Original Duographs, Mr. Mandelbaum said, are rare: “It took me years to hunt mine down.”
“But if you are lucky enough to find one, you’d see it’s every bit as reliable as the modern version,” he continued. “Vintage watches are miracles of longevity. As absurd as it sounds, a well-made, well-serviced watch from the 1940s is as functional now as it was then, unlike vintage cars. If you have at a vintage car, even from the 1960s, they’re lovely to look at but actually a horror to drive on a daily basis.”
After a decade of palate-cleansing vintage minimalism, drama is returning to the wrist.
Modern maximalism is reminiscent of the superwatches of the late 1990s and early aughts, when mechanical watchmakers competed to make the biggest, boldest and most complicated pieces. They were extroverted beasts, with thick spaceshiplike cases, multilayered dials and 3-D openwork movements, often tricked out with double tourbillons.
The goal, aside from showmanship, was to reinterpret traditional haute horology using modern design codes. The superwatch was never made with discretion in mind, but the current take on the theme does seem a bit more refined.
Micro-thin watchmaking has become a complication in itself, and putting a complex movement into a smaller space is now part of the show. Still, the superwatch is a wristful of drama that might not fit under your cuff, or into your budget, but it remains an object of awe.
An example is the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Universelle RD#4 (starting at 1.45 million Swiss francs, or the equivalent of $1.56 million). It is the most complicated wristwatch Audemars Piguet has ever made, with 40 functions (23 complications and 17 technical devices), grande sonnerie supersonnerie and petite sonnerie (both types of minute repeaters that chime the time in different sequences), a split-seconds flyback chronograph (to time multiple events), flying tourbillon (a tourbillon without an upper bridge so more of the mechanism is visible), perpetual calendar and moon phase.