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Complications: the Mystery Dial

Complications: the Mystery Dial


Allow me in the first place an admission; a mystery dial isn’t really a complication. That is to say there isn’t any extra functionality or information being added to a watch that features a mystery display. In any case, it’s not a unimpactful adornment all things considered. A mystery dial is a visual and modest structural change made for visual appeal and autotelic charm; an intriguing search for, all things considered, looking fascinating. Thankfully, and generally, any observable changes aren’t balance by a more inconvenient time-telling experience. By and large, the watch is similarly as easy to read, however allow the gaze to wait briefly longer you can be prevailed upon by the mysterious stowing away inside the dial.

A fairly no-nonsense definition of a mystery dial is essentially all that can be advertised. There are no real guidelines, boundaries or technicalities that should be satisfied. A mystery dial is basically one that gives forward a feeling of mystery about how it functions. The absolute first mystery clocks gave no signs about how the hands appeared to float in mid-air while moving about and keeping time. The degree of “secrecy” has been watered down over the long haul in favor of just utilizing the same basic procedure to create an offbeat timepiece.

Way back in 1839, stage magician Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin—himself an inspiration for a youthful Erik Weisz, who might later adopt the stage name, “Harry Houdini”—hit upon the idea of a mystery clock and began utilizing it in his shows. A magician making significant changes to the internal operations of a clock isn’t as outlandish as it may sound—Robert-Houdin earlier trained as a watchmaker.

His first stunning watch had just an hour hand, which appeared to be separated from the remainder of the clock. Regardless of whether you accurately speculated that the hand was attached to a transparent dial, at that point that still doesn’t address the mystery of how the hand was able to move. After all, it was clear to the audience that there was no clockwork mechanism behind that transparent dial.

All the mechanisms were keenly hidden, usually in the base of his clocks (like the Three-Mystery Clock appeared top). That glass bar in the middle holds the way in to the transmission, concealing a mysterious second bar that interfaces the development inside the base to one of the transparent dials in the frame. Pretty clever.

Cartier’s Model A was the table clock that acquired the mystery to potential purchasers the 1910s. Designed and created by Louis Cartier in collaboration with diamond setter and clockmaker, Maurice Couet, the Model A was clearly propelled by Robert-Houdin’s original stage clocks, and included both hour and moment hands to make it an object of capacity as well as art. The hands are incorporated into sheer crystal plates, each of which have a toothed outline hidden from see inside the frame of the clock dial. The clockwork mechanism sits inside the base with racks and gear trains reaching out through the case to meet each circle, rotating them at the necessary speed.

Cartier has kept on flying the flag for mystery dials. The 2006 Santos Mysterieuse and 2013 Rotonde de Cartier Mystery both utilize the same guideline as those first mystery clocks. As beautiful as these watches may be, I can’t help yet think the hallucination falls somewhat flat when you will see your own wrist through the mystery window.

Mystery clocks making the most of their greatest share of the spotlight during the early part of the twentieth century, and however mystery dial watches never entirely gained the same degree of conspicuousness for any extended periods, they have never genuinely fallen out of fashion by the same token. As such, there are relatively hardly any sort defining watches to think back on through the decades.

Although not the first to broaden the idea of the mystery clock into a wristwatch, the LeCoultre Galaxy Mystery from the 1940s was one of the earliest mystery dial watches to gain real popularity—though not on the same level as the Reverso, Memovox or Master Control, and certainly not with the same life span. In the example appeared here, diamond markers act as the hour and moment hands and appear to float above the strong dial.

Throughout the following decade or something like that, many manufacturers made what we would now regard as classically styled watches utilizing the same idea of rotating circles, yet with the plates shaping part of the actual dial rather than apparently floating above. The Longines Mystery Dial of the 1950s, for example, replaced just the hour hand with a rotating plate, while a standard moment hand remained.

Replacing a hand with a circle driven from the same hour or moment wheel leaves one with not a ton of witchcraft left to ponder, yet such watches would in any case fall under the same heading of mystery dials. Assuming the plates aren’t so heavy as to take an excessive amount of energy from the gear train, at that point next to no modification is required.

Fast forward to the 1970s and mystery dials were indeed rethought, seizing on the tasteful of the era to communicate the time in a bolder and crazier way. The two unmistakable approaches seen decades earlier remained. Zodiac’s Astrographic arrangement replaced at least one of its hands with transparent circles and floating dabs, blocks, or batons.

The Longines Comet goes all out with a gigantic arrow minute hand splayed across the central plate, with an hour dab circling around the edge of the dial. The intense shading decisions and unusual case shape make this my favorite of all mystery dial watches. Whereas the Astrographic has seen a reissue lately, Longines doesn’t appear prone to look to this area of their back catalog for a “heritage” release any time soon. Maurice Lacroix’s Masterpiece assortment contains some unbelievable interpretations deserving of a couple of moments of YouTube cuts at the very least.  The Seconde Mystérieuse makes a focal purpose of the recycled that weaves around its sub-dial in a rather startling way. The contradicting tips of the hand patrol the horizontal and vertical axes back and forward, and the middle purpose of the second hand appears to be driven by these developments as it floats around the dial. In fact, the “Revelation” variant of the same watch opens a window to the witchcraft inside. The entire dial and the central turn purpose of the hand are rotating in a smooth circle. On the off chance that you’ve been paying attention, that shouldn’t come as an astonishment. Where Maurice Lacroix go above and beyond is to also rotate the hand from that moving axis point. Given the exorbitant cost tag, and that the feel aren’t geared towards decipherability, such watches are immovably in “novelty” territory.

Excepting the showpieces from Cartier and Maurice Lacroix, the dearth of modern mystery dial watches is noticeable. One release from Baselworld earlier this year got my attention however. The Zodiac Olympos is a very faithful reissue of the original arrangement from the 1960s. Sitting inside the pure black dial, and housed inside a beautifully expressive case, is a straightforward mystery dial hour hand, and it looks fantastic. As small as this visual adornment may be, it’s very impactful, and I’m happy to see the mystery live on.