A comic-book artist brings something both graphic and novel to an X-rated watchmaking tradition.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The dials of fine watches frequently sport miniature portraits or paintings of majestic beasts, and the works of great masters. Scenes of semi-naked frolics in the foam? Not so much – but certainly temperature-raising, as this year’s collection from Ulysse Nardin proves. The premium watchmaker unveiled a 10-piece series of micropainted watches depicting sapphic underwater encounters between a mermaid and a woman, under the gaze of a watchful shark; the risque images are created by veteran graphic-novel artist Milo Manara.

Reproduced by Ulysse Nardin artisans using ultra-fine brushes, the miniature paintings tell the story of how the two central characters meet – and get to know each other really, really well. Some of the images are, in Internet-speak, more NSFW (not suitable for work) than others: a couple show the protagonists engaging in sexual acts; some depict them frolicking in the water; and the tamest ones depict the woman – dressed in a T-shirt – sitting on the deck of a boat.

It might all seem pretty indecorous to the uninitiated, but horology fans will know that these latest additions to the 300-year-old, wide-ranging world of erotic watches are relatively tame. Some of the timepieces in this genre, by brands such as Blancpain, Chopard and, yes, Ulysse Nardin, feature automatons, or mechanical moving figures (a watchmaking tradition), whose repetitive motions are put to suitably salacious use. In this niche segment, there are certainly different strokes for different folks.