Mars, our nearest neighbouring planet in the galaxy, is destined to be the next habitable place for us as a species. At least according to a wide range of experts and a number of initiatives bent on achieving that very goal. It is probably the most daunting challenge man has ever faced. Mars is a very different planet and is roughly 60,000,000 kilometres away. A lot further than the 400,000 kilometres we had to travel to reach the Moon. In reality though, the prospect of going to Mars has never been closer, and because time on Mars is (slightly) different than on Earth, a fitting watch is needed. It even has a name, the Konstantin Chaykin Mars Conqueror MK3 Fighter.
Russian independent watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin, of Joker-watch fame, has been captivated by the idea of terraforming Mars and subsequently launched his own “Mars programme” in 2017 setting out to create a fitting mechanical timepiece. But what does it take to create such a watch? And perhaps more importantly, what does it mean for a mechanical movement to indicate time on another planet? And what other indications would you need?
Well, fortunately, Mars has quite a comparable rotational speed to Earth. A Martian day, known as a Sol, is only about 44 minutes longer than a day on Earth. A Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds while an Earth day is 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds. In previous watches indicating Martian time, one of the applied tricks was to slow down the frequency of the watch so that the indication dragged out to elapse a Sol. But that is considered a somewhat simple way of doing things and Konstantin Chaykin doesn’t like to take the easy route.
In 2017 he kicked things off with the Mars Conqueror Mk1, a conceptual watch that featured nine never-seen-before complications such as synchronisation of Earth and Mars times, Martian date display based on the Martian calendar, relative positions of Sun, Earth and Mars, planetary-opposition and super-opposition complication. The Mars Conqueror Mk1 was followed by a design-only Mars Conqueror Mk2, never making it into a prototype watch as the Mk1 did. The Mk2 did, however, feature an updated and refined system to correct time on Earth and Martian time.
Enter the Mars Conqueror Mk3 Fighter. This is the first watch that Konstantin Chaykin will offer in a very limited run. In terms of looks, when compared to the MK1 and MK2 designs, it is a more down-to-earth looking watch. At the same time, it looks like nothing else available today. The design is inspired by vintage aircraft instruments but still looks very futuristic. One of the most striking elements in the watch is the trapezoidal-shaped case and the two vertically mounted crowns, reminiscent of the controls on aircraft instruments. The system for the dual-crown system is an updated, patented development of Konstantin Chaykin, which he first used in a vintage-inspired aviator watch in 2009.
The calibre K.15-0 of the Mars Conqueror MK3 Fighter consists of a base ETA 2893-2 movement and a complex module developed by Konstantin Chaykin himself. The module is made of 125 individual parts, meticulously finished to Haute Horlogerie standards. The most interesting feature of the module is that it allows for the synchronisation of time on Earth and Martian time without needing a separate movement. To achieve an acceptable level of accuracy, Konstantin Chaykin developed a twin-level gear with 109 teeth on one level and 112 teeth on the second level. This ensures accuracy within a few seconds for both time on Earth as Martian time. This allows the Mars Conqueror MK3 Fighter to simultaneously indicate local time on Earth, a second time zone on Earth, and of course the star of the show, Martian time.
The construction of the module itself and ensuring a tight fit with the base movement necessitates extensive changes to the ETA 2893-2. The patented double-crown system includes a newly developed, complex keyless works to allow for both crowns to operate seamlessly. The right crown is used to position the keyless work in one of the three different modes, indicated by the colour in the small aperture beside the 9 o’clock marker. Depending on the selected mode, the left crown is used to wind the movement or adjust any of the three time zones.
The circular brushed anthracite dial indicates Earth time with central mounted hands, shaped according to the requirements of military timepieces. In military watches legibility is key, so large, contrasting hands with luminous material are essential. On the top half of the dial, the second UTC time zone is indicated with a single hour hand on a 24-hour scale. The hours are indicated with white digits for the even hours and orange arrows and digits for the odd hours. The bottom half is dominated by the subdial for the Martian time, labelled MTC as a reference to the UTC timing standard. Again a similar design in a 24-hour scale but now with an hour and minute hand. The terrestrial hands, as well as the hour markers and minute ring on the main dial, are marked with monolithic luminophore, while the Martian hands are marked with the same material but in orange. This material gives the markers and hands a 3D effect and glows in twilight and darkness, similar in effect to the hour markers on the H. Moser & Cie Heritage Centre Seconds Funky Blue.
The aforementioned trapezoidal case counts no less than 90 parts and is made in titanium, keeping the weight down despite the watch’s dimensions. The Mars Conqueror MK3 Fighter is rather large, measuring 55.8mm by 48mm and 15.3mm in height. For the most part, the width of the case is due to the double-crown system. The angular shape of the case is finished with a fine, straight brushing on the various surfaces. Atop the case is a large sapphire crystal, held in place with a bezel and 24 functional screws. Flipping the watch over, the caseback reveals the sapphire crystal allowing a view of the winding mass. A nice touch is the indication of the functionality of each crown engraved into the caseback.
The base ETA 2893-2 automatic movement still offers 42 hours of power reserve, despite the added complexity of the additional module. It operates at a 4Hz frequency (28,800 beats per minute). All the finishing, including the finishing of the base movement and nearly all additionally constructed parts, be it for the case or the module, are done in-house in Konstantin Chaykin’s workshop. The complexity of the case and module is a testament to his ability as a watchmaker (remember, he is in an AHCI-member). His watchmaking prowess has been demonstrated with previous watches and clocks like the Genius Temporis, the Cinema or the ultra-complex Moscow Comptus Easter Clock.
The Konstantin Chaykin Mars Conqueror Mk3 Fighter comes on a black leather strap with orange stitching and lining, fitted to a titanium buckle. It is limited to eight pieces and it is priced at EUR 19,170 before taxes. This might be considered a lot but actually, it seems quite reasonable considering the complexity of the movement and the case. And yes, it would probably be the perfect wrist-companion while heading out on your endeavours as a Martian settler. More details and orders at chaykin.ru.