On February 18th 2021 history was made, when Nasa’s Perseverance Rover landed in the Jezero Crater on the surface of Mars, the Red Planet. With this monumental feat of engineering, mankind is perhaps one step closer to interplanetary travel and colonization of Mars. It will most likely take decades for that to actually happen as interplanetary travel is extremely risky, time-consuming, and above all; expensive. But as we’re gearing up for the next chapter in space exploration, and the development of commercial space flights, we need a suitable timing instrument of course. Konstantin Chaykin, Russian watchmaker extraordinaire, has developed a watch that keeps track of time both on Earth, and on Mars, and we’ve gotten our hands on it for a little while.
It’s not the first time we’ve covered this watch but we have had the chance to check it out in real life a couple of weeks ago. And since handling such a piece is a special occasion, especially with live events being few and far between due to the pandemic, it’s about time we updated you on this remarkable piece of independent watchmaking.
For the avid MONOCHROME reader, Konstantin Chaykin does not need much of an introduction. The Russian-born watchmaker, based in Moscow, is responsible for some of the most creative Haute Horlogerie watches available. Serving up a whole range of character watches under his Wristmons collection, his work has seen quite a boost in popularity in recent years. While that side of things is all about having fun and creating watches with actual recognizable faces, there’s also a far more technical side to Konstantin Chaykin.
I’m not saying the Joker, Minotaur or Mouse King watches are easy to do, but watches like the Genius Temporis, the Cinema watch or the Lunokhod are all fairly more complex. And next to his wristwatches, Konstantin Chaykin is also capable of creating very (very) complicated clocks, as displayed by his Moscow Comptus Easter clock.
The Konstantin Chaykin Mars Conqueror MK3 is the third generation of Mars-time dedicated watches by Konstantin Chaykin, but the first one that is commercially available. As explained in our previous story on the watch, it all started with a prototype watch to conceptualize the idea of incorporating Earth and Martian time in a single watch. And to add to the complexity, not doing it the “easy” way and simply slow down the frequency to drag out the indication to a Martian-day scale (24h, 39m and 35s) or incorporating a secondary movement. Konstantin Chaykin set out to do something never done before; synchronize Earth and Mars time using a single movement.
The Mars Conqueror ‘MK1’ used an in-house developed and manufactured delta-shaped module, placed on top of an ETA 2836-2 base movement. All this was housed in a rather wide titanium prototype case with three dials on the front, a crown nestled between the lugs at 6 o’clock and correctors placed on the caseback. While Konstantin Chaykin has designed an MK2 version of the Mars Conqueror, a prototype was never built.
The third chapter in Chaykin’s Mars-bound adventure uses a reshaped trapezoidal case made of titanium. This measures an impressive 55.82mm wide, 48mm tall and 15.3mm in height and has a straight brushed finishing. As I have said before, such measurements might scare off most people and deem this as an unwearable watch in the process, but it simply isn’t. Sure, it’s large and bulky, but the caseback angles down towards the wrist at both ends and it doesn’t have traditional lugs, making it quite manageable on the wrist.
Part of the reason for the size is the patented top-mounted dual-crown system, instead of a more straightforward crown somewhere on the caseband. Konstantin Chaykin envisioned this watch to be used when wearing a spacesuit, and still be able to manipulate the crowns if needed. Something that’s simply not possible with a traditional crown position. It is also reminiscent of flight instruments found in aeroplanes and space shuttles.
The patented crown system is quite easy to use and feels very solid when manipulating either one. First, you have to set the keyless work in the correct position, in correspondence to what you want to do. This is done by using the right-sided crown and adjusting it to one of three positions, indicated by the aperture at 9’ via a red, white or blue dot. The first setting is used to wind the watch, which is done with the other crown. The second setting allows you to set the UTC time zone indicator at 12 o’clock or setting the Martian time at 6 o’clock (clockwise or anti-clockwise rotation of the left crown). Finally, the third setting is to adjust local Earth time. It takes a little effort to get to grips with what setting does what, but once you get that out of the way it works rather well. It’s actually fun to experience as it gives a different sensation to a standard crown.
The large dial has a very fine circular brushed surface and is finished in a deep anthracite grey. The central hands indicate local Earth time, using an outer minute track and large applied hour indices made from solid luminous material. A second time zone is indicated in the top subdial, marked “UTC”, with a white 24-hour scale for Earth and an orange one for Mars. The Martian scale is slightly different, as a full day on Mars (known as a Sol) is roughly 44 minutes longer. The second subdial, placed at the bottom, displays Martian local time. The Earth and Mars local time indications are linked via a special reduction gear, which uses stacked wheels with 109 and 112 teeth.
Underneath that unusual exterior sits an ETA 2893-2 base movement, with an in-house developed movement on top. It’s not simply a matter of mounting one on the other as the special construction for the double crown system required some re-engineering and a new keyless work system. Next to the added complexity of the 125 components used in the module, the entire movement is finished to Haute Horlogerie standards. That means the base movement as provided by ETA is taken apart, cleaned and finished using traditional techniques and then reassembled including the module. The movement runs at a frequency of 28,800vph, which remains unchanged from the base specs. The power reserve is 42 hours in total.
The Konstantin Chaykin Mars Conqueror MK3 is worn on a black leather strap with textile inserts and contrasting orange stitching. The strap is also lined with orange leather and is attached to the wrist with a titanium pin buckle. It’s limited to just 8 pieces, at a price of EUR 19,170 excluding taxes.
When I first wrote about the Konstantin Chaykin Mars Conqueror MK3 the unusual shape of the case struck me, along with how huge the factual dimensions made it seem. However, getting up close with it, I can honestly attest it wears rather comfortable. While it remains a large watch for sure, it’s not unwearable in the slightest. To me, this watch once again demonstrates a comfortable wearing experience is not only to be judged on sizes. It’s a combination of things, like the materials used, the geometry of the watch, the anatomy of one’s wrist, etc. For the Mars Conqueror MK3, it certainly helps that case is fully made in titanium, keeping the weight down considerably.
Finally getting the chance to see such an unusual and intriguing watch in person was a real delight. I know this isn’t a watch for anyone, and at 8 pieces only it certainly never will be. But I applaud Konstantin Chaykin’s creative mind to come up with such a watch and have it running as precise as it is. It takes serious amounts of skill and determination to do this. Will it ever be worn on Mars? It may seem unlikely, but I sincerely hope it will be one day.
For more information, please visit Chaykin.ru.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.