AnOrdain Alters Production Strategy To Meet Demand And Fuel Creativity
If you’ve been following the Fratello Instagram account recently and paying particular attention to our stories, you might have noticed that I popped up to Glasgow a couple of weeks back to visit anOrdain founder Lewis Heath and his delightful team of artisans based in the East End of the city.
While I was there I learned an awful lot about how enamel dials are produced, and the patience it requires in not just the painstaking research and development phase, but thereafter. Oftentimes, the team is firing three dials simultaneously in the hope just one will survive the delicate process. The method is truly amazing but the craftspeople behind that method are more amazing still.
I expressed my admiration to Lewis for not only what his team was doing but also for how different it was from the rest of the industry and especially from anOrdain’s price point competitors (these Swiss-movement-powered masterpieces with hand made dials cost less than 2K including VAT). That, as it turned out, was the genesis of a very interesting discussion indeed.
A move to batch production
Lewis had already noticed anOrdain was different. The problem was, he hadn’t quite figured out what to do about it. He was, as it happened, very close to his decision as, a few days after returning from my trip, he called me to explain the direction he’d decided to take with the brand and asked my thoughts upon it.
Honestly, I thought the move from series to batch production was a smart, thoroughly mature decision for any artisanal brand owner to make. Was it an easy decision? No. Could it be walked back in years to come if it proved unsuccessful? Of course. But most crucially, this decision fits with what the brand is doing. It fits with the goal: to produce beautiful, hand-crafted timepieces on Scottish soil. Sure, the heart of these watches comes from Switzerland, but their soul comes from the land in which those enamel dials first feel the lick of flame.
There are very few brands for whom this production model is a good fit. I would say that another one of my favorite brands that has executed the strategy well is Schofield Watch Company. Schofield, however, is mostly down to one man; anOrdain has 16 employees and grand dreams of movement modification and evermore ambitious enameling techniques. This is a bold move, but one I am confident the brand’s current and soon-to-be fans will abide for the good of this exciting young maker. For those of you that haven’t heard this news from Lewis directly, I’m going to do something quite unusual and include it below, because I think these are words more eyes should see.
A word from anOrdain — Lewis Heath
When people ask what anOrdain is all about, my first thought is “experimentation”. We’re a watch manufacturer, but we’re also a group of individuals from a myriad of design and engineering disciplines, fusing traditional craft with modern design. It’s that fusion and process of experimentation where progress is most often born.
Since selling our first watch in 2018, we’ve been busy. Enameling is an inherently unpredictable practice – the risk of cracking and warpage is forever present. Starting out, we would produce three or four watches in a good week. Just as often, all the hard work would be scuppered and that number may be one or even none.
Thankfully, our production processes have been refined and our capacities improved since those early days, but genuine vitreous enamel will always take time.
I know I speak for everyone here when I say there is a genuine appreciation at anOrdain for our customers. You’re a patient and friendly bunch who allow us to do what we love, and there are many of you who get spoken about in the studio like old friends (as an aside, we were looking through a box of reject dials yesterday, and I was very taken by how the enamellers could reel off who each was for, what was wrong with them, why it happened etc., in what looked to me like a collection of perfectly good, mostly identical dials!).
So, letting anyone down with late deliveries is something we take to heart and, combined with the challenging nature of enamel and a constantly full order book, there is a perennial pressure on the team. The disruption caused by the events of the past year has only served to exacerbate this.
The biggest challenge faced at anOrdain is balancing production with developing new techniques and prototypes; we’re in the unusual situation whereby our production line is also our R&D department! Customer orders will always take priority, and rightly so. But this leaves us brimming with ideas and precious little time to spend exploring them.
With this in mind, we’ve decided to experiment with a system of batch production; we’ll alternate between periods spent on production and periods spent on development and place watches on the website when they are available, rather than making-to-order as we do now.
In all honesty, this is not an easy decision to make. We have a healthy and growing business with 16 mouths to feed every month, and the idea of turning off our income stream for several months is daunting. But, we have so much waiting to be explored and our current model of fitting development piecemeal around production is a poor use of time and potential.
It will do away with the lengthy build period on orders and I hope be a much more sustainable model — for you and us.
This new production method changes nothing when it comes to the care and time that goes into our watches. Our enamellers are still carefully hand-crafting every dial, our watchmakers still assembling and regulating each individual watch to match your requirements. We’ll just be able to dedicate uninterrupted time to this now, as we will R&D.
We’ll keep you posted on batch release dates and look forward to sharing some exciting new watches. Please do get in touch with me if you’ve any questions.