"You need to be able to turn your mobile phone off over the weekend"
An interview with Corvin Lask (left) and Chris Noerskau (right) of slow watches.
The evolution of watches is inseperably linked to speed and precision, to progress and science and, as some feel, to a world spiraling beyond our control. To Corvin Lask and Chris Noerskau, the solution to the dilemma is simple: If watches can make time seem to run faster, then they can, with the necessary adjustments, also make it pass more slowly. The slow brand is the result of their personal quest for escaping the rat race, of discovering what really matters in life. A one-hander with a distinct, ultra-minimal and elegant design, it not only reduces the concept of timekeeping to its bare essentials, but also shifts the emphasis away from chasing seconds to capturing the moment – this is a watch which tells you were you are in your day, not how much you've missed or should get done. But does it work? I took a slow on a three week trip through Europe this Summer and after an initial phase of getting used to the concept, I found myself increasingly relaxed, somehow loosing sense of time while still staying in touch with it. The fact that I was on vacation may have helped. But the slow really can remind you of a simple fact: Time is never just a physical fact, but a mental construct, too - and it is only moving as fast as you allow it to.
Tell me about your very first watch.
Corvin: Mine was a Casio with a tiny calculator. I was four or five years old, if I remember well, and I was so proud of it. After that, for a long time, I stopped wearing watches. There were simply no brands out there which inspired me.
Chris: My first watch was a Casio, too. Mine didn't come with a calculator, though, but an inbuilt video game. Already back then, I liked the fact that it was more than just an instrument for telling the time. And just like Corvin, I didn't wear a watch for many years. You just don't really need one anymore. This is why we designed the slow as a watch which would entice non-watch-wearers to strap one to their wrist again. Not because it can tell the time more accurately than your mobile phone. But because it is a symbol of time in itself and represents a lot more.
To some, a watch without a seconds hand represents a step back.
Corvin: That's not the way we see it. To us, it means focusing on what really matters. It means developing a more natural feeling for the passing of time and realising that this artificial division into seconds and the continuous speeding-up of life are steps in the wrong direction. What matters is living in the moment and appreciating the simple things – meeting friends and spending time with your family instead of writing emails at ten o clock in the evening, which no one is going to read anyway. Do you really need to know if it's 12:29 and 22 seconds? Isn't "almost half past one" quite precise enough? (laughs)
What's the purpose of a watch today, do you feel?
Corvin: I guess for most it's a status symbol, an object representing wealth. In short: It represents extremely superficial values. What we're trying to do is to re-invent this symbol. By wearing a slow, you're indicating that you intend to resist the pervasive trend of acceleration, that you are the master of your own time and following your own ideas. These things matter more to us than financial aspects.
But the concept of a one handed watch isn't exactly new, is it?
Chris: The point is that we had a very particular mindset-idea first and then transferred it to a 24-hour one-hand watch later. This transfer is our actual focal point and that's what makes us different from other, competing brands on the market. It wasn't about us wanting to create a one handed watch - the product conversely followed the brand idea. If we'd called our brand Fast, we would have come up with something entirely different. (laughs) It really mattered to us that this watch represents values such as understatement, sustainability, depth, mindfulness, style, simplicity, cordiality, unconventionality and an open mind.
There seems to be a reference to the slow-food-organisation in the brand name. Do you see yourselves as part of a movement?
Chris: Yes and no. We're in no way esoteric and I'm sure that a lot of people with a successful career will feel attracted to our concepts. We don't want people to start living in caves again, so to speak, or to stop eating candy. Rather, slow is about balance in life. Of course, this also includes taking care of your food and body. We practise Yoga from time to time, for example, and take a day off meat once a week or so. On the other hand, we don't consider technology an evil and believe it can help us simplify our lives. The real point is not to let technology rule your life. You need to be able to turn your mobile off over the weekend, for example.
I like the fact that you stayed true to these considerations when designing the watch. You literally took your time.
Corvin: You're right, we did require some time to move from the initial idea to selling our first slow – if only because we still had jobs. In a way, we created slow for ourselves, as a means of leaving the treadmill we were caught in. So the process of developing the watch was part of a larger process of self-discovery. As a result, we developed various designs only to question everything and start from scratch again. Finally, there was this design which everyone seemed to think was 'it'. And that's when things suddenly started falling into place.
Like the idea that you can re-use the packaging as a table clock.
Corvin: The initial idea was to simply come up with a box which was a symmetrical as the watch itself and which you wouldn't want to throw away. And that's how the idea for this additional use of the packaging came about.
What were some of the considerations in favor of the Ronda Caliber 505.24H GMT?
Chris: We'd worked with Ronda before and made excellent experiences. There was no room for compromise here, we wanted to make sure that the movement was absolutely rock solid. The fact that it's Swiss-made was important to us, since Swiss watches are still unmatched in terms of quality. We also liked the link between slow and Switzerland. For one, things tend to be a bit slower there, but they're also extremely efficient and professional. And then, slow is a global brand, so we naturally felt drawn to the concept of Swiss neutrality.
Did you have to make any adjustments to the caliber for the one-hander?
Chris: Fortunately no and this was a great help for us, since, as a start up, we're working with small quantities. As an additional bonus, we enjoy the idea that a lot of wheels are turning on the inside of the watch, but none of that is apparent when looking at the dial. It's mind over matter, you see. (laughs)
There's not even a date …
Chris: We wanted the design to be all about clarity. And if you're serious about that, there really is no space anymore for a date or a logo on the dial.
You personally went to New York for a promotional photo shoot. What was it like?
Corvin: Since we're a small company, we don't want to hide behind our brand. We want to get in touch with our customers and communicate with them. And already within the first weeks of our product launch, we discovered that a lot of people really appreciate that we're actually talking to them, that we're not resorting to auto responders and pre-phrased emails. And that's why we decided to star in our promotional photo materials ourselves. By accident, we met Robert Whitman, who is an incredible photographer, and he set up this fantastic shooting in New York and captured the idea and all the different aspects of slow perfectly with his images. I don't think we'll ever forget the two days we spent with him.
With all the financial restraints and networking required to get a fledgling company going, is it really possible to do business the slow way?
Corvin: We definitely intend to stay true to our philosophy and approach to life. We were adamant about not working with an investor. We want to make our own decisions and grow in an organic way. We are aiming at long-term development rather than going for short-term success. We also think there are a lot of people out there who share our believes and want to accompany us on our path. So yes, we will take our time with things. But this doesn't preclude wanting to grow, too. We've been in it for a few weeks now and each day, we're reaching a new level. Let's see when things become big enough for us to be able to make our living from it! (laughs)
By Tobias Fischer
Tobias is a music journalist with a passion for watches. He is the editor-in-chief of experimental music magazine tokafi and the publisher of the 15 Questions website.
Homepage: Slow Watches