If you’re an H.R. Giger fan, then today’s review should set your heart aflutter. This is the Morpheus Passagen, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never seen one like it. Let’s start with the facts:
- 33mm wide by 42.4mm tall, 10.4mm thick. 80g on the calfskin leather strap.
- PVD-coated 316L stainless steel case
- Swiss ETA 2824 movement, handwinding and hacking with 42 hour power reserve.
- Keyhole-shaped sapphire crystal
- Water resistant to 50m (165ft)
- Signed 6.5mm non-screw-down crown
- Available in black or yellow dial, and also in gold-plated case
- 50-piece limited edition in each color combination, numbered caseback.
Read on for the full review.
Mainly known to US audiences from his work on the ‘Aliens’ movie series, H.R. Giger is a Swiss surrealist artist whose work is a combination of industrial and organic lines. The Passagen watch is based on a 1972 airbrush canvas, ‘Passagen XIV 1972’, which is in turn based on a German trash compactor. Like I said, you’ve not seen a design like this before!
This is, as far as I know, the first time Giger has consented to using his art in a watch, made possible by his friendship with Morpheus founder Jim Cowan. Cowan went to amazing lengths to create the watch: That sapphire crystal, for example, is an extraordinary piece of effort, due to the shape and inherent focussing of stress points at the keyhole. I’m guessing that their yield on those is under 50%; very difficult work. The case is similarly costly – those are not just molded bumps to represent bolts, they are hand-tapped and real, and the rest of the case requires a combination of molding, milling, stamping and hand-finishing. It’s a labor of love, and the attention to detail on a singular vision is one of the things I like most about Morpheus. (See details about their other watch at the Morpheus Culinary review.)
On the wrist, the Passagen wears like a dress watch, quite light at 80g and very readable due to the high-contrast yellow on black hands. There is a seconds hand there too, but since its black on black it’s nearly invisible. The ETA 2824 has a date complication, but the Passagen either omits it or just lacks a window; either way this is just the time. There are 2mm squares of lume at the tip of the hour and minute hands, so with a bit of effort its readable in the dark. The yellow dial version might be more readable, and is certainly bolder on the wrist.
The caseback is solid, with serial number and signature. This fits with the somber design motif, though it’d be interesting to see how Giger would decorate a mechanical movement. Somehow I can see that working with his style of artwork. The lugs are shrouded, melding the strap into the case seamlessly.
I like that each version of the design is actually limited to 50 pieces, that ensures the rarity and uniqueness of this singular design. You’ll not see another one of these on anyone else, and if you like the Giger oeuvre it’s a excellent realization. The price at $2,955 is steep compared to the Culinary, but quite inexpensive if you consider the artist, extreme engineering and limited production run. A Swiss brand would charge much more for the same.
Also like the Culinary, these watches will call to some and leave others blinking. Both designs are unique and aimed at very few people. Given Giger’s popularity, I expect that Morpheus will sell these out quickly, and that the owners will enjoy wearing a unique realization of the artist.
Our thanks to Morpheus for the loaner, and best wishes for success.
By Paul Hubbard