Want a Watch That’s Just Right? Design Your Own

Emilee Geist

Although the market offers thousands of watches, if none of them look quite right, you can design your own.

There are different ways to go about it: You can design a watch based entirely on your vision and imagination, or tweak a version of an existing watch. The process can take hours or years. It can cost from the low four figures to a sum with almost too many zeros to count.

The desired design can be turned into a timepiece by an independent watchmaker, or by a watch house, or by you. Almost anything is possible.

Ahmed Rahman, a London businessman, followed one popular route, using a watch created by an independent brand as the starting point for his own ideas.

One special design idea really made the watch unique to Mr. Rahman. “The dial would show the constellations exactly as they were at the time and place of my birth: January 31, 1978, in Bangladesh,” he said.

Be open to change, he said, because what seems like a good idea does not necessarily turn out that way.

“Most of the ideas I wanted to incorporate didn’t look right” when they were rendered, Mr. Hickcox said. “There was a watch that I referenced that had a black dial, and I wanted the same indications on my watch. But transposed on a rendering, it was way too busy. It didn’t work on this watch.

“I went from a very busy indication of minutes on the dial, to just having minute markers every five minutes,” he added. “It sounds like a simple thing, but where it ended up makes my watch so beautiful. It’s a very restrained, almost stark approach. It’s not where I started.”

Designing your own watch isn’t for everyone, Mr. Hickcox cautioned.

Deliberations on the new design “wouldn’t keep most people up nights,” he said, but he noted that he had done lots of tossing and turning, deciding whether to go with Mr. Voutilainen’s new squared lugs, which are “rather sporty,” or the watchmaker’s signature teardrop shape. The originals won.

“It all takes time,” he said, “and not everyone wants to wait. Discussion for this new watch started two years ago.” The piece, though, won’t be ready until 2021 or later.

“We don’t make you a watchmaker,” Gilles Francfort, the business’s co-founder, said. “You choose what you want from different watch parts. We have many, many hands and cases, millions of possibilities. At any one time, we might have 150 bracelets to choose from, 23 cases, 13 movements, 25 hands and 45 dials.”

With those extensive combinations, he said, “our aim is that every participant makes a unique watch.”

It is white glove service all the way. Those with watches on order are invited to come to the atelier in Geneva and see their designs being made, or, if traveling to Switzerland is not possible, Vacheron Constantin will send someone to them.

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