by Bridget Harrington Rector
The understated but stunning Carpenter Collection by Analog Watch Co. consists of four wooden watches with soft, flexible straps. Several contradictions might be identified in these timepieces: They are classic yet novel, highly designed but elemental and they make innovative use of mundane materials.
The simplicity of the design—a circular body, an analog face devoid of markings and lack of glitz—belies the many prototypes that designer Lorenzo Buffa discarded before arriving at the final iteration. The watch is sturdy, thanks to the carved hardwood body, but also delicate due to the flexible strap made of paper-thin wood veneer bonded to leather.
While majoring in industrial design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Buffa found himself drawn to woodworking classes. Buffa credits growing up in a small town in the mountains of Pennsylvania with giving him a natural affinity to wood. “Wood is easily understandable to me. You don’t have to use molds or intense heat.” He thinks this also resonates with customers: “People can understand wood and stone and the carving process.”
A goal for every designer is to create something timeless and, according to Buffa, a big part of that is minimizing the number of materials used, but also truly understanding the ones chosen. “A lot of products violate the rule of two or three,” he says, “That’s how we got a lot of ugly products in the '90s.” He credits Dieter Rams, the functionalist designer known for his work with Braun, as a big influence behind his principles of simplicity and minimal materials.
Even non-watch wearers can see the sculptural appeal of Buffa’s watches. "The person who buys this watch is someone who appreciates art and isn’t afraid to be engaged in conversation about what they are wearing," he says. "We all have cell phones in our pockets, but people do wear watches,” Buffa observes, noting that this dependence on other technology actually frees the watch to become more of a statement piece. He is already investigating an extremely thin stone veneer for the next collection. "People told me I couldn’t do a flexible wooden watch, but now I know you just have to have enough R&D and time," he says. Buffa is also contemplating other collections based on leather, concrete and pressed felt.
Analog Watch Co.’s Kickstarter campaign ends 10 November but has already surpassed its initial goal in less than a week. However, you can still snag a Carpenter watch for as low as $85, significantly less than the retail price of $149.
Images courtesy of Analog Watch Co.