Ochs und Junior is a small brand that makes watches almost exclusively to order, and only 130 or so per year, priding itself on simplicity and straightforwardness. This belies the fact that one of the co-founders, Dr. Ludwig Oechslin, is one of the greatest living minds in horology – he’s just chosen to use it to create complex things in simple ways rather than to pursue complexity for its own sake. Joining the brand’s perpetual calendar, annual calendar, date, moon phase, and travel time watches is this new astronomical watch, the Day/Night.
The Day/Night continues Oechslin’s pursuit of creating complications that are a balanced blend of cosmic romanticism, clean, legible design, rigorous engineering, and genuine inventiveness. For that last bit, Ochs und Junior are introducing two new things in this watch: Each must be made to order and is customized to a specific location (new for Ochs und Junior) and a complication that simultaneously shows the time of sunrise, the time of sunset, and the current location of the sun and moon (new to watchmaking writ large).
Let’s take a look at the dial of the Day/Night and get a sense of what we’re looking at and how it all works. In the center of the watch, you’ve got a main timekeeping dial with simple stick-shaped hour markers, hour and minute hands, and a date window display at six o’clock. Note that the reason for a digital display here is that it’s meant predominately for setting the other functions (more on that in a second) and those other functions required using a central, digital display, instead of the usual spiral display. Simple enough. All of this works exactly like you think it does.
But what’s all that stuff happening around the outside of the dial? That’s the day/night part of this. The top portion of the dial represents the daytime (the lighter color here), while the bottom half of the dial represents the night time (the darker bit). Since the duration of the day and night change throughout the year, there are two “wings” here, one on either side, that move up and down to adjust how long or short each appears. Rotating over those are a Sun indicator and a Moon indicator. The former shows you where the Sun is in its daily cycle, so you know how much longer before sunrise or sunset; the latter is a sort of moon phase display that works by reading the relative position of the Moon in relation to the Sun – if it’s opposite the Sun, you have a full Moon, and if it’s hidden below the Sun, you have a new moon. The Moon moves slightly slower around the dial than the Sun, hence the change in relative positions. After 29.5 days, the Sun laps the Moon and you’re back to the beginning of a new cycle.
From an engineering standpoint, the Day/Night starts with a Ulysse Nardin UN-320 as the base movement, but with a set of 13 components added on top to power the complications. In the photo below you can see those 13 components, ranging from the rings holding the Sun and Moon (along with the wheels that calculate their rotations) on the left over to the day/night wings and base plates on the right. All of this is ultimately driven by the date wheel on the UN movement, allowing Oechslin to build something complex up from a relatively simple mechanism.
Now, at this point, you might have already figured out a couple of wrenches to throw in the theoretical works. Ochs und Junior have too, and have addressed them. First off, what to do about the difference between exact local time, due to the breadth of any given timezone, and actual solar time? And what to do when that difference becomes even greater when clocks are adjusted for summer time? The button at six o’clock on the case allows you to lock the sun indicator at the midnight position and to adjust the local time independently, letting you sync them up properly. Ok, one problem solved.
But what if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere? This watch would work backwards, right? That’s true, and while Ochs und Junior say that they could create a custom version of the mechanism to account for this, it would require making a few key adjustments and adding at least one component to the movement to reverse the display. If you’re really motivated, I’m sure they’d be open to at least hearing you out on a custom order. And if you move? Ochs und Junior can swap out one component and recalibrate your watch to a new location.
As with all Ochs und Junior watches, the Day/Night is entirely customizable. Even beyond choosing whether or not you want that extra moon display and for where your watch is tuned, you can pick the material and color of nearly every component. Do you want a titanium watch with a patinated brass dial and german silver astronomical indicators? It’s yours. How about a sterling silver case paired with a black sky for the nighttime hours, a bright blue sky for the daytime hours, and a pink central dial? Go for it. There’s an online customizer you can use to design your watch, and I have to say it’s fun to play with whether you’re planning on ordering or not. Wait times are about 6-10 weeks from order to delivery, but there are four pre-made watches available to ship today upon launch, in case you just can’t wait.
When the folks at Ochs und Junior reached out to tell me they had a new watch, I expected something interesting – but this really blew me away. Astronomical watches so often tend to be messy, over-the-top affairs. However, this gives you that same sense of cosmic connection without all the fuss. I still probably prefer something like the Ochs und Junior Annual Calendar for personal wear, but overall this is a really cool watch that is unlike anything you’re going to find anywhere else.
Brand: Ochs und Junior
Diameter: 40mm (optional 43mm case on special request)
Case Material: Titanium or sterling silver
Dial Color: Custom
Water Resistance: 50 meters (titanium) or 30 meters (silver)
Strap/Bracelet: Over 80 options, including Ochs and Junior’s special sturgeon skin, all with proprietary buckle
Caliber: Ulysse Nardin UN-320 with day/night module
Functions: Hours, minutes, date, moon phase, sunrise and sunset indicators
Power Reserve: 50 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Additional Details: Regulated to +5/-0 seconds per day by Ochs und Junior
Pricing & Availability
Price: From CHF 14,850 (with add-ons such as precious metal markers or a silver case adding more)
Availability: Directly from Ochs und Junior in Lucerne
Limited Edition: Each piece theoretically unique and made to order