What do you get when you take a slightly eccentric Scotsman’s ideas and throw in a talented Russian watchmaker to bring those ideas to life? This unique creation is the result and is perhaps somewhat unexpected; both the end result and value for money are exceptional.
Having a unique piece made to your own exact specification sounds expensive, however, a new breed of independent watchmaker are making it relatively easy to do just that and the price do it is relatively affordable. Many of them do not have websites and much of their business is secured through social media platforms, such as InstaGram.
Maxim Sushkov is one of these trailblazers – based in St Petersburg, Russia, pretty much anything goes; from the size of the case, to the dial and functionality, as well as personalisation to an almost infinite level.
As a watch lover, taking a chance and building a unique timepiece from scratch is possibly one of the best things you can do for yourself and if you are not too sure, these extremely knowledgeable and skilled watchmakers will be there to guide you with their own experience.
Maxim explains why he offers clients the possibility to help clients create their own timepieces:
I try to build an easy and unobtrusive communication with the client in order to better understand and feel the person, to delve into his idea in more detail. This brings us closer to the customer on a psychological level, facilitates mutual understanding and builds trusting relationships. Joint discussion of the order and mutual decision-making gives the customer the most valuable feeling of his involvement in his own project! And I think that this is a very important aspect: not to buy a finished product once developed by someone, but to personally take part in its creation.
Face & case
Presented in a polished stainless steel case, it has a classic look, with the exception of the elongated horn-like lugs, which seem to give the appearance of a larger watch than the 41mm diameter that it is.
Made from a slice of dark grey/green mother of pearl, the dial is alive with colours that continuously shift and change. Depending on light levels and angle of viewing, the iridescent dial looks almost as if it is living, as it goes from a dull silver grey, right through to high vibrancy colours, including green, pink, purple, orange, red, blue and yellow. Although perfectly flat, it also appears to have a bumpy surface, due to the composition of the natural pearl, but it’s just an illusion.
The hour markers are angle shaped applied indexes that reduce in length from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock – they are coated with black rhodium and have super flat, sharp edges, which means their appearance also change depending on lighting conditions.. Minute markers are printed in pink, following the size change of the hour markers and also reducing in size towards 6 o’clock, where they are merely little dots.
The subdial is recessed. A shell-like pattern has been guilloched into its surface and then coated in black rhodium, providing a contrasting, but complimentary effect on the dial – there is an additional appearance of movement from the subdial, as it seems to be radiating up and outwards from 6 o’clock. 60 tiny pink printed dots tightly surround the subdial.
“SM” and “Saint Petersburg” are also printed in pink in the centre, below 12 o’clock.
Finishing off the look are the hands. They have been hand crafted into lance shapes and coated in black rhodium, giving them a deep matt appearance, but with sharp, flat edges, that also play with reflections of light.
From the side, the case appears more of a classic shape (than it is from the front) and the length of the lugs are not so obvious due to their positioning further up the case. The crown is quite sturdy looking, with good grip for winding and the SM logo is embossed on the end.
Turn the watch over and a party for the senses continues – there is so much going on through the sapphire window of the screw down case back and it is happening layer by layer. The rose gold coloured movement has been extensively modified by hand – the bridges have been highly skeletonised, giving a glimpse of the multiple layers beneath. There is evidence of multiple traditional techniques, including various perlage patterns, sandblasting and of course anglage, The perfectly shiny surfaces of the polished screws, the crown wheel and the barrel wheel (which are both also by no means standard), offer a beautiful contrast. The About Timepieces icon has also been engraved into the balance cock.
The base movement is a manual wound Swiss ETA Calibre 6498-1, which as explained previously, has been extensively upgraded and manually modified.
Beating at a frequency of 18,800 vph, the movement has been adjusted to 4 positions, features 17 jewels and has an accuracy of circa -4/+7 seconds per day.
Once fully wound, one should expect a power reserve of around 46 hours.
The strap is in a light grey alligator belly, with matching grey stitching up its length and pink contrasting minimal stitching at the lugs. The lining is leather, in an aubergine type colour and features the SM logo on both straps.
Fastening of the strap is with a pin buckle, which is highly polished stainless steel and features the SM logo to the left of the pin fastener.
The beauty of ordering a unique piece from a truly independent watchmaker, is that there are no rules or boundaries when it comes to design – especially with someone like Maxim, who I believe is motivated by the challenges brought to him by someone who has ideas that are potentially a bit “out there”.
The design concept of this watch was created from start to finish over a relatively short period of time (like days) and with very little back and forth. I presented Maxim with visual ideas – the case, dial design and guilloche patterns came almost immediately – there were a few things that we tried a number of options on, specifically the colour of print and the finish of the indeces/hands etc, but it was mainly painless.
The most difficult decision was that I wasn’t sure about the black rhodium finish against the dark mother of pearl (I initially wanted polished to match the case), but Maxim convinced me and I now agree that he was right.
There were also a few conditional challenges that came up, one specifically was that we ordered a few dials, but in each instance the dials had imperfections. The good news is that thanks to the aperture required for the subdial, we could omit the imperfection on the best dial and all was well.
I have had other unique pieces made and during the build phase of them, of course there would have been some input based on my personal design preferences, however, the watches have been based on someone else’s initial design. This was my first watch designed completely from scratch, so I suppose it was a bit of a special one and I’m probably going to be more biased than usual in this final thought.
This bespoke watch may appear a bit over the top for some, however, everything about it just works for me. I probably couldn’t have picked a better mother of pearl dial myself and the contrast of the pink print accentuates the pink shades in the m.o.p., which in itself features its own crazy iridescent dance of colours. The black rhodium coating is something I had never actually seen on dials before and although initially a bit sceptical it was going to work, I believe this has pulled everything together.
It is quite light (probably due to most of the metal being removed from the movement!) and on the wrist, it is weighted perfectly. At only 11mm thick and with rounded case edges and domed glass, it will slide comfortably under any cuff.
I find myself stopping to stare at the back whenever I get the watch out – it’s just looks so fun and the level of detail going on means I notice something different every time. The rose gold colour of the movement also gives a degree of opulence, even though it isn’t solid rose gold and with a price point
Usually, I try and give an honest opinion on any negatives, however, I actually really can’t identify any! I do think I will likely try other strap colour combinations though, as I believe the dial will be able to handle straps with a lot more personality (green and pink are two colours I think will work specifically well).
So for an investment of circa 4,500 EUR, I do believe the value is extraordinary; from the personal design and communication throughout the process, to the end product and attention to detail that feels and looks a lot more valuable.
The experience was great – Maxim seems to actually want to deliver a watch that you love, so it’s important for him to follow your lead, but also give his own opinion on certain elements that he can add value on. Although the design was ultimately mine here, he steered certain decisions that he knew were better for the design from his own experiences and I applaud him for that – between us I think we did a pretty stunning job.
Got any ideas for your own unique piece? I’m sure Maxim will be open for discussion!!