Do you own an analog – or mechanical – watch which doesn’t say Swiss or German made on the dial? Dutch watches for example? Most of us probably not. There is a real fascination and respect for the mentioned countries. Yes, they really earn and deserve it, but I do like brands who are proud of there non-Swiss origin and dare to come out for it. Maybe these brands still have ‘Swiss made’ on the dial since it stands for quality and history for the average buyer. Yet, some do promote/design there watches with lots of links to their homeland. Let me try to explain why I support these designs outside the obvious and well established countries.
Besides global trends and guidelines every country has its own made design rules and inspirational designers. They bring in fresh air into the “watch house”. When you grow up in Switzerland and see Swiss watches and designs every day, you indirectly pick up things and implement this in your designs and way of thinking. When you’re living in Denmark in a remote little town, but with internet and local design principles that’s a whole different ballgame. Ok, you’ve got access to the great brands to sniff up inspiration, but your roots will also be included subconsciously if you let them in. This is where things get interesting in my opinion.
Way back, (watch) designs were more diverse. Really. There was no internet to promote your designs and watches, no massive watch exhibitions (besides the Swiss ones) and brands were more equal from a financial point of view. In other words, you’ve had to invent more things on your own and it was harder to gather inspiration. As we know now, small companies are being eaten by the big players and everything is blending into one or a few. Designs are more than ever infected by each other. Brands have a hard time in designing news things and we see a LOT of ‘heritage’ models or reproductions. Again, kudos for the independent company who is trying to keep options open, generate new concepts and keeps independent.
I’m mainly talking about external looks here. When talking about watch movements there’s an important condition: knowledge and research. While everybody can design the aesthetics of a watch, you can’t just draw an improved version of the legendary Valjoux 72 for example. Though, there are companies who are also accepting the challenge to design and create their own movement or improved movements based on old principles. Like the Dutch brothers Grönefeld who recently did win again with there Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire (Grand Prix in Warsaw).
Let’s stay a little longer in the Netherlands. I have deep respect for the development of the Dutch watch industry in the last 5 years. It looks like there is rising a true bundled force and several micro-brands successfully launched their unorthodox designed watches. Also nice to see that they’ve set up a platform which brings together budget-friendly and high-end watchmakers. One of the micro-brands I’d like to point out is ‘Florijn’. Creator Hans Heuvelman has successfully created his own designed diver. It has al kinds of nice features at a friendly entry-level price point (below 400 Euro!). To mention a few: automatic Seiko NH35 movement, sapphire crystal and 300m water resistance. The brand is proud of its roots and ‘Dutch Design’. He asked me to create an illustration to underline the roots:
Find more about the Florijn dive watches on the website.
OK, from a distance it’s easy to say. Designing a watch has become hard. But do not let this limit your ideas and spirit. Small or big brand, you’re contributing to the world we are fascinated by. Not every design will be an instant hit, but as long as you try and review, the watches will stay diverse and not become too uniform and boring. I would love to hear and read your opinion about this topic. Please leave your comments below. Thank you for reading!
Teun van Heerebeek is contributor and visual artist to Fratello Watches. With his Watches & Pencils illustrations and other articles he likes to explore the vast watch-lands in all its diversity. His love for watches mainly originates from his eye... read more