In a rare interview, Uniform Wares design director Michael Carr spoke to Dezeen Watch Store about the creative process behind its latest range of timepieces: 351 Series (+ interview).
Set up by two British design graduates in 2009, the Hackney-based watch maker has earned a cult following during its short history with its modern and restrained aesthetic.
Uniform Wares watches are directly inspired by engineering gauges and industrial equipment, featuring simple faces and no numbers or unnecessary design details.
“Often the toughest thing isn’t coming up with the designs themselves, but narrowing them down to which ones we should and shouldn’t run with,” Carr told Dezeen Watch Store.
Released in November 2013, the 351 Series is the studio’s most current watch and takes an ambitious step away from its usual industrial style towards a classic sports-cum-diving watch.
“This model was a somewhat controversial decision for us as it is a slight departure from what we have done before, but this also made it more enticing for us to approach in a different way,” he explained.
“After launching our previous collections with the same movement and dial format for each reference, we thought it would be interesting to approach each one independently with a slightly different purpose and character in mind.”
The series is directly inspired by traditional vintage sports watches, but extends this theme with the inclusion of movements and dial layouts that bear a closer resemblance to dress watches.
He added: “We wanted to see how far we could stretch this format and steer its design back towards our own philosophy.”
“Being versatile as a brand and willing to take a few risks is important to us, especially at this point in our path.”
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Michael Carr:
Why did you decide to create three distinct references and watch hands for the 351 series?
This model was a somewhat controversial decision for us as it is a slight departure from what we have done before, but this also made it more enticing for us to approach in a different way. After launching our previous collections with the same movement and dial format for each reference, we thought it would be interesting to approach each reference independently, with a slightly different purpose and character in mind.
The format of the 351 Series is something that we were aware would be familiar to people, as it draws inspiration from a common format amongst vintage sports watches. However, we wanted to see how far we could stretch this format and steer its design back towards our own philosophy. So, incorporating a selection of movements and dial layouts more strongly associated with dress watches was quite appealing to us.
It was a risk, but something that we wanted to try. Being versatile as a brand and willing to take a few risks is important to us, especially at this point in our path.
How did you arrive at the three designs used, and were there any interesting concepts that didn’t make the final cut?
As usual there were lots of different designs drawn up before we reduced them down to the final selection. Some designs were dropped completely, whereas others ended up influencing the final designs. Often, the toughest thing isn’t coming up with the designs themselves, but narrowing them down to which ones we should and shouldn’t run with.
This is the first time you’ve included a day-date complication – is this a sign of you moving towards more detailed watch faces in future?
No, not really. We still design all our watches in the same way as we always have, it’s just that the purpose and focus of each model is different. I would say it’s more of a sign that we are looking to show our versatility as a brand and, though we have a strong identity, we are not simply limited to the formats we have produced so far.
How does this series fit within the overall UniformWares aesthetic?
The 351 Series was always going to be a little divisive for us as a model, but it’s something we wanted to do as a brand. We feel that it’s important to be honest and introduce models we like for whatever reason – we are confident that people will appreciate us more for that.
We are very proud of the previous collections we have launched, they fully represent the bread and butter of our philosophy, but these were each designed with a particular purpose in mind and the 351 Series had a different purpose yet again.
There are many more challenges which we have yet to approach and though we will approach these with exactly the same philosophy, we don’t want to be restricted by what we have done so far. Instead, we hope to take what we have learned and continue to develop on that.
Why do you use a family-run German company to manufacturer your watch straps?
Our straps are a very important part of our offering and something we feel is often overlooked or somewhat of an afterthought with many brands. We have been very happy with the straps we have made with previous models, but as with everything, we strive to improve where we can and started to see limitations to what could be achieved.
After a lot of digging around on our various research trips around the world we found a company with a strong history and a beautiful production process. They really impressed us and we felt they were capable of matching our attention to detail to produce a premium quality strap.
Why did you use a domed sapphire lens for the 351 Series?
Domed lenses are a common feature amongst many of our favourite classic watches, so we were eager to include these at some point. The 351 Series and the other collections in the C-Line (152 Series and 251 Series) are classically inspired. A domed lens also gives a feeling of curvature to the design, feeling more ergonomic on the wrist.
Furthermore, sapphire glass is the most hard-wearing type of lens material and seemed the most logical pairing for the ceramic bezel, which is notoriously scratch resistant. Both of these features are something we are looking at using more from here on.
Why did you use a ceramic bezel?
We are always on the look out for innovative new materials to incorporate in our designs, from both a functional and aesthetic point of view. Ceramic is something we had been looking into for some time, but had been waiting for the right platform to include it in. The wider bezel and the desire to produce an elegant take on a sports watch offered this.
How has the 351 Series been received by the watch community?
We have been really happy with the feedback. We were always aware that this was a slight departure from what we had done previously and were prepared for it to cause a slight division in opinion amongst our audience, but generally the response has been really positive. Hopefully we have also reached out to a few new customers with this collection.
Click here to see more watches by Uniform Wares at Dezeen Watch Store.