The most dangerous place to be is the comfort zone.
An interview with Thomas Funder, watch artist and horological architect. Founder of Funder Watches.
Thomas Funder started drawing at the age of 11, and since then never stopped. In this interview he replies to the questions from the Watch Angels community.
1. What advice would you give to young people who are considering a career in watch design?
The watch industry is very interesting to be a part of. There are many people with a lot of passion that you don’t see in many other industries. It’s amazing feeling to see how watches are appreciated by all ages and genders.
It’s important to always believe that the next idea is the best and always stay original. When you start out indesigning watches you can’t avoid looking at other watches to get inspired for your creations, but there exist plenty of watches in the world, so it is sometimes a good idea to consider how you want to contribute to the watch industry.
2. What is the most challenging moment in the process of designing a new watch?
The initial creation phase is always the most challenging to me. I usually have a lot of ideas, but to figure out what is the right direction for the project is quite difficult. Many different things have to be taken in consideration such as geometry, proportions, wearability and always think about if it matches the specific brand identity.
I believe the technical limitations are always a constraint. I often prefer to design without thinking too much about the technical limitations so the creative process can be as free and open minded as possible.
3. Does the designer make the brand or does the brand make the designer?
I think that any designer becomes very personal about their work and many decisions are based on personal preferences. If a designer gets full freedom of creation, the work will be a reflection of the designer and not the brand.
Some watch designers change their design style significantly after getting employed in a watch company. Which means that the brand ends up making the designer take decisions based on the brand.
4. Does design follow function, or does function follow design?
That is a good question. The answer would vary a lot depending on the design philosophy. Many watches are based on aesthetics, but things like watch sizes are a great example of how the combination of design and functions is essential to a successful watch. Wearability is very important and how it looks and feels on the wrist is what in the end might make the difference between success and failure.
5. What is more important, good design or a strong brand?
A strong design is what carries a strong brand. In the watch industry today there are many brands that rely more on the creations of the past than the ideas of the future. For a new watch brand the design has to be unique and easily identified as original.
Instead of leaning towards the iconic watches in the industry, creating a good original design is what will be remembered in 20+ years.
A strong brand is a great platform for giving the creation a lot of publicity and attention, but even great brands can experience failures because of bad designs.
6. What is good design for you or how would you define good design?
It is ofcourse a very personal question since there is not a recipe for how to create a good design. Instead it is a combination of many different ingredients that comes together in a new and interesting way.
I think that good design is very much about proportions. Form, materials, functions etc. are all important, but to see innovation integrated into the design is always something I find very intriguing and it takes the concept to the next level.
7. In which direction do you think watch design is going in 2022 and beyond?
The past few years many watch brands have become more playful with their design than previously seen. I believe it is a tendency that might continue in 2022. This will be seen in materials, colors and complications.
The tendency of connecting watches to the world of NFT and blockchain is probably something we will see more of and it might have an effect on the design — for the better or worse. Let’s see.
8. What is more difficult, designing a completely new watch or remaking an existing watch?
Creating a whole new watch is like having a white canvas, where it can be challenging how to put the first strokes.
By remaking an existing watch, there might already be a great platform to build and adapt on. I think adaptations have to be made carefully and always have in mind to keep the core identity from the initial version.
9. What would be your dream challenge as a designer, is there anything you would design which you have not done yet?
There are many things I would like to do! I love watches, I also think it is interesting to design in different scales, but basing conceptualization on a similar design philosophy.
Since I am from Denmark I believe that the interest in Interior design is something that has deep roots. I would love to Design a chair at some point.
10. How has watch designed changed in the last 10 years
The amount of new and different materials has increased a lot.
The increase in interest of independent watchmaking has given more diversity in design among smaller brands.
11. How important is the customer taste and opinion in a design process?
I think it is very important to understand the customer to create a great product, and notice the trends among collectors. I also believe that a great product can be something that no one asked for, but ends up being very popular and successful.
12. What are the challenges to thinking outside the box given the narrow and specific expectations with watches?
Watches have a lot of limitations, but I always try to avoid thinking too much about them. Just like a concept car might be too unique or difficult to produce, the essential lines and design might still make it to the final production car.
In the same way I alway try to conceptualize in the initial phase of the design development. The most challenging thing is to keep an open mind, so I can bring the watch design to new and unknown areas of creativity.
I believe the comfort zone is the biggest danger to creativity.
13. Where did your passion for watch design come from?
When I was a child my father would always stop in front of the watch shop window and I would be just next to him. It definitely sparked an interest, but it took many years before I understood how unique and fascinating watches are. When I took a flight from Denmark to Baselworld during my design education, my interest went to another level.
Discover the Funder Måne collection here