He's the man responsible for the appearance of Chronotechna watches. Swiss designer Adrian Buchmann talks about his journey to watchmaking and the search for inspiration.
He grew up in the small Swiss town of Le Locle near the French border, one of the epicentres of the Swiss watchmaking industry, so today he jests that he had only two choices in life - to either herd cows in the surrounding mountains, or work with watches.
"Rolex had their head office across from our house, and on my way to school I would pass the Zenith and Tissot factories, so during my childhood I was constantly surrounded by watches," smiles Swiss designer Adrian Buchmann, who is responsible for the appearance of Chronotechna watches.
Though Adrian's parents never made watches, his mother worked all her life in Le Locle in a watchmaking school, where little Adrian would go to play with miniature screwdrivers and fell in love with the aroma of oil from the omnipresent CNC machines. That's another reason why he quickly knew what his future career would be.
"I always liked drawing, coming up with various things, and solving problems, so I quite naturally ended up in design. And that's probably why watches took precedence over those cows," recalls the thirty-year-old Swiss native who has been with Chronotechna since its rebirth in 2018.
Adrian, let's start with a tough question: How do you know if a watch is beautiful?
Beauty is such a complex thing, and I don't believe in one absolute type of beauty. Beauty is influenced by many factors: culture, people, context, the same thing can be seen as beautiful on one country and ugly elsewhere. The same goes for food. And don't forget that sometimes at first glance you don't like something, but as time passes, you end up appreciating it, and even loving it.
I get it, beauty is a subjective thing.
Yes, that's why I try to not judge the design of watches and other products, but rather to understand their purpose, their aim, and what emotions they are trying to evoke. Saying something is beautiful or ugly is almost an insult to those who made it or bought it.
All right, let's try a different angle - what decides whether you like a given watch?
Proportions, emphasis on detail, a story, background, and in general every individual component of a watch. For example, I also think the passion of those who are behind the watch is important. That's because beauty is in the details.
Is there a watch that's fascinated you since you were young?
I remember my very first watch, which I bought. I was ten or eleven, and the watch was made from recycled aluminium cans. When I think back, it's quite funny. But to tell you the truth, when I was little, I didn't have some sort of holy grail that I dreamt of, I assembled my list of favorite watches later and gradually. For example, I'm a big fan of old models from the Angelus brand, especially the Chronodato model.
Are you driven as a designer by the desire to one day make something even better than this iconic watch?
I'll admit that this isn't something that entices me at all. I'm definitely not driven by the desire to be better than someone else, that's not what I'm about at all. What's important to me is how the owner of one of my watches feels, whether they're happy, whether they understand it, and their feedback. This is a never-ending game - you can always find and come up with something better and new.
What do you enjoy most about designing watches?
People, solving problems, and expeditions into the unknown. I like it when a watch is created by a team of people, when there's some visionary with a strong story sitting at the table, along with a designer and an engineer, that's when I'm the happiest. Tension arises, and in the case of watches, tension is always good. A designer alone is capable of coming up with a beautiful thing, but it takes this trio to make it strong and powerful.
"What's important to me is how the owner of one of my watches feels, whether they're happy, whether they understand it, and their feedback."
Let's talk about Chronotechna. Describe it to me from a designer's perspective.
It's timeless. I'll show it to you on our most recent model, SeaQuest Dive. Look at the display - it's new, but at the same time you get the feeling it's been around for some time already, which underscores its timelessness.
What makes Chronotechna unique?
As I already mentioned - everything starts and ends with the dial. The dial is the face of a watch, and in this case it's truly a unique face.
How long does it usually take you to design a new watch?
The basic idea usually arrives very quickly, over the course of a few hours, at most a few days. But the execution as such can then take up to several weeks, sometimes even several years. Especially if the project also includes a completely new movement. But in general, I'd say that more complicated watches are usually simpler.
In what way does watch design differ from conventional product design?
In size and manufacturing requirements. From the perspective of manufacturing everything may be possible, but when you want to make something of quality in a very small package, you need top-notch machines, a polisher who will take care of all the details, and above all the ability to repeat the whole thing again and again with constant quality. That's not simple at all.
Where do you most often get your inspiration?
Literally everywhere. For example, I'll notice some details in a film, on pavement, in the shape of an airport building - all shapes and colours are good for inspiration. And one of the strongest sources of inspiration for me is, of course, nature itself, which you can't outdo from the perspective of design. Mother nature has done a really good job.
What are currently the biggest trends in watch design?
I'd say there are several. Smaller cases, metal wristbands, integrated wristbands, and an emphasis on sustainability. These are general trends, but then there are lots of markets and lots of price ranges where you can find additional, specific trends.
What does all this mean for Chronotechna?
I really believe in the brand, because it has a fantastic name, but even more important to me are the people behind its revival. Don't forget that it's people who make watches, watchmaking brands, and history.