Curious about Steampunk watches? This article will tell you what the steampunk style is, its origins, how it came to be what it is today and where else you will be able to find this intriguing style.
Then we’ll discuss some of the most bizarre yet great steampunk watches out there.
What is the steampunk style?
The concept of steampunk made its first appearance in the late 80s in the Unite States as a sub genre of science fiction. In a steampunk universe the world is still powered by steam, and most of the concepts, such as culture, technology, fashion, art and architecture are taken from the British Victorian Age, combined with recent technologies like computers.
Steampunk universes will often embody the Victorian optimism that was common during the Industrial Revolution.
It is often possible to see references to technologies that were abandoned in detriment of more recent technologies, such as analog computers, zephyrs and all sort of mechanical machines that were not fully developed and didn’t reach all the potential they could have reached. Time travel is often present in these adventures.
The term Steampunk was first mentioned by the science fiction author Kevin Wayne Jeter while trying to describe some books by Tim Powers – The Anubis Gates, James Blaylock Homunculus; and his own creation Morlock Night.
All the three books’ action happened in the 19th century, and steampunk was the word the author picked to summarize the kind of environment and action contained in those books.
Steampunk in the media
Some video games, such as BioShock, Machinarium, Final Fantasy 6 or Dishonored were also inspired by Steampunk books.
Music-wise, there are several Steampunk bands, being among the most known ones the Abney Park, the Vernian Process, the Wet Glass RO or the Unextraordinary Gentlemen.
Other Steampunk objects
With all the movies, novels and games, some people started building objects and gadgets and steampunk came to life. It is now possible to find all sorts of steampunk objects, from furniture, to electronic devices, smartphone accessories and even vehicles or home decor.
This was probably the moment when has become also an aesthetic style and not only a sub fictional genre.
Steampunk Attire and Jewellery
Women’s steampunk attire will often be composed of dresses, corsets and and some sort of hardwear. Sometimes a hat or a floral pin is used. Women’s steampunk cosplay will often mean a pilot, air pirate or engineer costume
Men’s fashion does vary a lot more. From explorers, aviators, air pirates to well ironed suits, it’s possible to find almost anything that bears a Victorian trace. Some hardwear is also often used.
Hardwear will often be contrasting with the rest of the attire: a leather helmet combined with a suit, a feather, a bowler hat combined with a mechanic’s uniform.
Goggles are most of the times associated with steampunk costumes. Fiction characters often use goggles to protect their eyes during time travel or from the sparks that come out of their experiments.
Steampunk sites and blogs
There are hundreds of steampunk blogs and sites out there, but some of them seem to have a more active community than others. Fee free to check these:
Steampunk watches origins
Some Steampunk principles like the preference of mechanical computers over digital ones suit most watch lovers, who would prefer the soul of a mechanic watch versus a soulless quartz one.
The opposite is also true. The mechanics of a mechanical watch will please a steampunk fan. Specially if they are visible. Some open heart watches (watches whose dial lets see the mechanism) started being modified and turned into steampunk watches.
The common aspects between these DIY watches: lots of gears and cog wheels visible.
A steampunk fan will want gears and wheels that actually work and are needed, not just for display. Unfortunately, many cheaper steampunk watches do display gears and cog wheels just for styling purposes. Some brands are specialized in creating amazing steampunk watches, where all is mechanic and all pieces work together to create an amazing time reading experience.
A few dollars – disposable watches
It’s possible with just a few dollars to buy a steampunk watch. Obviously don’t expect any quality from it. If you’re cos-playing as steampunk for a party and you need a cheap watch, this may be a good option.
You can find steampunk watches for as low as 5 dollars. Just run a steampunk watch search at amazon (or click here) and you’ll see lots of them.
For this price range you can expect poor finish and a standard quartz movement. Some of them will even have a mechanical movement of doubtful provenance.
We’ll not focus on these in this article. We’ll focus on real pieces of art, unique in their way of displaying time.
Kopriso Mi Esposita
A NIXIE tube, which may also be called a cold cathode display is tube based device that is used for displaying information, usually numbers.
The term NIXIE, comes from NIX I, which means numeric indicator experimental n.1. This kind of devices was use from the 50’s to the 90’s in with several different kinds.
It is possible to find some NIXIE based watches, but most of them suffer from the same problem: tubes consume a lot of energy.
The creator of this watch, the Australian Michel van der Meij has overcome this issue by fixing solar panels that will ensure that with an average of 30 readings per day, one single charge will last for a year.
A single NIXIE is used on the Kopriso Mi Esposita, so you’ll have to press the right button to get the hour followed by the minute, a short press on the left button will give you the day of the month, and a long press with give the full date. All values are displayed sequentially. Example, for 12:30, the tube will display 1, then 2, then 3 then 0.
These watches are hand made by Michel and you can buy them for about $1,000, provided you’ll get him to build one for you.
It’s not a conventional watch, and it will not please everyone, but then again, this is a steampunk article, and not a single one of the the steampunk watches we discuss here will please everybody.
Cabestan Luna Nera
Cabestan is a swiss watchmaker from the Valley of Joux (home to lots of swiss watchmakers). Founded in 2003, this independent company focus on unique ultra-luxurious models, based on their vertical oriented movement.
Vertical watches are their brand signature, along side with the pride they put in their high quality mechanics and noble materials.
Cabestan have been launching a new model roughly every 2 years, having release the well known Winch Toubillon Vertical in 2008, the Trapezium in 2010 and the Luna Nera in 2013.
Given the exoticness of their models, it’s fair to say that Cabestan is a luxury steampunk watches company.
But let’s focus on their last creation, the Luna Nera, or Black Moon in Italian.
The Luna Nera uses the Cabestan vertical movement associated with a chain and fuse system that brings to life a tridimentional moon phase.
The 3D moon’s position aims to recreate the view astronomers have from their observatories, which will please steampunk fans.
The amazing movement that is used is the 46 jewels CAB EC 102L, that will display hours, minutes seconds and the power reserve. It’s worth mentioning these are displayed using drums, like on analog car odometers. The reserve goes up to 72 hours.
The Cabestan Luna near costs around USD 200’000, but don’t reach for your wallet yet, as only 135 were made, so you’ll probably have to buy it second hand.
Devon Tread 2
Devon is a design lab from Los Angeles that was founded by Scott Devon and that focus its effort on creating luxury products.
One of this brand’s most successful product is the Devon GTX – a sports car that allies the American muscle with luxury. After the car, the company registered patent on a watch display and movement system called Time Belts ™, and released its first watch, the Devon Tread 1.
Their most recent model is the Tread 2, which is in several ways more practical than the huge Tread 1, but keeps the steampunk identity of its predecessor.
Like the 1, the Tread 2 uses belts to display the time: hours and minutes are displayed on a horizontal belt and minutes on a vertical one. The watch features also a multi-functional crown that can activate the chronograph or adjust the time.
The 42x44x14.5mm case is made of surgical-grade steel, makes a total of 90 grams and is waterproof to the depth of 10m. Both the front and the back are covered with sapphire crystals.
The Tread 2 can be found for around $12,000.
DeWitt WX-1 Concept
DeWitt is a swiss watchmaker named after its founder Jérôme de Witt, who claims to be descendant of Napoleon and King Leopold of Belgium, which explains the company logo.
The company, founded in 2003 in Geneva, has its focus on creating more conventional luxury timepieces than the one we’ll be discussing.
The model we bring you is the WX-1 – a Concept watch composed of 452 components that uses a vertical Flying Tourbillon movement that reaches 21 days of power reserve.
The watch part of the full thing sticks out of the case and uses rotating disks to display the hour and minute. Like on a car, you can open the hood, and see what is inside the 18k rose gold, titanium and aluminium case.
Only 33 of them were made and its price was set to $650’000.
Romain Jerome Titanic Steampunk Tourbillon
Romain Jerome (RJ) is a watchmaker established in Geneva since 2004, and their main focus is the creation of “emotional luxury timepieces” inspired by the elements. Some watches will refer to water, some to the earth and some to fire.
RJ watches tend to be spectacular and yet they have a special sense of sophisticated elegance that is hardly ever associated with designs like the ones found in RJ watches.
We could easily say that all watches made by RJ are steampunk watches, and that would be true, but some of the models are more steampunk than others. Some of them even have it on their name.
The Titanic Steampunk Tourbillon’s 50mm case is made of PVD coated steel, titanium, and the fixed bezel is made of stabilized titanic rested steel.
Both the back and the front are covered in sapphire crystal and the hand indicators are made of rhodium, and are inspired by the anchors of old transatlantic ships.
Steampunk lovers will love the piston on the left side that will slowly move up and down with the vibrations of the movement.
Only 25 were made and its price is of 88’000 swiss francs.
Hublot MP-05 LAFERRARI Gold
What can be more steampunk than a watch inspired in a car? And in this case, not by any car, the MP-05 is inspired by the Ferrari LaFerrari – a masterpiece on its own
Hublot, known for alternative and eye-catching watch styles, established a partnership with Ferrari to create this masterpiece.
The movement – HUB9005- has a reserve of 50 days – the greatest reserve that the company has ever achieved, and it also uses the biggest amount of pieces: 637.
The watch is set up like a car’s engine, with springs that look like motor valve springs, and rotating cylinders that will display the hours, minutes and the reserve around some sort of crankshaft.
What other steampunk watches do you know and like? Leave a comment below.