The symbiosis of car and watch design: designers share their stories

42mm Chrono profile landscape

There is a strong and storied relationship between cars and watches, and designers from both sides can learn a thing or two from each other.

A sleek, well-proportioned exterior with flowing curves, premium materials and precision engineering. A product that begins with a sketch, is refined through CAD models and then carefully assembled by skilled technicians. The perfect blend of design, manufacturing and an appreciation for details.

Now, does this describe a high-end automobile, or a luxury mechanical watch? If we are being honest, it could be either. No coincidence then that many car designers dabble in watch design and, in some cases, what starts as a one-off spirals into something much greater. 

Le Mans chrono macro 3

Highlights, shadows and proportions are carefully considered. Are we talking about watches or cars here? 

This conversation runs deeper than just brand partnerships, slapping a badge on a watch dial or mounting a clock on the instrument panel. There are elements of watch design that could inspire car designers to rethink their approach to certain elements of the vehicle, and vice versa. But don’t just take our word for it.

For designer Frank Stephenson, there is a shared emphasis on precision. “Watches and cars have historically gone hand in hand. Both worlds value accuracy in all the small elements that make the outcome work perfectly,” he tells CDN. “In a watch, every small detail is meticulously thought out and designed, reflecting the dedication to ensuring that all parts fit perfectly together. This commitment to precision and attention to detail is something that every designer likes.” 

Frank Stephenson Sketching 2

Frank Stephenson sketching in his studio

“Timepieces have always had a relationship to cars – a small mechanical engine wrapped in a case on your wrist,” observes Patrick Ayoub, a watch designer in Detroit. After senior design positions at BMW, DaimlerChrysler, SEAT and Volkswagen, he decided to started his own watch brand, Detroit Watch Co., and found that it wasn’t much of a jump from what he had been doing with cars over the last three decades. He highlights the importance of packaging and the mechanical movement of a watch when it comes to figuring out the rest of the design.

“The movement is the same as a car platform,” he explains. “It starts with…

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