Paint Your Soul In The Colours Of Joy: Going Hands-on With The Delightfully Eccentric Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy
Editor’s Note: We recently got the opportunity to acquire the Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy Avantgarde 2 timepiece courtesy of the brand and have spent the last few days incessantly obsessing over the colourful beauty of the dial. Here’s our honest one-week-on-the-wrist hands-on review of a timepiece I am pleased to say will be a part of my own personal collection.
In A Nutshell
The Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy features a 41 x 41mm shiny black PVD-coated stainless steel case with three side grooves filled with 18-carat yellow gold wires. Inside it beats the hand-engraved rotor bearing the calibre 2892.AS (derived from the trustworthy and highly reliable (and premium) namesake ETA movement) that provides for a decent 47-hour power-reserve.
Limited to 100 pieces, the Kandy welcomes you to a world of joy far away from the stereotypical timepieces that adorn the wrists of one and all.
Why So Serious
“Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out of it alive,” said Elbert Hubbard. The timepiece we are reviewing today takes this sentiment to heart and once on the wrist, delivers a knock-out performance.
The Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy Avantgarde 2 ref. AS.KD-AVG-2 pushes the boundaries of what conventional timepieces are supposed to look like. But it does so without relenting on what intrinsically makes one: enamelled dial with a mother-of-pearl insert, pure gold wiring on the sides, excellent finishings, decent ETA movement, and hand-finished rotor. The Kandy performs with élan the rare balancing act of out-of-the-box thinking that marries traditional watchmaking.
It challenges the status quo with its quirky design and a dial filled to the brim with creativity and quirkiness. It is like the brand says; it is “Art on the Wrist”.
A lot can be said about the perceived reactions based on how brands present their timepieces. Some cut corners (cheap pouches), some go the traditional understated elegance par excellence route (any Patek or Breguet box), some find innovative ways to cater to the environment (Christopher Ward recyclable wood boxes), and some present a packaging resonating with the luxurious vibes attached to their timepieces but unlike traditional brands mix it up a bit with modern-day flair. The Alexander Shorokhoff timepieces come in the latter style of packaging.
First off is a black cardboard box with a colourful sticker with art patterns.
Inside it is another high-gloss black lacquered wooden box case with the branding, logo and colourful tagline. Together, these two are a reflection of what’s inside: the internal shiny box is reminiscent of the highly polished black case of the watch, and colourful markings on the outer cardboard box reflect the vigour of the dial.
Nestled inside the inner box is the beautiful timepiece, cozily tucked amongst soft felt-like material. Underneath the big pillow are the certificate of origin, warranty and manual booklets.
Overall, the packaging provides a premium yet modern feel, something you would expect from a more well-known, higher-end brand. One thing I would suggest here is that the addition of a cleaning cloth would be highly welcome.
Everything feels more luxurious than what I expect a $5720 AUD (3’290 €) watch box to look and feel like. Heck, my box for the Heuer Monaco LE that cost twice this looks like a sad cardboard cut-out in comparison.
“There is no must in art because art is free,” said Kandinsky. The contemporary colourful markings on a conventional black (glossy) box ensure that even the box the Kandy comes in is not stereotypical and by default a work of art.
The First Impressions
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” said Vincent Van Gogh. The Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy Avantgarde 2 is the eponymous designer’s ‘life-enthused’ timepiece that revels under the courage to not take the beaten track in watchmaking. It’s colour-mania, it’s pop art, it’s horological fun-fest.
Before I talk about my first impressions, allow me to put that into some context.
The thing with Alexander Shorokhoff (AS) as a brand is, that I honestly didn’t know what to expect of it. The brand is not that common here in Australia. The first time I actually saw it was while browsing the website of the only authorised dealer here, Define Watches. And it was a cursory glance, as I was looking for some information on another German brand, Sinn watches. And while it remained embedded in the psyche somewhere, it was only recently that the brand piqued my interest.
I was going through my Wristwatch Annual 2019 book to check something, and I came across these watches. I was mesmerised but given they looked very expensive, I almost turned the page over just as my wife read out the price. It was then and there, that AS got my curiosity. On paper, they looked stellar. And different. And a bargain.
As a watch enthusiast you probably know what followed next; the task of trying to find as much information on these watches as possible. But besides very limited reviews, I couldn’t find much about these watches. It was then that I decided to contact the brand, and voila, shortly after that, I found myself in possession of two of their timepieces, the Kandy and Levels (detailed review of the latter coming shortly).
Coming back to my first impressions, so yes, I had pretty much very little idea of how these might turn out to be. My main concern stemmed from my experience that a lot of colourful dialled watches can come off as badly executed. Various colours can mean that the legibility is questionable. And given I hadn’t actually handled an AS timepiece in person until then, the concern of the build quality was looming large as well.
Long story short, armed with these concerns, I open the watch box containing the new Kandy.
Coincidently, like a child excited to see a box of candies, my first reaction is of relief and excitement. Relief because the colours pop bringing a smile; instead of being in-your-face bright and tacky, they have an elegance to them. Excitement because the Kandy indeed looks like an outstanding watch (especially given its RRP of only $5’720 AUD).
The next thing I notice is that the geometry of the dial is not all chaotic. Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics that if very simply explained, means that while things or aspects of a particular thing might appear to be totally haphazard and random at first, but peel the layers and chaos dissipates, with a pattern emerging. The dial of the Kandy is an excellent example of this.
The colour coded, pie-pan, sector-dial is very easy to read once you get past the initial burst of colour – the minute markings are black and white radial lines, and hour markings are colour coded sectors.
Essentially, different colours mark different hours, and the two places where they don’t, AS has introduced applied markers. There is a circular one at 7’o clock and a triangular one at 1’o clock. Once you see these colour distinctions, telling the time is easy and legibility is not an issue.
I won’t go and decipher the myriad textures and patterns on the dials. As Kandinsky once said: “Each colour lives by its mysterious life”. In the same vein, I reckon the beauty of those colours and textures lie in each individual owner finding a meaning for himself/herself. That said, I would love to deconstruct the dial as how I see the design itself (rather than interpreting what it means).
Deconstructing The Dial
Technically, in the modern-day, we don’t need watches. But they are an art form, and from that perspective, the road to acquiring watches is simply a journey of self-discovery.
“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul,” said Kandinsky.
With the burst of colour, the Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy literally puts this sentiment on your wrist. As a timepiece, the Kandy is a horological device that makes an emotional connection.
It’s a statement piece; and as architect and designer, I see a lot in it that I appreciate.
Like I said earlier, despite what might appear to be an asymmetric mix of various shapes and colours, there is a great deal of organisation; what is at first glance appear as chaos gives way to a design that appears to be carefully thought of:
- The circular shapes at 12 and 6 balance each other out, even though individually they are completely different. The fact that both contain the only traditional watch dial elements, that is a date window and applied numeral ’60’, helps achieve that balance even more
- The ‘Made in Germany’ text at 6’o clock that shifts size based on the spiralling curve it is swallowed by brings about a nice comic book feel to it, especially since it’s next to the webbing at 7’o clock (I get Spiderman vibes off it)
- The areas around 3 and 9 are balanced not only by the bold branding but also due to the colour yellow
- The ‘pizza’ slice between 10 and 11 perfectly mirrors the identical slice wedged between 4 and 5
- The black and white chequered-board pattern at 12 ties in the entire ‘inner circle’ of the dial with the external linear, sunburst sort of black and white lines
- Finally, the AS trademark ’60’ at 12’o clock lords over the mother-of-pearl insert, applied and raised to be viewed in all its glory
- Last but not least the quirky shape of the hands complement the play of colours and themes on the dial face
I also appreciate how the two circles from the front of the dial also make an appearance on the case-back. I realise it’s not the most redefined case-back on the planet, and would have preferred if AS kept it all exhibition, but by including those circles, it integrates the watch as a whole. There are also two smaller circular windows that feature the two most prominent colours on the dial, yellow and red.
As someone who appreciates art and design, and believes in the architectural school of thought of ‘deconstruction’, I can appreciate what’s going on with the dial.
If I can recommend one improvement, that would be to do with the second’s hand; the black under certain lights and at certain angles disappears. Other than that, no issues with the dial whatsoever.
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together,” said Vincent Van Gogh. The Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy Avantgarde 2 is indeed a great timepiece achieved by bringing together a variety of smaller design elements.
The Road Less Travelled – The Brand
Before we go further with this detailed review, a bit of context about the brand given that not much has been written about them that I could find in my research. In my humble opinion, it punches well above its weight, and I am frankly surprised that it’s not more well known, at least here in Australia. From my experience of both collecting and reviewing watches, it deserves more recognition.
Alexander Shorokhoff is a 29-year old independent watch brand that has chartered its own course and has created some timepieces that I would call bargains. Now the mere concept of bargains in the world of horology and bespoke or very limited timepieces is somewhat an oxymoron, but someone had to break that mould. Enter Alexander Shorokhoff.
On paper, it is a Russian medium-sized company in Germany and is the recipient of the 6th Otto-Wolff-von-Amerongen SME Award. Go to Wikipedia and it will tell you that AS was started by the namesake engineer and architect and was founded in 1992. And it makes and sells watches.
But handle its timepiece in your hands, and you realise it’s no ordinary matchmaking brand. With the tagline “Art on the wrist”, it truly pushes boundaries of what’s been tried for decades and enthuses a fresh, cheerful, young spin on serious horology.
We are talking about guilloche dials, enamelled dials, skeletonized dials, hand-crafted movements, the works. And instead of it all being random or at the whim and fancy, most of their timepieces are either inspired by or pay homage to Russian and other greats in the fields of art and literature.
They have three collections at the core: Vintage, Heritage, Avantgarde. The timepiece we are reviewing today is part of the Avantgarde collection and as the name suggests, is vibrant and cut from a different cloth.
They also have the Private Label that includes collaborations such as the splendid Bordeaux-coloured dial collection called the Unique Qatar Edition. If that still doesn’t quench your thirst for horological creativity, you can go the personalised way that lets the customers choose the style of the letters, the manner of the engravings and the extent of skeletonising and refining of the dial, watch movement and the case material and straps.
Another true measure of their revolutionary take on horology is the evidence stemming from the various awards they have won.
The stunning Camomile ref. AS.AP-KMM2 with 3D hand-engraved and hand-enamelled dial won the German Design Award 2018. Another watch, the Levels which we will be also be reviewing soon recently won the German Design Award Special 2021. And the one we are looking at today, the Kandy Avantgarde 2, it’s predecessor, the Kandy Avantgarde (1) ref. AS.KD-AVG won the German Design Award 2019 and its successor the Kandy Avantgarde 3 ref. AS.KD-AVG-3 won 3rd Place in the Trend Chrono Award.
The Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy 2 sits amongst esteemed company and rides high on the Independent brand’s accolades. It was itself nominated in Category B of the Golden Balance Award 2021.
The brand name may not be a household name yet, but rest assured, from the finishing quality to quality control, from the ‘wow’ factor of the dials to the eclectic shapes, and from the intricate details to the exquisite hand-finishings of the movements, the Alexander Shorokhoff brand is one mega boom waiting to be lit any time now.
Fantasy Meets Reality
So now that we know what AS is capable of, let’s dive back into the review.
Andy Warhol once said: “Everyone needs a fantasy”. The Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy is one such offering; it is an avant-garde timepiece that allows one to be liberated from the clutches of what’s conventional and immerse oneself in the colourful world of Kandinsky.
The Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy Avantgarde 2 is named after Wassily Kandinsky, the famed Russian painter and art theorist. It is also a homage to the world of pop art and works of other artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Hundertwasser and Gaudi.
So when you have such names on your palette, what else can you come up with when designing the timepiece? The result: an eclectic, bold, colourful, and surprisingly tasteful art piece that also doubles up as a wristwatch.
The watch itself comprises of a 3-part angular case, and appears to be without any seams as the 18k gold wires help achieve this smooth look. The case-back is screwed on to the middle case and then topped by the polished glossy steel layer that also houses the sapphire crystal.
I particularly like the TV-box shaped square case. If you observe it from the sides, the case and crystal curve and it adds an exceptional presence on the wrist despite the only 9mm thickness. Also to remember here is that AS is using curved sapphire crystal which if I am not wrong is pricier than say using a straight slab of crystal.
The next thing you notice on the case are the short, curved lugs. They are shaped like little commas and feature the same finishing as the case, providing a more seamless, integrated look. I also like the signed crown; for the dimensions of the watch, it suits it proportionally and is easy to grip.
The only 9mm thickness helps it sit flushed and low on the wrist, and the compact timepiece will find a home on a large range of wrist sizes owing to its odd shape and dimensions.
On my almost 16cm wrist, it sat perfectly and even though it is 41×41, it ended up looking more compact than my Monaco than officially reads 39×39 but owing to the chunky crystal, sits much higher and bigger.
I also reckon this to be a unisex watch. “Pop Art is for everyone,” said Andy Warhol, and while the original Kandy may have been designed keeping the ladies’ market in mind, I reckon the black-coated 41x41mm case has masculine vibes and is a timepiece that I can comfortably say is unisex. To give credit where due, it is not often that timepieces are made that can transcend both genders.
So Who Is It For
I also realise that this is not a timepiece for everyone; coincidently, my wife is not its biggest fan, finding it too busy and colourful, and feels it will be hard to pair with when looking at her wardrobe. But that’s okay. I love it pretty much exactly for the exact same reasons she doesn’t.
In my opinion, it’s for two kinds of watch people:
- Those that have a generic collection and want a burst of life in their watch box and on the wrist
- Those who see this as a grail piece – think about it; say the most expensive piece, your one main high-end watch, is the Tudor BB58. Talking bluntly about money, it’s sub-5k AUD. Lots of us watch enthusiasts can barely manage that. But you want a grail piece, an eclectic piece that’s artistic and different. We can’t all afford an H. Moser & Cie, a Jaquet Droz Ateliers D’Art or a Patek Rare Handcrafts enamelled beauty. But the AS Kandy is not out of reach at some point in life in realistic terms and is also a safer and cheaper way to fulfil that void. It doesn’t harm either that it looks this good too.
The quality of being not everyone’s cup of tea but finding a place in the heart of a select few is something I admire in a timepiece like this; it’s a discussion point, it’s a conversation starter, it’s something that a stereotypical dive watch will not compete with. And the limited production doesn’t deviate from that belief either.
In a broader sense, in my opinion, AS is a collector’s and connoisseur’s brand, but one that also allows the average watch enthusiast to be a part of the crazy journey of watch collecting without demolishing bank accounts.
So, do I recommend it? Abso-freakin’-lutely! It’s time to delight your senses, and paint your wrist.
Painting The Landscape
Usually, when I undertake reviews, I like to compare watches to provide a larger perspective. But I was hard-pressed to find similar watches to the Kandy.
The Jacob & Co Multiple Time Zone watches are the first that come to mind. Then in terms of colourful dials, Swatch is really embedded in any watch enthusiast’s memory. But while the former example is more comparable in terms of finishings and aesthetics, there is a world of difference between Swatch and AS. The finishings, the materials, the movements, and the individualised limited production of AS timepieces are simply all planets away from the mass-produced Swatch.
Alain Silberstein is another brand that comes to mind when looking at colourful dialled mechanical watches. They do their own thing which is very eclectic and impressive in its own rights, but their watches have a specific design language, which if you study the brand carefully, is very different to Alexander Shorokhoff.
You can also find cheaper mechanical watches with non-Swiss movements such as the Mr. Jones The Promise of Happiness Automatic Special Edition that showcases artworks. Like the Swatch offerings it is again pretty good value for the money no doubt, but compare the movements and the printed vs enamelled (with mother-of-pearl) dials of the AS and comparing AS and Mr. Jones offerings is basically like comparing apples with oranges.
To drive the point home, the Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy Avantgarde 2 reigns in a relatively untapped niche market.
No timepiece on the planet can be perfect in my opinion, and as much as I am falling deeper in love with the Kandy, I do have a couple of recommendations.
- Already mentioned, but the second’s hand needs to be a bit more legible. It actually features a nice logo counterweight but owing to it being black, it’s almost invisible.
- The strap — that comes in a random mix of two colours — is very supple and comfortable, but the buckle lets it down. It’s got a very plasticky feel to it. Everything else on the watch besides this buckle is exceptionally premium in feel
- An increased water-resistance to at-least 50m would be highly regarded as well
The Engine In More Detail
We mentioned in our introduction that the Kandy features a reliable (and somewhat modified) ETA calibre 2892-A2 that has been used in other well-known luxury brands such as TAG Heuer, Cartier, Omega, IWC, Tudor and Breitling among others and is meant to tick to satisfaction.
The calibre 2892.AS used in the ref. AS.KD-AVG-2 most strikingly features a hand-engraved and refined rotor.
The ETA calibre 2892-A2 by default is a 25.6mm diameter and 3.6mm thick movement that is comprised of 21 jewels, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’000 vph) and (normally) features a 42-hour power reserve. The AS mod sees the latter go up to roughly ~47-hours. It features an Incabloc anti-shock device, bi-directional winding and quick date setting.
Another aspect to note is that these days most Swiss-movement bearing watches use either the ETA 2824-2 or its clone SW200-1 movement. These movements are great and trustworthy, but entry-level compared to the 2892-A2. Just another reason why Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy is such a good offering.
Go On, Brighten Your Day
Usually, artsy pieces are either too out there or exorbitantly priced, boasting of pieces that your insurance companies will have heart attacks just imagining you wearing them on a daily basis.
Surprisingly, and I wouldn’t have said this if I actually didn’t wear it myself, the Kandy can be worn every day. This combined with its unique looks is its best feature I believe. The Kandy manages to walk that thin line between insane and amazing by evolving into a daily wearable harmonious ensemble. The Alexander Shorokhoff Kandy is extraordinary and different from anything else I own or have seen recently especially given the price point.
Coming full circle, it is only apt to wrap up this rather lengthy review in the words of Kandinsky: “To create a work of art is to create the world”. In Kandy, Alexander Shorokhoff creates a whole new world for watch enthusiasts to revel in.
The Kandy Avantgarde 2 is pure sensual seduction, enthusing a burst of colour in the otherwise mundane existence of monochromatic timepieces.
To find out more about the Kandy and other Alexander Shorokhoff watches, please head to their website here. You can also check out the entire Kandy line-up here. The AS timepieces come with a 14-Days Return Policy and a 24-Month Warranty. All images are ©Watch Ya Gonna Do About It unless otherwise stated. We would like to thank Inga Duffy-Shorokhova and the rest of the Alexander Shorokhoff team for assisting with this review.