The design critic Del Coates notes that "it is impossible, in fact to design a watch that tells only time”. Watches have specific values that are at least as important as timekeeping. The design questions underpinning this series of watches were inspired by investigation into the cultural messages that the watch expresses. The design questions underpinning this series of watches were inspired by investigation into the cultural messages that the watch expresses. The answers to the questions posed below are intended to be both playful and provocative. The series is an attempt to propose some oblique evolutionary paths for the watch.
The watch is worn on the body and this fosters a powerful association between wearer and object. The watch is consulted many times a day and the wearer is (perhaps subliminally) affirmed by the action of looking at their own watch. The owner of an expensive watch enjoys a thrill akin to possessing a secret - aware of something that others are blind to. One could argue that this is even more important than the impression a watch makes on others given the prevalence of fakes. The subliminal aspect of the watch object was used to formulate a first design question – how could a watch undermine its wearer?
The idea that a watch is a fundamental communicator of personality is expressed forthrightly in an advertisement for Seiko watches, the text reads, “It’s not your music. It’s not your handshake. It's not your clothes. It’s your watch that says most about who you are”. The wearer of an expensive watch can luxuriate in recognition from another connoisseur – the shared thrill of standing apart from the masses. From this understanding of the watch a second design question was formulated –what if the watch could express some of the negative aspects of the wearer’s personality?
Watches are homogenous in their representation of the time - analogue watches for example refer to the prime time-telling device – the sundial. Even the advent of the digital watch represents a semantic change rather than a fundamentally new representation. Digital technology supports the translation of information from one form to another, yet watches are tied to a singular convention tracking the movement of the sun. A third design question was: how can the watch represent time in a different way?
All of the watches in this series are produced in a spirit of critical design. They are not proposed as consumer objects, rather their intent is to provoke reflection about the watch and it’s cultural functions. The watches are not purely speculative – all have been produced as one-off working timepieces.
Crispin Jones 2004