DESIGNERS IN THE HOT SEAT
Meet the creative minds behind some of the most interesting timepieces in the world
The most important designers in the watch world share their secrets and opinions
Vincent Perriard, CEO of HYT
You’ll never forget the first time you wear a watch from this Swiss watchmaker. Unlike traditional timepieces, which uses hands to tell the time, HYT’S watches use fluids. Vincent Perriard, the creative visionary of the company, gives us a peek into its inner workings.
The HYT watch looks like a piece of engineering art. How do the engineers work together with the designers?
We always work in tandem in order to maximise ideas. We have steps, a creative bridge so to speak, where we exchange and fine-tune the initial idea to collect possible added values from the watchmakers, designers and chemists. It also helps that we are a small team.
What are the hardest obstacles when you create a new HYT watch?
Technology has time constraints but we never give up. If something is not possible, then we ask the team to cont inue searching for solutions, even if we need to postpone the idea for a few months. As we speak, we have different concepts in the pipeline for the next three years. For a small company like HYT, this is a strong commitment to R&D and we eng age a lot of budget in this field. We have crazy ideas and plans.
Beat Weinmann, co-founder of Ochs und Junior
It’s almost impossible to distil the essence of this Lucernebased watchmaker into a single paragraph. Instead think of Ochs und Junior as the watch world’s equivalent of a music supergroup. Doctor Ludwig Oechslin, lead designer for Ulysse Nardin for 20 years and watch icon in his own right, joined forces with Beat Weinmann, who served for 16 years on the management board of watch and luxury goods retailer Embassy, to form a company and produce timepieces that are unlike any you have ever seen before.
Ochs und Junior eschews the belief that the more complications in a watch, the better it is. Is less really more?
Smart reduction, like in architecture or in software engineering, is more difficult to do than to add a lot of elements. It is a question of precision. Being a former director of the International Watch Museum and having in-depth knowledge of astronomy, mathematics and physics offers Oechslin the opportunity to think deeper, and in a different way, than a normal watch designer.
Tell us about the design process of your watches.
Many brands start with an idea of how a timepiece should look and where the display for certain functions should be located. We go about things completely differently here. We start with a functional or usability goal, and then create mechanics that are so radically reduced and elegant that the design of the dial follows the purity of the construction. For us form follows function.
Would you consider yourself hipster watchmakers?
Not at all. We are the furthest thing from hipster. We create possibly the most serious and thoughtful kind of watchmaking a company can. We are able to do that because we are focused on doing watches exactly how we see them, without the compromise of having a marketing department and being under the pressure of annual figures to be delivered to the shareholders. If that were the case, we’d have to do mass taste solutions with less quality of content.
What are your thoughts on the state of design in the watch industry?
We really think that there is a lack of design in the watch industry. In addition, most watches have no truly unique design language that would give someone with a general knowledge of watches an idea what brand is behind a timepiece without a large logo on the dial. I am surprised how an industry can live with so little effort at innovation and so little will to create new qualities for the time that we live in. I think that Ochs und Junior is giving an answer to how a modern mechanical watch can and should look in an era of super-complicated, marketing-driven watches.
I am surprised how an industry can live with so little effort at innovation and so little will to create
Daniel Niederer, founder of Sevenfriday
Inspired by industrial elements, music, art and more, Sevenfriday is the antithesis of your typical Swiss watch brand with its devil-may-care attitude and rabid insistence on creating its own path. Daniel Niederer chats with us.
What comes first for Sevenfriday: form or function?
They are actually thought about at the same moment. The thing is, we have our own definition of “function” to begin with. What also makes Sevenfriday unique is our design language. Even though we have a cool attitude about it, we are serious about watchmaking. We create interfaces exactly the same way as for a high-end contemporary concept watch. The design mindset and structure are clearly different compared to the fashion watches that are made for department stores. We pay a lot of attention to details.
The watch industry is in a tumultuous state now, don’t you think?
I’m quite enjoying the mess smartwatches are creating. It’s also interesting to see how crowdfunding platforms are changing marketing and design. Dust had to be removed anyway. From a general point of view, any design can be interesting if it has a message, meaning or emotion to convey.
Thomas Höhnel, designer of the NOMOS Tetra Neomatik
One of the most recognisable watch brands in the world, thanks to the unique font it uses for the dials, NOMOS recently expanded into square territory with the Tetra Neomatik. Designer Thomas Höhnel tells us more.
What were the design challenges of working with a square case?
While the case is square, the hands still move in a circle. So there are many design elements that need to be just right to give the watch a proportionate aesthetic. The hands, for example, only reach the edge of the case at four points and the minute markers lengthen towards the corners to compensate for this. The case lugs also have to be positioned just right. The overall effect is that the watch appears precise and refined, as the proportions are balanced.
What’s your philosophy to watch design?
Our overall approach can be attributed to our membership of the Deutscher Werkbund, a German industry association that promotes the use of craftsmanship and technology to create beautiful, useful and long-lasting products.
Bruno Belamich, creative director of Bell & Ross
With its large numerals and ability to withstand almost anything nature throws at it, a Bell & Ross watch is made to be read and to last. Design is an afterthought, according to Bruno Belamich, and yet, it’s because of this philosophy that makes the design of a Bell & Ross timepiece stand out.
Tell us about a hidden design element in a Bell & Ross watch.
What many people do not know is that the black case developed for our iconic BR01 is a direct inspiration from the dashboards and tools used in planes, especially military planes. Most dashboards are black to minimise light reflection, thus optimising the readability of the instruments and dials. Bell & Ross uses black cases with the same objective. It increases the legibility of the dial.
The materials in your watches are an understated core component.
Yes, for us, it’s not a question of design or style. We always opt for materials based on their properties. My favourite is titanium because it combines both strength and comfort. In addition to its hypoallergenic qualities, it has the ability to adapt to the body’s temperature. Grade 5 titanium has exceptional corrosion resistance properties, which enable the production of small parts that are light yet strong. And just to share with you, we will be using wood for the first time in the construction of our upcoming new watch case in October. Indian rosewood, to be exact. It’s a rare timber that offers high compressive strength yet has an elegant texture and beautiful fine grain.
We opt for materials for our watches based on their properties, not for design or style