Interview — Aldis Hodge, Trustee Of The Horological Society Of New York
Fratello talks with actor, designer, and trustee of the Horological Society of New York, Aldis Hodge…
Rob Nudds: Hi Aldis, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. It’s a real pleasure to pick your brain. Tell me, when did you first fall in love with watchmaking? Does it run in your family? Were you exposed to it from a young age?
Aldis Hodge: Hey Rob, it’s a pleasure to speak with you as well. I actually exposed myself to watchmaking around 18 or 19 years old when I began designing watches. I picked up the interest as an alternative to my then architectural studies. Designing the aesthetics pulled me into learning more about how they functioned. A well-known design rule is that form follows function. So, in order to design a timepiece well, I had to learn how to make it work. That interest of mine grew wings and took flight. My love just continued to grow from that point.
RN: What aspects of horology appeal to you the most? Are you more interested in the technical side of things, the aesthetic, the philosophical, or something else?
AH: To a degree, it’s a healthy mix of all of these things. It starts with the physics: how inertia is repurposed and utilized to achieve great mechanical feats with such precision amazes me every day. I love figuring out how new components function so I can try to devise new ways to use them or improve them. When it comes to designing the aesthetics, I use this as an opportunity to engage my passion for architecture and it allows me to visually show the way I appreciate the technical aspects of the machine. I love pushing the boundaries of creativity. I feel that, as an innovator within any field, that is the primary job. So with my work, I seek to answer this question: How can I take something familiar and offer you a new and refreshing way to experience it?
RN: As a successful actor, you’ve worked with a lot of interesting people over the course of your career. Have you met any other watch fanatics?
AH: I’ve come across quite a few people who are passionate about horology. What I’ve typically experienced, though, is that they are underexposed to many great brands — typically micro-brands or independents. So what I love the most about having conversations with these folks is seeing their eyes light up and their minds explode with curiosity when I introduce them to an innovative brand they may not have been aware of or show them a new mechanism that they didn’t think was physically possible.
RN: That must be a very cool feeling. What’s the best watch you’ve seen on somebody’s wrist in the wild?
AH: There’s quite a few, but the ones that top the list would be Kari Voutilainen-Masterpiece-Chronograph, the Urban Jürgensen Reference 2, MB&F HM4 Thunderbolt, MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual Calendar, a Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1, Vianney Halter Antiqua, Hajime Asaoka Tsunami, and a Greubel Forsey 24 Secondes Vision.
RN: Wow. I need to start hanging out with the same crowd… Has your interest in watches led to any forged friendships or professional associations?
AH: Certainly. Horology has never been a hobby for me. It has always been a career choice and my professional objectives have, as a result, led me to meet many fantastic like-minded people that have helped me along my journey. My friendships have been instrumental to my business.
I’ve met engineers and manufacturers through my friends, have worked on collaborative projects, and have accessed different institutions because of the knowledge that has been shared, etc. I can even proudly say that my appointment as a Horological Society of New York member and Trustee is a direct result of my professional and personal relationships with people who have recognized my belief in the values of horology. With this appointment, they’ve granted me an opportunity to further expound on my ambitions for the future of watchmaking education and production. And for that, I’d like to thank Nicholas Manousos and the entire Horological Society of New York team.
RN: What kind of watch gets you excited? As you may know on Fratellowatches.com, we’re kind of obsessed with Speedmasters. Is there a model or a brand that has the same effect on you?
AH: There are plenty, but the kind of watch that gets me most excited is the watch that I’m currently manufacturing under my brand, A. Hodge Atelier. I’m looking forward to seeing an early prototype soon and I can’t wait. I’ve been working very hard on this model and I look forward to sharing it with the world.
RN: If you could invite anyone from the history of horology, living or dead, to give a lecture at the Horological Society of New York, who would you pick and why?
AH: It would absolutely be Benjamin Banneker, no question. I would love to pick his brain on how he figured out how to build his own clock, I would like to take up an apprenticeship with him, and I would love to collaborate on building a watch together.
RN: Do you have any aspiration to explore any other corners of watchmaking in the future?
AH: Being a watch designer, I naturally have many complicated horological goals (that I’m unable to share in detail) that are meant to push me far beyond my current standing. So from that perspective, yes, I absolutely will go much further, especially when it comes to sharing the education of horology with young students.
RN: Has your interest in watchmaking changed you as a person? Does it make you look at things in a different way?
AH: I don’t feel that I’ve changed in the sense of “becoming someone different”. The foundation and core of who I am and the future goals that I’ve set for myself have maintained. However, step-by-step, I feel as though I have evolved into becoming the man I’ve always aimed at being. My pursuit of watchmaking has served to reveal parts of me that are helping me take those steps. It has sharpened my views for sure. I’ve always paid attention to the details of any design. But this field of work will train your eye to distinguish the DNA of a detail in a surreal way. Design is a part of everything we see, touch, watch, taste, and feel in this world, and I love how watchmaking has enhanced the way I appreciate the detailed art in everyday life.
RN: Why do you think watchmaking and the services provided by the Horological Society of New York are important?
AH: For me, watchmaking has never been directly about simply telling time. It has always been about how we tell time. About how we experience time. So many moments that we cherish in life are punctuated and/or defined by the time we spent capturing that moment. I feel that, with watchmaking, we get to engage a greatly nuanced scientific practice that can help people mark the moments in their life that mean the most. And I think that’s a beautiful thing.