The best cartoon inspired watches

These super-cute pieces prove watchmakers’ love of pop culture is truly timeless. We explore the Audemars Piguet x Marvel collaboration, Omega x Snoopy & Mickey Mouse x Gerald Genta

3 December 2021

By Kim Parker

‘Why so serious?’

Comic fans will recognise these as the words of Heath Ledger’s Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. But they’re equally applicable when you think about the luxury watch industry, whose sober reputation is founded on a legacy of prestige, excellence, and supreme accuracy – where every second, quite literally, counts.

But there’s an unexpectedly playful side to it as well. Over the last few years, some of the finest watchmakers have introduced timepieces with cartoonish dials as an homage to our enduring love of pop culture, and to answer a growing demand for fun, limited-edition timepieces, especially amongst an international market. Far from being relegated to the children’s market, these hot-ticket collectibles (with accompanying adults-only price tags) are highly sought after by afficionados. Witness the buzz that surrounds Gerald Genta (now owned by Bulgari) and its new Smiling Mickey Mouse watch, which features the iconic Disney character dancing a jig on its dial – his left arm moves to indicate the minutes, whilst hours are displayed in a window at the 5 o’clock position. A loving throwback to the brand’s Disney-covered designs from the 1980s, the watch is limited to just 150 pieces and will retail for £14,200 when it goes on sale next January – assuming you can find one, that is, as it’s widely rumoured to have already sold out.

Even watches which aren’t directly inspired by comic books but have become associated with our rose-tinted nostalgia for them are in huge demand. When Rolex announced it was discontinuing its hugely popular Submariner 116610LV from 2010 – lovingly called ‘the Hulk’ by fans after its green dial and bezel – second-hand prices immediately skyrocketed. Serious collectors can now expect to spend over £30,000 for an increasingly rare ‘Hulk’ or must switch their allegiance to the new Rolex Speedmaster Date 41mm with a black dial and green bezel. Nicknamed ‘the Kermit’, it now has a long waiting list of its own.

Tempted to join the fray and invest? We’ve rounded up the best cartoon watches with which to begin your collection. Just don’t leave it too long. These joyful timepieces are likely to be gone in a flash.

Launched in Spring 2021, this limited-series watch features a futuristic hand-painted design by Ugo Bienvenu, the artist behind the brand’s Space Derby silk scarf. It is available in a pink opaline iteration with a pink strap, as seen here, or with an aventurine dial and dark blue strap. Arceau Space Derby, price on request, Hermès.

Born out of a friendship between Audemar Piguet’s CEO, François-Henry Bennahmias and the actor Don Cheadle, who portrays the Avenger character War Machine, the watchmaker’s latest limited-edition is tribute to the ‘inspirational heroes’ of the Marvel cinematic universe. Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillon, price on request, Audemars Piguet x Marvel.

Snoopy has had a relationship with NASA since the 1960s, when his creator, Charles M. Shultz, began depicting the intrepid beagle on the moon in comic strips. He was officially inducted as the ‘face’ of NASA’s safety programme in 1968 and went on to lend his name to a prestigious prize – the Silver Snoopy Award – which is still bestowed on people, or companies, who have significantly contributed to the success of space flight missions. It was awarded to Omega in 1970, following the infamous Apollo 13 mission, during which Omega watches were used by the crew to manually readjust the course of a lunar module and ensure their safe return to earth. Last year, Omega celebrated that special relationship with its ‘Silver Snoopy Award’ watch that has proved hugely popular – so popular, in fact, that it now has a waiting list. Speedmaster ‘Silver Snoopy Award’ Co-Axial Master Chronometer Chronograph 42mm, £8,250, Omega.

Loved Sesame Street during your childhood? Then you’ll adore Bamford’s jolly Big Bird watch, which features the iconic character on the dial, ‘feathered’ hour markers, and a 24-hour GMT hand in the same striped colours as the bird’s legs. Big Bird GMT Limited Edition, £1,600, Bamford London.

Hublot’s collaboration with the superstar contemporary artist sees Murakami’s famous smiling flower rendered in over 500 brilliant-cut black diamonds. The Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami All Black, £22,600, Hublot.

A fabulous nod to the ‘Disney-fied’ Gerald Genta watches of the 1980s – which featured Mickey and Minnie mouse, as well as Donald Duck – the new Smiling Mickey has a sleek polished steel case and padded rubber strap. Arena Retrograde Smiling Disney Mickey Mouse, £14,200, Gerald Genta.

While it’s not associated with a specific comic character per se, Chanel’s limited-edition Boyfriend Electro watch features a Pacman-like rendition of a futuristic robot, inspired by Electro dance music and picked out in twinkling white diamonds. This is as comic-like as the couture house gets and the results are equal parts playful and chic. Boyfriend Electro watch, £13,000, Chanel.

Takashi Murakami also his own take on a cartoon-colourful watch with Hublot, see it here

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See the new take on the cocktail watch here