Watchonista Presents A Long, Hard Look At The Origins Of Erotic Watches
Warning: The following article contains material that is NSFW, but you’re probably not at work anyway, so here we go!
Watch nerds are known to get excited over what seems like the most marginal details. Things like, underline dials, dots over 90, transitional references, meters first, and so on. To those on the outside looking in, these details are nothing to fret over, much less fetishize.
With that in mind, we’re examining a genre of watches that undoubtedly qualify as niche but commands the fascination of collectors and laymen alike. We’re speaking, of course, about erotic watches.
From Six To Midnight Real Quick
Celebrity watch collecting is a competitive landscape, with each star trying to out-flex the rest with their latest Rainbow Daytona or Jacob & Co. giant. One enthusiastic participant in this arms race (wrist race?) is October’s very own, Drake.
At an NBA game in June 2019, the former Degrassi star and occasional father caught the world’s attention, not with a Nautilus, not with a Royal Oak, but with a $750,000 Richard Mille erotic tourbillon, the appropriately titled RM69.
The manual wound watch features three rollers at the top of the dial, each printed with erotic text. With the push of a button at the 10 o’clock position, the rollers spin to display phrases such as, “I lust to caress your body,” or, “I’d love to taste you madly.”
The RM69 thereby creates a slot machine of illicit desires, not to mention some distinctly saucy wrist presence. Images of the piece soon popped up on social media feeds around the globe as people learned of horology’s best-kept secret.
Business In The Front, Party In The Back
Drake’s RM69 – suggestive though it may be – is quite tame compared to the original erotic watches that came long before it. Because, while Richard Mille is known for his avant-garde designs and technical prowess, erotic watches actually got their start some 270 years ago.
In the 17th century, watchmakers first began adorning risqué scenes inside the back covers of pocket watches through engravings or miniature paintings. Not to be outdone, other watchmakers began integrating their minute repeater movements so that the automata could act out these encounters in more lifelike detail. Unlike the RM, these watches preferred to show rather than tell.
Five Minutes Past Third Base
Now that we’ve touched on the “what” and the “how,” let’s turn our attention to the “who,” the “where,” and, most importantly, the “why.” Erotic watches were primarily sold in France and England, although for two different reasons. In France, erotic watches came onto the scene during the reign of Louis XV. The preceding French monarchs adhered to strict codes of morality that included, as all moral codes do, conservative attitudes toward sex. Louis XV, on the other hand, was open with his sexuality and encouraged others to do the same. So erotic watches were seen as playful and indulgent little celebrations of the sensual and the sensational.
In England, by contrast, those strict moral codes stuck, and erotic watches were used to poke fun at the rules and the rulers of the day. In fact, the subjects chosen for these graphic scenes were often kings, priests, nuns, and whoever else was in charge of enforcing social mores. So these were satirical pieces, but they also served as party tricks and even pickup lines.
For example, after a few ales, an aristocratic libertine might fancy pulling out his naughty pocket watch and revealing the contents to a potential evening companion. Her reaction to such a piece would help him gauge whether they’d soon be behaving scandalously in the powder room. A bold strategy for sure, but with a life expectancy somewhere around 40, one needed to be direct.
The Other Kind Of Tool Watch
Erotic watches began to fade in popularity by the late 1800s as the Victorian era took hold, and people’s attitudes towards timepieces evolved. The genre was largely extinct until the last few decades when brands like Blancpain revived it in the 1980s with a pièce unique minute repeater featuring a steamy scene set against the backdrop of the New York City skyline. Other brands like Chopard and Audemars Piguet followed suit with “embracing couples” on the casebacks of a few select pieces.
In recent years, Ulysse Nardin is the brand that has been the most prolific arbiter of the genre with its Hourstriker Erotica series and the Classic Voyeur collection discreetly unveiled at SIHH 2018.
Jacob & Co. contributed its own take with the Caligula watch featuring a ménage à trois in the lower aperture.
And independent watchmaker Svend Andersen has created more than a few examples, even going so far as to produce a Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky themed piece. How’s that for social commentary?
Time To Wrap It Up
Only time will tell what the future will hold for erotic watches. Sexuality certainly isn’t going away, and watches have always been a way to communicate with the opposite sex – wealth, status, taste, virility, and so on. Perhaps smartwatches will invigorate the next generation of dirty minds to realize the erotic potential of the Apple Watch home screen.
One important thing to remember in surveying this genre is to not just giggle and move on. Erotic watches, provocative and graphic though they may be, can serve as barometers for a society at a particular time, gauging attitudes of acceptance and rebellion towards social mores, power structures, and those in charge – a telling connection between what happens in the streets and what happens in the sheets.
(Photography portions by Watchonista)