by Adnan Arif
Nicolas Lehotzky may not be part of the wristwatch industry and he may be a recent graduate but he has already personified his vision for the industry in an amalgam of interesting prototypes. I recently talked to him about them:
Wrist: I really liked your work and I’m sure you’ve had a similar reaction from others. How did you come around to developing the concepts? Do you have an affinity for watches?
Nicolas: As I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, I was constantly exposed to images of watches, either through advertisements, magazines and newspapers.
As I became older, I looked at these images with as much admiration, but I also started to notice a few things. Wrist watches, unlike cars, do not fall under massive regulations such as is the case with the auto-industry.
A watchmaker, or watch designer, has no boundaries except technical feasibility, yet nearly all watches are conceptually identical.
The great majority of watches use very similar forms of movements, feature a case, a graphic display, a clear window, and a bracelet. Today, the word ‘Watch’ brings to our minds this exact series of items, even though the main functional feature, telling time, can be shown in an infinity of ways.
I am naturally attracted to objects with a high degree of refinement and detail, and watches are a great area for me to work in. I created the radical watch project to communicate my vision. For this project, I chose brands that have nothing to do with watches in a way to drive my inspiration in a radically different way, to create strong, recognizable concepts. The CAT watch is not a Chinese made watch with a small CAT logo. The CAT watch ‘is’ what the caterpillar brand, it goes to its essence and is recognizable as belonging to that brand even without a logo.
Wrist: What was your inspiration for the Brembo watch?
Nicolas: The Brembo watch was inspired by the automotive disc brakes of the same brand. While the disc and the brake caliper are interpreted artistically, the final remains pretty literal. There are lots of high-end watches that are inspired by automobile brands. Breitling has a watch that is co-branded with Bentley for example, and you can also buy VW, Mercedes, Audi watches, among others.
These watches look like regular watches, but bear the car maker’s name. The ‘inspiration’ is thus limited to the presence of colors and materials. With the Brembo watch, I wanted to create something that would be recognizable as belonging to the automotive world even without any logo. Most people who I have showed the watch to have recognized that it is inspired by disc brakes, even though it has no logo.
Wrist: Part of the reason why the wristwatch category remains conservative when it comes to its design language is because consumers are much more conservative about watches than they are about other fashion category. Would you agree or have you had any experience that would suggest otherwise?
Nicolas: You are right, consumers of high-end watches are for the most part conservative and it would be difficult to sell them a watch that does not fit that conservative norm. However, I am looking at the long term: I do not feel that a young man today would want to buy the type of watches that their parents buy today. Technology and manufacturing have come a long way, and watches no longer have to look the way they do for reasons of feasibility.
While the conservative brands generally seem to remain that way, a slew of new brands has appeared over the last few years that definitely embraces modernity: Richard Mille, URWERK, MB&F, DeGrisogono Meccanico DG etc.. are very successful examples of this change. I anticipate this trend to increase in importance as today’s youth reaches a higher level of wealth.
Wrist: Since you have such a strong vision for watches, have you flirted
with the idea of working in the industry?
Nicolas: I have been fascinated with watches since I was a child, and I am thus especially excited about products with a high-level of detail and quality. Watches are a perfect fit, and I am looking to work in this industry.