By Ben Newport-Foster
There is a misconception shared by many people unfamiliar with watches. It has to do with price and it goes something like this: “If this watch is 1000 times more expensive than my Casio, surely it is 1000 times more accurate? Or 1000 more waterproof?“. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard that statement or something close to it. When I respond by saying that a $50,000 Patek isn’t as accurate as a $5 Casio, people can’t understand it. “Then what are you paying for then?!” they respond with. Luxury watches, especially haute horology, can transcend functionality in the pursuit of crafting unique timepieces. One such watch is the MCT S200 Vantablack for Only Watch.
MCT, short for Manufacture Contemporaine Du Temps, was founded in 2007 by Denis Giguet. Located on the shores of Lake Neuchatel, MCT dedicates their time to crafting unique and charming timepieces, without concerning themselves with how ‘practical’ or ‘functional’ those timepieces may be.
The S200, rather than displaying the hours with a traditional hand, uses 4 sets of prisms located at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Each set is made up of 5 individual prisms which rotate throughout the day to display the different hours printed on their sides. Imagine a very expensive and meticulously hand-crafted watch version of an old fashioned train station board; but instead of a clack-clack-clack, the only sound you’ll hear is a thump as your accountant has a heart attack after learning you spent between CHF 70,000 to 120,000 on a watch (Or if he’s a good accountant, maybe he can write this off as a charitable donation. Only Watch is a charity after all).
For example, during the hour between 7 and 8, the prisms at 3 o’clock will display an over-sized 7 across all 5 visible sides. Then at 8 o’clock, an inner half moon that blocks 3 out of 4 prism sets will jump backwards to reveal the set at 12 o’clock, which reads an oversized 8. A traditional minute hand is still used with a minute track running around the perimeter of the dial.
So far, so haute horology, but what makes the Only Watch edition of this watch unique is actually the dial itself. The ‘standard’ S200 comes with a semi-open dial that allows a peek at the base plate underneath the prisms. The Only Watch edition has a dial painted in Vantablack. What is that, I hear you ask? Well, it’s a black material that is the second most blackest thing in the universe after a black hole.
Vantablack was created as a material for scientific instruments, like deep-space telescopes, as the ultra-matte black stops additional light from interfering with viewing. Yet for the MCT, it is used for pure artistic purposes. Vantablack is made from millions upon millions of carbon nanotubes, measuring 1/1,000,000th of a millimeter thick each. These tiny but dense tubes trap 99.96% of all light that hit them and give Vantablack its unique, impenetrable blackness.
MCT worked with Anish Kapoor, an artist who owns the exclusive rights to Vantablack for artistic purposes, to create a watch using this impressive substance. With the dial coated in the ultra black substance, it creates the illusion that the dial components are floating in an eternal black void. If I’m honest, I will say that the photos don’t really do justice to the watch but if you watch this video, then you have an idea of how black Vantablack really is. It’s a truly innovative use of color in a watch and I’ve seen nothing like before.
Inside the MCT S200 is the in-house Caliber S2
The Caliber S2 has 507 components, 85 jewels and a solid gold micro-rotor. Each of the bridges have been hand-chamfered and each surface has been finished in the traditional Cotes de Geneve, all with a unique black finish. It’s a true example of craftsmanship and it is made all the more impressive with the black finishing.
Strangely enough, the solid gold 46mm case has been DLC-coated black. It is not Vantablack, just a standard coating you’d see on any number of watches. I presume that the process of coating an object with Vantablack is very expensive and/or isn’t suited to everyday wear-and-tear like regular DLC coating. But why you would DLC coat a gold watch I don’t understand.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see a load more watches making use of Vantablack anytime soon with Anish Kapoor having the exclusive artistic rights. So until then if you want something blacker than black, you best start saving up the pennies and counting down to the Only Watch Auction in November.