There are a lot of new fashion watch brands launched every year but there are very few that truly breakout. Even rarer is a long term collaboraton between a breakout brand and a design firm that has gone from strength to strength each year. Such is the relationship between Nixon and Cinco.
Established in 1997, Nixon was an attempt to reboot the wristwatch accessory market in the action sport genre. Watches previously sold in skate and surf shops didn’t serve their market well and Nixon saw an opening. However, the brand quickly attained crossover appeal and now is a success story with a presence in over 25 countries and a product range that includes watches, soft goods and now headphones.
There are a number of reasons for Nixon’s success – their ability to conjure up enthusiasm in their action sport segment, their unorthodox brand positioning but most of all, it is their product design that adds a fresh twist to the current world of mainstream wristfashion.
So, ever curious, I recently spoke with Matt Capozzi of Cinco about their work with Nixon. Matt has always worked in the action sports industry and has had the unique opportunity of having worked both with Cinco as a client as part of Nixon and now as Cinco’s Product Experience Director:
Could you tell us how Cinco got around working with Nixon?
Matt Capozzi: This one goes way back. Before starting Cinco with 4 other friends Kirk James worked back in Vermont at JDK on many great projects including Burton Snowboards. One of his main clients was Andy Laats who would later start Nixon. Years after working together Andy was starting to formalize his plans with Chad Dinenna to start Nixon. They needed a design partner to help with many aspects of the brand from naming, identity and logo, to the overall look and feel as well as their product, packaging, retail and tradeshow booths. That was back in 1997 and we are still designing almost every technical product they make here at Cinco today. Since then like Nixon has grown, so has Cinco. We are now a studio of over 35 here in Portland bringing our wholistic brand, digital and product design strategy to many of the worlds top brands in the lifestyle, entertainment and consumer electronics space.
How would you define Cinco’s design approach when it comes to watches?
Collector’s Weekly did an interview with Vintage Wristwatch Collector and Author Jeff Hess which includes an interesting anecdote about how he hunted down the designer of the Hamilton Electric movement:
One guy led to another who led to another, and finally one guy said, “Oh, yes, those were designed by old Richard Arbib.” And the name came forward – Richard Arbib.
I asked if he was still living, and they said, “Oh, I’m sure he’s long gone,” but not wanting to give up, I got back on the telephone. I started in Pennsylvania where Hamilton was, calling all around the towns, looking for Richard Arbib. I found nothing, and finally I thought I may be on the wrong track and should start with big cities. I called New York City information, and sure enough there was a Richard Arbib listed. I called him up and said, “Are you Richard Arbib that used to design for Hamilton?” and he said, “Yes, I am. I’m amazed that anybody even knows that.” I told him I wanted to interview him, and he said, “Come on up.”
All objects are designed, more or less. But what makes a brand a design brand is the thought behind the objects it creates and the stories it tells about it. Rado has always leaned towards high tech materials i.e. ceramics and despite its interest in materials, the brand has always appeared to be more in the business of preserving its product DNA than continuing on the direction it had set for itself. That is, until now. Their recent collaboration with designer Jasper Morrison, the introduction of the Rado Design awards and their new slimmest ceramics wristwatch hints of a new direction.
We recently spoke with Matthias Breschan, the new president of Rado about his brand and its current
Rado is more than 50 years old now. How does it see itself today in the world of watches?
Matthias: In contrast to traditional watch brands obsessed with their history, Rado has always looked to the future. It distinguishes itself from other brands through its unique design and innovative material.
You are not known for collaborating with product designers or at the very least publicizing it but you collaborated with Jasper Morrison on the r5.5. How did that collaboration come about and how has the experience been?
The r5.5 collaboration with Jasper Morrison
Matthias: Jasper Morrison shares the same values as Rado. Therefore, he was an obvious choice for a partnership! We collaborated with him firstly for Rado’s 50th anniversary in 2007 where Jasper designed a special edition for the Rado Ceramica. Since, he created the award winning Rado watch box as well as the renowned r5.5. Rado has a very strong relationship with Jasper; he is a friend of the brand.
Will there be more collaboration on the horizon?
Matthias: Our partnership with Jasper Morrison is ongoing and we have involved him in various projects. However, we do not exclude other design collaborations in the future.
Rado’s new digital automatic watch
You’ve recently announced a Digital Automatic wristwatch and the marketing tagline was ‘The legend is now forever digital’. Does this mean that there will be more digital work in the future?
Matthias: With “the legend”, we are referring to the Rado Ceramica, the iconic Rado watch which won many design awards. This piece, already available in quartz, automatic and for both in 3 hands and chronograph versions, is now also available in digital. Yes there will be new digital developments in the future.
The Rado True Thinline Duo – Slimmest Ceramic Watch
You’ve launched a new website called Radostar.com at this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan. It’s a website that is aimed at creatives who want to publish and share their work. Then there’s the The Rado Young Design Prizes and the various sponsorships at design events such as the Design Preis Schweiz and the Dutch Design Awards. It seems that Rado is refreshing itself by actively playing a larger role in design culture and repositioning itself as a creatively engaged and design conscious brand. Could you comment on this and how will this new positioning play a role in the brand’s evolution in the coming years in terms of product?
Matthias: Rado has been active in the design field for many years. The design of Rado’s watches prove that its design positioning is actually not new! The Rado Ceramica, created in 1990, has won many design awards like the Red Dot or the G-Mark Award and is seen as a design icon. The Sintra, Rado True, V10K and r5.5 created since, all won design awards. Rado is today the most compensated brand with design awards.
Rado created the website Radostar.com in 2009 to support upcoming talents. One of the main features of this platform is to give its members exposure by allowing them to show their innovations to a large public. The site also allows artists to discuss ideas and share their thoughts. Rado participated in many established design events and decided this year to create its own award, the Rado Young Design Prize. The brand wants to share its unlimited spirit and encourage talented artists to make their dreams come true.
You do not have to be a fan of horology to take an interest in Maximilian Busser because he embodies our secret desire to follow our dreams or at the very least, for creative freedom. Max is to the watch industry, what avant garde film-makers are to the business machine of Hollywood.
He is the partner and the creative face of MB&F, a creative label for luxury timepieces that concentrates on building mechanical concoctions that are meant to demand attention.
We recently spoke to him briefly about his brand and creative process:
Most people claim to be passionate about horology but with you, it shows. How did this interest grow and evolve into a need to develop your own brand?
Max: MB&F is a life decision. All the time Harry Winston was growing and flying from success to success I should have been extremely happy, but the bigger the company was becoming, the more I was reaping the benefits (recognition, power, money…) and the less I was enjoying myself. And I just could not understand why. Then one day late 2001 my father passed away. That jolted me into rethinking my life “was I actually proud of my life ?” Everyone was proud of me, but I had the feeling that if I were to be run over by a bus tomorrow, I would not have accomplished something which made me proud.
I understood most of that feeling came from the fact that I was always thinking of what clients would want, and of how to grow the company. I realized that if I were the owner, I would do neither ! So I started dreaming of my “dream company”, the company which would help give a meaning to my life (at least my professional life) . It would have to be very small – less than 15 employees – because in small structures everyone works as if it is their company and the level of enthusiasm and energy is maximal. It would have to be centered on my own personal creative thoughts and never consider what clients would like or want. And finally it would allow me to work only with people whom I respect and admire. But of course all that was impossible… till we did it.
Eric Giroud, Designer of HM1
Designer Eric Giroud claims MB&F is the first real creative lab to further horological design and development. Given that this true, what does it say about the state of horological design currently in the wristwatch industry?
Max: Watchmaking has lived two very separate eras: before and after the quartz movement. During the 600 years before quartz, the mechanical movement was the only way of measuring time – we tend to forget that today. How do you measure a chemical reaction? how do you measure a delicate manufacturing process? how do you measure the distance of an artillery shot ? So the practicality (precision, reliability) of horology was the most important element. Our lives depended on it!
The quartz era changed it all. The mechanical movement is no longer useful or necessary. Amazingly enough, the watch industry continues reproducing the same products as before – yes there is an increase in performance with new materials in the movements (but is that performance necessary ?) and yes cases have increased in size and integrated many new materials, but fundamentally the structure of our movements and watches remains pretty well identical to what was done one hundred years ago.
Now, sales have soared so the Industry must be doing something right ! But 2010 signals to the world of watchmaking that there is another world out there begging to be explored. And it is just the beginning. A world where mechanical movements can be considered as kinetic art and be reworked by creators to become a real work of mechanical art on your wrist.
How involved are you in the creative process and who did you enjoy working with the most?
Max: I am totally involved! It is why I created MB&F: to be able to create what I believed in. Now the creative process is not a solitary one; our pieces are always developed with Serge Kriknoff, my partner in the company and the head of all that is technical, and of course Eric Giroud, a great designer and wonderful friend, with whom all our Horological Machines have been designed. All three of us are set on a path of unbridled creativity and personal self discovery which will lead us to places we have never even thought of!
Serge Kriknoff – Partner & CEO
The Jwlry Machine
It is said that you have a Nothing is impossible approach towards product development. But surely, there must be some limits?
Max: Winston Churchill once said relating to winning the Battle of Britain: “We did not know it was impossible, so we did it”. That resumes pretty much our whole creative and development process. Do not always reproduce what has already been done, do not accept that because it has not been done, it cannot be.
Of course every single one of our ideas necessitates to find new solutions and many months of testing, but if it was easy, it would probably take a big part of our fun away!
The HM3 Frog
I find it refreshing is that your brand is free of any tradition wristwatch brand euphemism and jargon. You describe your brand as a creative label. The designers you work with are your friends. The look and feel of your website is modern. Your blog covers people who design visionary futuristic objects. Could you comment on the thought process behind this direction?
Max: MB&F is a personal quest, so therefore what you see is in great part a mirror of who I am. When HM10 comes out in 2016, I will be able to witness the last ten years of my life just by looking at HM1 to HM10.
We are a creative label because we do not want to be constrained in our creativity. The people we work with are people we actually really like as human beings – it makes our work so much more a pleasure. Our website is our primary communication tool and is there to engage and inspire. Our blog is a way of sharing what makes our heart beat faster; it is also a way for me to avoid tunnel vision (it is easy when you set up your company with no means to get completely drowned by only what relates to it – the blog helps me keep part of my sanity !)
My father always used to tell me “treat others as you would want to be treated” and at MB&F we have made it our philosophy.
The HM4 Thunderbolt
Your HM4 Thunderbolt was recently awarded the prize for Best Concept Watch at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve 2010. How important is this milestone for you and do you think you achieved what you set out to do with MB&F?
Max: Good grief ! We are just at the beginning of what we have set upon creating ! HM4 is nevertheless a milestone for MB&F; probably looking back in a couple of years we will realize there will have been a before and an after HM4.
We do not create for awards, we create for the pleasure of pushing our own boundaries, we create to give a meaning to our professional life, but of course the recognition of our peers is very gratifying. There is nevertheless a weird sensation that we have been rewarded by the same establishment we have desperately tried to break free from!
Max Busser at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve 2010 giving his acceptance speech for winning in the Best Concept Watch category
Looks can be deceiving and that is certainly the case with the Marc Jenni Prologue wristwatch (pictured above). The deception is revealed when one tries to switch between it’s three functions – wind, date and time. In order to switch between them, there is a large selector button.
All you do is press it to to the desired function and then rotate the black wheel that wraps around the case to set it and then you realize that what you are holding is fresh and new or at the very least something you haven’t seen before and you would be right because it’s the world’s first laternal winding mechanism.
The watch is designed by the brand’s namesake, Marc Jenni and we spoke to him about his watch and his new brand that he co-founded with his friend, Vicente Mafé:
Adnan: The Prologue is a well thought-out design. How did you find the inspiration for it?
Marc: Thank you for your compliment! It was like a puzzle; you start with placing the first piece and all following items are linked together with its natural structure until its completion. The first piece of the puzzle was the turning ring. It steered the whole design approach. Since the wheel is turning around the watch case, it needed to go “through” the lugs of the case and it resulted being the main DNA of the watch.
Another design approach was the use of curves and counter-curves. The case lugs and watch hands illustrate best this approach. Finally, the dial layout has been placed into the context as if an explosion occurred in the center of the watch and the projectiles were fired regularly over the dial plate tracing the miscellaneous indications and applications.
At the end of the day one criteria is of essence; is everything well thought out and perfectly balanced? For this I do not have any explanation, this approach must lie somewhere in me…
Adnan: You’ve said that you’ve never wanted to be a watchmaker. How did you discover your passion for it and what led you to decide to develop your own brand?
Marc: I grew up with my father operating a watch store in Zurich, himself being a 2nd generation watchmaker. I was somewhat already familiar with that business; I wanted to explore other directions and finally to find my own way. I did not want to become “another” third generation watchmaker by simply following the footsteps of my ancestors! I needed to discover my own motivation. Architecture was one option I was checking out – but it did not satisfy me. Director in the film industry was another dream…
Finally, I gave watchmaking a try and after miscellaneous stages in the industry, I found what I was looking for. I needed to bring to life – to create – what I have in mind. During my apprenticeship, I learned how to manufacture watch components from scratch and how to transform simple steel or brass plates into small and functional components. Over time I found out that the art of watchmaking best suits my skills and visions. It actually reflects my own personality! I feel stimulated and well balanced when I work; I think that’s how I could describe my passion.
I think developing my own brand is a synthesis of my competences and ambitions. It is a new way I wanted to explore in giving my visions and creations liberty and independency. I worked for 10 years as an employee for a renowned American jeweler and I always knew that this is just a period in my life. An important period however – I needed to learn and grow prior to establish my own company. You need to be ready for such an adventure!
Adnan: What do you envision for the future of the brand?
Marc: I like to present unusual new concepts and innovations. I still have many more ideas which are waiting for being unveiled one day. I envision the creation of a small dedicated team with which the future concepts will turn into reality even faster.
With hard work and dedication, we should be able to place the brand exactly there where we want it to be, an iconic watch with its own character and appeal. A must have for any watch connoisseur and collector!
COLOR-TEC “Flying Horses”. The case was made from hand forged multi-color mosaic steel
Martin Pauli, the Man behind Angular Momentum
Very few people know much about Angular Momentum, the swiss watchmaking company that specializes in artisan wristwatches and what they don’t know would surprise them because AM is a one man creative team. Sure, there are a number of watchmakers that run their own brands but they peg their personalities on their watch brand and usually don’t have the scale of work that Martin Pauli has done.
I recently spoke to Martin about his company and this is what he had to say: (more…)
We’ve seen a number of online stores dedicated to vintage fashion wristwatches, but none of them offline and certainly none of them with a ‘Wimps stay out’ sticker running across it’s front windows, that is, until I spotted a small french wristwatch chain that not only housed a few vintage favorites but had its own eccentric look and feel.
The store’s called Chez Maman which is french for ‘In/to Mama’. I’m not going to pretend that I get the slang in the name but it’s definitely not a traditional cookie cutter watch store.
So I chatted up Eva, the owner of the store and this is what she had to say about her store:
Adnan: I like the look and feel of your store. It’s got it’s own unique flavor. What was your idea behind doing the store the way you did?
Eva: Unfortunately I don’t have any great story behind…I’m not really a “watchperson” from the beginning, but I’ve always been working with fashion or interior decoration.
Adnan: So what are watches to you?
Eva: For me the watches I sell are really only accessories, not really what you would call “timepieces”. Perhaps some of the vintage could be, because they are rare but not the new brands.Most of my clients come back regularly to buy, like they were buying jewellery or clothes.
In my shop, decoration and music is very important. It’s a concept where I want the clients to enjoy their time in the shop but also start to see watches as accessories and not only like something they buy and then keep using every day for the next ten years. I think that’s more the work of Rolex… I’ve become very passionate about watches since I started but I still can’t open one up to look inside (ha ha).
My friend Tom, who runs The Watch Lounge, recently interviewed Eric Giroud, the designer behind the Opus 9, the HM No.1 and the Glissiere Tourbillon. In the interview, Eric talks about his inspirations behind his work, his creative struggles and dishes out advice for up and coming designer. You can read the interview here.
I’ve always had an affinity for Diesel watches so I could not believe my good luck that I was able to put a face to some of my favorite designs when I recently came across Jason Ice. Jason nests at Fossil and designs for the Diesel license. He was kind enough to talk to me about his work:
Wrist: Part of Diesel’s appeal is that their designs are fresh in an industry where most brands are watered down licenses that play it safe. Most of the more interesting work done in the fashion watch field was back in the early period with Lip, Pierre Cardin and others. What is your take on it?
Jason: For the history of fashion wristwatches… I don’t know how I feel about this. It’s a back and forth between high end watches and fashion watches. The trick with fashion watches is making a cool product that everyone can afford, all the while having an appeal that makes someone walk by and be like… I gotta get that watch, it’s so cool. I think that is something that luxury wristwatches does, it’s just on a luxury level… does that make sense? Some of my favorite “luxury fashion” watches are from Corum and U Boat.
For Diesel… I am sure to any fan of wristwatches, you can see the influence of watch design from the past. In Diesel, we try to do what LIP did back in their heyday. Be unique. Be different. Let the design speak for itself. People gravitate to what we do in Diesel because most of what we do in a Diesel watch, is something very unexpected!
Wrist: How did you get into watches?
Jason: I got into designing watches by being at the right place at the right time. I was doing a production job at Fossil, assisting the graphics group. I was sitting in the break room one day sketching some of my graffiti style characters and a guy from the product design group saw my sketches.
He asked me if I could draw watches. I told him, I didn’t know but I’d give it a try. So, I did a test project, he dug it… and I have been doing watches for the past 9 years now… haha… Never thought I’d be designing wristwatches. (more…)
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.
The Brembo watch
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.
Time Tv has a video interview with Nicholas Hayek aka Mr. Swatch which includes a candid excerpt about the circumstances under which he saved the Swiss watchmaking industry from caving in: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
Wize & Ope is a new kid on the block – A fashion wristwatch brand that bases its entire concept on customization. You can take a W&O watch and change the design by sliding out design slides and straps and remix it anyway you like.
I recently got a chance to take to the creative and one of the partners behind the brand, Victor Louzon:
Wrist: How did you guys stumble into this?
Victor: It all started when we created the character Wize who is a kid traveling around the world and discovering trends, cultures, and environments. Wize is very open to discovering new thing. This is where we took the word “ope”, from “open”. As wize travels and discovers the world, he transforms and adapt, and becomes Ope.
He finds out, that the world is great also because of its all the differences and cultures that exist. This is why the world is great, and that he wants to embrace it.
Once I created that character and his philosophy, I found the watch concept, that was following the same track, which was to be able to transform, and change depending on fashion, trends, environments.
How the W&O watch works
Wrist: How did you guys get into watches? Do you a background in the industry?
Victor: When I was a kid, my father was a watchmaker, and I grew up playing in cases full of watches, it was my playground. I repaired, destroyed, transformed, and wore them. I believed it stayed in me, and made me want to create a brand one day.
Our background in the industry is mainly around Odm, which we were the first to launch in Europe, and set a strategy in the fashion business. We have been distributors in the fashion industry of many other brands, such as the mythic brand from San Francisco – Emily The Strange.
Wrist: Your father was a watchmaker?
Victor: Yes, my father who passed away about 20 years ago, was a watchmaker. He started to distribute watches made in France and Switzerland. He created a brand in 1973 called Yonger & Bresson that he sold in late 1989 to a Swiss group.
The brand was very famous back in the day and still exists. It’s currently owned by Ambre Group in France.
I heard about watches my all youth. But actually, I was more a big fan of Casio, Calculator watches and Robot transformer watches released in the eighties.
Wrist: You have said that you came up with the characters first before the watch. Are you suggesting that you never really planned on the watches first?
Victor: Yes, I was travelling in Japan with my wife in December 2006, and I was overwhelmed by the cultural difference I saw there. One night on the top roof bar of the Park Hyatt Hotel where I was staying, I drew Wize under the cup paper. And it all came from that.
Victor’s partner in Wize & Ope – Benjamin
The watches came about after a month as I was looking for a way to transform my old gshock watch. We created the concept, and it all made perfect sense, like it was all mattered to happen. And we took it from there.
Wrist: What are you the future plans for the brand?
Victor: The brand is not only a watch brand, but a lifestyle brand. This is where we want to go. In the future, we will add accessories such as sunglasses, trading cards, comic books, and many other accessories. One of our dream is to come out with a cartoon on Wize & Ope.