the-wall watchmaker MB&F, called the Royal Oak Offshore, ‘a monster’.

Imagine their reactions, then, if they saw this, the Royal Oak Offshore Survivior. If the terminator and the Hummer H1 had a baby, that baby would wear this watch. It’s not the biggest watch of the three by quite some margin, at just 42mm, but boy does it shout the loudest.

Inspiration comes from a wealth of Rambo’s favorite survival gear, such as the lightweight titanium case, drilled for extra weight-saving, and the slotted, jungle survivor knife-style hands slicing across the dial. And the defensive goes offensive with a slew of projectile weapon influences, like the sniper’s crosshair on the running seconds; the knurled pistol slide grip on the side of the case; the folding stock-shaped levered crown guards; and the assault rifle muzzle-esque crown. It’s not so much a watch to tell the time from as it is to start a war with.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Survivor 26165IO.OO.A002CA.01

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Survivor 26165IO.OO.A002CA.01

The name ‘Survivor’ seems like a bit of a misnomer with this watch. Perhaps looking at it in another way might help: this watch isn’t worn by the survivor—it’s worn by the person who’s hunting the survivor down.

It’s clear that only someone with the stature of a former Californian governor could make the most out of these outrageous watches, but the question isn’t, ‘Why should these watches exist?’, more, ‘Why shouldn’t they?’

When Gérald Genta created the Royal Oak, what he put onto paper became more than a watch—it stood for the very survival of the mechanical timepiece, and he upset the establishment by doing it. That the tables were turned 20 years later for the launch of the Royal Oak Offshore only goes to show one consistent truth: everything changes, everything moves forwards—and you can’t move forward when you’re standing still.

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