Thomas Letourneux, co-founder and creative director of Hong Kong watch brand MMT, spoke to Dezeen Watch Store about the launch of its first ever wristwatch – which has a hidden mechanism for adjusting the time.
Letourneux and his friend Baptiste Guedez set up MMT in 2011. Taking a less conventional route into the industry, the pair began by designing a range of pocket watches before moving onto manufacturing the C Series – launched as the brand’s first wristwatches this summer.
“To all MMT watches, we bring subtle elements that make the watch a truly personal item,” Letourneux told Dezeen. “A watch being a symbolic piece, we want the wearer to not only carry an elegant accessory but also to relate to the product through the unique experience it provides.”
The watches in the C Series are based on circular forms and patterns, and include concentric rings across the face and a hoop-shaped metallic case.
“The letter C is for ‘circles’, everything in this watch is about circles,” said Letourneux. “Everything turns around one point: index, numbers, dial finishing.”
To keep the designs “very simple yet out of the ordinary”, the crown that is usually found on the side of the watch for setting the time has been removed. Instead, the wearer is able to adjust the hands by pressing a button on the back of the watch case.
“The core principle of analogue watches is that the hands turn around their axis and we wanted to emphasise this idea, to focus on this essential cycle of time,” said Letourneux.
“To achieve this, we are using a secret component: the C Series watches are powered by a unique movement from Switzerland that doesn’t require a crown to set the time. Therefore the watch outline remains perfectly round and uninterrupted – this is highlighted by the fine grooves circling the watch case.”
The C Series is available in a range of strap and case colour combinations, and with or without numbers on the face. Check out the variations stocked by Dezeen Watch Store.
Read below for a full transcript of the interview:
Tell us about MMT – what are the brand principals and what led you to start making watches?
MMT is first a story of friendship: Bap and I met in Hong Kong and MMT really started as conversations around a few drinks. We love beautiful objects, and we are both fascinated about time and space. This led us to start working around the pocket watch: such an iconic object talking so simply about an immense concept.
A watch being a symbolic piece, we want the wearer to not only carry an elegant accessory but also to relate to the product through the unique experience it provides. To all MMT watches, we bring subtle elements that make the watch a truly personal item.
For instance, all our pocket watches come with a removable wood shell. By using wood, each watch is unique in texture and colour. In a different manner, our wristwatches are powered by a special movement with which you can set the time at the back of the watch, changing the look of the watch as well as the way you interact with it.
What is the story behind the brand name?
The three letters stand for ‘memento’, a word that reflects perfectly our idea for the brand. A memento can be any object, what makes it special however is the emotional value attached to it: whether it reminds you of a person, a place, this object does more than simply filling a functional purpose.
Our first watch was actually called Memento. We then shortened the name as we wanted less intrusive branding. We also like these three letters because they open up to many other words that relate to our products: moment, movement, momentum…
What watch do you wear?
At the moment, I wear an MMT R17, full silver with the walnut wooden bezel. I think this model represents MMT’s DNA quite well: very simple yet out of the ordinary.
What was the first watch you ever bought?
It was a Casio calculator watch, silver with many buttons. I was about 14 and I found it so cool to carry something so special around my wrist. To be honest I still like this watch. Although its design comes from a very different technological approach as an MMT, it is kind of the same idea of a little machine that not only tells the time, but somehow makes you dream and travel.
MMT started out by designing pocket watches. What led you to make the move to start making wristwatches?
True that we started by releasing pocket watches, though it never was initially our intention to be exclusive to that particular product. MMT is a brand about time machines, we may do clocks or hourglasses in the future! Wrist watches were simply another angle to work on.
Can you tell us about the design of the new C series?
The core principle of analogue watches is that the hands turn around their axis and we wanted to emphasise this idea, to focus on this essential cycle of time.
The letter C is for ‘circles’, everything in this watch is about circles. Everything turns around one point: index, numbers, dial finishing. To achieve this, we are using a secret component: the ‘C series’ watches are powered by a unique movement from Switzerland that doesn’t require a crown to set the time. Therefore the watch outline remains perfectly round and uninterrupted – this is highlighted by the fine grooves circling the watch case.
Did you have any influences when designing the range?
We were obviously very influenced by Modernist movements: form truly followed function. We always questioned what the user needed or not from the watch, we wanted details to be purposeful.
Also, we tried to play with the notion of scale. Bap and I are fascinated by the relativity of time and space, how different one may experience them from different points of view. We wanted our watches to reflect this depth in some way, to be an object that lets itself discover over time: the watch may appear very minimal from a distance, yet when you look closer, details will reveal, such as the embossed dial, the unique reflections of the domed glass.
Why are some models numberless, and others are not?
We are always very cautious with graphics: type fonts carry strong reference to a specific time period or trend, and we hope our watches can be as free as possible from these references.
Therefore, we design our products to carry very little text elements. In the other hand, hour numerals do have a functional purpose so we customised our own fixed-width font to use on our models with a numbered dial.
What materials did you use?
All the visible metal parts are in stainless steel, from the strap buckle to the case back. The watch case is in 316L stainless steel, which is the standard for high-end watches. The hardened mineral crystal glass is shaped as a dome, which generates very subtle reflections. For the straps, we are using genuine calf leather on both sides.
Did you face any challenges in the manufacturing process?
The manufacturing challenge for the ‘C series’ is mostly related to its unique movement. In order to set the time, we had to integrate a push-button at the centre of the case-back. It had to be well sized to be easy to use but not protruding so that you could not press it by accident.
Why did you set out to make an analogue product over digital?
It’s really about the representation of time: it is impossible to show time but by giving it a spatial interpretation, an analogue display is what comes closest. While a digital display only gives a number to a specific moment, the hands give you the location of the present time in relation to past and future, much more poetic!
Why do you think that wristwatches are still relevant today?
Today, a lot of products around us are about performance, about doing something faster or better. Wristwatches (and pocket watches!) are part of the few that not only fulfil a function but also carry a strong symbolic value. Time is a mystery that drives all our lives and watches are a reminder of that.