Fiona Krüger has always been something of an anomaly in the modern watch landscape. Her work, which heretofore has been based on skull motifs derived from Mexican Day Of The Dead calaveras, has often been everything that luxury watchmaking usually is not – colorful, graphically exuberant, humorous, and overtly concerned with philosophical themes that don’t usually find expression in watch design at all, vintage or modern. Her watches are part of a long symbolic tradition. The watch has always been something of a memento mori – in showing the passing of time, they’re a reminder of the omnipresence and inescapability of death, and some of the earliest appearances of watches and clocks in art are in images designed to express the inevitability of the common fate of all life. Clocks and watches themselves would also sometimes express the same sentiment – a motto found on some public clocks was vulnerant omnes, ultima necat – “all wound, and the last kills,” in reference to the hours.
The calavera is a neat, and natural, expression of the tie in between timekeepers and mortality, but as an extension of the motif, Krüger, this time around, has chosen, not a symbol, but a concept: the notion of entropy.
In classical physics, the observation that time’s arrow only moves in one direction, and at the end of that arrow there’s a familiar fellow with a sickle, is formally articulated in the concept of entropy, which is the Second Law Of Thermodynamics. (The Simpsons quote up top is Homer objecting to Lisa’s having invented a perpetual motion machine). Entropy is a physical phenomenon: the tendency of all systems to move towards a state of maximum disorder. Technically, entropy increases as a function of the number of microstates of a system that can produce a given macrostate; the original mathematical expression is the famous formula, S=k log w. The formula is the work of the Viennese physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, who struggled with depression for most of his life and hanged himself at age 62, in 1906, while his family was at the beach. His grave marker has the formula engraved on it, if you’re looking for something to really hammer home the point that we’re all screwed, no exceptions.
That includes the entire universe, from a classical thermodynamics perspective. Go forward far enough in time, and there’s pretty much nothing left but a vast sea of low energy photons wandering listlessly through the cold, eternal darkness. However, on the way to this admittedly grim scenario, pockets of very high order emerge amongst the slowly cooling heat bath that is our common fate, and that includes things such varied and fascinating things as stars, the Earth, polar bears, giant redwoods, blue whales, and people.
It has always been a characteristic of Krüger’s work to focus on the upsides of mortality, however, and to the extent that there is such a thing, the celebration of life, however brief – and precious, perhaps, exactly because of its brevity – has always been a feature of her floridly colorful work. This sensibility is behind her newest collection, which is called the Chaos Collection and which invokes the specter of entropy in the Mechanical Entropy watch.
A watch, as a thermodynamic system, is highly ordered but as any owner of a tropical dial Submariner can tell you (or anyone who is grumpily paying nearly a thousand dollars to get a mis-performing watch serviced) they are as subject to thermodynamic laws as anything else. However, Krüger’s Mechanical Entropy watch embraces this reality. It does so with the help of a new movement: the Chaos 1. It was designed with the assistance of Agenhor, a high-end complications specialist firm founded by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht in 1996, one of whose more recent accomplishments was the development of the most unusual AgenGraphe AGH-6361 chronograph movement, which debuted in the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph.
The Mechanical Entropy watch isn’t just built around a movement – essentially, the movement is the watch, in the same way that, in more traditional watchmaking, a skeletonized movement is also the watch itself. The concept of entropy is behind the introduction of an explosion as the basic design motif – behind modern cosmology is the notion of the Big Bang, which describes the very earliest instant of the universe as a single point of infinite heat and density, which underwent an explosion to end all explosions – an extremely rapid expansion that lasted for an almost inconceivably short period of time. The so-called inflationary epoch is thought to have begun when the universe was about 10⁻³⁶ seconds old, and ended when it was 10⁻³³ seconds old, which counts as an explosion if you ask me. (To crib a phrase from Terry Pratchett, it’s even shorter than the amount of time between a New York City traffic light turning green, and the guy behind you blowing his horn.)
In other words, the Universe, even as it was born in a fiery conflagration, began its inexorable slide towards maximum entropy, and every ordered system is en route to such a final state. The watch physically embodies this in a movement which is depicted as if in mid-detonation – the usual arrangement of the going train, barrel, keyless works, and motion works has been altered so as to spread these elements out, as if frozen in the first instant of disintegration by a high-speed camera, across the entire length of the 48mm x 40mm case. The effect is deliberately unsettling; you feel almost as if you are looking at scattered parts rather than a whole, functioning mechanism and yet it ticks away in blithe defiance of the visual impression created, just as we live our lives in necessary denial of the future that awaits us. We all ignore the fact that our student loan applications say, “This is a loan, which must be repaid,” but the Mechanical Entropy watch is there to remind us that for every island of order borrowed from the ocean of entropy, there is a day of reckoning from which there is no refuge.
A consequence of the unusual design is a relocation of the winding crown, which is at 12:00, as it would be in a pocket watch (in fact it occurs to me that given the dimensions, this would make a rather nifty pocket watch as well). The case is titanium and is essentially there to act as a frame for the movement and its symmetry is in sharp contrast to the violently asymmetrical distribution of movement elements. I had wondered whether or not the design might benefit from an equally symmetrical case – something like the Cartier Crash and indeed, there are things about the Mechanical Entropy that are somewhat reminiscent of the 2014 Cartier Crash Skeleton, which also features an elongated, asymmetrical movement. The Mechanical Entropy, however, is even more disarranged from a conventional movement, as even its hands have been displaced from their customary position in the center of the watch. There’s no dial, in place of which we have the explosions cut out of the plates and bridges – the movement mainplate has a black PVD coating, with further decoration in galvanic gold or rhodium, depending on the model.
Death is an omnipresent them in Fiona Krüger’s watches but with the Mechanical Entropy, as with her skull watches, one also feels encouraged to not make too much of a fuss about it. I think of Wilbur the pig, in Charlotte’s Web, who weeps at the revelation of his impending slaughter and who is peremptorily scolded by Charlotte, who says, “You’re carrying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can’t stand hysterics.” The Mechanical Entropy watch, however, encourages us to take not just a fatalistic, but an exuberant stance against the winds of fate – certainly, the message is serious, but it is delivered with all the graphic glee of an accidental dynamite explostion in a Warner Brothers Road Runner And Coyote cartoon. The Coyote always looks morose when that happens, but though he looks at the camera with mournful eyes through his mask of soot, the Mechanical Entropy watch lets us know that we may as well enjoy the earth-shattering kaboom.
Brand: Fiona Krüger
Model: Mechanical Entropy
Diameter: 48mm x 40mm
Case Material: Titanium with black PVD inner ring
Strap/Bracelet: Hand-stitched “technical fabric”
Caliber: Chaos 1
Functions: Time, existential angst
Power Reserve: 50 hours
Chronometer Certified: In the cold wasteland of the far future, precision has no meaning. adjusted to six positions and fitted with AgenPit fine regulating mechanism
Pricing & Availability
Price: CHF 26,500
Availability: Available to pre-order; deliveries expected October 2018
For more, visit fionakrugertimepieces.com.