Yes, you read that right and we’re not talking about coloured goofy watches for the little ones. Given the unprecedented situations we have witnessed over the last three years, it’s time to find joy in the little things, adapt ways to embrace your inner child and relive the good times. Needless to say the ever-evolving watch industry has been doing it’s part by releasing goofy, humorous watches as of late, and the crazier they are, the better.
Like many other forms of art and culture, animation has made its way into the world of wristwatches. Although cartoon-dial watches have been around since the ’80s and ’90s, their popularity has increased significantly in recent years given the resurgence of interest in vintage styles and designs.
Some brands, like TAG Heuer and S.U.F. from Finland, have released limited-edition collector pieces in tribute to some of our childhood icons, but these are no longer to be confused with kiddie-watches or cartoon merch.
Bringing together some of the world’s finest watchmakers with some of the most beloved fictional characters ever created is a truly singular endeavour. This leads to aesthetics that catch the eye of anyone, even those who aren’t particularly fond of cartoons. However, the watches are a must-have for the many people who continue to be devoted to their favourite iconic animated characters.
These timepieces are superb illustrations of how the magic of childhood can be preserved in the creation of high-end collectibles that combine art and technology.
The RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley by Richard Mille is the most prominent example of this style, and it celebrates 50 years since Franklin Loufrani, a French journalist at the time, designed and registered the Smiley face image.
In the words of one fan, “a watch that makes me smile” is the ultimate compliment. To illustrate this point, several watch brands have recently released models featuring popular cartoon characters. For example, Omega, Timex, and Bamford London all feature Snoopy on their dials. Bamford London also features Big Bird and Popeye.
In some cases, the protagonist doesn’t even physically show up. Some of the most sought-after Rolex’s, for instance, are so well-known that their reference numbers are largely unknown; instead, they are known by the cartoon character nicknames that have been given to them, often based on the colours of the dials or bezels. There’s the Batman GMT-Master II in blue and black, the Hulk Submariner in green (duh), the Smurf Submariner in white gold with blue and black accents, and the Pikachu Oyster Perpetual in sunny yellow.
Cartoon watches with retro dials are the pinnacle of cool among today’s youth of the 1990s for whatever reason, be it eccentricity or nostalgia. Here are our top 5 picks for cartoon-dialed luxury watches!
1. Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Blank Panther Flying Tourbillon
The limited-edition Royal Oak Concept ‘Black Panther’ Flying Tourbillion is a worthy addition to this list, despite its lukewarm reception upon its initial release.
The dial features a hand-crafted and painted 3D rendition of the legendary comic book hero, who was made famous on screen by the late Chadwick Boseman. The colour, texture, and claws on his suit are made of diluted dark paint and white gold, while the finer details are the result of deft laser work. The titanium watch case is paired with a black ceramic bezel that has been polished and satin-brushed. Only 250 of each item in the collection will ever be made.
2. Bvlgari Gérald Genta Arena Retrograde Mickey Mouse
It’s been said that everyone adores Genta, and I certainly respect his ’70s octagonal cool. Genta’s own designs are in a league of their own. To put it gently, Bvlgari’s rendition of his iconic Mickey Mouse jump-hour/retrograde watch is fabulous. It has a round shape and measures 41 millimetres in diameter; its polished case is accented by Genta’s signature recessed case sides, which are striated to give the impression of pleated metal. Put on the eye-catching red fabric and leather strap, and the sunny brushed dial with Mickey’s grin will brighten even the gloomiest workday.
3. Franck Muller x Bamford Watch Department Popeye
Popeye, the sailor man, has been enlisted once more by Bamford Watch Department; this time, he appears on the dials of two special edition Franck Muller timepieces.
Section of Watches by Franck Muller and Bamford The Popeye Vanguard is available in black PVD titanium or 18K rose gold, with production numbers of 60 and 25 units, respectively. The hour and minute hands are represented by Popeye’s bulging forearms, and Swee’Pea makes his way around the dial on the tip of the seconds hand. Each watch is packaged in an aluminium “spinach tin” and includes a microfiber cleaning cloth with an original comic strip printed on it.
4. Konstantin Chaykin Minion
Watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin of Russia is known for his signature ‘Wristmons,’ which features a variety of faces that he imagined. The Minion cartoon characters are the newest addition to this group. The case of the limited edition watch measures 40mm in diameter and 13.5mm in height, making it slightly smaller than previous “Wristmons.” These expanded parameters necessitated reworking the movement’s module. The minutes are displayed in front of the right eye, while the hours are shown on a disc in front of the left. Moon disc is bright red and shaped like a mouth for this phase. The blue denim strap with yellow stitching and a pin buckle presents the Konstantin Chaykin Wristmon Minion.
5. Omega Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award 50th Anniversary
In case you didn’t know, Snoopy and Omega first met in 1970 when NASA gave Omega the Silver Snoopy Award. NASA’s commitment to safety is represented by the Snoopy award. How come Omega though? Since the Speedmaster played an instrumental role in saving the Apollo 13 mission from disaster. This watch has three blue subdials, one of which depicts Snoopy in space gear.
The case back, featuring Snoopy in lunar orbit and the words “Eyes on the stars,” is even better. A modified version of the classic hand-wound calibre 3861 powers this chronograph. The Master Chronometer standard is met by its silicon hairspring and co-axial escapement. When the chronograph is activated, a Snoopy rides around inside a Command and Service Module, and the caseback rotates to show Earth as seen from the Moon. This timepiece is an absolute must-have for any NASA aficionado because of its understated sophistication.
Have we changed your perspective on cartoon watches? Would you explore the possibility of having a beloved character from a cartoon or comic book in the centre of the dial of a high-priced wrist watch or do you think it dilutes the seriousness of your wrist?