Jorg Hysek: The passion and artistry of watch design

February 2003

Jorg Hysek is convinced that design is often overlooked by people when purchasing a watch. His own watch collections, which began just three years ago, ensure that the design concept is the very first thing they recognize.

“Watchmaking needs passion and passion means creativity. Today, the large groups are losing their capacity to be creative because they are too involved in the financial aspects of the business. Finance puts a break on creativity,” Jorg Hysek claims whilst discussing the future of the watch industry.

But let's start at the beginning.

The creative environment
I met Jorg Hysek in the building he has specially designed for his watch company in Lussy-sur-Morges, a small village halfway between Geneva and Lausanne. The building is a fine example of what can be achieved by combining modern design with the proficient use of light and space. The modern exterior of the buildings in steel and glass is eye-catching in its rural environment. The interior is airy and the open corridors with their white handrails are reminiscent of walkways on a chic cruise ship, the offices and conference rooms are predominantly glass and the white concrete walls are generously decorated with numerous Jorg Hysek paintings.

The working environment is perfectly in keeping with Hysek's creative concepts - an inviting design that not only appeals to the eye, but also gives satisfaction as an object. Having designed watches for many years for companies such as TAG Heuer, Tiffany, Cartier and Breguet to name just a few, Hysek set out to create a watch that reflects “my own innermost ideas of design, form and function.”

A new look
The Jorg Hysek watch collection first appeared three years ago after a 12-month gestation and design period. Having created a completely new look in the world of pens, Hysek took his highly original and stylized 'bridge' design element and incorporated it into his watch case. He then changed the manner of numbering the watch dial - using the numerals 1, 5, 7 and 11 instead of the tried and proved sequence of 3, 6, 9 and 12. He then added to the watch a moulded rubber strap with a pre-formed curve so it fits comfortably on the wrist and a bold 'bridge-style' buckle.

“I was ready to say that I finally had a watch that represented my vision of what a watch should be: a unique expression that could not be mistaken for any other watch,” Hysek acknowledges. “For me, the test of a watch design is whether you recognize it immediately when you see it on someone's wrist across the room.”

Launched three years ago, Jorg Hysek sold 3,000 watches during the first 12 months. “There were two main problems in the beginning. The first was that we were an unknown watch brand - our pens had been on the market for some time, but that meant nothing since we weren't addressing the same retailers. The second problem was, because of the time consuming research into the design and the cost of producing prototypes, our watches are expensive.”

The importance of design
"Design is often overlooked by people when purchasing a watch. In the retail shops when a watch is being sold, the manufacture of it is usually given priority and the design is a sort of additional value. With the Hysek watches, the contrary is true, everything begins with the design. Store owners know how to sell my watches, but the sales staff really don't seem to understand the importance of the design and therefore don't know how to sell them.

"When I create a watch, I look at the concept first. I'm more interested in the bodywork rather than the mechanics. The freer you are in the design concept, the better the chance of creating something different.

“There is room for a little madness, creativity, passion and especially emotion in watchmaking,” Jorg Hysek states with an obvious reference to his own role in today's watch world. “There are two means of approaching emotion in watches. The first is the brand that creates the emotion rather then the product. By that I mean it's the marketing people who create the emotion for the consumer.” At this point Jorg Hysek opened Europa Star and pointed to an advertisement that clearly used a personality as the emotion for selling rather than the watch. “The second method is the product that creates the emotion. An example of that would be the Bugatti watch by Parmigiani. There, it is the particular form of the watch that creates the emotion.”

The future
For Basel this year, Jorg Hysek will be launching two new models. The first, which will be seen in the next issue of Europa Star, is a quite extraordinary tourbillon. Designed in keeping with the Hysek style, there will be just five models in platinum and five in gold and as if that wasn't enough, each watch will be delivered to the buyers personally by Jorg Hysek along with an original Jorg Hysek painting on canvas. At prices between 200,000 - 400,000 Swiss francs, there are going to be some very disappointed collectors around later this year. The second new model is called the F16 after the American fighter plane - but more of that in the coming issues.

It appears that Hysek's emotional watch concept is now beginning to reap its rewards since last year his watch sales had progressed to the 3,000 mark. They are selling well in the Middle East and in the USA now since he appointed a new distributor there last year. Jorg Hysek watches can also be found in the leading shops in London, Paris, Spain and, of course, design-conscious Italy.

Although Jorg Hysek is more interested in the bodywork rather than the mechanics of a watch, with the imminent introduction of his exciting new tourbillon he is now also showing an interest in mechanical movements. “The toubillon is a classic in watchmaking,” he concludes, “but I've changed its look, now there's a tourbillon with a modern design.”