Wearing the Azimuth Mr. Roboto R2 watch allowed me to realize how much I love faces on watch dials. I’m not talking about just a “watch face,” but one with eyes and a mouth. Inspired by 1950s-era metal robot toys, the Azimuth Mr. Roboto R2 watch – rich with quirky personality – smiles at you each time you glance at it. How does this affect the experience of wearing an otherwise cold, hard machine?
The human mind is trained to see faces everywhere. In fact, we see other faces when there isn’t even one there – ranging from patterns in nature to blobs on the wall. It is easy to misinterpret this phenomenon as being more symbolic than it is, which is really just a side effect of natural evolutionary behavior that encourages people to notice when there are other people around – especially from a young age. How this relates to our enjoyment of non-human devices such as a watch can be interesting.
I’m not trying to overthink the appeal of a “face” on a watch dial, but I do think it is important to ask the simple question of why a design such as this brings me so much joy. The entire purpose of the Mr. Roboto R2 is to have a robot-style face on a watch dial – that nevertheless is able to indicate the time. As a timepiece, all effort into the watch is designed to fulfill this purpose. Especially at this price point, arguably no one does it better than Azimuth.
In my opinion, Azimuth often doesn’t get the credit it deserves for many of the more interesting “avant garde” watches it releases such as the Mr. Roboto collection. Timepieces such as this are entirely about fun and personality. In a sense, the Mr. Roboto is the anti-tool watch. It isn’t about specific functionality or durability, but rather being fun, and also still being a watch. The Mr. Roboto R2 (as the name implies) is actually the second Mr. Roboto watch produced by the brand, with watches such as these being among the more rare models that are produced today.
Compared to the original Mr. Roboto watch, the R2 is in many ways an upgrade. The watches share similar tonneau-shaped cases and movements, but differ in the design of the dial, which in my opinion, is much more eye-pleasing on the R2. One of the major upgrades is the half-dome “eyes” which are used to indicate the hours as well as the second time zone. Very MB&F-esque (I am referring to the HM3 Frog of course), the domes have curved hands which move over them. Indicating the minutes is the purpose of the “mouth,” which uses a retrograde hand. The design reminds me of analog car radios and I’m sure the resemblance is anything but coincidental.
In the luxury watch world, most watches with such exotic dial layouts come with very high prices. The Mr. Roboto R2 isn’t what I could call a budget watch, but it does fall in line with part of Azimuth’s overall goal to offer cool/quirky watches like this for Omega versus Patek Philippe prices. Part of making the R2 and watches like it relatively affordable is how the movements are made. Rather than produce entirely new calibers, Azimuth prefers to take the wise approach of modifying base Swiss ETA automatic movements.
Azimuth really begs the question of why similar style watches from fan-favorite brands like MB&F and Urwerk are so expensive. We aren’t talking three to four times as expensive, but like 20 or more times as expensive. Yes, those other watches are better examples of fine watchmaking and haute horology but clearly, not everyone can afford them. I’d like to think that Azimuth products are a happy medium for those seeking something interesting and fun, but who can’t imagine spending over $10,000 for the privilege.
Azimuth calls the movement inside of the Mr. Roboto R2 the caliber 1500.2 automatic. The most obvious modification to the movement is how the time is indicated. Two long stems are positioned for the hours in 12 and 24 hour format “eyes,” as well as the retrograde minute indicator “mouth.” I found that the movement works rather well given that the system is in some ways delicate. The right eye, which is the GMT indicator, is actually better used (in my opinion) as an AM/PM indicator. This is easy to do just by setting the 12 and 24 hour time to the same time.
You may not believe me, but the reality is that I didn’t find legibility to be an issue. I found that after a day or so to adjust, I noticed that I located the orange/red hour hand and the minute hand with relative ease. That actually surprised me because my experience with “interesting” ways of telling the time usually has me longing for a pair of traditionally center-set hour and minute hands on a round dial. In this situation, I actually found the R2 watch to be just as easy to read as most other watches – and certainly more so than the original Mr. Roboto model.
With that said, no one I showed the watch to was able to easily understand how to tell the time – literally no one. I’ve never had such a popular watch on my wrist that no one knew how to read. I’m not saying that Azimuth set out to confuse lay people, but I found it intellectually interesting that no one in my circle of friends and family (i.e. not watch people) could understand how to make sense of the dial without prior explanation. Do other people out there who wear watches with “non-standard” means of indicating the time have similar experiences with onlookers?
Staying on the topic of the Mr. Roboto R2 watch being popular, I have to say that I don’t think I am the only one who likes faces on their machines. Not only are other watch guys often happy to see dials that they feel are staring right back at them, but for years, people have enjoyed seeing faces in cars. How many times have artists or anyone with even the most basic creative mind thought that a car’s headlights look like eyes, and the grill like a mouth? Pretty sure Pixar has an entire collection of movies dedicated to the concept.
I’m not saying that we go so far as to anthropomorphize each and every watch we have (please don’t start giving your watches personalized names), but seeing the “familiarity” of a face on an otherwise non-living thing seems to endear us to them. Azimuth didn’t have to invent or incorporate this concept so much as they more so decided to import the concept of a robot toy to a watch face. I grew up with toys produced a few generations after those from the 1950s, but I do recall plenty of robots from my childhood. Does that experience make me appreciate the Mr. Roboto more?
In fact, I think the appeal of the Mr. Roboto extends beyond merely those people who have played with robots as a kid, and more so to people who enjoy the story and process of Azimuth being inspired by this universe of toys and building it into another type of toy. What Azimuth is really doing in the Mr. Roboto collection is making a very clear statement that mechanical watches are toys, and there is no point in wearing one if you aren’t having fun. I fully accept and endorse the notion that mechanical watches as used by most people today are toys. This is especially true for anything but the most basic timepiece. If you want your watch to have personality, and if you enjoy it for how it looks, there is a good chance that at the end of the day, you too consider your watches as toys. Nothing wrong with it, let’s just not call them “adult toys,” cause that refers to an entirely different type of product.
What is my favorite “toy” style element on the watch? Yes I love the face, but the “windup toy style” crown is the best personality trait this timepiece has got. This little element thematically links the universe of spring-powered watches with the nostalgic universe of spring-powered toys that Azimuth is really paying homage to in this timepiece collection.
One downside of the Mr. Roboto R2 is the sheer size of it. At 47.5mm wide, 55mm long, and about 19mm thick (at its thickest point), the R2 isn’t going to win any awards for miniaturization. With that said, the watch is comfortable. I don’t mind the size save for the fact that any big chunk of steel on your wrist is heavy. You can wear the R2 snug on the nice strap that comes with it. Doing so is important so that this top-heavy wearable doesn’t slide around on your wrist too much. If you are the type that wears your watch close to your hand, then watch out for the size of the crown which could poke you – though this wasn’t an issue for me.
You can’t deny that the style of the Mr. Roboto case is inspired by Richard Mille. In fact, the entire watch itself is arguably a direct homage to one of the more rare timepieces out there… which happens to be the extremely strange Richard Mille RM 053 (aBlogtoWatch hands on here). Azimuth more or less moved and modified the look of the eyes and added a mouth to the weird “polo-friendly” tourbillon that Richard Mille only produced 15 of. You’d have to be a serious watch nerd to even know about this connection, but I always like to identify the “top level” designs out there whose aesthetic styles trickle down into other distinctive watches.
You can’t fault Azimuth at the least given the simple fact that a watch like the Mr. Roboto R2 is meant to be a product that pays homage to multiple things at once – few of which they are trying to hide. For example, on the rear of the watch you can see the statement “Domo Arigato!” What does this mean? It refers to the well-known 1983 Mr. Roboto song by the group Styx. In the song, a hook lyric is “Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto,” which is the brand’s way of commenting on the then extreme popularity of Japanese culture. In the 1950s, many of the “Golden Robot” toys that the Azimuth Mr. Roboto watch was inspired by were also produced in Japan.
Also on the rear of the watch is a view of the movement – and where you can see the other major modification to the base Swiss ETA movement done by Azimuth. It is a simple upgrade, but an appreciated one. In place of your standard automatic rotor is a “mystery” rotor. The rotor is a sapphire disc with an outer weight in brass. It actually looks pretty cool even though I am not sure how it fits into the overall robot toy theme.
Attached to the case (which is water resistant to 30m) is a custom-fitted and tapering perforated black leather strap. Little touches like the double set of stitching in red and white keep the entire watch looking interesting. The strap closes via a simple butterfly-style deployant clasp. The clasp has some perlage polishing on it, which I always like since I have a soft spot for this type of metal decoration.
If you like the look of the Azimuth Mr. Roboto R2, I can assure you that the quality and style is worth the price. If you don’t like this watch, that’s totally fine since it is a niche product for a particular type of watch collector. As someone who isn’t afraid to admit he is an adult who still loves playing with toys, I just happen to be rather close to the target demographic. Price for the uncommon and cool Azimuth Mr. Roboto R2 watch is 6,000 CHF. azimuthwatch.com
>Model: Mr. Roboto R2
>Price: 6,000 CHF
>Size: 47.5mm wide, by 55mm long
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of toys, and robots, who wants to share their love of toys and robots with the world around them.
>Best characteristic of watch: Good update to the original Mr. Roboto making it more legible and attractive. Fun concept that is engineered well and affordable at the same time. Looking at that roboto face puts a smile on mine each and every time I see it.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Case is large and heavy – arguably more so than it strictly needs to be. A niche product if there ever was one – but certainly not in a bad way. It just means a product like this will have friends as well as enemies. Perhaps a few too many homages to other watches, even if they don’t take away from the robot toy inspiration that the R2 excels at.