As feature-rich smartwatches continue to steal buyers away, the makers of traditional mechanical watches continue to hunt for ways to make their timepieces a unique and compelling alternative. But do you really want a watch completely covered in Vantablack paint that could easily go missing in the dark?
A few weeks ago we shared news of Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Ultra watch which set a new world record for being the world’s thinnest mechanical watch at just just 1.88 mm thick. The timepiece featured a remarkable design with impressive engineering, and even though it was made from super strong materials like titanium and tungsten carbide, anyone spending $US440,000 ($610,808) on the watch would certainly think twice about ever wearing it out in public as it still appeared to be very fragile.
But H. Moser & Cie has taken fragility to a whole other level with this concept that was on display at the recent Watches & Wonders Geneva trade show.
If you’re not up to speed on Vantablack, it’s a special paint developed by a British company called Surrey NanoSystems in 2014 that absorbs 99.965% of visible light hitting it. Vanta actually stands for ‘Vertically Aligned Nanotube Arrays’ and it’s what gives the paint its unusual properties. It’s made up of vertically oriented carbon nanotubes at the microscopic scale that trap photons and scatter them amongst the tubes. So few of the photons are able to escape that to the human eye anything painted with Vantablack looks like a featureless black void.
Of course nothing comes without controversy these days, and back in 2016 artist Anish Kapoor was able to exclusively licence Vantablack for uses outside of military and aerospace applications. It has severely limited when and where Vantablack can be used, but not entirely. In 2020, H. Moser & Cie actually revealed its first horological experiments with the material, covering the dials of three limited run timepieces (ranging in price from $US26,600 ($36,926) to $US69,000 ($95,786)) in Vantablack resulting in watches with a truly unique appearance and moving hands that looked like they were hovering over an empty void.
For 2022, H. Moser & Cie took the idea several steps further and created the Streamliner Chronograph “Blacker Than Black” with its entire case covered in Vantablack paint. For those who couldn’t make it to Watches & Wonders Geneva this year, the company has shared images and videos of the modified Streamliner through its social media channels which shows the watch sitting in front of a Vantablack background that makes the entire thing completely disappear from certain angles — except for its set of four moving hands showing the time.
Unfortunately, H. Moser & Cie has no plans to sell the Streamliner Chronograph “Blacker Than Black” just yet. In fact, the prototype that was on display at the show is far too fragile to be worn or even handled, and posed several challenges just to be able to display it without damaging its unique finish. However, the CEO of H. Moser & Cie told Hodinkee that it was working on ways to improve the durability of the Vantablack finish so that one day the prototype may actually become a piece collectors could buy, potentially making it the first mechanical watch that no one can actually see.