Editor’s note: For nearly a decade now we have curiously anticipated the Only Watch Auction. The 2021 edition doesn’t disappoint! While watches earlier this year had a green theme, this year’s Auction watches seem to have an orange theme. Following the releases from Watches & Wonders 2021, today we present the new Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours Only Watch 2021. For our standard detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
“Sing us a song you’re the piano man; Sing us a song tonight; Well we’re all in the mood for a melody; And you’ve got us feelin’ alright”.
Now why would I start this review with the lyrics to Billy Joel’s Piano Man (besides the almost tacky way of saying that the new Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours watch has got me feelin’ alright)?
I remember when we first received the press info for the upcoming Only Watch auction, my pick for the favourite design was the MB&F Panda. While the other offerings were stellar as well — given Only Watch designs are usually impressive across the board any way — content with my pick, I moved on. Then today when I was listening to some sweet Billy Joel on the record player, I couldn’t help but notice a strong familiarity (and you can see it in the picture below).
I checked out the new auction releases again, and there it was: the new Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours Only Watch 2021. And while my appreciation for the MB&F Panda hasn’t decreased, this vinyl record now joins it as one of the best offerings to come out of the year’s auction.
And interestingly, as coincidence would have it, it is pretty much a replica of one of my favourite records of all time: it features the 33 rpm vinyl design and the same orange coloured centre as my Piano Man record. In fact, it’s also got the orange to yellow gradient effect happening as well.
As someone who dabbles in collecting vinyl records, reviewing watches (and movies), and in general soaking up any nostalgia vibes, personally, the new Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours is as good as a watch design can get.
And when you study the design, the idea of fragments of time blown away under the winds of fate coming together to offer the gift of present for the wearer is simply superb.
Unity In Fragments Of Time
The new Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours Only Watch 2021 literally transforms the dial into a vinyl record with a stylus arm retrograde minutes feature that appears to be playing the quiet music of time on your wrist.
The hour numerals can be seen divided into two halves, worked on two mis-aligned counter-rotating disks. When the stylus arm hits 60 minuets, these disc align only at the 12’o clock aperture to display the present hour.
There is a tremendous amount of genius to appreciate here. For starters, even if this watch features a plain non-kinetic dial, I rather appreciate the odd positioning of the crown, the use of Roman numerals and that the presence of the ’33’ minute mark in orange that matches the colour theme of this year’s auction. Flip the watch and own display is a mesmerising finished hand-wound in-house movement, the calibre B02.
But the new Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours is much more than a simple beauty who’s calling card is that it looks like a vinyl record on the wrist.
The intricate workings of the dial are what astound me here. The dance of time when the Roman numerals that are disjointed but re-assemble themselves at 12’o clock is simply breathtaking.
The way this works is that instead of say a conventional dial where the time 6.30 will be displayed with a traditional hour hand position that drags itself on the dial beaten 6 and 7, the dial of the Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours chooses to denote 7 by instantaneously ‘jumping’ the hour.
In this case, the retrograde minute hand is the only hand on the dial, and it moves left to right indicating the minutes, and when it hits ’60’, the hours at 12 instantaneously change and this vinyl inspired stylus hand reverts back to the ‘0’ minute marking position.
Besides the way the dial works, also impressive is this retrograde vinyl stylus replica hand set on a 120° arc that is composed of 3 titanium elements with each worked by hand before being welded together.
I like the overall symbolism in the timepiece: given it’s a manual winding watch it retains the more classical approach of ‘bonding’ with one’s watch from the past, yet the execution is far more futuristic. But at the same time, the half time Roman numeral fragments come together to create one perfect present.
“Yes they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness; But it’s better than drinkin’ alone,” are a couple more lines from the Piano Man song.
My appreciation for events such as the Only Watch grows with every passing year thanks to the brands stepping out of their comfort zones and giving the watch connoisseur community more than the stereotypical timepieces.
Everyone on opposing spectrums, from Tudor to MB&F, has offered something unique.
Independents like Ludovic Ballouard share the concept of innovative and kinetic art sort of timepiece with only a select few others; and while there aren’t many of this calibre ready to break free from the shackles of 19th century watchmaking design, but it’s better than Ludovic Ballouard designing these alone.
A bit about the brand; the eponymous brand is helmed by Ludovic Ballouard, a master watchmaker and a Franck Muller, Harry Winston and F.P. Journe alum. He launched the ‘Upside Down’ collection in 2009 and followed it up with ‘Half Time’ three years later. His watches are different, eccentric and exceptional.
Ludovic Ballouard’s latest offering has got a rather low estimate of only CHF 40’000 – 60’000 when compared to the usual RRP of 85’000 to 92’00 CHF (plus taxes) of Half Time models, but I see no issues in it breaking this threshold. And given it’s for charity, it should as well.
In regards to the praiseworthy cause, this auction has raised more than 70 million Euros so far and has enabled scientists to continue their research.
54 brands are participating this year for the 9th edition — the first one was in 2005 — of the biennial charity auction Only Watch, whose aim is to raise funds for research against Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
The lots will go on a small world tour — unfortunately but surprise surprise, Australia is not a part of it — and then auctioned in collaboration with Christie’s on 6 November 2021, at 2pm (Geneva time), at the Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues.
I also respect that the apparent albeit unofficial orange theme for this year’s Only Watch Auction is delightfully vividly expressed on the new Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours Only Watch 2021.
“Ludovic Ballouard thinks that music is one of the best therapies, and with its vinyl record jumping hour dial and stylus-themed retrograde minutes, the Half Time “Vinyl 33 Tours” puts a smile on everyone’s face”.
The new Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours Only Watch 2021 features their usual patented ‘Half Time’ collection’s caliber B02. It is a 25mm diameter movement comprising 53 jewels and above 300 components, beats at the frequency of 3Hz, and offers a 35-hours power reserve. It is also beautifully decorated as well.
It is encased inside a 41mm x 11mm 950 platinum case with a platinum off-centered crown and a display case-back. The entire case along with the lugs are milled out of a solid case (that is water resistant to 30 meters). The watch comes on a hand-stitched Alkantara alligator strap.
That’s All Folks!
There is only one way to express my joy at witnessing a watch that to some extent could be the only one for me, by taking inspiration from English pop band Dead or Alive’s famous song lyrics: “You spin my horological fantasies right ’round, baby Right ’round like a record, baby”.
In this reviewer’s opinion, the new Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours Only Watch 2021 is definitely high on nostalgia, and for one lucky bidder, the supreme horological flex.
“Nostalgia is a seductive liar,” once said the American politician George Ball. I may never get to own this piece of perfect watch-marries-vinyl nostalgia overload. It alludes me, but seduces me nonetheless.
To find out more about the new Ludovic Ballouard Half Time Vinyl 33 Tours Only Watch 2021 and other Only Watch auction timepieces, please head to the ONLY WATCH 2021 collection website here. All images unless otherwise specified are Ludovic Ballouard 2018 © By Agence WE Blink. All basic information Copyright © Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies. Make sure to check out our reviews of Watches & Wonders 2021 releases here.