What is a designer watch?

Klaus Botta, 21.03.2023

A designer watch is a watch designed by a designer. Or is a designer watch a watch worn by a designer? Or is it not called a designer watch, but a design watch?

The fact is, there is no fixed term for a wristwatch that has been professionally designed. This raises the next question:

What is design - what isn't?

Since I am a designer myself, I naturally have a very direct connection to this topic.

The term "designer watch", which sounds a bit strange to my ears, probably comes from the marketing language and is intended to give the product - in this case a wristwatch - something special, something noble, and to convey a higher standard and thus create a greater appeal.

From a professional point of view, "design" or "creation" are two synonymous terms that pursue a completely different goal.

They describe a comprehensive and logically structured process that aims at a well-thought-out and mature product with high utility value. Ideally, it starts with the conception of a new product and accompanies it consistently through all stages of development.

Professional design takes into account a whole range of influencing factors, which on the one hand consider the quality of the product and on the other hand the needs of the user. In practice, it is a finely tuned development process (see also blog article: Development and manufacturing in Germany) that proceeds in several successive stages. Ideally, the end result of such a process is a product with superior properties.

"Design" is not a protected term.

Terms from other industries related to the term "designer watch" are, for example, "designer clothing", "designer jewelry" or "designer furniture". Here, terms such as "haute couture", "elite", "noble" and "expensive" immediately resonate, although in principle every piece of clothing, every piece of jewelry and every piece of furniture has been designed by a "designer". Even if this is not necessarily a designer with professional training.

In fact, the terms "design" and "designer" are not officially protected and are used accordingly inflationary. Unfortunately, this leads to a trivialization and misuse of the terms "design" and "designer".

Architects have done better. The professional title "architect" is strictly protected. In Germany, only those who have completed a degree in architecture and are also active members of the architectural association are allowed to use this title.

Designers who also have a degree in design unfortunately do not enjoy such exclusive protection of the name. Accordingly, anyone can call themselves a "designer" and also title their works accordingly.

This is particularly evident in the case of the aforementioned designer watches. Many wristwatches have absolutely nothing to do with the professional product development described above, but are quite often the exact opposite of meaningful design.

Design should never become an end in itself, but should support the function and statement of a product.

At least that's how it's postulated in classic professional design with a Bauhaus stamp. And in my opinion, this is also particularly true today, or especially today, in the age of sensory overload.

In our view of design, the formal design must never be an end in itself. Rather, professional design fulfills a whole range of different functions, the goal of which is to develop a coherent overall concept.

With a wristwatch as an example, this means:

The watch should have a recognizable concept and not be a purely formal gimmick.

It should have a convincing "practical function", i.e. be easy to read and comfortable to wear.

It should have a clear "sign function", i.e. visualize your operation well.

It should have an adequate "symbol function", i.e. it should transport and communicate certain values. (Example: modernity, value, exceptionality, logic, etc.).

With these additional demands, the design standards once again go beyond the approach proposed by Bauhaus.

Ultimately, a professionally designed wristwatch should also have an appropriate language of form. We designers speak in this context of "formal aesthetics", i.e. the aesthetics of form.

      The value of a watch is increased by a custom design.

      A designer with the appropriate training will make sure that all these factors are well balanced and combined into a harmonious overall concept.

      Even a reasonably experienced user will quickly recognize the differences between this and pseudo-design. On the one hand, there is a harmonious unit with a clear product language. On the other hand, a collection of design elements (shapes, colors and structures) added together without a concept.

      In contrast to the above-mentioned pseudo-designer watches, a professional design increases the overall value of the watch and, last but not least, shows the wearer's sense of style and aspiration.

      This is the visible difference to cheaply made "pseudo designer watches" without design concept and value claim. In most cases, such products are short-lived fashion accessories with no lasting value, both technically and in terms of design.

      Due to their short-lived nature, they are ultimately relatively expensive when measured against their manageable useful life, even if they were cheap to purchase. Cheap products are also not good for self-worth (see also blog article: The value of valence). Moreover, they also embody the opposite of what we understand by sustainability.

      Longevity is one of the best ways to save resources.

      Not least for this reason, we attach great importance to our products being durable in terms of both technology and design. Because only then are they truly sustainable and resource-saving.

      In our view, this also makes an often time-consuming and thorough design process worthwhile. By then, at the latest, it is no longer decisive whether a watch is called a design watch or a designer watch or a wristwatch with a design claim.

      What matters is that it suits the wearer and gives him pleasure for a long time.


      • Thomas Lankenbrecht

        Danke für diesen interessanten Artikel. ich dachte auch immer dass Designeruhr oder Designuhr eine willkürlich ausgewählte Bezeichnung für Armbanduhren ist um sie aufzuwerten. So wie sie das in dem Artikel beschreiben gibt s ja gar nicht so viele echte Designeruhren. Ich wusste auch nicht dass sich jeder Designer nennen kann aber nicht Architekt. Ich habe wieder etwas dazugelernt. Vielen Dank dafür. Ihre Uhren gefallen mir übrigens wirklich gut und sind ja dann wohl auch echte Designeruhren. Thomas L.

      • Jürgen Herlt

        Ein sehr aufschlussreicher Artikel. Ehrlich gesagt, habe ich mir noch nie wirklich Gedanken darüber gemacht, wie Armbanduhren designed werden. Mir war auch nicht klar, dass es da so ein breites Spektrum an Anspruch und Qualität gibt. Ich muss auch zugeben, dass ich jetzt, da ich Ihren Artikel gelesen habe, Ihre Uhren buchstäblich mit anderen Augen sehe und mir jetzt auch der Unterschied zu Armbanduhren ohne diesen “professionellen Designanspruch” deutlich klarer geworden ist. Meine Empfehlung: stellen Sie doch diesen Qualitätsunterschied zu anderen Uhrenmarken noch deutlicher heraus. Ich glaube, dass es vielen Ihrer Interessenten so geht wie mir: Man unterschätzt einfach den Aufwand der hinter der Entwicklung Ihrer Uhren steht. Sie haben mein (vereinfachtes) Weltbild vom Beruf des Designers zerstört. Danke dafür !

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