Rotating disk watches are nothing new. You can track the concept way back to early jump hour watches (though “real” jump hour watches change suddenly) if not even before that, and they’ve had a persistent, if not quiet presence since. By eliminating traditional hands, and focusing on an analog/digital display, disk watches are highly legible and ever-changing, as the dials themselves are typically active. Though untraditional, there is something very compelling about them, something very modern. They tend to have a certain technical-ness to them, strongly resembling industrial gauges, as well as a focus on typography. These days, they tend to fall under the purview of “design watches”, being sold at museum shops and the like. While they might not currently be on the list of must-owns for every collector, for those who enjoy something a bit quirky from time to time, they are a great option.
A new brand named Klokers, who are set to launch via Kickstarter in September, have taken the concept and refined it to a point of exceptional clarity with their KLOK-01. Swiss-made and powered by a unique Ronda movement, the KLOK-01 is visually striking. Immediately, one sees in the dial a focus on sub-dividing units, creating a complex, but detail driven surface. It’s broken into three rings, as disk dials typically are, with hours on the outside, minutes in the middle and seconds on the inside. The hour ring has double digit numerals with quarter hour divisions between each in a smaller font. The minute ring has large numerals at intervals of five, while the sub-divisions shift between half minute and 1/4th minute markings per quarter hour. There are also markers towards the inside of the minute disk per minute. The inner seconds disc also has numerals every 5 seconds with smaller markings along its edge at half second intervals. Watching all of the markings line up and then slip into disarray must be a true pleasure.
The overall look is intricate, but the time itself is only read under the red line running from 12 down. This is another typical feature of disk dials, but this has the added benefit of a magnifying strip, a sort of box cyclops, as well, magnifying the time and referring to something very specific. Rather than drawing upon watch dials, the designers found their inspiration in circular slide rules (aka slipsticks)… A device, I’ll be honest, I’ve never used in person as they went out of style in the 70’s, but based on some wiki-reading, worked much like a calculator bezel. This literal tool had all sorts of markings in different scales for doing multiplication, etc, which was determined though sliding a cursor. The specific style and layout of the KLOK-01, which does have a mid-century feel in its own way, makes a lot of sense with this in mind. Especially the over-sized central dot which refers to the rivet/screw one would have found on a circular slide rule.
One of the things that make disk dial watches a bit irritating is that because the disks rotate clockwise, as they are essentially hands, the markings are in reverse order from what one expects. I.e. 12 is followed by 11 and then 10… rather than 1, 2, etc. This takes getting used to as your mind might read the time as counting down (I know I’ve had that issue). For the KLOK-01 they went with a Swiss-Made Ronda Quartz that runs counter-clockwise, thus creating a more natural layout and flow. While I’d naturally love a mechanical version, this feature alone is quite special and limits the design to quartz for now. One thing I hope, but can’t tell at this moment, is that movement has a smooth seconds rotation, as the standard click might be too jarring… though the odds are against as that’s not a quartz standard.
The case is a lugless 44mm in steel with a “transparent polymer” crystal. For a design like this, a big dial is needed, so the 44mm diameter makes sense. Since it’s lugless, it wont wear too large regardless. The time is set via a standard crown at 3, while at 8 there is a pusher for another purpose. The KLOK-01 doesn’t feature standard lugs at all, meaning no spring bars, rather it has a sort of locking clip on the back that is released via the pusher. When off the strap, the watch can then be connected to various items, from a pocket to a note book, or perhaps to something on the wall. On one hand, this makes strap proprietary, which is always frustrating, but on the other, it’s an interesting way to increase usability. I for one, would love to be able to remove the watch from my wrist and place it on stand on my desk when writing, for example.
The KLOK-01 will debut at $389 on Kickstarter in September, exact date TBD. It will be available in three colors; yellow, grey and blue. The names are slightly misleading as the yellow features a yellow center piece, and a mix of black and red markings. The grey is grey in the middle, then has predominantly black/dark grey markings with some red mixed in. The blue is blue in the center, and features only blue markings and type. All are on white surfaces. In the end, they are pretty similar looking, though I have to say the spot of color on the yellow gives a a sort-of Eames/Nelson feeling that I prefer. Looking forward to seeing this one in person.