Like a car, a watch is as much a piece of engineering as a design. “You cannot just design it,” says Petter Hillinge, the Volvo Cars’ designer responsible for creating Volvo Cars’ first watch. “Rather, a watch is constructed first and then designed. You have to build it up in layers, depending on what movement you have inside and how the strap should be attached to the watch. It’s these things that really define how it’s made and how it looks.”
This is where Volvo Cars’ design team started from when they began work. In contrast with a recent trend for very large faces, Volvo Cars’ Vice President of Design, Thomas Ingenlath – who is an avid watch collector – wanted a small dial in order to create a sophisticated timepiece. “Watches are getting smaller, not bigger,” says Petter. “They’ve grown a lot but now the trend is reversing, so we wanted to create something lighter and more elegant.” Ingenlath also wanted fine detailing, but for it not to be overly complicated, and for the watch to be unisex.
The result is a watch that’s clearly Swedish – minimal without being cold, with elegant details that don’t overwhelm the design. Bold contrast between the case, face and hands provides interest without creating conflict. The details are confident so they can be kept to a minimum – another essential element of Scandinavian design – in order to create a clean look. There’s even a direct link to the new generation of Volvo Cars in the diamond pattern on the watch’s crown, which reflects the patterns that decorate the switchgear in the 90 cars.
“Watches are getting smaller, not bigger. We wanted to create something lighter and more elegant”
Volvo Cars Designer
In order to reduce the impression of the case’s size, the design team added a soft curve around its circumference, which shifts the perceived edge of the case inward slightly. Look closely and you will see that the hands have a very gentle taper – an element of classic watch design – that help to lighten the dial.
Natural colours and materials play a big part in Scandinavian design. The strap is made from Swedish leather, tanned using a vegetable dye process. A gentler process than chrome tanning, vegetable dying creates a soft, natural finish that ages gracefully and will build a patina, its appearance changing with how the watch is used.
“We’ve created something that’s distinct, Scandinavian and useful,” says Petter of the finished watch. “It’s a beautiful thing and we’re proud of it.”