The watch is controlled via two crowns that sit at the bottom of the case, facing up. Chaykin envisioned this watch being used by actual astronauts, and knew that a crown on the side of the case would be impossible to use when wearing a spacesuit. The crown on the right is adjusted to determine what is being set by the crown on the left (a color coded indicator on the dial tells you what “mode” you’re currently in). The three settings are for winding the watch, setting the subdials at 12:00 and 6:00 (one is set by winding the left crown forwards, the other backwards), and setting the local Earth time.
The case is titanium, and in a unique trapezoidal shape inspired by science-fiction from Chaykin’s youth as well as actual instruments used in Russian military vehicles and airplanes. Did you really expect the watch designed for Mars exploration by the guy who made the Joker watch to have a traditional case shape? I hope not. While you could certainly describe the aesthetic as avant-garde, if your goal is to have two upward facing crowns to control the watch, it’s tough to imagine it being done in a traditional circular case.
There’s a ton of watchmaking know-how poured into the Mars Conqueror, but one of my favorite things about this watch is that the base movement is a humble ETA 2836-2, with an elaborate module laid over it to accommodate its many unusual functions. Separate gear trains had to be designed by Chaykin for the crown’s mode-switching functionality as well as the Mars-time application. In total, the module includes 125 components, and many additional modifications are made to the base movement itself, including additional milling on the baseplate to properly fit the module, and the replacement of the ETA’s day-date functionality with that of a second time zone. And it’s all Chaykin’s own design, and he apparently makes a great number of the components necessary to build the Mars Conqueror in his own workshop. There’s a genuine streak of creativity and ingenuity here that is nearly incomparable in the larger watch landscape. Unsurprisingly, this brand of ingenuity didn’t come cheap: the retail price on the Mars Conqueror totaled €19,710. I’m using the past tense here because Chaykin only made 8 of these (not a shock given the degree of difficulty) and they appear to be unavailable via his website.
Relatively recently, Chaykin released his latest entry in the Wristmons series: a representation of a Minion, a character from a series of films I can’t claim to have seen, but has still burrowed itself into that place in my brain that is a receptacle for all the pop-cultural stuff I’m vaguely aware of, but not experienced in. The reaction to this new watch from many of the enthusiasts and collectors I follow on social media was predictable: lots of groans, lots of enough already, and so on. I am not a Minion fan, and I have no real personal interest in Chaykin’s character watches. I also have no insight into financials of Chaykin’s brand, but I suspect that the insanely popular and quick to sell out Wristmons pieces go a long way toward paying for him to pursue a watch like the Mars Conqueror, or the Shabbat Clock, or many of the other impressive creations he comes up with. If that’s the case, bring on even more versions of the Joker, because even if I don’t particularly care about every new Wristmons iteration, I care a lot about seeing what Konstantin Chaykin can dream up next. Konstantin Chaykin