Dream Watch: Crazy Hours

By Catherine JF Sietkiewicz
    Any watch could tell me the time. With Franck Muller’s Crazy Hours—I could master it.

“Dream Watch” is an essay series in which different contributors dive into the watch of their dreams. 


The most philosophical watch on the market is Franck Muller’s Crazy Hours. It is esoteric, badass, and it tugs at the depths of my soul. 

My obsession with time started early. Each school holiday we would drive to the farm my mum grew up on in rural Aotearoa, New Zealand. “How long will we be away for?” I’d ask. “Three weeks,” my parents would reply, and I would disappear to my room to plan outfits for the duration of our stay, laying them out like a time telling pictograph on my bedroom floor.

One pair of togs, two pairs of track pants, three jumpers... four hours drive in the car, a one hour stop off for lunch at Matamata (the place Hollywood later rebranded to “Hobbiton.”) “Are we there yet?” My brother and I would chime like clockwork after playing the first side of the Backstreet Boys’ cassette tape, gleefully trying to elicit a reaction from our parents and see how long their patience would last.

To be human is, in part, to understand the passage of time and our place within it as finite beings. It is to perceive time as a coordinate we can use to orient ourselves, and civilization has found both poetic and pedestrian ways to measure throughout the ages.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Work day, garbage night, weekend.

The rising and falling of tides in a day, or the deepening of wrinkles on a face over decades. The first side of a Backstreet Boys cassette, or the sun and moon’s procession through the sky. Hourglasses, egg timers, water clocks. Birthdays, anniversaries, memorials. The changing faces around a holiday dinner table, melting ice shelves, a warming planet, or the number of red sports cars billionaires have sent to space…

Franck Muller was born in the late 1950’s—just after half-past on the dial of a century. At 15 he began studying watchmaking, went to work for the likes of Patek Philippe, and made timepieces for private clients. In 1984, aged 26, he made his first tourbillon—a feat of complexity so scarce at the time, few watchmakers were capable of it.

In 1991 Muller began his company, establishing himself as “The Master of Complications.” He set up shop on the shores of Lake Geneva’s irregular tide-like seiches, and after 12 years in business he released Crazy Hours.

It is an unsettling watch to behold. At first glance, Crazy Hours is all art-deco elegance. Then, panic sets in. The dial makes no sense. What unhinged person would design that? Why are the numbers out of order? It’s like they fell off, and were stuck back on again in the dark, in a rush, while intoxicated. (A fitting sensation for a watch allegedly conceived of while Muller was new-years-eve-girls-gone-wild-spontaneously-skinny-dipping-red-wine-drunk in Mauritius rebelling against the rules of a stuffy hotel director, and time itself.)

Sit with the discomfort of the dial and you’ll see a method in the madness. The numbers are evenly spaced in a recurring pattern, enabling Crazy Hours to keep accurate time with its specific complication—the jump hour. The minute hand functions as expected, but the hour hand leaps forward to the correct number on the dial every 60 minutes through an automatic motion powered by the wearer's improvised movement through spacetime.

It remains a feat of creativity and engineering that elevates the practicality of knowing what time it is into the philosophical realm of contemplating time itself. To conjure a timepiece as seriously playful as a Crazy Hours, I imagine Muller understands the medium the way great jazz musicians understand the composition of a song.

Thelonious Monk said “the piano ain’t got no wrong notes,” a refrain repeated by Miles Davis who trumpeted there were “no wrong notes in jazz: only notes in the wrong places.” The implication being that in the hands of a competent and curious player, an unexpected note can be the cause which affects a unique opportunity for improvisation. That the very complication which makes one note ‘out of order,’ is exactly what propels a tune forward, and makes it more beguiling.

Miles Davis went on to say of music that “time isn’t the only thing, it’s the main thing,” and the same can be said of the nature of life itself. Time is the coordinate that enables our lives to play out in all their improvisational glory: no time, no change, no movement, no life.

On days where time mercurially slips through my hands, Crazy Hours is a surprise and cavalier delight. It reminds me that my time, and by proxy my life, is more than recurring deadlines, efficiency optimisations, life hacks, or opportunities to worship at the altar of productivity.

The Master of Complications’ scrambled dial laughs in the face of all that. It inspires me to stay curious and competent enough to explore the opportunity that unexpected notes or circumstances in my life can present. To rise to the disorder of them, and trust they may be the precise opportunities which can propel the composition of my life forward, and make it more beguiling too.

When I look at the dial of a Crazy Hours I see an original and an iconoclast—a timepiece that does what all the other watches do, but in its own unique way. I see the moments of my life where time has stood still, leapt forward at ludicrous speed, lurched, or totally collapsed in on itself, confounding me in an instant. I see an emblem of past, present and future.

Any watch could tell me the time. Only Crazy Hours shows me that to master time is to master life’s complications.

Any watch could tell me the time. With Franck Muller’s Crazy Hours—I could master it.

The watch in question.

Franck Muller in 1977 via Getty Images. 

Elton John, a longtime Muller fan, rocking a Curvex at the 2020 Academy Awards via Getty Images.

A Crazy Hours Color Dreams watch, in all its controlled chaos via Franck Muller.

“To conjure a timepiece as seriously playful as a Crazy Hours, I imagine Muller understands the medium the way great jazz musicians understand the composition of a song. Thelonious Monk said ‘the piano ain’t got no wrong notes.’” Thelonious Monk in 1970 via Getty Images.

Paris Hilton wearing a Franck Muller Long Island watch at her 21st birthday in 2002 via Getty Images.