Victorinox and ECAL innovate the material of the I.N.O.X. watch
To explore the possibilities of stainless steel in the watch industry, we wanted to ask the next generation of up and coming designers about their take on this traditional material. So we were delighted to collaborate with one of the most famous and innovative design schools in the world: the renowned école cantonale d’art Lausanne, in short: ECAL. Students from all over the world borrowed from areas such as medical surgery, nanotechnology or biomimicry, and applied this knowledge to the world of watches.
A story of tradition and innovation
Over the years we have built quite some expertise in working with stainless steel. About 100 years ago we were the first knife company in the world to work with this material. This innovation marked such a turning point in the quality of our products, that in 1921, we integrated the name for non-rusting steel “inox” into our brand name.
Ever since then, stainless steel has been at the core of our work. It’s this expertise which led us to the world of watches. With all our experience, it just seemed natural to start manufacturing timepieces. And that’s how the legendary I.N.O.X. was born: an homage to a material that keeps stunning us with its ingenuity.
Join us to explore the fascinating possibilities of stainless steel.
Stainless steel – 1 material, 11 innovations
The project was headed up by Alexis Georgacopoulos, Director of ECAL, and Thilo Alex Brunner, Head of Master in Product Design at ECAL. Under their initiative, designer and ECAL professor Alexander Taylor led students from all over the world through a three month project on discovering new possibilities for the use of stainless steel.
What is the future of stainless steel in the watch industry, Alexander Taylor?
Why didn’t you design watches in this project but focused on material?
I believe the students and designers should learn skills enabling them to be multifaceted in approach and work not only with the finished object, working in a way exploring first the ways in which we can work without the parameters of the object. The character of the object and the opportunity to create something new in both terms of aesthetic and production will come from a collaboration with makers and understanding of the designer to tailor the technologies to a particular need. During this process opportunities will inevitably present themselves beyond the original brief. By not focusing on a particular design of a watch it allowed us to let the process really inform and influence the formal outcome.
What makes stainless steel such an interesting material to work with?
It has such a beautiful and highly functional industrial quality, somehow hi-tech yet so familiar! It is a material with the ability to stimulate the senses and is associated with pioneering product / structures and performance. With this project however we illustrated how you can take a material which is so familiar and still propose absolutely new ways in which it can be fabricated or processed.
Will we still use stainless steel in the future?
Stainless steel will be a material we use long into the future. Like all materials it is constantly evolving as are the ways in which to work with it and the application with which it is used. It will be engineered and adapted to suit many new demands however as a core material it has a quality associated which now more than ever relates to the consumer and values of quality.
Everything is going digital. Are your students interested in working with a material as sturdy and traditional as stainless steel?
We are industrial designers who like to work on physical objects and with physical materials. In this digital era and into the future I think it is interesting how there is an important emotional attachment to the physical object which stimulates the senses and carries an inherent value and quality. A connection to natural materials and craftsmanship as an offset to balance against the digital world.
At Victorinox, lots of craftsmen work on details and quality improvement of our products. Yet we have some of the most cutting edge machines producing our products. When it comes to craft versus digital – what skills does a designer need?
With something like a watch which is about the human connection, the designer has an opportunity to create a product with a connection beyond the function. The designer has a responsibility to search out new ways and collaboration to innovate and push the physical boundaries of what is possible. The roles of the craftsman and designer are evolving and together working alongside cutting edge technology, have the ability to produce exciting and powerful results.
About Alex Taylor, Awarded British Designer, Professor at ECAL
The professors at ECAL at work – curated by Todd Selby
Photographer, director and author Todd Selby not only took photographs of the professors at ECAL but also interviewed them. Interviews with Todd are quite fun – they are a bit brighter, a bit more curious and surprising than any regular interview.
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