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Let's make a classic we said.
Around 2 years ago the conversation went: “I wonder if we could create a classic, three hand diver inspired by the watches we so fondly regard from the 50’s and 60’s, one that would perfectly complement our existing collections; a little smaller, a little more colourful with a classic rubber deployant strap that we have always wanted to make?”
Sounds simple. Right?
When the first period of enforced working from home was upon us, the timing was fortuitous. Whilst we were working out the new order of things, we also found ourselves with a little more breathing space than our usual frenetic existence at EB HQ. It allowed time for new thinking, to reflect, to start over (and over) and be our best creative, obsessive selves.
Where to begin?
The Bloxworth case provided the perfect starting point with the chamfers on the shoulders visually reducing the volume of the case, meaning that the end result should look smaller still – an essential element.
How big should the case be?
We settled on 40mm for the case and 41mm for the bezel and increased the undercut – the small bevel around the lower edges of the case sides creating the impression of less volume – just enough to give the side profile the perfect proportions and like all our other models it wears smaller precisely because the devil’s in the detail.
Box crystal, in our eyes was always going to feature, it’s subtle but gives the top surface of the watch it’s traditional class, perfect for our quest to pull off the classic vibe in a thoroughly modern watch.
Our bezels are usually fairly square in profile with high grip surfaces for easy handling. This one needed to taper to a slim outer edge, reducing the volumetric appearance to something much more slender but with perfect fit-for-purpose grip. The number of grip profiles we waded through was fascinating, each one gave the watch a different character. The final grip design looks almost cog-like on screen but when machined down to form the slim ‘coin edge’, the resulting high grip splines sit just proud of the case for effortless performance. Perfect.
Aluminium would have been the easy choice for the bezel insert, it’s relatively easy to colour and produce. Many classic dive watches use it but it marks easier than the surrounding stainless steel and we were seeking greater precision and longevity, something that would delight with its depth of colour and surface finish. Ceramic has been on our radar for some years, let’s just say it’s not the accountant’s choice but it brings a level of precision far beyond any metal insert and will of course remain mark free for years.
The variety and imagination behind dial types and finishes across the classic dive watch genre is vast and naturally allows a little more freedom to explore our own in house ideas. For some time we’ve harboured the thought of building a watch with a sandwich (two layer) dial and this project gave us the perfect opportunity to explore how it might work and how it could also become part of a new anchor design element across this collection.
As the project developed from basic sketches into more detailed renders including surface finishes and textures, we created our very own basket weave texture taking elements from the EB shield logo repeated and embossed in a grid. It was initially created for the rubber strap but when we explored it as an emboss on the dial, it really ‘popped’ and quickly became the anchor detail influence tying the whole collection together.
A ‘tropic’ inspired rubber strap has always been on our radar so we set about creating a completely new moulded shape, in this case it’s a strap you cut down to fit, much like removing links from a steel bracelet, with a gorgeous deployant buckle that opens at the squeeze of a button. It starts off longer than our standard rubber pin buckle straps too. Despite this watch being considerably smaller, we needed to keep the strap width fitting at 22mm to allow all existing 22mm straps to fit, not an easy task keeping the proportions looking just-so.
Coming up with the perfect 3D shape for the rubber strap profile was always going to be a challenge with so many details required to work in harmony. If you knew how many cross-section profiles we sketched, drew and rendered so we could answer questions such as should it have the appearance of a padded stitched strap, should the mock stitch detail sit right at the edge or a little in-board, how deeply inset should it be, should we include vent holes, what about the inside profile, how long should it be, how thick, should it taper, what material?
The twisted rope breather lines on the inner surface were artfully sketched, inspired by the ropes and lines we see daily in our working boat yard HQ. Marrying this embossed detail with the cut lines, vent holes and inner pin holes for the multiple attachment sizing zones was not the work of five minutes but it has resulted in one of most satisfying pieces of design we have ever put our hearts and souls into. This strap also works beautifully on just about every other watch we have ever created, elevating the EB rubber strap to another level.
Having reached the point where we had developed in-house tech packs containing every detail of every component ready for manufacture, the project paused because of the global pandemic. The net effect was to allow a little more time for us to reflect than the usual overnight test we generally allow new designs.
When the time came to begin prototyping, we found ourselves picking up the detailed tech packs with fresh eyes and that can be a dangerous thing! Then followed a spell of swift honing and tweaking, making minor modifications during what is possibly the most obsessive period we have ever spent on a single watch design, but when you’re us, nothing goes out the door until it’s just so.
We felt the crown needed further work, the square shouldered profile somehow looked incongruous with this new slimmer body language. We explored a more rounded profile and polished the end to give a gentle visual ‘pop’ – subtly lifting the brightness of the watch. Instantly it worked.
The top surface of the coin edge on the bezel sat level with the ceramic insert but the outer grip edge now appeared a little bulky somehow. What if we were to chamfer it, making the grip edge even slimmer, creating a tiny new bevelled surface that we could also polish, offering the perfect contrast to the matt bead blasted finish on the splines around the edge and catching the light just so at different angles. It’s one of those tiny details that manages to give so much character for something so small.
The final modification was to marry the polished crown tip and bezel edge with the smallest modification to the finishing on the case. If we polished just the chamfered area on the case shoulders, the watch would remain largely brushed or matt in keeping with our house style but would give the case a tiny highlight to catch the light at the right angle. These three minor changes together have far more impact than their individual magnitude might suggest but the attention to detail is more than rewarded when handling the wearing the watches. On the matt gunmetal case, it gives the impression that the whole watch looks ceramic, it’s such a delight to see this detail come alive.
Our first design renders were of a classic steel case with a grey or black dial. It’s a great starting point because these are probably the hardest models to perfect. That’s how the founders edition came about. We simply had to make it when we married the grey dial with our patinated brushed bronze IP. A classic watch deserves classic colours and we must have created more than 50 different coloured visuals in the search for the perfect colour stories that would do the project justice. Because the classic dive watch genre is naturally more colourful, we were able to settle on black, bright orange, chalky deep blue, vintage tan and stealthy gunmetal. Arguably gunmetal isn’t so classic but we’d defy anyone to call us out and say it doesn’t suit this watch perfectly.
Each model is a story in its own right and carries with it, a unique character. It’s these subtle character differences in conjunction with perfectly executed detailing, once just ambitious ideas in our heads, that created so much feeling when we handled the first prototypes and saw everything come to life in front of our eyes. We sat silently, picking them up one by one, exploring every angle, every detail handling them over and over.
It was an emotional moment with all sorts of thoughts washing through us, pride, delight, relief and a huge sense of accomplishment. We even shared a happy tear or two.
When we explore new product design, we try and do it with few preconceptions and a totally open mind, it probably helps that we’re naturally obsessive and happy to take the necessary time until we’re ready to put our names on the dial. It’s the favourite part of our roles and having the luxury of a little more time on this project has been really special.
We hope you enjoy these watches as much as we did creating them.