Hailing from the capital city of Dresden, the German watchmaker Stefan Kudoke began his watchmaking journey at a very young age. Before setting up his eponymous brand in 2008, he had several stints at Glashütte Original, Blancpain, Omega, Jaquet Droz, and Breguet. During the early days of Kudoke, Stefan greatly emphasized the brand’s German heritage and origin despite using only Unitas calibres at the time. In the years that followed, Stefan eventually went on and produced its very own first in-house calibre — the Kaliber 1, which is the beating heart of the timepiece that we have on offer here today — the Kudoke 2.
Today, what we have in front of us is no ordinary Kudoke 2 (not that the Kudoke 2 is ever considered ordinary to begin with). This is the Kudoke 2 "Zodiac" – a limited edition variant created in collaboration with Watches By SJX, a world-renowned online horological publication based in Singapore. If you haven't already noticed, we have featured a couple of Kudoke 2 watches on the site before, but the one offered here today stands out as my personal favorite among the three. This preference arises from the sheer richness of finishing techniques jam-packed into this compact timepiece.
Much like my previous experiences with other Kudoke 2 watches, this Zodiac variant is nothing short of exceptional. Su, the founder of Watches by SJX, initially expressed his admiration for the Kudoke 2 but desired more intricate details to be expressed on the dial. This desire led to the birth of this remarkable variant, which, in my opinion, pays ample tribute to Kudoke's expertise in hand-engraving movements and exemplifies their unwavering commitment to crafting an exceptionally remarkable timepiece.
Upon a more detailed examination of its exquisite rhodium-plated dial, you'll uncover an impressive showcase of technical finesse, thoughtful design elements, and artistic expression. The dial, meticulously hand-engraved, exudes a majestic celestial Art Deco aesthetic that's difficult to encapsulate in mere words. According to Su, a lot of effort was invested into highlighting the multitude of textures at work. First, he began by enlisting the artistic talents of Lee Yuen-Rapati (@OneHourWatch on Instagram), a Canadian illustrator renowned for creating bespoke fonts for prestigious independent watchmaking brands like Habring² and J.N. Shapiro. Lee designed custom numerals for the dial, inspired by the 12 signs of the Zodiac with origins deeply rooted in Babylon and Ancient Greece. What's really fascinating is that each numeral emblem actually represents a Zodiac sign while simultaneously incorporating the corresponding Roman numeral to be used as hour markers. How cool is that? To complement these custom emblems, Su also requested for a heavily granulated center and the chapter ring to be raised. The outcome? A breathtaking dial enriched with a multitude of aesthetically pleasing textures that harmoniously adds to the existing aesthetics found on the standard base Kudoke 2 model.
Like the other Kudoke 2s, another notable design element here is the beautiful domed disc located at the 12 o ‘clock position. Naturally, it is also entirely hand engraved and rotates in a 24-hour cycle which poetically depicts the sun, the moon, and stars as well as the day or the night. You will also find a tastefully discrete arrow that indicates the time of the day. The hour and minute hands here feature a Kudoke Handwerk signature ‘infinity’ motif.
As far as case size goes, the Kudoke 2 ‘Zodiac’ features a grade 5 titanium case measuring 39mm in diameter and 10.7mm in thickness, which I consider well-suited for contemporary wrist sizes. Additionally, the fusion of a monochromatic case with a meticulously engraved dial, as observed here, is a remarkable combination.
Turn the watch over, and you'll be greeted by the splendid hand-wound Kaliber 1-24H, showcased in all its glory through the exhibition case back. This movement seamlessly continues the celestial Art Deco aesthetic, mirroring the dial's design and discreetly integrating symbols that represent celestial bodies within our solar system. The movement is also elegantly embossed and adorned with a harmonious interplay of three contrasting colours – rose gold for the balance cock, white rhodium for the raised sections of the engraving, and black rhodium for the recessed-grained areas. To me, this tri-colour palette drastically enhances the visual appeal. In terms of its design and architecture, the movement draws inspiration from the early English pocket watch movements of the 17th century, evident in the elongated balance cock. In terms of power reserve, the Kaliber 1-24 offers a maximum capacity of approximately 46 hours on a full wind.
With a limited production of only 21 pieces worldwide (comprising 10 two-tone pieces and only 12 in this exclusive titanium-only configuration), the Kudoke 2 'Zodiac' stands as a genuinely exceptional and exciting timepiece. As I've previously noted, and I'll emphasize once more, this is quite possibly one of the most exquisite iterations of the Kudoke 2 that I've had the pleasure of seeing and handling. It's evident that there was untapped potential within the standard base model, and Su and Kudoke astutely recognized this potential, elevating it to an extraordinary level.