A radical new direction in watch design.

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Watch design started with a purely practical purpose, implementing mechanical time-display technology in an instrument small enough to be carried in the pocket (and later worn on the wrist). Watches were initially made by those with existing relevant skills such as clock makers, jewelers and locksmiths and they used the most appropriate materials that those craftsmen were familiar with and that were available at the time.

Since only wealthy people could afford a pocket watch, the materials used often included precious metals suitable for such buyers and already familiar to those crafting these early hand-made timepieces. As timekeeping and manufacturing technology improved, less expensive watches became available, while models aimed at richer clients retained the precious metals, gems and fine jewelry design approach familiar at the time and cheaper models tried to look similarly expensive while using less costly materials and construction methods.

It wasn’t until several hundred years later that the next significant watch design aesthetic appeared, again determined by time-display technology, as electronics and the 7-segment display became available. Space-age aesthetics were there as a fundamental part of digital watch design from the beginning, with the looks of the very first digital-display watch being inspired by the digital clock design for the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” by the same designer.

Since then watch design aesthetics has not ranged far from either fine-jewelry, 70’s space-age looks or the obvious idea of cross-fertilization between the two. Until now.

The evolution of Fine Jewelry branched out into art-jewelry in parallel with modern art’s rejection of traditional approaches and its focus on creativity and artistic experimentation. Jewelry became a vehicle of expression for artists, exploring aesthetics as well as materials and techniques far from those used by the fine jewelry tradition.

This important branch of jewelry, where the pieces are creative works of art rather than having their aesthetics derived from the technology of narrow traditions of mechanical processes with expensive materials, has before now hardly touched the world of watches, despite the wristwatch being one of the most popular forms of expression of fine jewelry.

While there are a small number of previous examples of art-jewelry influenced watches, with these the design of the jewelry has zero influence on the design of the watch-face itself, so they are really more like art jewelry plus a watch (or vice versa) than any real integration of design concepts between the two.

Now the art jewelry concept has, probably for the first time, been used as the most fundamental principle behind the aesthetics of every physical element of a series of watches by the UnconstrainedTime project.

Watches were initially only about their time-telling function. As watch-making technology continued to improve at the same time as costs decreased, watches became both more reliable and more commonly available, which increased the importance of expensive materials and complex, difficult mechanical design as a method to add obvious value to more expensive watches when compared to cheaper options.

The simplicity of the UnconstrainedTime display enables a radical freeing of the whole watch design aesthetic since mechanical watch hands nor numerical digital displays are used. This simplification works alongside the fact that people now have accurate time and such things as alarm and other time-related functions as standard on their mobile phones. This allows the wrist-watch to become much more fundamentally a statement of style than having its entire form and aesthetic determined mainly by the display technology of either mechanical watch-tradition or 70’s space-age concepts, as the need for a wristwatch to display time to the exact second evaporates.

The majority of the value of an UnconstrainedTime watch is not from the cost of expensive materials and unnecessary mechanical complexity, but from each watch model being a genuine artistic exploration, with its own unique creative aesthetic used as the fundamental principle of every aspect of form and material and not merely as a minor add-on to standard display-related aesthetics.

Art jewelry uses materials and mechanics that are not necessarily expensive or complex because its existence and value is primarily for the artistic and creative quality of the aesthetics of the whole creation. So it doesn’t need to use expensive precious metals and/or gemstones to try to convey value.

While the terms can be confusing, because fine-jewelry is somewhat equivalent to graphic-design and art-jewelry certainly relates to fine-art, some of the same principles apply. Fine art and art jewelry are essentially a creative and exploratory process, pushing the boundaries to result in new elements and directions.

This project includes creating custom designs individually for clients (whether they be individuals or businesses), and has an open, ongoing design competition allowing anyone to propose a watch design suitable for the UnconstrainedTime range.

They also provide their innovative yet simple display-concepts defined as Patent-Left so they can be used freely by other watch-makers in their own work, and they plan to make the display mechanism itself available in an easy to use and cost-effective form to further foster the ongoing evolution of the creative explorations of the art-jewelry approach applied to the fundamentals of watch creation.

Thus they have manifested not only a growing range of extraordinarily unique and undeniably beautiful watches, but also starting points of a new branch of watch design which will no doubt inspire many others to explore this fascinating creative direction in wearable-art. UnconstrainedTime watches are available in Limited editions in the same way Fine Art sculpture pieces often are.

Creative art-jewelry watches are likely to remain a relatively small sector of the timepiece market, as art-jewelry is compared to mass-produced fine jewelry, but it is also likely to be an important branch of the evolution of watch design aesthetics, and, like the most radical of fashion designers, its creativity is likely to influence mass-produced watches.

Watchmakers with a tradition of mechanical watch-making initially tried to reject the innovation of the quartz watch until they could see that doing so would put them out of business, and mostly reject any form of digital display too. Whether they will reject real art-jewelry watch design remains to be seen, although the market, as it did with the digital watch, is likely to embrace this fascinating new direction, especially as it considerably widens the possibilities for creative expression as well as personalization.

So in summary, yes the UnconstrainedTime watch range is certainly a radical new direction in watch-making, but it was also inevitable that at some point the art-jewelry approach would meet watch design freed from most of its constraints by innovative simplification of time-display.

While there have been other watch display-concepts which might have led to this kind of radical freeing of design aesthetics, and there are certainly some other beautiful examples of creative watch design recently, it happens that this particular project is almost certainly the first to go all the way and make the art-jewelry approach the starting point of watch design rather than a minor influence or add-on. Maybe it required a generalist (such as the ideas-man behind these stunning watches, who’s experience includes fine-art and many areas of design, engineering and philosophy) to meld this creative freedom with the aesthetic qualities and the Fine-Art creative exploration of the art-jewelry movement to result in the Extraordinary and unique aesthetics of the UnconstrainedTime watches.

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