Designers are taught that “form follows function”, but in the timepiece sub-category of luxury goods, neither can be optimised without factoring in constraints and finishing.

The motto “form follows function” only represents one of the four synergies that are required to reach the best balance with watchmaking product. Form and Finishing are subordinate to Constraints, and Finishing is often tied to a Functional role.

The difficulty of balancing function, form, constraints and finishing in watch design
The difficulty of balancing function, form, constraints and finishing in watch design

In my page Finding the Right Creative, I give the example of a case that was designed according to the constraints of injection moulding of plastics, and ended costing 60% more because it was actually manufactured in steel.

Plastic injection mould. Image credit The Toolroom Inc.
A plastic injection mould can quickly become extremely complex and expensive, and the various surface finishings are also embedded in it. (image credit The Toolrome Inc., reproduced under Fair Use)

Fancy details that with plastics would barely impact an already Complex Setup, but in a Long Mass Production process, they multiply the amount of labour-intensive operations.

Comparison of the benefits and drawbacks of variouus manufacturing processes

Following my advise, the designer removed all expendable chamfers and multiple radii curves usually found on plastic parts, which brought the cost of the new case within the allocated budget.

A deep drawing mould remains quite simple, and the complexity of a component is addressed by using a sequence of such moulds, or machining the output at a later stage.
A deep drawing mould remains quite simple, and the complexity of the output is addressed by using a sequence of such moulds, or machining the output at a later stage. (image source Science Direct, reproduced under Fair Use)

Besides the complexity of a design, the chosen material and the level of finishing can also lead to huge cost differences: in Summer 2019 I have been working on an octogonal case that is a little bit complex. To have the same design manufactured by different workshops, the increase in skill to go from Tier 2 to Tier 3 raises cost by 20% in average, and going to Tier 4 raises cost by 150% in average.

Finishing grades of watches, according to Timeless by Design

Don’t hesitate to contact me personnally if your project needs help with design, cost management or production.