The following essay and photos (edited for length and clarity) come to us from Netherlands-based industrial designer Laurens de Rijke. Enjoy!
The past five years I have spent developing my first take on a so called 'driver watch'. This first series of watches is called the Amalfi Series, named after the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy. It is a watch that is focused on the gentleman driver that loves to take out his car in the weekend. Maybe my story is a nice article on your website, otherwise just admire my pictures and let me know what you think (scroll down for pictures of the watch).
I grew up tinkering on old mopeds. And like many adolescents, I had an urge for speed and driving like a lunatic, and I was lucky enough to survive some stupid incidents. Tinkering and wrenching became the safer hobby, and a serious one.
When I was 17 years old, things changed: I stopped lusting for fast, modern mopeds and bought a classic Vespa. This opened up an entire new world, of classic cars and motorcycles. I loved cruising on the Vespa, did so as much as possible, and challenged the little machine to carry me on my first 'adventure,' riding to Paris from the Netherlands.
At 19 I attended the Technical University of Delft with the ambition to become a car designer. I soon found out that car design is an incredibly niche market, and that I was not eager enough to become a car designer. I lost my passion for design. I got through my course-work and just focused on finishing my Masters degree.
To find inspiration and fuel my dreams, I decided to find a new adventure. My part-time job was working at a classic Vespa restoration company. This gave me the possibility to do a real adventure with a classic Vespa motorscooter, a Grand Sport 160 with a converted 200cc engine. The goal of this journey was to follow the ancient Silk Road as much as possible, which took me through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kirgizstan and Kazakhstan.
It was an amazing journey on a wonderful vehicle. During a day off in Tbilisi, Georgia, I stumbled upon a flea market and I found a nice relic, a classic Vostok watch. The watch still worked fine and I decided to use it on my Vespa for the rest of the trip.
This is me along the Pamir Highway, Tajikistan, together with my Vespa GS160 from 1962.
One year later it was time for me to graduate, and the Vostok had inspired me to develop my own take on a (driver) watch. For my graduation I had the possibility to work on this dream. I was soon introduced to Professor Bruno Ninaber van Eyben, a renowned Dutch designer (well known for his watch designs and designs for the Dutch euro coin), who has been a tremendous help in fulfilling this dream.
At Studio Ninaber I learned to use a CNC lathe and mill and I learned many tricks of the watch designing/developing trade, mainly focused on case making and development. At the studio I made important steps in the development of my first series of watches, producing my first working prototype.
After a year I decided that it was time to stand on my own two feet. This meant building my own little workshop with my own CNC mill and professional lathe. The past three years have been all about developing and building up the workshop at the same time, until the moment where we are now, launching my first series of watches.
At work behind a lathe at Studio Ninaber.
My journey fueled me with inspiration to develop a so-called "driver's watch." Being a design engineer I hold on to the philosophy of form follows function (which I try to execute in an elegant way in the Amalfi Series). What I want to achieve with my watch brand is to develop the ultimate driver's watch in terms of functionality. This means that I also draw my inspiration from function and not from driving-inspired themes (like a rotor that is shaped like a car wheel).
For the Amalfi Series No.1S, I focused on the gentleman driver. I tried to find the balance between the watch being both a jewel and a functional tool. One might call this a dress watch, whereas in my future product portfolio I also want to develop a driver's watch that is focused much more on function, something more like a tool-watch.
The Amalfi Series No.1S with special strap and solid lugs. One more of the Amalfi Series No.1S with case rotated under 45 degrees.
The functions that I focused on: I wanted a rotatable watch, a highly readable dial and an easy strap change. The watch rotated under an angle makes it more legible while driving. A highly readable dial results in a big dial with relatively long watch hands (and future opportunity for filling with luminescents). Being able to easily change straps is useful for swapping in a NATO strap, for instance, and wearing it on top of your shirt or racing gear.
I am now finalizing the details for the first batch of watches. Watches are currently made to order and delivery time is around two months. The Amalfi Series No.1S is limited to 99 pieces, each piece numbered in the side recess of our special case construction. Clients can inquire for their number and custom engravings are possible.
The No.1S with highly legible dial and special straps to easily change for a longer strap. Enter a caption (optional) The special case construction allows for an engraving in the side recess of the case, with the watch not rotated the 'Amalfi Series' logo is visible and the serial number is hidden.
The specially-shaped sapphire glass has a (single) blue ultraviolet antireflective coating. The case is made of 316L stainless steel and made in-house. The watch is 38mm in diameter and it is 9.5mm thick.
The watch uses a high end Soprod M100 movement that is visible through the sapphire crystal of the caseback. The hand height of the movement is adjusted in-house to meet our design specifications (the dial high up in the case).
The black lacquered dial is painted in-house and pad printing is done by a specialized printing company in the Netherlands, the applied indices are silver plated and filled with paint by hand. The hands are laser cut by a highly specialized German company and finished by hand in-house.
The strap is unique and made by hand by an artisanal Belgium company.
Thank you for reading my story.
Laurens de Rijke
0031 6 82 00 54 02