Architecture is one of those occupations that just seems to project sophistication and cool. Both artistic and scientific, architecture draws a certain type of mind that enjoys puzzles but also loves the act of creation. For this reason, architects tend to be very opinionated about all forms of design, not just in their own field.
This is why finding the right watch for an architect can be particularly hard. The right timepiece needs to mix functionality and practicality, while also being exceedingly well designed. Not just any watch will suffice for an architect.
Luckily, we’re here to help narrow down the criteria and make a few suggestions.
Form and Function in Architecture: An Overview
Like all creative mediums, architecture is a constantly evolving discipline in which different styles come and go out of fashion. In the 20th century alone, architecture went through dozens of style moments, including Modernism, Postmodernism, Futurism, Art Deco, and Bauhaus. There were many more, as well, some global movements, others localized to particular regions or countries.
Most artistic movements are a reaction against something that came before. Consider, for instance, Modernism and Postmodernism. Modernism was a minimalist architectural style that emphasized the idea that “form follows function.” One of the biggest influences on this movement and probably the most well-known name in the entire discipline was Frank Lloyd Wright.
The reaction to Modernism, which was in vogue for nearly 50 years, was Postmodernism, a movement that lasted into the 21st century. Postmodernism pushed backed against Modernism in many ways, but specifically, it tossed away the rigid notion that function was superior to form. Ornate flourishes and non-uniformity were embraced.
It would be overly simplistic to say that Modernism and Postmodernism represent the two polar ends of architectural philosophy (especially because they both birthed smaller movements with their unique styles). Still, function and form are two of the biggest (if not the biggest) pillars of architecture, and how they interact is a common concern of every architect. This is true in their designs, and it can be equally true in their timepieces.
Watch Function over Design
So what do architects look for in a watch in terms of functionality? When it comes to practical matters, pretty much the same thing as any other businessperson. The multiple time zone feature and a chronograph are always welcome assistants for anyone who may be dealing with clients around the world. If the architect also travels frequently, a watch that uses GPS to automatically set the time can be tremendously useful.
For these features, consider the Seiko Men’s Radio Sync Solar Chronograph, a black stainless steel analog watch (find its current price on Amazon here). The GPS function keeps this automatic watch set to the right time no matter where you deplane, and the solar-powered quartz movement will keep the battery running much longer than most. In addition to the chronograph, it includes the UTC time zone chart on the bezel and is water-resistant up to 330 feet.
If functionality is the biggest concern, then there really is no other choice but to go with a smartwatch. Smartwatches connect directly to smartphones and can provide almost all the same functionality, but conveniently located on your wrist instead of in your pocket. Most of the current smartwatches can receive messages and make calls, a helpful tool for any busy architect. Apple and Samsung are making the big waves in this arena, but in terms of design, they are a little boring and predictable.
The ASUS ZenWatch 3 doesn’t suffer from this issue (find retailers here). Like most non-Apple smartwatches, the ZenWatch uses an Android OS and can connect with any Android phone. You can run apps, make calls, listen to or read messages, and surf the Internet with this watch. Another basic feature is the fitness tracker, but the real selling point for this watch is the design options.
Buyers can select between six different design themes and over 50 watch faces. That will surely appeal to the creative side of an architect.
This is the golden age of wristwatch functionality, with watches getting ever more complex and sophisticated. If it matters that you can do a lot of things with your watch, there are plenty of options available. On the other hand, with the existence of smartphones and other smart techs for the home and office, the need for feature-rich watches is increasingly less important.
Thankfully, if the aesthetic appeal of the watch is most paramount, the options are as varied as the styles of architecture.
Watch Design over Function
If you’re of the mindset that a watch is a watch is a watch and the features are less important to you than the design style, you’ve got a touch of the Postmodernist in you. We have a bunch of options that should intrigue you.
Upstart Hong Kong-based watchmaker, Cronometrics, is a good place to start. Founded by German designer, Robert Dabi, and businesswoman, Connie Ng, in 2016, their mission is to create forward-minded watches, both in style and
engineering. Their designs, which are broken into “The Engineer” and “The Architect” styles are centered around the triangle, the form “recognized by designers and engineers as the most stable physical shape.”
Chronometric’ line of watches is unisex, while the cleanness of their designs is especially pleasing to the eye. Take for instance the absolutely beautiful analog Architect L9 you can find Amazon’s prices here).
A triangle in the center of the silver face creates pleasant symmetry while the inner second dial gives it a touch of character. Don’t look for any other special features, though, these watches keep it simple. The band is made of brown Italian leather, while the movement is Japanese. If the particular colors of the L9 aren’t to your tastes, the Architect comes in a variety of shades.
This stainless steel analog watch goes for something truly unique by replacing the usual hands with two ball bearings that rotate around the watch, one in the center of the face to indicate the minute, and the other along the side of the case to indicate the hour.
The hours on the face are indicated by raised markers so the time can be felt as well as seen. This is not the kind of watch you’d wear to the beach, and it might take a few years to get used to reading time on it, but the design is going to stand out in a sea of cookie-cutter timepieces.
Another unique watchmaker is Greyhours, a European company creating wristwatches that are the perfect amalgamation of Swiss-style design and Chinese manufacturing techniques. The results include the Vision Shine line of watches, high-quality, elegant timepieces for both men and women that encase fine craftsmanship in smart looking designs.
Take for instance two of the best looking in the series, the Steel Blue/Silver and the Limited Edition Grey/Sand (the line retails for varying prices, so check Amazon for the current prices). Both are striking in their bare but bold design. Two subdials on the face display the day and the date. While the look is the obvious appeal of these watches, Greyhours has also made sure that their watches are durable.
Each watch casing uses a special coating (Ion Plating Hardened for the Blue Steel, Physical Vapour Deposition for the Grey/Sand) that ensures the longevity of the color and protects against corrosion.
Perhaps you like a little more complexity in your design. Look no further than the Swatch Unisex SUOZ147 Silver Glam: find the Amazon price here.
The renowned Swiss watchmaker has placed a see-through face on this watch so you can peer at the gears within. The band is silicone and the case and face material is plastic, so it isn’t the most durable watch on the market, but Swatch watches have always been known more
for their affordability than longevity. This is the watch for when you’re looking to stand out.
If these other styles are all too busy for you, consider the Bulbol Ore 06 Watch. No hour markers, no subdials, and no other markings, just two stark black hands floating in a sea of white.
The silver mesh stainless steel band adds a hint of character to the wristwatch, but otherwise, this is as clean a design you’re going to find. Swiss-made with quartz movement, this minimalist watch is for anyone who cherishes subtle design.
Frank Lloyd Wright Inspired Watches
American watchmaker, Bulova (whose parent company is Citizen), recently partnered with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation to design a collection of watches and clocks inspired by the work of the famous architect. The collection includes a number of watches for both men and women that utilize Wright’s design elements in creative and fun ways.
The Women’s 96L63 Frank Lloyd Wright Willits Watch available on Amazon is one of the more unique pieces in the collection. Its long face design is based on the Ward W. Willits house, the first of Wright’s signature Prairie House designs. The watch has a stainless steel case, crystal face, and a leather strap.
Similar to the Cronometrics watch, this is a stylish watch with no extra features (and you probably shouldn’t swim in it), but the one-of-a-kind design is the draw here.
Same with the 98A103 Frank Lloyd Wright Men’s Watch from the same collection, which uses Wright’s personally designed Exhibition typeface for the colorful numbers on the face. Some nice extra Architectural touches include the mini rulers on the minute and hour hands and the second hand shaped like a T-square. The strap is calfskin leather and the movement is Japanese quartz.
Watches Designed by Architects
Since there is no design project architects don’t like to throw themselves at, it should be no surprise that a number of them have had a hand in designing their own watches. Most of these watches were limited editions that aren’t for sale through normal retailers anymore, but that doesn’t mean an ardent enough searcher couldn’t track them down.
Project Watches is a watchmaker that hires various designers from different backgrounds to create unique, often idiosyncratic watches.
Their company logo is “Architecture You Can Wear” and when you see their collection, you will understand how apt the logo is.
One of the featured architects is Denis Guidone, a designer and architect who has had his hands in a wide swath of design projects. One of his creations is the Projects Red Suprematism Watch, which retails for $140 (click for the Amazon price).
The gray hour hand and black minute hand spin in the center of an all-white face, while a red second box floats around the middle. This is another minimalist-influenced watch that gets points for how well the unique design is integrated into the watch functionality.
Another of Project Watches’ designers is Columbia University lecturer, James Wine. His unique contribution to the line is the Terra-Time Watch, a monochromatic stainless steel and silicone timepiece that really has to be seen to be appreciated. Inspired by contour and topographical maps, the face uses cut-out jagged layers to mimic staring down into the earth’s core as you check the time. The unique use of light and shadow creates the illusion of depth, so it almost seems as if you’re peering deep inside your own arm.
Then there is the 2017 Good Design Award-winning timepiece created by Michael Graves, the Mado Watch.
Using a window design (“mado” is Japanese for window), Graves reimagined the watch face, disrupting the normal geometric expectations of a wristwatch. The silver hour markers create a square within the round face over a black, engraved backdrop. It’s deceptively simple as an idea but extremely compelling in execution. This is truly a work of art to be worn on your wrist.
There is no shortage of watches that find new and creative ways to display the time. In many ways, architecture and watchmaking are very similar: they are both artistic sciences that work with physical materials to reimagine well-established designs. That explains why architects enjoy moonlighting in watch design.
Whether you are an architect or have a loved one who is, get creative with your timekeeping choices and find a watch that reflects the wearer’s sense of style (and design).