The Alexander Shorokhoff Babylonian II is, of course, the follow up to the brand's popular limited edition Babylonian. The new model retains the key features of the original, namely the astrological signs and semi-skeletonized dial, but greatly expands upon the decoration with hand engraving on both the front and back of the watch.
We may take it for granted today, but timekeeping to our ancient ancestors was often less about making it to a meeting on time and more about tracking the relative position of heavenly bodies. The Babylonian II is a bit of a return, if strictly symbolic, to the horology of the past.
It does that by using the symbols associated with Western astrology, namely those you might recall from horoscopes. The name "Babylonian" is attributed to the watch, I must assume, because Babylon is usually credited as the first to develop astrology several thousand years ago. In a sense, this is about as ancient as timekeeping symbolism can get.
The Western zodiac, as you already know, corresponds to 12 constellations, and their respective representations are on the back of the watch as well. But what makes this watch stand out from its predecessor is, of course, the engraving. The movement is now much more finely finished.
The dial also receives a great deal of engraving, itself semi-skeletonized to reveal the workings within. Let's take a closer look at the dial because there's a lot going on here to discuss.
The Babylonian's dial, either the original or this second version, is not precisely an exercise in subtlety. But then, that's not really why you'd be looking to Alexander Shorokhoff's "Avantgarde" collection in the first place. The Babylonian intentionally stands out.
There's no better place to begin than with the part that I'd most closely associate with a traditional dial (as opposed to a decorated mainplate) than this mother of pearl ring. It, of course, has the 12 Western astrological signs, but it also adds a lot of color to the watch. It can glow an iridescent blue or purple depending on the lighting.
Here it is in powerful, direct light. It's practically glowing, although this is about as bright as it gets in real life. There's certainly a lot of color in this dial.
In the midst of the extremely complex dial, it's easy to miss the subtler white symbols at the middle. Two you'll recognize immediately, the sun and moon, but the two lines in the middle are a little more interesting. These represent the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which run roughly parallel. Between these two rivers you'd find ancient Babylon.
One of the major changes in this Babylonian II is the removal of the numerals around the dial. The original had very bold 20, 40 and 60 markers. That looked fine, and was probably the more "experimental" approach, but this dial is so complex already that it doesn't need any more writing. I definitely prefer the use of simple markers here without numerals.
The hands and markers are beautifully blued. With smaller hands, like the seconds hand on a Grand Seiko SBGH001, for instance, it's easy for the blue to actually appear black, depending on the angle. The broader the hands get, however, the more likely they are to have at least some part of them be bright blue. These hands are quite substantial and have a complex shape to them, so these come off as pretty powerfully blue. The seconds hand is white, which doesn't exactly aid in legibility on this particular dial, but this is certainly a function following form approach to watch design.
But the most striking feature, and what sets it apart from its predecessor, is the engraving. The original model had a very bold sunburst to it. This new model has a swirling arabesque with very deep engraving, which I'm told is done by hand. It doesn't make the watch any subtler, but it does make it look a lot nicer.
The case, though large, is relatively sedate. The top is entirely polished while the sides are brushed.
Thanks to the fact that this is a manual winding watch, Shorokhoff has managed to keep the Babylonian II reasonably thin at 11.5mm.
The signed crown, of course, doesn't screw down, which would be pretty inconvenient on a manual winding watch. It is nice and large though, making it very easy to wind.
The standout dimension is the diameter, which is a pretty impressive 47mm. That's big, but honestly, it doesn't wear nearly that big, which you'll see in the wrist shot later. That's not to say that this is a subtle watch, but you're not wearing a clock either.
While the side and top of the case is fairly simple, the back is much more interesting.
The back of the case (we'll get to the movement later) continues the zodiac theme with their respective constellations.
The constellations are shiny against a very dark backdrop. It’s nice that they were able to bring this theme to every side of the watch.
The Babylonian II is powered by the 2609.AS, a formerly utilitarian hand wound movement that has been finely embellished by Alexander Shorokhoff.
Quite unbelievably, the 2609.AS started life as the Poljot 2609, but aside from the unusual shape of this bridge, you can barely tell they have anything to do with one another. The engraving and finishing is tremendously superior to its predecessor.
The movement relies on the conventional, but proven, approach of a regulator and smooth balance combination. It's a simple method, but is very wildly utilized. A swan neck regulator would have looked great here, but I suppose it would have gotten in the way of the engraving on the balance cock.
The "dial" is largely composed of an engraved mainplate, so in some sense you're seeing the movement all of the time. The plate does reveal the keyless works, however, which you can see move if you look closely while pulling the crown.
The non-hacking 2609 likes to take it easy with a leisurely 21,600 BPH frequency, or two beats per second fewer than the vast majority of contemporary movements. That's not really a weakness in itself, though, as a lot of great companies use lower frequencies, like Patek Philippe for instance. Shorokhoff uses their version of the 2609 almost more as a canvas than a timekeeping mechanism, since it composes, visually at least, both the front and back of the watch.
I've long said that the worst thing a luxury watch can be is boring. With Alexander Shorokhoff, you never have to worry about your watch being that.
The Babylonian II is, quite obviously, not a watch intended for everyone. It's part of their Avantgarde (one word for Shorokhoff) collection, and believe it or not, this is actually one of their subtler options.
The Babylonian pays homage to some of the oldest horological symbols there are and does it in a uniquely Shorokhoff kind of way. You'll know instantly whether or not this watch is for you.
The movement, though simple, is quite enjoyable to look at. With that pesky rotor out of the way, you can enjoy the fine engraving and even see the gears turn as you wind the watch.
Alexander Shorokhoff, in general, offers watch collectors the ability to own and wear really exotic, really unique pieces that are normally associated with haute horology but at far more attainable price points. The Babylonian II is one of the best examples of this.
Here's the 47mm watch on my wrist (you can compare it to various wrist shots in my other reviews). It really doesn't seem especially huge here, but the Babylonian II was never really intended to be a small and discreet watch in the first place. It's got too much personality for that.