Valbray is one of those independent Swiss watch companies that has gone above and beyond with their watch designs and has created very unique timepieces that are quite easy to identify thanks to their revolutionary obturator system —inspired by the diaphragm shutter in photographic cameras— that allows for the user to fully or partially close the dial with a micro-mechanism that is fitted in between the dial and the sapphire crystal. Valbray spent over two years of research and design and after tackling several challenges they finally perfected it and registered its first patent in 2010. The Valbray Oculus Minotaurus ref. VR03W featured here, not only features the revolutionary obturaror system but also a pinball tridimensional maze on its dial that gets its inspiration from the enigmatic theme of the labyrinth and the Minotaur from the Greek mythology. If you were born in the 70s, you probably had several of these pinball maze games to entertain yourself.
The obturator system is composed of 16 extra thin blades, entirely integrated in a rotating bezel measuring only 43 mm in diameter and 7 mm in width. The diaphragm opens and closes by slowly sliding the blades on each other on a constant and regular circular shape. Protected by three layers of ultra technical coating, they maintain their elasticity and color and resistance to rubbing. At the maximum aperture of the bezel, the blades completely disappear, releasing a different underlying dial measuring 30 mm in diameter, while at the minimum aperture, only the central pinion and the hands are visible right above the diaphragm when fully closed. The bezel is waterproof and requires no button or bar to be operated. The entire system is thoroughly hidden, completely independent of the watch movement and is activated manually by turning the bidirectional bezel. This innovative system makes the Valbray timepieces interactive and intriguing at the same time.
The Valbray Oculus Minotaurus is fitted with a very generous black PVD stainless steel case with 18K 5N Red gold bezel —bezel also available in white gold— measuring 43 mm in diameter and featuring alternating satin-brushed finished and highly polished areas. The dial on this new timepiece released at Baselworld 2014 features a very interesting multilayer design fitted with a tridimensional pinball maze. The maze is finished in matte gold and accentuated by the white ceramic pinball, the skeletonized hour and minute hands with black tips and a highly contrasting red seconds hand. Now, for those of you concerned with the quality of the timepiece per the look of the hands in these pictures, it is important to mention that we photographed a prototype and not the final watch. Based on other Valbray timepieces we have perused in the past, we are confident that the final product will be immaculately finished. The case back is finely engraved with the iconic Minotaur and the limited edition information, which in this case is limited to 77 pieces.
Now, let's share some interesting Greek mythology for those of you wondering what the maze has to do with the Minotaur. Well, according to the legend, the maze of Knossos was built by the King Minos of Crete to imprison the Minotaur —a fabulous monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull. Once construction has been completed, the building was such a tangle of streets, theaters and galleries, that even his engineer Daedalus and his son Icarus found themselves prisoners into the inside. Each year, the city of Athens, under the rules of Minos, had to offer in sacrifice seven Athenians boys and seven girls to the Minotaur, who was eating humans. Until the day Theseus, son of the King of Athens, killed the Minotaur and managed to find the way out of the maze, thanks to the thread given by Arianne —the daughter of Minos—, which he used to scroll along the way. As you can see in these pictures, the level of detail and depth on the maze is remarkable.
The rotating bezel in 18K 5N Red gold is very solid and finished with a satin-brushed finish on the top and highly polished around the edges. The bezel features deep diagonal teeth making it very easy to grip and turn. The black flange around the dial features gold engraved markers that help round out the overall design of the watch in conjunction with its black PVD case. The crown is nicely finished replicating the diagonal teeth on the bezel and also finished in black PVD stainless steel.
The watch is fitted with a black alligator strap with pin buckle in black PVD stainless steel and 18K 5N Red gold insert with the Valbray logo. The strap is elegantly finished with black stitching and is also very supple and comfortable. The beating heart powering the Oculus Minotaurus is the Valbray automatic movement with 21 jewels and which provides a power reserve of 42 hours when fully wound.
On the wrist, the watch wears slightly bigger than its actual size and quite comfortably. The wrist presence is extremely unique and this is a watch that for sure will get a lot of attention from other watchlifestylers. Now, if you have children, be prepared to have them ask for your watch every time you put it on so that they can entertain themselves like you used to in the old days.
Sticker Price 13,700 CHF ex VAT. For more info on Valbray click here.