On March 29th at 3:00pm GMT, the Lomond Chronoscope Kickstarter campaign closed with a funding total of £192,381. Over 600 people around this wonderful globe pledged to support Marloe Watch Company once more and bring to market another design. The target funding amount was £50,000, which was met, and surpassed, within 24 minutes.
The response to the campaign was wonderful, with praise not just for the Lomond design itself, but for all the supporting content; the video, photographs, diagrams, website, marketing and promotion. This made me think that many people perhaps don't realise just how much work is required to bring a product to market; with a watch and the deeply emotional reaction these small objects can impart, this work is especially important. In an effort to appreciate all this work, I'm going to open pandora’s box slightly and have a peek into the process, from initial design seed to finished campaign. It all started in December 2015, just before the first campaign for the Cherwell was launched.
I love hand-wound movements. It’s the very essence of Marloe Watch Company and the slow living culture we strive for. The Cherwell was a success in both the campaign and in connecting with people in a new way; by bringing more interaction with their time and in doing so understanding how better to use it. For the Lomond Chronoscope, we wanted to continue that connection but offer something a bit more contemporary. Everything starts with the movement and for the Lomond I knew quite early on what we would use.
Whilst choosing a movement for the Cherwell I had a lot of knowledge of the other movements available that didn’t quite fit the Cherwell brief. One of these movements was the SeaGull ST19 series. Not just the only real accessible manual wind chrono movement available today, it also has a long and fruitful history. Originally developed by Fabrique d’Ebauches Venus S.A in the 1940’s, the Venus 175 was used in a bunch of high-end timepieces, most notably by Breitling. However, as is the way in the watch industry, soon this 175 Caliber was copied by a Russian manufacturer and came to be known as the Strela. When Venus decided that they wanted to develop a new movement, the 180, they went looking for buyers for their Venus 175 caliber. The Soviets didn’t want it - they had their cloned Strela movement, but the Chinese just so happened to be looking for a movement to install in a new pilot’s watch to issue to their air force. Venus sold everything to the Chinese - machinery included. After the war the caliber soon filtered down to consumer watches and has ultimately become the SeaGull ST19 caliber. In part due to the history and because it’s a cracking movement, the ST19 still shares the robustness and accuracy of the Venus 175. It is regarded as one of the best movements to come out of China.
With the movement decided the design work can begin - everything starts with the movement; the dimensions of the calibre itself, the sub-dial distances, thickness, hand heights, stem position and removal, access for maintenance, dial and case fitting. It all has to be considered. From a simple set of sketches and roughing out ideas, the design is slowly translated over to CAD and refined. Over the course of 8 months the design evolves and adapts to each constraint and challenge discovered until the final design proposal is reached. Literally hundreds of hours have been ground to dust in the pursuit of the perfect design. During this period a number of prototypes are commissioned to check for integrity, ergonomics, any quirks arising from wearing and using them. It’s a vital part of the process and is essential to streamlining a design. We're considering investing in 3D printing technology next year, to bring this process of prototyping and iterative design in-house which would open up a whole new realm of hour crunching. Eventually after the design process is at a settled point, the attention turns to the presentation of these designs with the sole aim of garnering a reaction of desire; what can we do with these little objects that will make someone we do not know want it enough to part with their money? This is the question that drives all of the supporting promotional work. The first port of call is to start the campaign video, for this is likely the first thing to be seen by most - I think as consumers we’d all rather sit and watch something presented to us than actively investigate - it’s far easier to gather all the information you need from a 3 minute video than trawl through scrolls of text. It’s also the most powerful way to provoke a reaction.
There is a lot to be said about Kickstarter, and a lot more to be said about Kickstarter videos; a necessary part of launching a campaign is having a video. I approach our videos the same way I approach design; the necessities only. People like to see the product from all angles and they want to see the details. They don’t want to see someone dressing themselves in a tuxedo or driving a sports car. I keep it simple and use 100% real-world watches for our videos. Absolutely no CGI, but well thought out and streamlined scenes that present the watches in the most desirable way. All videos are shot and edited in-house. I have a number of movement rigs and setups that allow me to manipulate the watches in 3D space, to allow me to film these beautiful smooth arcs and spinning reflections. It would be infinitely easier to do this in CG, but I like the challenge. The same process is followed for the photographs. Pictures are the everlasting memories that will remain long after the campaign has ended. They are the images used for promotion, press and marketing; for sharing on social and posted on forums. Making watch photographs interesting is a difficult thing - there’s so many variables that can hamper an otherwise well composed photograph; lighting, dust, environment and reflections all contribute. Every photograph taken has to be scrutinised, edited for dust removal, colour correction and many other post-production techniques, to finally arrive at the finished image. There are over 200 images just for the Lomond campaign.
Once the video and photographs are done, work can begin on promotional content; the social side with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The more traditional side of advertisements, glossies and news-stands. Booklets, brochures and product manuals. All need to be produced within the same design guidelines for absolute continuity.
Finally. After creating this incredible body of work and supporting content, the Kickstarter campaign can begin and with it another set of things that need created; graphics for diagrams and stretch goals, logos and watermarks. By this point in the project the saturation fatigue is well set in - for over a year now the Lomond Chronoscope has been front and center in my mind. Whilst the excitement is still there, the overbearing emotion after this amount of focus, is relief. All that is left to do is push the launch button and hope with all that is left in the emotion tank, that people like it. Two things can happen at this point. The first is what we all hope; the supporting content does its job and delivers transparently the design, which resonates with the public, and the campaign is a success. The second is the other-thing-we-do-not-even-speak-of-for-fear-it-will-happen.
It pays and pays to be reminded that the difference between the first and second scenario is the very thinnest and most fragile of lines. That the campaign was a success; that all the effort to create every single photo, graphic and frame of video has paid off, is something of a miracle. In this day and age the quest for the next interesting thing moves at such a pace that it’s no wonder the majority of new and exciting companies miss out or fail to resonate with the demands of the consumer. We were lucky in that our vision and design was met with the reaction we felt it deserved.
So now, having let a few months pass and things settle into the production cycle, I look back on that year of work with pride. It’s a learning curve that never seems to flatten out. Every challenge I had to find an answer to and every compromise that was made all gets banked for the next project. The worrying thing is I am extremely excited for the next project, with the knowledge that it too will be a long and difficult road. The endless path to eventual success, I hope!