An Interview With Industrial Designer Fabian Schwaerzler

For WatchTime’s Design Special 2018, on sale now and available for download in the WatchTime Shop, we sat down with several different design professionals — including independent industrial designers, freelance watch designers, lead designers of large brands, and even a movement designer — to talk about how they see the role of design in watchmaking, where they get their ideas from, and what they think good design is.

Here are the answers we got from Zurich-based product designer Fabian Schwaerzler.

“It is about proportions and space.”

WT: In your opinion, what is the role of a designer in the world of watchmaking?
FS: Like Max Bill did at Junghans, the designer should serve the function of the watch as an instrument and of the people that will wear it.

WT: How did you get into watches and watch design?
FS: I started with furniture design. Over the years I developed skills and a way of essential design thinking which I can now adapt to all kinds of objects. Seven years ago I discovered the watch as a piece of micro-architecture. The rules are the same as they are in bigger objects. It is about proportions and space. Daniel Dreifuss from Maurice de Mauriac in Zurich gave me the chance to start in this area.

WT: What is good watch design, in your view? Any examples?
FS: I love the original Swatch, the model “GB 100.” It is innovative and democratic and the design is functional and honest. That is how design should be. In the design of the dial of the Maurice de Mauriac L1 watch there is a similar spirit of swiss graphic functionality. Beside those, there is this rare Patek Philippe Ref. 2585 that keeps on fascinating me.

WT: Where do you get your ideas?
FS: New ideas occur out of a field of experiments. I build kind of a net structure out of ideals, wishes, inspirations from watch books, technical possibilities, essential design thinking, and the question “What could be done better?” Besides my brain I also use virtual pin walls to collect and connect those things. Then, in relaxed moments that have nothing to do with work, new connections flash up and form a new idea.

WT: Which watch or other product would you like to see get a makeover?
FS: Many of the classic watch models would look, in my eyes, much nicer if one would refine them with a focus on their original heritage and on their essential functions. The pure beauty that would appear would be astounding.

WT:Should form follow function or function follows form? Why?
FS: The design should reflect the core of the object. If you take the time to create something that just uses the things it really needs to fulfill its function and if you pair that with a spirit that serves a human being, then beautiful and long-lasting elements come out. The function should add a real value to people’s lives, and a good form follows this principle.

WT: What project are you most proud of?
FS: The C1 chair, L1 and L2 watches for Maurice de Mauriac.

The L1 for Maurice de Mauriac (ETA 2824), stainless steel, 39 mm

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  1. Sylvio F. Bertoli

    Well said Fabian. You are a man of good taste. The PP 2585 is a true beauty. As to the swatch GB 100 when I saw it I thought they got the “inspiration” from the Mondaine Swiss Railway watches. Well done on your collecion for Maurice de Mauriac.

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