In Focus Watches

Botta Design Challenges Timekeeping Convention with Retro-Futuristic Designs

Botta Design CLAVIUS automatic 44mm Black

How do you tell the time? Don’t worry, that’s not a trick question. It’s something most of us take for granted, that on a watch or clock you have three hands on a 12-hour dial. Most watchmaking is about working within that frame of reference, which is why no matter the complications or style, most watches are fundamentally the same. However, then you get the disruptors, like Botta Design.

By disruptors, I mean designers that don’t just think first and foremost about making a fine watch, but how at its most essential, it even tells the time. Some of those disruptors do so with cutting edge haute horology out of reach of mere mortals but Botta Design takes a different approach.

Botta Design TRES colores Automatic 44mm

Botta Design TRES colores Automatic 44mm, €1,390

“I take the liberty of asking the question: ‘Is the current way of displaying the time of day on a 12-hour scale the most sensible one, or are there more logical ways of representing time?’” says the studio’s Anke Botta. “An Earth day has 24 hours, not just 12,” she continues. “Accordingly, a truly sun-synchronous clock would also have to display 24 hours.”

That’s precisely what the TRES 24 does. At a glance it’s a watch like any other, a classic three- hander with a particularly modern outlook. But in this case, it’s been slowed down to work with a 24-hour scale rather than the classic 12-hour, the display is split between light and dark as a striking take on the standard day/night indicator.

Botta Design UNO Automatic 44mm White

Botta Design UNO Automatic 44mm, €1,390

It’s amazing just how big an impact having a 24-hour watch makes compared to a 12-hour. It shows that there are plenty more hours in the day, lets you plan with your wrist a bit more and generally get the most out of the day. But of course, Botta has also pushed it further.

Let us ask you another question – how many hands does a watch need? The answer to that is a lot simpler: one. On any central-handed watch, both the hour and the minutes are on the same scale, meaning that if you can divide the space between each hour marker into 60, then you can use a single hand for both.

Botta Design UNO 24 Automatic 40mm Black

Botta Design UNO 24 Automatic 40mm, €1,810

It’s a concept we’ve seen before – single-handed watches are a niche sub-genre unto themselves – but the UNO 24 (you can guess their naming scheme by now) is one of the clearest, cleanest and most contemporary versions we’ve come across. Again, it’s divided into day and night, just in case you’re stuck indoors or in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean.

Now, getting used to a one-hand to 24-hour ratio might not be for everyone, and to complete the quartet of timepieces from Botta, they’ve naturally filled in the rest of the quadrants with the 12-hour variants, a little more familiar and closer to what we’ve been indoctrinated into familiarity with. That means we have the UNO and TRES, both displaying 12 hours with one and two hands respectively.

Botta Design CLAVIUS automatic 44mm

Botta Design CLAVIUS automatic 44mm, €1,450 

It’s a perfectly rounded set of watches, all with a distinctive look that, beyond their layouts and number of hands, is unmistakably Botta. It’s a roundness that also lends itself to plenty of variation. For example, the MONDO adds a GMT hand to the TRES, while the NOVA and CLAVIUS change the hands into rotating discs for a space-age minimalism.

Available in automatics or quartz, big, 45mm cases or svelte 40mm numbers and a healthy amount of titanium and sapphire crystal, there are more than enough variations within Botta’s quadrilogy of base designs to keep any wrist from getting bored.

Botta Design NOVA Automatic 44mm Black

Botta Design NOVA Automatic 44mm, €1,390

My personal favourite is the three-disc NOVA, not just because of the single disc showing the time, but because of the combination of dark grey and black with a timekeeping lance of bright green. That’s double true of the DLC black edition.

Perhaps what we like most about the brand however, is that Botta Design has no pretence to haute horology. Where some designers try their best to create timekeeping systems as obtuse as possible, their approach is simple but inspired, the kind of concept you don’t need to explain but can instead intuit at a glance – if you’re just willing to change your outlook a little.

More details at Botta Design.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.

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