Yesterday, Drake unveiled the cover art of his next album, For All the Dogs, which was charmingly drawn by his 5-year-old son Adonis. Something must be in the air, because on the very same day, a similar reveal also took place in the watch world. The revered independent watchmaker Ludovic Ballouard announced the newest edition of his legendary Upside Down watch—dubbed the Ludovic Ballouard et Fils Upside Down “Series Gaga”—which features a dial printed with the crayoned scribblings of his 4-year-old son.
Perhaps you’re already dismissing this as a publicity stunt: a luxurious 108,000 CHF (approximately $123,000) heirloom-grade timepiece that’ll be eagerly snatched up by elite buyers…and it’s been doodled on by a small child? But there’s a deeply moving backstory to this unusual watch that should stir collectors.
If you’re not familiar with Ludovic Ballouard, he’s an expert watchmaker with an unconventional background. Born in Brittany, he showed an early aptitude for all things mechanical and attended watchmaking school upon the suggestion of a teacher. However, upon graduation, he was reluctant to leave his quiet region of France, where there were few jobs in the horological sphere. For six years he kicked around his old digs, working as a technician on airplane control panels.
Finally, Ballouard left for Geneva, where he cut his teeth working first for Franck Muller, and then for none other than François-Paul Journe, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest living watchmakers. Journe considered Ballouard so talented that he was the only employee other than himself who was allowed to work on the brand’s Sonnerie Souveraine, its most complicated timepiece.
When Ballouard struck out on his own, he dreamt of a watch inspired by a Zen Buddhist belief that human lives are out of balance, or “upside down,” as we’re so often obsessing over the past or consumed with thoughts of the future. To that end, he designed the Upside Down watch with a brilliant complication: Each individual hour index would remain upside down until its appointed time had come, at which point it would revolve 180 degrees and face upward, joined by a small, colored dot as a further visual indicator. Flip the watch over, and you’re greeted by an incredible visual feast of a movement the likes of which hasn’t been seen before in the world of haute horlogerie.