Okay, so if you’ve bought all the Rolexes, all the Patek Philippe’s, all the Richard Milles… then what? Well, you can either sit there and contemplate your own mortality, or you can do what Kanye West did and buy one of the quirkiest watches out there: the Ikepod.
Historically speaking, which is the single most boring way to start a sentence, watch designers have been less bothered about how a watch looks and more about how it functions. Ever noticed that classic watches from the likes of Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe all look the same, even when they’re extremely complicated? That’s because the designers cared more about what was on the inside than the outside.
That’s why reading a classic perpetual calendar is like trying to decipher the instructions on a medicine bottle. They focussed solely on the mechanism, making it efficient and effective, even if it turned the dial-side experience into an utter mess. Watch designers in the past have been notoriously difficult to work with, hence why each of the big three required a partnership of two to find a balance between the watchmaking and the watch selling.
It took us really to get to the 90s before anyone stopped and thought, “Maybe, just maybe, we can design a watch to look, you know, fun?” It may not surprise you to learn that these thoughts were had by someone outside of the watch industry, one mister Marc Newson.
Marc Newson is to design what Disney is to Marvel films, both very prolific and extremely successful. Cars, chairs, salt pots—you name it, he’s done it. If it can be realised in 3D form, Newson’s probably had a go. And although he’s not in watches per se, he is into watches, and of course he’s turned his hand to a few you might be familiar with. There’s the Marc Newson Hourglass, the Marc Newson Atmos, and of course, in partnership with Jony Ive, the Apple Watch.
But those are all collaborations with other watch brands, and Newson was keen to make a watch brand all of his own. So with assistance from Swiss businessman Oliver Ike, he founded Ikepod. They floated Marc and Ike, but their lawyers were concerned about the might of big candy.
This was 1994, and by 2006 it was bankrupt. It relaunched in 2008 and by 2012 it was bankrupt again. It relaunched in 2018 under the brave and some might say reckless watch of Christian-Louis, a graduate of the Swiss school of being immersed in watches. As business decisions go, reviving a company twice dead is generally a no-no, however Christian-Louis couldn’t bear to see a brand he’d admired so long lie dormant.
He recruited none other than the designer of the Royal Oak Offshore, Emmanuel Gueit, to spruce up the Ikepod collection, and here we are. There were a number of different Ikepod watches released initially, but it’s the 1997 Hemipode—named after a small, flightless bird—that’s captured the imagination with its large, lugless design.
One particular person’s attention it caught was Kanye West’s, who wore a Hemipode on the cover of GQ in 2020. What did he know that all the people who didn’t buy one before didn’t? Is Ikepod the ultimate in obscure cool or is it just the ravings of a lunatic? Should you buy one, or should you admit yourself to an asylum?
Ultimately, the question is: does the Ikepod Hemipode deserve a revival or should it be laid to rest? In today’s iteration of the fateful brand, there are many ways to answer that questions. Of those ways, I’ve got the Duopod and Megapod. There’s also the Skypod with a new-old stock La Joux-Perret, the Chronopod chronograph, the Seapod diver and the Pod, er, pod.
With prices ranging from £585 to £7,600, the range can be a little confusing, which is I’ve why I’ve stuck to two time-only pieces. They’re essentially the same watch at different sizes and different dial executions, so we’ll start with the smaller, £595 Duopod. Why Duopod? Two hands. I think…
It’s a 42mm brushed stainless-steel pebble, but don’t worry, it wears a lot smaller than that because it basically has no lugs. It’s thicker than school custard, but that’s kinda the point. If it were flat it would just be an ordinary watch.
Instead of being an ordinary watch, it’s a Marc Newson watch, and that means it has to pass the ultimate test: do I want to put this thing in my mouth? The answer is yes. It’s so smooth, especially with the continuation of the curve through the sapphire crystal. It’s like a Ballon Bleu that had a few extra puffs of air in it.
Simplicity is really what this and every Marc Newson design is about, exploiting bold colours and shapes to create a recognisable silhouette with as few lines as possible. And this does that. Despite being, by description at least, not a whole lot different to your average watch, it is immediately familiar, not just because of the case shape, but the contrast and simplicity of the dial itself.
How it looks so simple without looking like a school clock for teaching children to read the time is a design mystery I’ll never be clever enough to solve. Hours and minutes are as simple as it gets, and the tapered orange hands with full length lume feel somehow retro and futuristic at the same time. Retro-futuristic. That’s a thing, isn’t it? It’s the year 1979 and the future is now!
The crown looks like it’s straight off an aerospace-grade pepper mill, deeply knurled and unsubtle, adding to the sense that this whole watch is some kind of steampunk hipflask. And if that’s the look you’re going for then the £1,060 Megapod has got so much more to offer.
Literally. It’s 46mm cross—same scaling factor applied with the luglessness—but this time it has a golf ball dial and engraved hours, plus a running seconds hand. It’s called the Megapod because it is indeed mega, an interstellar cheese grater with the Ikepod logo printed directly on the underside of the crystal.
Both watches are powered by Miyota movements—a quartz in the smaller Duopod and mechanical in the Megapod—which may make some people feel the prices on the watches are high, although they are very reliable and easy to get serviced. In terms of the price, it’s not like this iconic style is available anywhere else, and throw them a bone—the business went bust the last few times so they’ve got a lot of ground to make up.
This pair—and indeed the rest of the collection—are a part of the history of watchmaking in a way literally nothing else is, connecting the lineage of mechanical watches with the most successful watch of all time, the Apple Watch, through a common designer. It’s neither one thing nor the other, and perhaps that’s why it kept failing. Hopefully though, through the passion and madness of Christian-Louis, it will continue on.
What are your thoughts on the Ikepod collection?