1. What is your relation to time / watches?
I have a strong sense of time. I would even go so far as to claim that time really matters to me. Timing is discipline, but also something quite sensual, elegant. The right timing plays a key role in life. I have always been very aware of that.
I got my first watch when I was six years old and I have been wearing watches ever since. I get up and put it on; I go to bed and take it off.
2. Rado is known as a pioneer in material innovation – how important are materials in your work as a designer?
Materials are definitely key. Everything we design has a physical dimension. What is something made of, and how? The right choice of a material determines a product´s performance and longevity. And even before that, it determines how something is produced, which is a crucial business consideration. I am not a materials expert, by no means, but I have a huge interest in and curiosity about understanding as much about materials as possible. The more I know about them, including their constraints, the more efficiently I can apply them. The intelligent and economical use of material forms an important part of my understanding of good design.
3. It’s impressive to see the variety of products and projects you have developed in your career – you must have many opportunities for collaborations. What prompted you to accept Rado’s invitation for this project?
Collaborations between designers and industry always work on different levels. When I first met the Rado team, there was a pleasant chemistry between us. A solid personal relationship is the foundation of any successful collaboration. Working for any Swiss watch brand is quite unique, but the thing about Rado was that they brought their very own high-tech ceramic technology into the equation. Of course I was very tempted by that.
4. Did you have any personal connection to Rado before this project?
At the very begining of my career, German Vogue asked me to participate in a promotional photo shoot for watches. Different people wearing different watches – that was the idea behind the story. And for whatever reason, Vogue´s art director decided that I should wear a black Rado Ceramica. Somewhere in their archives they must have that photo documenting this first encounter between the very young me and the Rado Ceramica. Interesting how, quarter of a century later, I was asked by Rado to redesign this very same model.
5. What was your inspiration / idea for the redesign of the Rado Ceramica?
The redesign of a classic is always a challenging brief. As a designer, you take on a clear responsibility not to spoil the legacy of the original. The design process forces you to decide how close to stay with the original, and how far to depart from it. The original Ceramica still looks pretty amazing today. It is absolutely iconic and pure and that clearly inspired my new design – not only in a formal sense, but also in terms of its uncompromising attitude. I chose to approach the project from a very subjective point of view. I asked myself: what would change the original Ceramica into a watch that I would wear today?
6. Why did you choose the limited edition model as your signature watch?
This particular model has a matt finish which, in my opinion, brings out the form of the watch much stronger. The design of the dials is bold and legible. I took inspiration from pilot watches – I like them for their straightforward, clear graphics. For me personally, a watch is primarily a timekeeping instrument. I think we have best achieved that in the signature model.
7. The edition is limited to 701 pieces – is there a significance for you behind this number?
Rado suggested making 700 pieces of the watch. I added the extra one as my own personal copy.
8. Is this the first time that you have collaborated with a watch brand?
Yes, my collaboration with Rado marks the first time I have worked with a watch brand. The watch industry, and in particular the one “made in Switzerland”, seems to be quite closed to outsiders such as me. There is something very understandable about keeping specialized knowledge within an inner circle of experts. The car industry is set up in a similar way. However, whenever there is a chance to enter such a world with a fresh and impartial mind, it can trigger interesting creative potential for both sides. The Ceramica project offered such an opportunity.
9. What were the challenges compared to other products you’ve designed before?
The real challenge for me was the scale. A watch is just so much smaller than any of the other things we normally design. On the computer we zoom up to ten times the original scale of the watch in order to evaluate the smallest details, proportions etc. You’re hardly ever working on the watch in 1:1 scale like we do with a chair or other products. Watches are about details in the smallest scale – 0.2 mm, or 0.25 mm. It is very difficult to comprehend those nuances, but they matter a lot. Between my two fingers I can gauge 2 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm – I know exactly what they mean. In contrast, a dimension of 0.05 mm is very difficult to grasp. It was like learning a completely new language.
10. How long did it take to develop the design of the new Rado Ceramica?
My first contact with the Rado team dates back exactly three years ago. From there, it took us around 4-5 months to come up with the initial design concept. After that, it’s all development. Going over every detail of the watch in incredibly small steps of refinement. Its not unusual that the development of a new product takes that amount of time. A watch is like a tiny engine. It has to work in every aspect. Now, after all that time, I am very excited that I will be able to wear my own Rado Ceramica watch.
11. What was it like working with Rado?
Rado are experts in their field. They are part of the watch industry, which is a very specialised industry. What’s so nice about working with companies like that is that they know everything about what they do. They’re extremely focused and professional. I find great pleasure in that. In the particular case of Rado, there is the high-tech ceramic technology. They’ve developed that technology for watchmaking and therefore have an incredible know-how about it. Ceramic is one of the most high-tech materials I know. And at Rado they have a long history working with it. Most Rado watches are made in high-tech ceramic, not metal. The ceramic is injection moulded under very high pressure, which creates an extremely hard and dense end result. This type of ceramic cannot be compared with that used in tableware. It’s a whole different thing. High-tech ceramic watches are extremely tough – harder than stainless steel. The material is lighter than stainless steel, it has a much more pleasant temperature when you wear it, and it is scratch resistant. The ceramic powder can be blended with colour pigments to create different tonalities. It can be polished to have a complete mirror finish or a satin matt finish, which is what I personally prefer.