Charlie talks to Dave Sergeant from Scottish Watches about alkin and the Model Two.
After writing this review I really wanted to find out more about Charlie Fowler and alkin, so I asked him a few questions that I thought offered a little bonus insight into what goes on behind the scenes and how he approaches things.
DS: In just two watches, you’ve developed a strong signature design DNA. How did this come about?
CF: I’ve been a furniture designer for many years and my work has always been underpinned by a strong desire to create pieces that represent quality, simplicity and longevity. After a visit to Baselworld a few years ago I started to look at carrying this same approach over to a watch design in my spare time and just see where I got with it. My ambition was to develop something that balanced form and function in equal measure while still retaining a strong character.
DS: How do you approach the design phase of a new watch?
CF: Generally I follow the principle that a watch is finished when there is nothing left to take away, but if you’re not careful you can easily end up with something that feels cold and a little boring. I work hard to avoid this by making lots of prototypes out of paper dials and rapid prototype cases, slowly distilling down all the elements in an attempt to create visually balanced pieces that offer maximum legibility, functionality and versatility, but also clearly possess the ‘alkin DNA’. It sounds obvious, but simple things like finding a font for the numbers that are unique to the watch world is so important in helping to set yourself apart. Off the top of my head I could name a number of brands priced between £200 and £3000 that still all use Futura for their numbers!
The final big factor for me is that I don’t want to start with a blank piece of paper for every watch, but to treat each watch as an evolution of the last. Many brands jump from one type of watch to the next with little relation to the last, other than the brand name. I have no issue with this at all, but my goal is for someone to cover up the brand name and still know it’s an alkin.
DS: What was the thought process behind the evolution from the Model One to Model Two?
CF: My process for choosing which watch to do next is maybe not as rigorous as it should be! I just knew I wanted to do a dive watch with a steel bracelet that possessed all the alkin qualities that I mentioned earlier. After that it’s just a process of trying things out until I start to get close to something that feels right and I’m happy with it. Primarily I design watches that I know I will love and wear myself. This makes me passionate about what I do and hopefully that comes across in the watches and the brand as a whole. The people who like what I’m doing and understand my passion are my customers and, as a result they have been very supportive and loyal. My other big ambition is to always make the next watch even better than the last in terms of design, quality and execution.
DS: What made you decide on a Supercompressor style dive watch?
CF: At the very start, this watch actually started out with an external rotating bezel, but it just didn’t feel quite right. After a while I took the dial and bezel design and put them in a compressor style case and it instantly started to work much better. I’ve always loved the vintage super compressors, like the Enicar Sherpa or the Universal Geneve Polerouter, but it just hadn’t initially occurred to me to go down this route. I think, in the end, it felt right because you have all the functions of a dive watch, but in a simpler and more restrained form than something using a bezel on the outside. Also, it maybe just felt like a more natural evolution from the model one, than to jump straight up to an out-and-out dive watch.
DS: What’s next for alkin after the Model Two? What are your goals for the brand moving forwards?
CF: After completing the model two it now feels like the right time to look at a watch with the bezel on the outside, so that’s what I’m working on at the moment. It’s such a challenge because there have just been so many done already. It’s proving hard to find something that feels simple yet has its own personality, but I’m sure I’ll get there! After that something a little dressier around the 38mm mark. Also, a lot of people have asked for a smaller version of the Model One, so I’m working on a 39.5mm version with a Miyota 9039.
My guiding principle is to earn my place in the Microbrand community as a company that is known for particular design style and great quality, while also building strong and lasting relationships with my customers.