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Hands on review of the Karoshi K-011 / OS-01

foversta
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The SIHH and Geneva week always offers surprises. Many brands and independent watchmakers benefit from the presence of the watch community in Geneva to organize presentations as an aside of the event. And some of these novelties really stand out by their audacity or their technical interest. One of the watches that I liked the most in this context is the K-011 / OS-01 (sorry for this name a bit too complicated) from the young brand Karoshi that I had the chance to discover within the Barton 7 exhibition dedicated to independent watchmaking.

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Despite this Japanese-sounding name, Karoshi is indeed a Geneva project headed by the designer Stéphane Lacroix-Gachet. But then, why such a name? Simply because it means "death by overdose of work" (a word that could only be created in the Land of the Rising Sun!) And that its definition has been slightly adapted to the specificities of a young watchmaking brand. Rather than talking about work overdoses, Stéphane Lacroix-Gachet prefers to evoke a passionate quest and the desire to go through with his ideas with the concern of a job well done. In other words, there is nothing sinister in the process even if some discreet skulls can be found on the watch here and there ... On the contrary, we are in a positive and energetic approach that moreover offers beautiful animations of dial. A real optimistic and stimulating Karoshi!

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If I tell you that the watch offers a low frequency (2.5hz) tourbillon with a dead-beat second hand, you immediately think about classic watches (such as the Tourbillon Souverain from François-Paul Journe), well in the watchmaking tradition. And yet, the K-011 / OS-01 is at the aesthetic antipodes of this context. I must salute the Stéphane Lacroix-Gachet's approach: as he promised, he got his ideas off the ground. Just take an example: the titanium case has a diameter of 50mm. But there is an excellent reason for that. Simply because the own diameter of the baseplate is 48mm. By the way, I have some issues to call it "baseplate". It would be more a three-dimensional structure because it also acts as a case band.

What surprised me the most with the K-011 / OS-01 is the play of light. The watch offers multiple effects of transparency and seems to be bathed in light. It is due to the absence of a real dial because apart from the peripheral scale, our eyes directly dive into the movement. If the watch is large in size, it seems on the contrary extremely light from a visual point of view. The light as evoked, the double-sided anti-reflective treatment of the glass featuring a suitable shape and which offers an optimal readability, the effects of volume and depth, the technical and contemporary rendering, all these details contribute to the aesthetic success and to this general feeling of fluidity.

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The strong point of the visual rendering, however, lies in the contrast between the regular and mesmerizing behavior of the large tourbillon that occupies the entire lower zone, the constant and jerky revolution of the second hand at 9 o'clock and the irregular movement of the platinum micro-rotor on top. The K-011 / OS-01 is the opposite of an inert watch!

The aesthetic treatment is contemporary and made with care. The dominant gray color offers a monochrome rendering that I found refined. Fortunately, there are enough variations of intensity and colors to take advantage of the key parts of the movement. The titanium bridges highlight the moving elements and it's a real treat to appreciate all these details. As for the skull, symbol of the brand, its representation is for me ideal. It is at the same time contemporary (it makes me think about video games from the 80s / 90s), graphic and absolutely not sad. At no time did I feel a sort of memento mori! Finally, reading the time is easy, the two dauphine hands have the appropriate size to obtain a satisfactory readability given the complexity of what happens behind.

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The back of the watch is in the same aesthetic trend. I found the result even more impressive because the wheels, gears and bridges draw a sort of refined and seductive watch lace that occupies almost the entire space.

The K-011 / OS-01 is not only an aesthetic success. It is also a technical achievement. The movement was developed and built with Le Cercle des Horlogers SA. This movement therefore has a construction in volume with 3 key elements that stand out: the imposing tourbillon (the cage has a 19mm diameter to accommodate the 14mm diameter of the balance wheel), the dead-beat second hand and the micro-rotor. The movement has an automatic Pellaton winding system. The power reserve is 50 hours. It is a bit short by current standards, especially with a low frequency. But we must consider the sizes of the cage and the balance and the energy required. I have in any case appreciated the discreet insertion of the barrel which remains little visible and the treatment of the sequential dead-beat second hand. Everything happens behind the second hand and the accurate ballet of the wheels is fascinating to watch.

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I mentioned the visual lightness of the K-011 / OS-01. It is also light in the first meaning of the word. Thanks to the titanium elements, the clever architecture, the total weight of the watch is 64g which is very reasonable for a 50mm watch. It is also comfortable to wear thanks to an unibody rubber strap that also serves as a caseband protection. Note that a leather strap is also available. I would however highlight something: given its particular shape, even if it maintains the watch perfectly on the wrist, it doesn't follow directly the wrist and a space is created between the latter and the strap next to the case ends. I didn't like this detail from the pure aesthetical point of view. However, I loved the clasp  that takes the logo of the brand! And once again this skull appeared to me as fun and energetic!

The K-011 / OS-01 really seduced me. For a very simple reason: Stéphane Lacroix-Gachet opted for an uncompromising approach. The watch doesn't leave indifferent and it is its main strength. Its large size is consistent with the movement and the resulting design makes it much lighter and wearable. This watch is available as part of a limited series of 99 pieces (sold a price of 123,000 CHF without taxes). So all I want to Stéphane Lacroix-Gachet, is to escape from the karoshi fate because I hope to discover the next steps of this adventure that looks very promising.

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Pros:
+ an aesthetic success magnified by the play of light
+ the size of the tourbillon
+ the low frequency, pleasant to the eyes and the ears
+ the comfort on the wrist despite the size

Cons:
- the power reserve, a little short by current standards
- the shape of the bracelet that creates a space with the wrist at the case ends

Comments:
andrewluff March 4th, 2019-13:21
Looks very nice! My kind of style for sure and certainly has a good look/design. Is this a proto, the finishing does not seem that great? Thanks FX for the intro! Cheers Andrew
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foversta March 6th, 2019-13:22
The watch is a prototype and I'm sure that the final version will be better. Having said that for me the most appealing detail is the lay-out of the movement. Fx
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Ares501 - Mr Green March 4th, 2019-13:22
Thanks for great review FX of this novel interesting brand! Let's see what future holds for them...visually quite appealing piece tad too big. Cheers D
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foversta March 6th, 2019-13:21
Thanks Damjan. I think that the first evolutions will be colorful. To be frank, I like a lot this monochrome approach. Thanks. Fx
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amanico
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