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Review: Corum Bubble Magical 3D Skull

The fine watch business is a serious one. No time for messing about. That is, it seems, unless you’re Corum. So here it is, three reasons why the Corum Bubble Magical 3D Skull is the maddest watch ever.

The Size

It may not be apparent in pictures, but this thing is absolutely massive. It’s the size of an Apple Watch if they’d come out in the 80s. To be frank, it’s the size of an apple. Paint it red and pop a leaf on it and it really would be an apple watch. I’m not the kind of guy who likes to stick labels on things, but this is, officially, a 52mm timepiece. 52mm. That’s over a centimetre more than the newer, larger Submariner.

It’s hard to really convey how much of a difference that extra centimetre makes, but know this: there are very, very few watches over 50mm available—and for good reason. It doesn’t feel so much like wearing a watch as being worn by one. Even in titanium, its enormous bulk is like being followed around by an annoying child constantly tugging at your sleeve.

I’m sure you’d get used to it eventually, but never quite fully, like trying to wash the smell of old sweat out of a shirt. You think it’s fine but still, every now and then—there it is. When you consider that Panerais are big at 44 to 45mm and this adds another 15% in size, it makes you wonder what on earth the chaps and chapesses at Corum were thinking. Were they thinking? Were they hallucinating? Was there a gas leak in the building? It’s the only reasonable explanation I can think of.

Corum was founded in 1955, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Corum was founded in 1955, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland

Maybe, just maybe, Corum was a victim of an undercover CIA plot to revitalise the American watchmaking industry by subjecting Swiss watchmaking firms to LSD and various other psychotropic drugs, a kind of Project MK II-Ultra—but that’s pretty far-fetched. Not as far-fetched as making a 52mm watch, however. Oh, and you win the internet for today if you get the supremely nerdy MK II-Ultra joke.

You might say I’m being harsh, that companies like U-Boat and, yes, even Panerai have produced watches of enormous scale, but just because one kid in the playground is eating crayons, doesn’t mean they all should. But that’s not the least of this watch’s worries, because the size on its own might just about be forgivable. Shall we continue?

The Crystal

Making a 52mm watch, it’s hardly the biggest crime against watchmaking by itself, and so it seems Corum decided to not only commit the offence in broad daylight, but also film itself doing it and post it to Facebook, too. And by that I mean crown this behemoth with half a crystal ball, because instead of your typical flat or lightly raised glass, what this thing has is its own protective shroud, taking the dome trend to the absolute extreme.

Again, it begs the question: why? A watch, especially a thicker one, has been scientifically proven to generate its own gravitational field, which is why they get drawn into doorways and table edges so easily, even when you were certain you’d given them a wide enough berth. And that increases exponentially with mass, so making the crystal almost as deep as the watch is wide is going to increase the chances of doorframe-watch interaction by a pessimistic 9,000,000%.

The Corum Bubble was first introduced in 2000

The Corum Bubble was first introduced in 2000

I’m sure you couldn’t even wear this thing out in the street, or on public transport, for fear or pushing a child off the platform with it or clipping a bus. And that’s not even the worst part. Being so big and so optically dense, this watch is practically impossible to wear in a sunny climate. Angle it wrong and you’ll put a pilot’s eye out 30,000 feet up. Wear it for too long on a hot summer’s day and the concentrated light will actually fuse the watch to your wrist—at least, were it not made of aerospace-grade titanium to dissipate the heat like they did in Blackbird.

The only reason I can fathom as to why Corum did this is a clerical error. All I can think is that the design was a collaborative effort across the Atlantic, where there was confusion around imperial and metric and a one-centimetre-thick crystal ended up as one inch, causing a batch of very expensive crystals to be produced with outrageous proportions that they had no financial choice but to use. Hey, if NASA can make that mistake with its optics, so can Corum.

The Skull

That leaves us left to deal with our skeleton in the closet, or rather skull in the Corum. There’s a reason this thing is called the Bubble Magical 3D Skull, and it’s not because it’s a child’s brand of bath soap—but because everyone at Corum is mad. You thought the size was bonkers, you thought that crystal was bonkers—well, wait until you see what it’s all hiding.

Inside the Bubble, for that is what it is called, is a 3D Skull. Hold that thought. Because the 3D skull is held behind the bubble, its proportions are exaggerated and feel even more three-dimensional than it likely really is. This, according to Corum at least, is Magical. I don’t know what kind of upbringings the folks that Corum had, but I can deduce from this at least that not a single person at the company ever attended a child’s party where a magician was present.

There are only 188 Corum Bubble Magical 3D Skull watches

There are only 188 Corum Bubble Magical 3D Skull watches

Even compared to the most lame of party entertainer tricks, such as the plastic flowers up the sleeve, the rings that go clink together that are too thin to really tell what’s going on with anyway and the, “Is this your card?” stuff where the kid has already forgotten if it is or not, this is a pretty lame piece of magic. It’s the kind of magic that would not only get you permanently expelled from Hogwarts but have them snap your wand over your head too. A mild optical exaggeration is just that: the glass door on my washing machine does the same thing and that’s never been referred to as magic.

Perhaps they thought the skull itself would make it more magic, with its cartographic contour lines that are less likely to be a stylistic decision and are perhaps more accurately attributed to the prohibitive cost of a better CNC machine. It’s so absurd that it takes this long to consider that the entire concoction actually tells the time—although certainly not with any degree of accuracy thanks to markers that don’t really seem to be paying attention. Meanwhile, the skull stares at you blindly, its slightly saddened expression betraying its wish to be anywhere other than in this watch.

It’s big, it’s mad, and new it costs more than a Rolex Explorer. It’s utterly stupid, and I love it. Who else would dare to do something so outrageous, be so wildly unpredictable? When I was younger, I used to look at modern art and wonder why anyone would care about such a load of nonsense, but as I’ve become older, I’ve realised something quite significant: those artists didn’t make the work for an audience, they made it for themselves. Corum’s Bubble Magical 3D Skull is not a statement, a message or a point—it’s just the rarest of occasions where the Swiss actually let their hair down and have a bit of fun.

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