Toons and Time: The Collaborative World of Watches and Comics

Where did the current gradient dial watch trend sweeping through luxury watches come from? Dubai Watch Week investigates.

Back in March of 1857, the Waterbury Clock Company was incorporated in the city of Waterbury, Connecticut in the United States. The company was a side project of Benedict & Burnham; manufacturers of brass sheeting, wheels, gears, and other brass products. By the 1840's, brass clock movements were being used in millions of clocks manufactured by companies like Seth Thomas, the Gilbert Clock Company, Ansonia Clock Company, and other 19th century manufacturers. At the time, the Waterbury Clock Company was one of the most well-known makers of clocks in Connecticut’s Naugatuck Valley, known then as the center of American clock and watchmaking.

In 1933, after having purchased the Ingersoll watch company some years prior, Waterbury submitted a patent for what is believed to be the first ever Mickey Mouse wristwatch. But boy, oh boy, how times have changed.

Flash forward to today, 88 years later…

It is hard to believe it was twenty-one years ago that Bvlgari acquired the Gérald Genta brand. It is likely even harder to believe that it was the year 1984 when the Gérald Genta brand first released their Disney-licensed mechanical timepieces; high-end wristwatches showcasing beloved Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and the infamous Donald Duck. This year, however, Bvlgari seems to have gotten in touch with the watch collector’s inner-child and opted to release a new Gérald Genta Mickey Mouse edition timepiece.


The Gérald Genta Arena Retro Mickey Mouse Disney

The Gérald Genta Arena Retro Mickey Mouse Disney

There is no doubt that Walt Disney was ahead of his time with regard to ideas and creativity. So much so, that he could have been speaking to any number of watch brands – including those that hired Genta to design their most iconic pieces – when he made the following statement: “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

At Geneva Watch Days, 2021 edition, Bvlgari decided to yet again, “believe in a thing” with the introduction of the limited edition Gérald Genta Arena Retrograde Mickey Mouse Disney; a 41mm automatic, stainless-steel watch, water resistant to 100 meters, affixed with a jumping hour aperture at 5 o'clock, and retrograde minutes hand on a 210-degree sector (not to mention its 42-hour power reserve.) Oh, and let us be honest here, who does not smile when they see Mickey Mouse?

In an era of doom, gloom, and uncertainty, watch brands have stepped up to the plate by using bright, cheery colors, or by tapping into our childhood cartoon connections in order to allow us to find uninhibited joy in dark times.


Sarpaneva x Moomin

Sarpaneva x Moomin

Another example of this is the Sarpaneva x Moomin watch released nearly a year ago when the entire world was knee-deep in the pandemic. Moomins – which were the central characters in a series of books as well as a comic strip by Swedish-Finn illustrator and writer Tove Jansson – are the focal point on this limited-edition, colorfully-lumed timepiece which is accompanied by a 42-hour power reserve, 100-meter water resistance, and skeletonized dial.

Could we go on about other comic book or cartoon-related watch collaborations such as the much-discussed limited-edition Royal Oak Concept “Black Panther” Flying Tourbillon by Audemars Piguet or the numerous editions of the “Joker” watch released by Russian watchmaker, Konstantin Chaykin? Sure we could, but at this point, there are so many collaborations that have been released over the years largely due to societal needs, recessions, pandemics, or even war, that this article could be five times as long as it already is. For now, what we need to remember, and what watch brands should remember, too, in the words of the man, himself – Walt Disney – is this:

“Never get bored or cynical. Yesterday is a thing of the past.”


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