Swedish design collective People People lets their work do the talking. Splitting their time between client commissions and lab work, the creators of the successful Kickstarter project, the Transparent Speaker, are now set to dip their toes into the waters of the timepiece with a new pocket watch currently in development. We caught up with four members of this intelligent group—Martin Willers, Johan Frössén, Per Brickstad and Klara Petersén—to get an early sneak peek and talk about how theirs differs from a more typical approach to horology.
"The main function of the watch has changed," says Frössén, with Willers adding, "Yeah, we don't normally seek to reinvent the wheel." Instead People People is revisiting an icon which they find appealing as designers driven by human needs, and certainly something which drives their lab work for products like the Transparent Speaker. Indeed, People People devotes at least 20% of its time to its lab work; "It lets us develop our skills and explore projects which interest and challenge us as a group," explains Frössén.
The designers made a deliberate choice to develop a pocket watch rather than a wristwatch, citing the evolution of the timepiece to primarily a personality statement worn less and less for practicality. "A watch is something that fits into people's frame of reference, even though the function has gone from showing time to showing style," says Brickstad, pointing out that People People was fundamentally built upon creating things to fit real human needs.
The Transparent Speaker, for example, is created around the ethos that technology need not be overly intricate or flashy. Instead, modern technology and quality components are displayed and enjoyed rather than sheathed behind a wall of cheap, molded plastic. "We try to establish a proper human need and deliver on it in a way other people don't," says Frössén.
The solid aluminum construction will mean that you know it's there but it'll be light enough and wide enough to not pull on a pocket and ruin the fall of a jacket or waistcoat.
When it comes to the pocket watch, the designers asked themselves what the watch has become in modern society. The practice of telling time has transferred to a large extent to our mobile phones and thus changed our behavior—we reach for our pockets to check the hour rather than flick over our wrists.
Changing trends in menswear also influenced the choice of pocket watch—specifically, the rise once again of three-piece suiting. Indeed, only a fool would argue against the logic and the vision of a dapper gent with the tell-tale chain leading in an arc from a waistcoat button to a timepiece hidden away from sight is a formidable one. Plus, adds Briscktad, "The solid aluminum construction will mean that you know it's there but it'll be light enough and wide enough to not pull on a pocket and ruin the fall of a jacket or waistcoat."
People People's take on the pocket watch will bear the hallmarks of the thinking each member brings to the table. The case will be hewn from a single piece of aluminium, the face featuring integrated dial and markings to simplify the assembly and make for a much cleaner aesthetic. As for movement, Frössén notes that it would be wrong of them not to consider creating it from scratch. "We're a design company, it's hard not to give it some investigation," he says. Such an ambitious feat is a remarkable one for any watch company, let alone a newcomer to the fray.
They are also considering a simple, screw-in lens so the user can clean the dial or replace a broken mineral if needed, without having to go to a watchmaker. This design attribute would complement the two-piece case construction, stripping unnecessary bells and whistles in favor of the pure essentials.
Willers admits People People has faced some pressure following the success of the Transparent Speaker, but it's a situation they're happy to navigate. The next few months will be spent testing prototypes and incorporating feedback so they may launch a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Keep an eye on their website to learn more about People People and stay up to date on their progress on the pocket watch.
Images courtesy of People People