A Watch in the World’s Blackest Black
“Vantablack is so black that 3D objects coated in the material are visually reduced to silhouettes.”
The material absorbs more than 99.965% of light. “It’s the blackest material in the universe after black holes,” the British sculptor Anish Kapoor once said. “It’s a physical thing that you cannot see.”
Swiss watchmaker Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps (MCT) debuts Vantablack luxury watches in a Limited Edition of 10 pieces this Fall, expected price is at $95,000 US.
“We always try and explore new materials, new processes,” said Pierre Jacques, CEO of MCT.
“It’s profound, difficult to describe … bottomless,” he said.
Mr. Jaques says that MCT timepieces will have elements that “look as though they’re floating amid nothingness.”
The new watch case measures 45 millimeters x 45 mm x 15.5 mm thick, and is crafted out of titanium with black DLC coating, as is the buckle with folding clasp. Markings are hand-painted, but with no lume.
Vantablack is used on the dial and some parts of the movement, with everything assembled by hand.
“This material is very sensitive, and we had to take care of many parameters before assembling the components, like friction and impermeability,” said Jacques.
A black alligator strap completes the look, with sapphire crystal caseback and face.
Inside, it is the same hand-winding movement MCT offers in the Sequential One S110. Of its 471 components, 81 are rubies, and it comes with a 40-hour power reserve.
On the dial, hours are indicated by four modules, each composed of 5 prisms that flip. As the minute hand rounds the :00 spot, a 270-degree sector rotates to reveal the next hour, with tick marks now lining up to denote the appropriate minute. If that sounds like a trip, the video just below should help.
On Vantablack: Vantablack is the creation of Surrey Nanosystems, a tiny company located on Britain’s southern coast, which initially developed it for the aerospace industry in collaboration with Britain’s National Physics Laboratory.
The near-weightless, high-tech material is made from carbon nanotubes, each 1-millionth of a millimeter thick, grown in a clean room using proprietary technology. The tubes in original Vantablack—there are now two versions—are 10,000X as long as they are wide. “Picture a forest of trees, except each tree would be a few kilometers high,” said David Wong, the company’s CEO. “With the right density, the forest just swallows light.”
MCT is just 1 of many of companies wanting to make use of the blackest black material.
In December, Germany’s Berlin Space Technologies launched a satellite into space carrying a star-tracking device made using Vantablack.
Because the black is so effective, it eliminates the need for the long tubes generally needed to defuse stray light. “It allowed us to make the device much smaller and lighter,” said one of the company’s co-founders. When Mr. Wong’s team launched Vantablack at the Farnborough Air Show in Y 2014, “people were just astonished—it was amazing to watch their faces,” he recalled. “That’s when we realized that this might have applications beyond space.”
Architects, watchmakers, jewelers, and car companies have lined up.
Not everyone understands the limitations. “Some requests are quite amusing,” said Mr. Wong. One major cosmetics company has inquired about making Vantablack mascara, which is technically impossible.
Another typical request: “I want to be the ultimate Goth, can I put it on leather?’” said Mr. Wong. Then there was a man who hoped a Vantablack shirt would make it look as if people could put their hands through his stomach. “Well it might work,” Mr. Wong told him. “But you probably would notwant them to try.”
As for Mr. Kapoor, Surrey Nanosystems has given him exclusive artistic rights to Vantablack, both because of the complexity of the material and a professional relationship they have developed over time.
“He was the first to make contact, the 1st to understand the impact Vantablack could have on the art world,” said Mr. Wong.
Mr. Kapoor is already planning an enormous sculpture, inside of which viewers will experience a room of pure Vantablack. The experience, he said, will be like being inside ourselves.
“When we imagine our own interiors, we have a sense that each of us carries a dark, inner, and quiet or not so quiet place within ourselves,” he told Artforum. “To have that out there phenomenologically in the world is quite unnerving.”
Have a terrific weekend.