Today's review is focused on a watch which I admired for quite a while but due to relatively high price it never reached my top of the wish list. Until now. Since six years has passed after the release of the watch, some retailers drastically reduced the price of it and I was able to find an offer which finally was suitable for me. So, which watch is that? It's a Franck Dubarry Crazy wheel on a titanium case.
I am sure that true watch lovers are familiar with the Franck Dubarry name, but maybe less familiar with the brand itself. Namely, Franck Dubarry is a well known watch designer who in the late nineties created the brand Technomarine. Brand had a big success and Dubarry decided to sell the brand in 2007 to some equity fund. Part of the selling agreement was a non-competition clause, which disabled him to develop a new watch brand until 2014, when - no longer bound by a non-competition clause - he developed a brand under his own name. The first watches under his name were presented already in 2016 but the Crazy wheel models were launched in 2017. So no wonder, that brand is still relatively unknown.
For a newly brand launching such a specific watch such as Crazy Wheel was and priced it in a price range of a 10.000-13.000 CHF was a very bold move! But on the other hand the very different, unconventional way of how the watch was showing the time caused a lot of discussions among watch lovers and raised the brand awareness. For example, I was the one who was attracted to the brand exactly by reading about that novelty.
The main idea behind the Crazy Wheel is that the hours sub-counter is placed on a minute hand and the hour sub-counter rotates together with the minute hand. So the hour indicator rotates 360° in 60 minutes. I know, it sounds complicated and in fact it is a bit puzzling at first, but you can get used to it soon. For the better understanding, I decided to show a simple video, how this works.
Of course, for such a complication, an inhouse movement, or better say an inhouse module had to be developed. If I remember correctly the movement is based on ETA 2892, to which a module which - through a combination of wheels placed above the dial - transfers the hour hand movement to an additional hour sub-dial. From the basic ETA movement the stop second complication and the date complication are used. Movement works on 28.800 vibrations per hour and with power reserve of 42 hours.
Unfortunately precision is not the best here. It seems that the "transfer" module has a negative effect on positional errors. My watch runs from -7 to +25 sec/daily depending on the position. That interval is huge compared to what we are in general used to see from ETA 2892 movements. An overall result in everyday use is not so bad, though. Having a watch on the wrist 24h a day for a whole week resulted in +12/sec daily.
Let us move on to the design of the watch, which is very "Hublot-ish". As said, I have the very basic version of the watch which uses the titanium case, but cases with other materials used (forged carbon for example) were also released. Particularly interesting were the two "Maori" bronze and stainless steel cases, which were engraved with Maori tattoos. Very intriguing but delicate to wear. Plus almost impossible to polish. I was playing with the idea to go for one of the Maori models, but in the end I decided for the safest solution.
In all models the case is a sandwich construction with different colored implants. Implants seem to be ceramic but I am not quite sure about that. The bezel is flat and secured by six hexagonal screws, and the crown has a crown protector. The crown is standard and not screwed in. There is a colored ring between the crown and the case. All colored parts in all models are always colored the same as the hour sub-dial.
The backplate is closed. Watch is water-resistant to 10 ATM / 100m.
The case is not the only thing that reminds us of Hublot. Very Hublot-like is also the strap, which is some combination of rubber base with a thin - what seems to be a crocodile leather - upper layer and with a titanium folding buckle. This kind of strap is often seen on many Hublot watches. And even more, the way how the strap is fixed to the case is again something that can be seen on many Hublot watches. Anyway, it does not really matter, the result is incredibly good! Strap is really soft and comfortable on the wrist.
In fact, the whole wearing experience is simply phenomenal. Titanium makes the case light, the strap makes the watch very comfortable. Even though the diameter is 43mm (but due to the crown protector it seems even bigger), the size is not an issue here. Ok, you know that I am biased and that I enjoy wearing 42+ watches, but this watch really is among those ones which raise the user wearing experience to a higher level.
You are surely wondering about the experience of reading the time. Surprisingly, one can get used to unusual hour reading very soon. The biggest confusion is - the second hand. Even after using the watch for a few days, sometimes I wrongly read the minutes on a second hand and hour on a minute hand instead on a sub-dial. The second hand is (unnecessary) simply too dominant.
I must point out here that in my opinion not all Crazy wheel watches have the same reading time experience. When I was choosing the appropriate watch for myself, I noticed that some watches have a very poor color contrast between the basic dial, the hour subdial and the hour hand. In my opinion, the good reading on my version of the watch has very much to do with the fact that there is a clear and obvious color distinction between those three parts.
What is really bad about the reading is the date. There are two reasons for bad visibility of the date. The first one is the construction of the watch. As you can see from the pictures, every hour for about 15 minutes the date window is covered by the hour sub-dial and another 5 minutes with the "tail" of the hour complication module. Check the photos, where I tried to show both situations. So one third of the day the date can't be read at all.
The second problem is the date window itself which has a magnifying glass on top of the date. Sadly this glass has a counter effect to visibility of the date than it was supposed to, so it reduces the visibility. It is easier to read the number two days ahead (or two days behind) and then "calculate" the true date than read the exact date. I know it seems funny but that is how I reality read the date! With this approach I also drastically reduced the interval, when the date can't be read to just a few minutes in every hour, so I can't figure out the date only while both "substitute dates" are covered (as in my photo).
I was curious how watch will perform during the night. From the close up photos you can notice that luminova is applied on minute and hour hands. And also on the hour (sorry, better description is 5 minute) indexes on the central dial.
The result is better than expected but not the best. Even though the minute hand can be luminated only on a very top, the reading of the minutes is not a problem. Minute hands lights very bright for the whole night. But that can't be said for the hour hand. It looks like the luminova on the hour hand is not the same as on the minute hand and fades out sooner. If you have good eyes, you will still be able to read time, but for me that is not the case. Without my reading glasses in the dark I can read minutes but not the hours. Useless...Just strong luminova on a hour hand would be much better and useful instead. The position of the hour hand gives you a good clue in which minute of the hour we are after all, right?
The box of the watch again shows that Frank Dubarry tried to place its brand to the luxury brands. It is wooden, quite exclusive. I like the fact, that it is not too big. Just enough that everything looks elegant.
I began my review with the price of the watch and I will end it with it. Even though the watch is really well made and has a new interesting in house movement, I believe that back in 2017 the original price was simply placed well too high. Just for the proof I took the picture of the outer box, where the original price for the USA market is printed. If you remember the watch market six years ago you will agree that at that time much more interesting watches could be found cheaper. Even if this would be a Hublot watch and not some unknown wannabe luxury brand watch, that price would make this watch hard to sell. The circumstantial evidence of my point that Crazy Wheel watches were hard to sell lies in the fact that it is very hard to find any "true" user experience review of Crazy Wheel series. More or less all reviews are commercial ones.
So no wonder that six years later some shops still have those models in stock and that they are selling them with highly reduced prices. At the time being, the prices are set somewhere between one third to a half of original price, depending on the model. And if - again - you also consider the general increase of the prices in the last six years, the real value today compared to the original price is just a quarter. The result of all stated is that suddenly Crazy Wheel becomes a very interesting choice if you are looking for some well made, significantly different watch. I can guarantee that you will be noticed and questioned about it and that watch will give you a lot of joy.