Who can resist a classic, timeless watch? Not us, that’s for sure. When recently celebrating our sixth print issue, we met Kirsty Whyte and Paul Tanner of Freedom to Exist watches who were keen to tell us about their in-demand timepieces. Doing away with any loud branding allows the quality and craftsmanship of each watchface and leather strap to speak for itself. Here, we meet them both and discover more about not feeding into the blogging/social media/Instagramming loop and the small details which add together to create a beautiful piece.
Please can you introduce yourself and Freedom to Exist?
We believe freedom is the freedom to choose, to fall in love, to wear what you want, how you want to.
It’s the Freedom To Exist. That’s what inspired us (two design-lovers & creatives) to create our own watch brand – because we wanted to create timepieces free from fast fashion and passing trend. Products that honour the classic detailing that makes vintage watches truly timeless. Finally, we wanted a little space away from the noise of branding and technology too. Our watches are well designed & simply tell the time, they don’t demand your attention! That’s why, when you wear an fte watch, we let the design speak for itself and keep our name hidden where only you can see it. Affordable. Minimal. Timeless.
What specifically drew you to designing watches above anything else?
We’ve always loved watches, especially classic vintage pieces that have stood the test of time. We wanted to bring back the simple elegance, but with modern styling and colours to suit today’s customer (like us).
It started out as many design do; we couldn’t find an affordable option we liked and so we decided to create one.
We have two sizes of watch (the 30 Edition – 30mm dial & the 40 Edition – 40mm dial) and we didn’t want to constrain the design by gender parameters. There’s no need to get extra holes added and no restriction to which watch you can chose. So both our watches have a strap that accommodates both the large & the most petite wrists…a reflection of the founders!
Can you talk us through the materials, processes and design features which go into making a single watch?
As we designed 100% of the watch ourselves we considered many tiny details, which you may not see at first. Many elements were designed and specified by us, sometimes driving our manufacturers a little crazy!
Key details include the domed glass, the brushed case and polished bezel, the way the hands align with the markings on the dial, the lozenge profile…even the little concave dent on the crown. The back of the case is also domed, creating a slim lozenge shape. We chose genuine Italian leather; and selected it by its colour and feel, thinking about how it would compliment all skin tones. We chose Swiss Ronda movements over cheaper alternatives due to the Swiss reputation for producing superior watches. We carefully chose each face: some like the brown, grey and nougat are tonal. We felt the black just looked great as it was and the tan has a slight pearlescent sheen to it to compliment its rose gold markings.
How the watch feels is really important too. Once you see them in real life they always exceed expectations – their 3D and tactile nature can only really be seen when worn.
Freedom to Exist has built a large community of supporters through social media and brand ambassadors. When launching a business, building a strong base of fans such as this is crucial. Can you share what this community means to you and how it has evolved?
We are so privileged to have such a strong and supportive community, which really organically evolved quite early on from launching. We were amazed how many requests we had straight away from “bloggers” and Instagrammers for free watches and straight away we didn’t want to be part of this consumerist fast fashion. Firstly, because we’re a self-funded start-up, but secondly as we had already started to discover people loyal to our brand. We didn’t want a quick post about our watch to be followed by another. We wanted influencers and our customers to have their Freedom To Exist watch as their primary watch – to love it & wear it. Then all we asked was for them to tag us in any photos & pass on our details to admirers. We didn’t want the elitist feel of many watch brands, we wanted to embrace our customers personality & style. Our Ambassadors come from all types of creative backgrounds, from photographers, to stylists and other designer makers; like The City Works & Sunny Todd Prints who we recently collaborated with on FTE wrapping paper. It’s so exciting when you see someone wearing one of your watches.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in the business so far?
Oooh that’s a difficult one! I think there have been two so far: Brand awareness & time.
Brand awareness: Once someone has seen our watches they always like them, that’s why our stockists are so important. But also just getting “out there” so customers know we exist.
Time: There just aren’t enough hours in the day. We have so many things we want to do to elevate Freedom To Exist. But we both actually have full-time jobs in the design & retail industry, so every evening and weekend is committed to FTE. We live it and breath it; if only we didn’t need sleep!
Finally, what does a ‘Well-Made Life’ mean to you?
A ‘Well-Made Life’ aligns itself very closely to our own brand principles. Every product we design is considered & we use the best material for the price point. We haven’t skimped on quality, with a design made to last. We want to design pieces that have longevity and which a customer can invest in without breaking the bank or being scared to wear it. We want their fte watch to be a part of their everyday life.
By Verity Inett | The Workshop Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org