MEMENTO MORI /məˌmɛntoʊ ˈmɔri/ Noun
Meaning: Remember You Are Mortal
It all started with the Mary, Queen of Scots’ Death’s Head pocket watch (above) that has more recently fueled the flames of modern watch design. Below are many more Death Head watches spanning the 17th and 18th centuries – as reminders of one’s own time left on Earth as well as the time of day. More philosophically, Memento Mori timepieces are best seen as inspiration to use your time wisely until that fateful moment. For more history about the horological history of these antiques, read more at
Fast forward a few hundred years and you arrive at the renaissance of modern horology, the early aughts to today. Independent watch brands from Switzerland have breathed new life into luxury watchmaking and expressions of style and mechanical functionality have achieved new levels of originality and craftsmanship.
In no particular order, there are successful iterations from a variety of high end Swiss brands like the
MCT Sequential One S110 Skull Watch (above).
One of our personal favorites include the
Hydro Mechanical watches of HYT which mechanically pump brightly colored fluids through intricate tubes to define the time. Many varieties have been produced in the past few years and have even included a pocket watch version.
Bell & Ross entered the fray a few years back and have seen a wide variety of this collection including the dimensional Bas-relief of the
BR 01 Burning Skull Limited Edition (upper left) and the Skull Bronze Talisman (upper right) that patina with time, which adds a bit more meaning to the concept as the physical look of this watch ‘ages’ with you.
You may think that skull watches are appealing to a purely masculine crowd, but some recent designs have appeared in the
Hublot Big Bang Boderie collection (above) to prove a wider appeal. These are incredibly feminine watches with fine embroidery in the dial and straps, as well as being studded with diamonds and other gemstones.
“Skulls are not necessarily images of doom and gloom. They have always just been there to remind people that they have limited time,” said
Fiona Krüger to the New York Times, a Scottish-born watchmaker based in Switzerland. Inspired by the Mary Queen of Scots watch to design her own collection (above and below) of exclusively Skull shaped watches for men and women alike.
We travel to London where
Mr. Jones Watches (below) create affordable and mostly mechanical watches featuring some of the most thought provoking Memento Mori watches of all — & for just a few hundred dollars each.
The Accurate watch & clock (above), obviously not a skull watch, but instead personifies the Memento Mori concept perfectly. It simply states the obvious, ‘Remember” and ‘You Will Die’ on the hands atop a mirrored dial to reflect your own mortal face in it. It’s an object designed to remind us that life is brief and that we should seize the moment while we are here. The design is also a play on the notion of accuracy in time keeping – this watch is accurate in a rather more fundamental sense than the traditional horological measures…
What do you follow the Accurate with? Well, the
Mr. Jones Last Laugh Automatic fits the bill while being a bit less…blunt. This watch forgoes the customary hour and minute hands, instead the time is displayed on a skull’s teeth. The upper row of teeth show the hours and the lower show the minutes. The eyes and the nose are mirrored and the overall impression is of a gleefully absurd Memento Mori.
Following the huge success of the first Last Laugh,
Mr. Jones introduced the most popular version to date, the Last Laugh Tattoo Edition Automatic. The design comes from the Mexican Day of the Dead festival. The festival focuses on gathering to remember friends and family who have died. Many gifts and offerings are handed out including sugar skulls that are given to both the living and the dead.
So what’s left for a Skull watch to do? Skeletonize itself! Skeletonizing is a watch term for seeing into and through the mechanics of the watch movement itself. Romaine Jerome created the
Skylab 48 Speed Metal Skull Collection (above).
The pinnacle of the bunch might be the ultra-exclusive
Richard Mille RM 052 Tourbillon Skull.
If you have any suggestions for our Skull Watches Part 2, please