To know where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve been! It’s that age-old saying and the same is true for us. We're just over 5 years old now and in that time we’ve gone from rank amateurs to... semi-amateur watch producers!
In our quest to offer exciting and unique watches we've tried a whole number of techniques, colourways, case designs, dial designs and textures, all so that we can get a better understanding of what's interesting, what works, what doesn’t work, or what can be improved upon. So before we discuss the inspiration behind our upcoming models, we thought we’d have a quick look back at our short history and see which elements of each of our watches we love, and what things we’ve used for our new models.
Cherwell, Derwent and Lomond
These three watches were our entry into watch-land. The Cherwell was the debut and there’s still a lot of love for this design, which is really amazing. For me, whilst this design will always be the genesis of what has become an incredible profession, it isn’t one of my favourites. We used a number of techniques on the Cherwell which have remained for a number of our following designs, like the really heavily etched sub-dial and the polished applied batons, it has inspired a lot of what we have done, but it was early days in our learning curve and I feel some of our more recent releases are more comprehensive.
The Derwent was an unusual project for us, at that point we were still finding our feet, but we learnt many valuable lessons from this project - such as wacky dial designs being difficult to market and sell! They perhaps didn't fit with our brand direction at that time, and we didn't take much away from this project for future designs.
The Lomond was and still is the watch that most people ask us about. This was a wonderful process for me - I used the sub-dial texture and stumpy versions of the applied blocks from the Cherwell, but as this was an exercise in doing everything possible to make a unique chrono style watch that didn’t look like anything else, the rest was created from scratch. I think we managed to pull it off and it still holds a lot of love in my heart.
By this point we had a number of production runs and a bank of lessons learnt, so we knew going into our first Swiss Made watch that we had a good idea of what was possible and what to look out for. The idea behind the Haskell was a go-anywhere, go with anything watch, so whether you were on the subway or on safari, you could wear the Haskell. We also wanted it to be easily serviceable no matter where you went to get it fixed. The dial design concept was one of a constant sweeping scallop leading into a textured flat dial upon which a number of raised blocks would give that dynamic depth that we have tried in all our watches. Due to technical difficulties we couldn’t achieve the single piece dial without it compromising the maintenance aspect, so we went with a two piece dial and sunk the hour blocks into this scalloped surface - it worked really well and the most interesting dial in the Haskell range has been the sand - that sandpaper texture in the middle, coupled with the black nickel plated indexes really excites the eye.
We’ve gone on to try some theme and variations of the Haskell framework with the Field Standard and the various special editions, and I sort of prefer these to the original designs, because they take the Haskell from a more formal aesthetic to a more playful and adventure feel. Printing the markings instead of applying them in blocks does lose a little bit of that dynamic magic but both have given us such positive and interesting feedback.
The Coniston takes the concept of dial depth and light dynamics to a new level, and I’ve really tried to maximise the perception of distance from the top of the crystal to the moat of lume. It’s been designed to be almost like peering into a deep barrel with loads of levels. We used the plateau style of the central dial that we tried in the Cherwell and the same polished batons - it’s nice to start at the crystal and go all the way to the base and build back up from that with more layers. We liked the concept of skeleton hands overlapping and showing the hand underneath, but then also coming together to form an interesting multi-hand. One thing we tried on the Coniston and crossed our fingers that it would work, was the idea that we could, using magnification, project the movement outwards from within the caseback. We designed the caseback frame to angle downwards and terminate below the topmost surface of the movement, with the single domed crystal then sitting as close to the movement as possible. This would then, in theory through refraction, project the movement image to the curved surface of the crystal. In reality it worked maybe 90%, in that the movement feels like it’s right there to be touched, but not quite seamless.
The Morar was a personal triumph for me. I have always liked dive watches but in dive-watch-land it’s very hard to find a design that doesn’t look a lot like another. It’s just the style of watch that makes it difficult - that bezel with the 60 minute counter and the check marks from 15, it's a very rigid framework within which to work. But the concept of having these markings forever machined into the metal was really interesting. Dive watches, especially ones that go to 350m like ours, are typically quite thick. You have a very thick slab of sapphire on top, and a very thick caseback, to cope with the huge compression pressures at these depths. As a result, when not in water, the watch had the potential to look really fat - luckily we had an incredibly thin movement in the Miyota 9039 which we could build this frame around.
The dial uses the same sand texture as the Haskell and, due to the requirements of a dive watch being usable when it’s dark, we opted for a very thick printed index, in place of applied markings - this allowed us to layer up lots of luminous paint to give the Morar exceptionally bright lume. Because we were using a uniform case and bezel finish, we needed to make sure that the ergonomics of the Morar wasn’t compromised, hence the deeply machined rifling on the bezel that extends up to the edge of the top surface. All these little things took months to work out and work through, iterating each time with a deeper groove or wider spacing of texture. The end result is something that looks both solid and robust, but also very clear and concise. Someone once called it brutal and I absolutely love that. It is brutal, but shouldn’t a watch capable of surviving the very worst of mother nature’s brutality, match her power?
So that's where we've been. Coming into this year we've deployed many of these techniques in our new designs, and used a lot of our learnings - to generally up our game wherever possible. That what it's all about really - learning, improving, iterating, till you get to the standard you want to be at - which for us, is pretty high.