Fugue Watches: Designing Classic Timepieces, Today
Photography by Kevin Bouvier, Patrice Minol, Zone Studio, and Marc Tran
Embarking on a high-end product venture in an already-mature market can be daunting, but if the vision is there, it can definitely be done, even in the watch world.
Fugue is a French brand, born in Paris, aimed at exploring modularity in design paired with high-end Swiss construction. The company was created by long-time horology enthusiast Leopoldo Celi, and after years of research and design studies, the first piece bearing the name Fugue was completed. The idea behind it was to create a contemporary alternative to vintage watches, taking classic design elements and imbuing them with elegant twist that fits into any decade. After all the name, Fugue, is a reference to the elusive nature of time.
Designed by me, the first watch, called the Chronostase, takes its name from an illusion of time stopping, inviting you to take a break from your busy daily routine. Just as a watch is not solely worn to give you the time, the Chronostase is more of a reminder to think about time and how it relates to us in terms of being beholden to it or not. This is why we’ve literally put the time in brackets on the dial. Rewinding from the finished piece though, how does an idea for a watch like this become something that can be strapped on a wrist?
The project started almost four years ago. Leopoldo was looking for a designer for his watch company and reached out to me through Behance, a platform where creatives are displaying their works in all sorts of mediums. After speaking with the clearly passionate and knowledgeable man who’d contacted me to “work on a watch,” I started the project by designing the case of the watch with just pen and paper to start; I came up with an idea of a minimal yet refined case, connecting one lug to the opposite one in a form resembling two sculptures surrounding the round dial nestled within.
After continuing with many more sketches of the case, it was time to think about the specifications of the movement. Using an ETA 28-24-2 Swiss automatic movement, Leo partnered with some highly skilled engineers in Switzerland to create an innovative system that uses ball bearings to attach the outer case frame to a central container. This allows one to create multiple configurations of the same watch to match mood and style. The final package of most watches is predominantly defined in part by the practical considerations of its mechanicals, but this construction offers increased flexibility in form.
At the same time as this assembly technique was being explored, I was starting to design the dial. Our idea was to emphasize the case by using large brackets on the dial to blend the two. Then, I wanted bold numbers reminiscent of a Panerai or Bell & Ross, but I chose to use odd numbers rather than evens to give it a slight shift in look. Another element to tackle was the design of the indexes and hands; to me, they look sharp and precise, akin to a set of Japanese-made knives. There is a reminder of these elements on the back of the case as well.
After quite some time refining the dial, we decided on four color variations; two dark, and two bright, with light blue and yellow details. The dials are brushed in a circular pattern, and the case is offered in two finishes: brushed on the top with a polished chamfer which highlights the unique shape of the case, and polished everywhere else.
With the design completed, we ordered a few prototypes to assess the watch as a single unit, and to spend some time “living with” the various elements: case, dial, strap, glass,etc. When we were satisfied finally ready to share with others, we decided to launch a limited and numbered pre-series edition, which is currently on sale now on the Fugue website. To see more of their work, also be sure to check out their Instagram page.
As for what’s next, we are currently working on the next batch of watches which will offer new case frames colors and finishes, along with a number of surprises