“Is there anything you would change about the Trieste if you could go back in time and go through this process again?”
I asked this question to Cullen just before the official release of the Trieste. Part of me was wondering if there was any part of him that was dissatisfied with any aspect of the watch. Another part of me was hoping he was just as happy about it as I was. We had collaborated before in the past, from school projects to a blues-rock band, but this was the first time we had started a company together and designed a product to be sold all over the world. This time, it had to be perfect.
The whole design came together rather naturally. It started with the goal of creating a modern-looking dressy dive watch. We looked at a few of our favorite pieces, both vintage and contemporary, and figured out what aspects of each we liked and which aspects we would change.
We knew we wanted to create something modern, elegant, and dressy, but wanted to maintain the functionality of a classic dive watch. We also knew that we wanted the watch to be under 13mm in thickness, 41mm in diameter, and no more than 50mm lug-to-lug. We felt that not only was this size perfect for the two of us, but we also thought that most watch lovers fell into this size category and that successfully creating a watch in this size group would grant us flexibility for future designs in exploring in either direction in terms of size.
Cullen already had a clear idea of what the specifications should be and which movement to use (many of these changed throughout the process). Initially, our intent was to use a ceramic bezel insert, C3 lume, ETA 2824-2 movement, and only offer a stainless steel case option. While we kept the overall character of the watch we designed, we decided to change a few of the specific features.
Very early on in the process, we realized that WISs’ love options. We decided on offering three bezel colors, an affordable movement option (NH35A), a black PVD case option, and a date/no-date option. This totals 24 different variations. That was enough for us.
The hands had to be proportional, unique, but more importantly, it had to flow with the overall design. To add another dimension to the overall design, I wanted the hands to have a cool interplay with the indices. The design we came up with fits all the above criteria. My favorite part about the hands is that when they hit the 12, 3, 6, and 9 positions, the shape merges with the indices. Go ahead and give it a try. For those of you who don’t own the Trieste yet, The Time Bum wrote briefly about this in his review and has a pretty good picture that shows what I mean.
We researched many of our favorite brands while finalizing many of these features. One of the things we were on the fence about was the bezel insert material. Ceramic was the obvious choice for us in the beginning, but after researching about the lumed ceramic bezels on the market, we found that the lume on the bezel is susceptible to wear and tear from the elements and therefore deteriorates over time. That is, if it doesn’t chip off completely. On top of that, we wanted a very specific color that ended up being challenging to create in ceramic. We ultimately decided to go with a sapphire bezel because it protects the lume, while maintaining the beautiful shimmer in the light that ceramic exudes. We also loved the fact that the color of sapphire inserts change quite drastically depending on lighting. For the colors, we knew we had to have a black option. The burgundy was our “wild card” option, as it stands out the most without being overly garish. The navy option was a good fit because of how well it matched our BGW-9 lume. We are still trying to figure out a solution for the lumed ceramic and when we do, you can expect to see it on our future designs.
The STP1-11 was a bit of a last minute decision. By now, everyone knows about Swatch’s flip-flopping on whether or not they are going to stop selling ETA movements to companies outside of the Swatch group. As a result, many of the 3rd party dealers have marked up the prices of the little reserve of ETAs they have. And yet, there is STILL crazy demand for them. Many suppliers are sold out, some have just a few left, and the rest are charging astronomical amounts for them. Rather than try to maneuver our way around these 3rd party dealers, we decided to buy directly from STP. The movements are a clone of the 2824-2, but with an extra jewel in the barrel bridge for added longevity. So far they’ve proven to be just as reliable as the 2824-2, are beautifully decorated, and most importantly, we could get them directly from STP in Switzerland for a reasonable price. The NH35A was also included as an option to give our customers the choice of a more affordable option, as we all know that many of us like to buy many, many watches and a dollar saved here can be put towards other watches. Check out our previous blog post that outlines the main differences between the movements.
This was a gut decision.
Dial / Indices
The dial of the Trieste was also a difficult aspect to perfect, more specifically, the dot indices. In our initial renderings, the dot indices were 2.0mm in diameter. However when we received the prototypes from the factory, we noticed that the watch had a bit of a "maxi dial" aesthetic. We realized that the indices we received were in fact 2.5mm. The reason this was done was because the factory had already made a mould for 2.5mm indices for a past client and they thought it would save us money to just use them instead of making a brand new mould. Although tempting, we hated the look of the watch, because to any crazy watch freak like us, 0.5mm is a BIG deal. We paid for a new mould, loved the results and hope you do too. We manufactured both glossy dials and matte dials for the prototypes. After wearing both dials on our wrists for a couple of weeks, we decided that the matte dial had more depth. It seemed to change textures in different lights and didn’t look cheap like the glossy dial did.
Finally, the caseback, we thought would be the easiest aspect of the watch to finalize, since we already had the design. How hard could it be right? Well, we wanted the watch to be as elegant and dressy as any other dress watch on the market, without losing its diver appeal. Part of the way we achieved this is by getting it down to 13mm (with the domed crystal) so that it fits under the dress shirt cuff. Our initial design was a stamped caseback that was deep and heavy. we shaved it down and decided to go with a light etching to shave off 0.4mm. Yes, 0.4 frikin’ millimeters.
The final result is what you see today. Not everyone will love the Trieste, in fact some people may hate it, and that’s okay. I never really understood why other microbrands that I loved took so damn long to release new models or even start shipping the ones that were already pre-ordered. I realize now how much goes into each and every watch that is released. There are legendary watches that don’t ever need to be re-designed, and if they do, they keep just enough to maintain their identity but change the rest to fit the taste and trends of the time.
I find that the brands that rise above the rest tend to be the ones that invest the most time and passion into each design. The designers behind many of our favorite micro brands don’t “settle” on a design; they keep tweaking and adjusting, and when it is finally perfect, they “just know”. I think this is why Cullen’s answer to my question at the beginning of this post was so assuring: “No, not a thing”.
Wesley Kwok is the co-founder/operator at Nodus Watches. He is an entrepreneur by day, watch-geek by night, and a musician in the spaces in between. When he is not working or playing guitar, he can be found seeking out the best craft beer in California, perfecting his brioche bun recipe, or keeping up to date on the latest tech trends.