What Inspires a Watch Designer?

What Inspires a Watch Designer?

Esse quam videri is a Latin phrase meaning "To be, rather than to seem". Henry 'Birdie' Bowers embroidered this motto on the flag that he had attached to his sled, on the fateful Terra Nova expedition alongside Captain Scott to the South Pole. It's a phrase which drove him and the rest of the team onwards through extreme hardship and disappointment. Determined to face their monumental challenge as true adventurers, they paid the ultimate price for this determination, but have been revered as just that ever since - true adventurers. 

Authenticity is important in all aspects of life, and it's something upon which we build our business. Authentic engagement with our customers, real stories behind our watches, integrity and honesty in how we source materials and handle the manufacturing process; it's a crucial part of delivering the service that we are renowned for. Sometimes working in this way comes at a cost, but we wouldn't change it for the world. 

Where Birdie Bowers' motto comes in particularly helpful is within the realms of inspiration. We want to be ourselves. We want to utilise our unique personalities, experiences and skills and for them to shine through in our watches. We will never be a brand who copy another brand's designs, or who are easily swayed by trends in the tightly-crowded watch world. We don't preach what we can't or don't want to practice. We don't want to seem, we want to be

That said, the fact of the matter is that there's not a single product in this world that wasn't inspired by something else. Even the most unique, one-off items are the result of the multi-sensory input that we choose or are subjected to on a daily basis, subconsciously processed and harnessed as we go about our business. We cannot enter into a design process with a completely blank page, ready to create; human beings just don't work that way. There are always rough sketch lines, incomplete marks on the page from the minute, the hour, the day, the week that we've experienced, over which we trace and build our designs. What's important to us is that those sources of inspiration are authentic - that way, any resulting product is truly a Marloe Watch Company watch. This is why our watches have been inspired by and named after such a varied range of things - from lakes and rivers, to British adventurers, to discarded industrial equipment.

So let's take a look at those little sketch lines from the past week or so - the things that have caught our eye, made us stop and think, inspired us to create and to shape the designs that we are currently putting down on paper. They may or may not influence a physical element within a future watch; but either way, they have influenced us, and that is what moulds Marloe Watch Company. 

Taking centre stage this week is Gordon - one of the two founders of Marloe Watch Company, and the designer who brings collective inspiration together and translates it into the beautiful watches that we sell. 

What have you been listening to this week? 

This week I listened to a few interesting things. The first was a Radiolab podcast about something called Fu-Go. The story starts as a mystery solved, whereby in 1944/45 large orb-like shapes were sighted, floating randomly across fields near Oregon and British Columbia. One of these orbs was captured by a farmer, who was carried for miles whilst dangling from the chandelier below the orb. A federal investigation into this strange orb, tracing the very specific sand within the sandbags that were attached to the bottom of the orb, tracked their origin to one beach on the island of Honshu, Japan.

I won't ruin the story, but it's a fascinating episode on a podcast filled with these interesting and often heartbreaking stories. It's incredible to listen to tales of extraordinary invention in times of necessity, of harnessing nature for uses we couldn't ever comprehend.

 Abul Mogard

I've been listening to a track called "We Dream All The Dark Away" by Fovea Hex, remixed by a chap called Abul Mogard. It's 21 minutes of unmitigated beauty.


Whose work are you admiring?

My one major goal in life is to build a house. As such I'm always keeping an eye out for cool ideas, or things that I could do to maximise space for the money that I don't have. I keep coming back to something I found years and years ago for inspiration, because it's such a lovely open space with greenery all around. It's called The Brain and it was designed by an architect called Olson Kundig, for a filmmaker back in the 90s.

I've also been getting more and more excited about the concept transport sketching talents of Colie Wertz. It looks so simple on the surface and because of that it's easy to dismiss, but the ability to render, by hand, the varying textural qualities of different materials in some complex environments, and have it look incredibly realistic, is something I can only aspire to. I said as much to him as well. He liked my Tweet...

Where have you been recently?

Scotland is a great inspiration for me, not so much for architecture or such like, but more for the majestic environment and humble attitude of the people. Being there grounds everything and puts your mind at rest, giving the important things in your head time to flourish and allowing ideas to generate that might otherwise have been suppressed by all the noise of modern life.

At the weekend just gone I participated in the Brewin' Dolphin Ochil Hills Sportive with my wife, Dad and best pal. 47 miles of rolling Scottish hills has a way of bringing the best and worst out of you, and after reaching the end just over 4 hours later we were resolute in our desire to continue this torture, and sign up for the next one ASAP. A great day was had by all!

What are you wearing right now?

When I went to the West coast I forgot to take a jacket. It wouldn't be a Fraser outing without something going wrong. Anyway, our visit out West was going to be a wet and cold one, and a jacket is kind of essential. So we ended up in a tiny village called Tyndrum, which is abhorrently expensive, but the cold necessitated action. I got a jacket by a crowd called Skogstad, a Norwegian outdoor clothing brand. It's the first proper technical jacket I've ever owned and it's like a magic heated blanket, even in the bracing cold winds of West coast Scotland.

What's on your sketchbook?

At the minute I'm thinking about case forms and integrating compound curves that flow over the case and crystal. There's something really quite difficult about maintaining an elegance in a case design, whilst also bringing a fresh and exciting take to the table. Using varying finishes of steel is a good way to accentuate the lines or facets, but the underlying form has to still be beautiful before you can start to polish it. We are always thinking about new ways to do things, and we very much try to avoid standard looking cases.

The sketches above are not from any project we are actively working on, just doodles to see if there's a way of creating a classic profile case whilst keeping it on the more modern side. I'll then keep refining these sketches until I feel the idea is fully generated and resolved in my mind, at which point it's time to make the sketches and mind tricks into something more tangible and physically accurate, using Fusion 360 to sculpt and craft what could be our next design. From there we might think more about the in-house capabilities of 3D printing, to really refine the design until we are absolutely in love with it.

Then who knows...

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  • Great read! I love Tyndrum!. (Green Welly Stop?!). And yes, it is expensive! Stayed for a week there a few summers ago and it rained (alot) bar the day of arrival and day of departure, of course. In between the downpours we did mange to get out and about and admire the local, natural beauty which included a glimpse of a golden eagle. Is the pic one of Glencoe? We paid a pilgrimage to Glen Ative and did the Skyfall pose. So beautiful and calm there.

    Waiting for the next Marloe now!

    Martin Stone
  • Thanks. Good stuff. I love the space in the Kundig house, but I don’t particularly like Brutalism. And I’ve been thinking that cases is definitely an opportunity for you folks to explore. Maybe hands too. The hands on the special edition are unique looking and, in the photos, seem sturdy too, or they have presence might be the right way to put it. Sometimes hands seem so frail. Anyway, thanks again for the insight.


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