How watch design can be more circular, ethical and sustainable: Baume & Mercier collaborate with Central Saint Martins’ students

We go behind the scenes of CSM’s MA Material Futures course to explore how its students are rethinking luxury watch design for the future.

Date
21 June 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

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For the second year in a row, watchmakers Baume & Mercier has been collaborating with Central Saint Martins’ students to explore innovation through science. Founded in 1830 by Baume brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin, Baume & Mercier is a brand that pays attention to design, balancing pragmatism and aesthetics in a collaborative approach. Last year, the brand took its ethos one step further, partnering with London’s renowned Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London, and its MA Material Futures course. Following a brief set by Baume & Mercier, the students were tasked with considering material techniques that could replace or restructure an existing component of a Baume & Mercier collection. As a statement reads: “The materials must embody durability without compromising on the style, luxurious appearance, original design or quality of the watch.”

The brief asked the students to look beyond the final craft of an object and instead, consider how design and engineering can be more circular, ethical and sustainable. In the context of increasing global challenges that threaten our way of life over the next century, the MA Material Futures class tapped into Baume & Mercier’s creative mentality, in turn, challenging the conventions of traditional watchmaking by using new and innovative sustainable materials and manufacturing processes.

The first step of the brief involved students identifying with one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and then use a UN goal to steer the engineering and fabrication of the watch. The idea was to not only propose change but actively contribute towards it, something Baum & Mercier aim to achieve in the future. In this way, a major challenge for the students was to steer clear of being too speculative as the design should be easily implemented in the future. The brief also inspired the class to equally consider material innovation, craftsmanship, original design and quality, and the students had approximately two months to realise their ideas. These are some of them.

GalleryBaume & Mercier in collaboration with Central Saint Martins' MA Material Futures (Copyright © Baume & Mercier, 2021)

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Falilat Omodudu, Metamorphisising Electronics

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Eleonora Otolani: Watch for Fidgeters

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Eleonora Otolani: Watch for Fidgeters

Eleonora Ortolani’s Watch for Fidgeters is an instrument designed for people who experience sensory overload and anxiety. “I think we underestimate the power of touch compared to the other senses,” the student says on what inspired the initial concept. “Touching can really change the chemistry in your body and calm your mind,” she continues. With this in mind, she researched how different neurodivergent conditions mean some people are hypersensitive to certain materials. Eleonora’s design tracks the wearer’s interactions with different materials, allowing the wearer to ascertain which material is therapeutic to them, meaning they get the most out of the product.

Falilat Omodudu, on the other hand, designed a product that repurposes electronic cables into a vegan leather strap with a patina face. There is an increasing amount of electronic waste polluting the planet and Falilat points out “how they are toxic to the environment while only 17 per cent of electronic cables are actually recyclable.” Electronic cables are also the biggest contribution to e-waste. In Metamorphosising Electronics, Falilat explores how these materials can be repurposed into something new. By mining the minerals in the electronic cables, Falilat uses the electronic cables in a variety of ways, channelling nature at its core through organic methods.

Danielle Adams interpreted the brief in a more conceptual way, however. Adding 40 extra minutes to every day, she reinvents our preconceived notions of time. While studying the recent Mars explorations, she realised that on Mars, there is an extra 40 minutes in a day as it takes longer for the planet to rotate on its axis. She explains: “I thought this was a really beautiful construct, what would you do if you had extra time?” In Danielle’s idea, she reconsiders how we think about time – something we never seem to have enough of – and changes the watch’s design to match a Martian day with an extra 40 minutes per day. Playing with various dials on the watch’s face, Danielle’s piece nods to the history of time-reading while encompassing a future-facing mentality too. Using salt, “the most abundant rock on both planets,” the student’s design hints at how “we need to live a more purposeful life” as well as the direction society is moving towards.

These are just three examples of how the Material Futures students are considering the intersection of sustainability, design and engineering. Kieran Jones, the course leader at Central Saint Martins comments on the uniqueness of the partnership, which combines technology, fashion, science, engineering, design and more. In turn, the course was the UK’s first trans-disciplinary course, uniting its students in a “hunger for real-world social change”. He adds, “all our students want a more sustainable future” and in seeking this outcome, they have investigated some truly inspiring and impressive projects. All in all, the Baume & Mercier partnership aids the students in a want to make design concepts into a reality, supporting the next generation of sustainable design experts so we are better prepared for the global challenges that lay ahead.

GalleryBaume & Mercier in collaboration with Central Saint Martins' MA Material Futures (Copyright © Baume & Mercier, 2021)

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Danielle Adams: The Mars Riviera

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Pascal Schonlau: Luxury of Time

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Eleonora Otolani: Watch for Fidgeters

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Byron Clarke: Perception of Time

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Byron Clarke: Perception of Time

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Baume & Mercier in collaboration with Central Saint Martins' MA Material Futures, Falilat Omodudu, Metamorphisising Electronics (Copyright © Baume & Mercier, 2021)

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