This project started when I was looking to add a vintage watch to my humble collection. This is when I noticed a gap in the market. There was always the possibility to get an original vintage piece. But vintage watches come with compromises: they are either very expensive, almost impossible to service because the brands don’t exist anymore or because the mechanical movements are discontinued, or their aesthetics are not suitable for today’s tastes.
So, I set out to create my own watch brand to fill this gap.
After months of sketching out designs, researching and experimenting with different materials, building and testing prototypes, and finally working with various suppliers and manufacturers, I’m now ready to offer my watches, exclusively on Kickstarter!
The Design Process
When I started designing my watches, I had 3 goals in mind:
- Affordability (keep the price under $350)
- Practicality (uncomplicated ownership)
- Style (a balanced mix of vintage styling with modern elements)
After talking to various suppliers and manufacturers, I found that I would still be able to achieve the affordability goal using the best materials and components: 316L grade stainless steel case and caseback, Sapphire crystal, and Swiss quartz movement. I was really excited that I wouldn’t have to compromise on quality! And so, I hit the sketch pad right away!
To achieve practicality with this design, I decided that it was best to use Quartz movements. Quartz movements offer incredible time-keeping accuracy, virtually no maintenance, and are very inexpensive and easy to replace if needed. I decided to use Swiss Quartz movements made by Ronda because of their excellent quality. The only maintenance required will be to replace the battery every few years, which only takes a few minutes, and costs about the same as a latte at Starbucks!
As for the style, I took my inspiration from WWI military watches. The beginning of the 20th Century marked the transition between pocket watches and wristwatches. Pocket watches were really not convenient for military personnel. So, they found a solution to make time-reading much easier: they welded to the watch case a piece of thick metal wire that was bent in such a shape that it could accommodate a 1-piece strap. The contraption could then be buckled around the wrist for instant time-reading. And thus, the wristwatch was born, with wire-lugs.
I wanted to keep the wire-lug style, without the inconvenience of welded lugs. So, I shaped the lugs like wire-lugs, but I still used the modern-standard spring bar for easy strap change.
The case uses the classic pocket-watch “bowl” shape, in an up-to-date 42mm diameter. This size is a good fit for both men and women, and it can easily be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion.
To stay consistent with the WW1 military theme, I kept the dial design very legible, free of any unnecessary distraction so common in modern watches. I took the “less-is-more” approach, and used a classic watch design language.
With so many possibilities in front of me, I couldn’t settle on a single dial design, so I decided to create 4 different models. To keep costs reasonable, I had to use the same case and the same hands. It was a great engineering challenge to design the inside of the case to accommodate 4 completely different movements (with very different functions). And it was a great design challenge to create 4 different dials based on the same components.
With the final sketches done, I sent them to a watch manufacturer who converted them to CAD technical drawings.
After I confirmed the technical drawings, the manufacturer machined a set of molds that would be used to fabricate the watch case, and other components from raw stainless steel.
The manufacturer built a complete set of prototypes for me to inspect and to validate the design. When I received the prototypes, I were extremely happy with how they looked and felt on the wrist. In simple words, I loved them!
The Final Design
You can choose between 4 different models:
- Field Officer: the basic field watch, in the classic 3-hand form, with date window at 6H
- California: the legendary “California” dial, in 2-hand form, with a small-second register at 6H
- GMT: the classic dress watch, in 3-hand form, with the addition of a 4th hand to set an independent 2nd time zone (in 24h format)
- Skyfighter: the famous WW1 pilot-style watch, in 2-register chronograph form, with date window at 6H
- Case diameter: 42 mm
- Case thickness: 10.5 mm
- Lug width: 20 mm
- Crystal: Sapphire, flat
- Case Material: Stainless steel 316L
- Caseback: Stainless steel 316L, limited "Founders" edition
- Strap: 20mm Buffalo-grain leather, medium brown
- Water Resistance: 5 ATM (50 m)
- Movement: Swiss-Made Ronda 515 (Field Officer), 6004B (California), 514.24H (GMT), 5021.D (Skyfighter)
I have the final CAD technical drawings of the watch that I can take to any watch manufacturer and they will be happy to manufacture the watches for me. But since I have already verified the quality and workmanship of the particular manufacturer who built the prototypes you see in the pictures here, I plan on having the watches built by them. They can accommodate small production batch as well as very large mass production requirements.
The branded packaging will be made by another factory specialized in working with wood and making custom presentation boxes. They have also delivered beautiful prototypes and are ready to produce my design in as small or as large a quantity I require. If, for any reason, they cannot provide the boxes in a timely manner, I have been recommended several other manufacturers that are highly regarded in the industry.
Once I receive the watches and straps from my suppliers I will inspect each of them thoroughly. If they pass my quality control I will pack them securely and prepare for shipment. I already have business accounts setup with most shipping companies and I will use the safest and/or most cost-effective courier depending on the destination.
I Need Your Support!
I'm ready for production, I have the final prototype, the technical drawings, I have the suppliers ready to start production. The only thing missing is the initial order fee. I need to order a minimum of 400 watches (100 of each model) to keep the price reasonable, and that's where you come in. By becoming a backer for this project, you help me pay for the first production run, and in exchange you will receive an awesome watch at a highly discounted price!
My reach only goes so far beyond my network. Liking Helgray on Facebook or sending a few quick emails to friends and family can go a long way to help us ensure success! I hope that you love my watches as much as I do and pledge your support in order to receive one of the very first production models from Helgray!
Thank you so much for being a part of this project!
Risks and challenges
I realize creating and delivering a product is a complicated process and often comes with unexpected hiccups. That is why I have been preparing.
I have spent the past several months making sure our supply chain is in check. I have a well-established relationship working with a reliable watch manufacturer and strap maker. I have experience and I am prepared to deal with fulfillment of goods. I also have a contingency plans for all the steps that are out of my control.
I am going to keep my backers informed during the production process. I'll do this with regular updates and sharing pictures as often as possible, for example when the watch cases are finished, when the dials are printed, during final assembly, when the final presentation boxes are made, etc…
If somewhere along the way I find that there is a setback in production, or that I cannot make the timeline, I will be as transparent as possible to keep all of my backers informed.
In the end, I want to make Helgray a long-lasting brand of affordable watches. I will do whatever it takes to fulfill my promises and to deliver watches that will exceed my backers’ expectations!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (36 days)