Creating a custom watch from colorful carbon composites.
By Steve Huyton
Over the last few years, I have developed a great working relationship with watchmaker Ben Birkett’s workshop, which is located in the Adelaide CBD (Central Business District) in South Australia.
Ben and I have collaborated on several projects. When I told him of a new concept called the ‘Inferno’ he was very excited to make it a reality.
One of the most exciting developments in modern watchmaking is the introduction of experimental materials. In my opinion forged carbon composites are at the forefront and have dominated the masculine market. Certainly, Hublot, Richard Mille and Roger Dubuis are the highest-profile brands using this material. However, there are also numerous small independents that have achieved very successful results.
In the last year, I created two watches, called the Kaleidoscopic and Volcanic, from multi-colored carbon. For the Inferno I wanted to fabricate the case from something even more unusual. The solution was a forged carbon composite interweaved with gold foil.
Due to the complicated manufacturing procedure, including molding and CNC (computer numerical control) machinery, it took several attempts to create the desired aesthetic. The final result was a subtle marbling type patterning that sparkles in the light.
This is the first time this unique and exciting material has ever been used in watchmaking. The crown cover, open-worked hands, dial and case back are also fabricated from this composite. Ultimately, this makes the timepiece exceptionally lightweight, especially considering the size. This watch has an extra-large diameter measuring 52mm (excluding the crown).
Originally, when I visualized the design of the Inferno it featured an unusual skeleton movement. Ultimately, I wanted a bright orange mechanism to create the aesthetic of fire. Fortunately, Frédéric Leuba offered to assist me in my plight. Frédéric is an industry veteran and has worked with many famous brands for a decade. Most people might be familiar with his micro brand called Muse Swiss Art Watches.
Steve Huyton is an industrial designer, illustrator and author who publishes Total Design Reviews