Once upon a time, there was a mad scientist named Ludwig Oechslin who was discovered by a mad entrepreneur named Rolf Schnyder. Schnyder and Oeschlin worked together at Schyder’s company, Ulysse Nardin, on some of the world’s most unusual and amazingly different watches, including the Ulysse Nardin Freak (still the benchmark for out-of-the-box design thinking in modern watchmaking) as well as a series of fantastic astronomical complications that could do things like show the position of the moon and planets, predict eclipses, and the slow yearly cycle of the Earth’s tilt on its axis. Sometime during all this Oechslin managed to earn a doctorate in theoretical physics and repair the famous astronomical Farnese clock for the Vatican. In his spare time he manages to be the Director of the Musée International d’Horlogerie as well –and to run a company that makes some of the most fascinatingly different watches in the world: Ochs und Junior.
The name started as a joke –Ochs is German for “ox,” a “tongue in cheek way of saying that watchmaking doesn’t always have to be treated too seriously” says the firm’s website. The watches made by Ochs und Junior have that rarest of qualities in watchmaking: a sense of humor. The cases have a deliberate bluntness accented by the stolid lugs, large, easily grasped crown, and the fact that Ochs und Junior deliberately leave machining marks on them, and the customary logoing and decoration of the dial with superfluous verbiage is resolutely absent. The brand, in this case, is literally a brand –the only place the name of the company appears is as a heat applied brand on the inside of the watch strap.
Though Ochs und Junior has a definitely –even defiantly –playful side, there is also a rigorous intelligence to the company’s designs. Case in point: the Anno Cinquanta watch, a most unusual annual calendar watch. The annual calendar automatically corrects itself for the length of any given month, requiring adjustment only once a year at the end of February.
The watch is simplicity itself: the dial shows the month as an orange dot in the circle at 12, the day of the week in the circle at 6, and the date as an orange dot on the outer circumference of the dial. Once understood the displays are easy to read, and the annual calendar has been designed for robust simplicity –astonishingly, Dr. Oechslin has managed to reduce the parts count from the usual 40 or so components to only 3. This latest expression of Dr. Oechslin’s fascination with astronomical and calendar indications is powered by a hand finished in-house automatic movement developed by independent watchmaker Paul Gerber.
“Think different” is the famous (if ungrammatical) slogan of Apple. The Ochs und Junior watches are proof that thinking different(ly) can also mean thinking smarter too.
The Ochs und Junior Anno Cinquanta, like all Ochs und Junior watches, is available only at Embassy watch stores in Lucerne and St. Moritz, or by ordering directly from www.ochsundjunior.com. Available in white gold (CHF 41,500) red gold (CHF 39,500) or silver (the version worn by Dr. Oechslin himself, at CHF 34,850.) All Anno Cinquanta watches have heat-treated gold dials.
Jack Forster is the Editor in Chief of Revolution Magazine, a quarterly publication celebrating the world of fine watchmaking, and he also manages Revolution Online www.revo-online.com the foremost information and discussion site on the internet for watch enthusiasts.