FROM CARTOONS TO CHRONOGRAPHS: THE ARTISTIC JOURNEY OF FREDI BRODMANN IN WATCH DESIGN

FROM CARTOONS TO CHRONOGRAPHS: THE ARTISTIC JOURNEY OF FREDI BRODMANN IN WATCH DESIGN
Fredi Brodmann, a seasoned watch designer, brings a wealth of experience and creativity to the timepiece industry. Currently a Senior Watch Designer at CITIZEN WATCH GROUP since November 2020, Brodmann is based in New York, where he continues to innovate in the field. Over his extensive career, he has served as an Executive Creative Director, focusing on the invention, design, development, and manufacturing of timepieces for a variety of domestic and international brands such as NORMALZEIT Vienna, BENRUS, and JUNKERS Germany.

Brodmann co-founded DKI / Design Knowledge International, Inc., where he worked as Design Director from 1992 to 1999, overseeing the design and development of watches for international licenses and house brands like Reebok and Head. Earlier, as a Creative Consultant at Visual Visions, Corp., he specialized in creating fun and concept watches, as well as other consumer products with a humorous connotation. His impressive portfolio reflects his artistic vision and dedication to the watch industry, making him a notable figure in the world of horology.

  • Could you share what inspired you to pursue watch design and how you first entered the industry?

In the early eighties, I lived in Munich and worked as a graphic designer and editorial cartoonist. In 1985, I was commissioned by a magazine to draw a series of time-related cartoons, making fun of time. Coinciding with that, Swatch had just launched, and for some reason, I translated some of the jokes into funny watch dials. That led to WatchMe by ABrodmann and started me in the watch industry with my satirical perspective.

In 1987, I invented Segments and co-founded Ventura | Design on Time. “How much watch do you have to show to tell time?” was my question, which led to the creation of a quarter-shaped case.

 

  • How do you ensure a harmonious balance between aesthetics and functionality in your watch designs?

As a designer, the pursuit of beauty and aesthetics is a priority. The various watch movement calibers influence forms to a certain degree. It also depends on whether I use a simple movement that fits a form or whether I need to design a movement as well. In earlier years, my mantra was to create designs with a twist, subtle humour, and philosophy. That was primarily achieved with dial art. Another challenge is to be inspired cat. Originality is the utmost goal.

  • What elements do you consider crucial for a successful watch design?

Originality, uniqueness, wearability, comfort, fit and style. And quality manufacturing.

  • Can you walk us through your creative journey, from the initial concept to the finished product?

 I apply my watch and design knowledge when I need to follow a client’s briefing and direction.

And start designing in my head and with initial drawings or go directly into the computer and let it happen. Many times, the best results come from “computer accidents” where a wrong command leads to an interim result that I pick up on and run with.

The other way is a sudden - may be unrelated inspiration from seeing a car or a piece of furniture or having an animated conversation that leads to a conceptual idea. 

  • How do you keep up with emerging trends in the watch industry?

I spent decades going to trade shows and, of course, following trends on the internet. As I am immersed in the industry with passion, I am well connected with colleges, and we keep each other continuously updated. It is an intuitive connection to the watch world I care so much about.

  • What approach do you take when designing watches for various demographics, like men versus women or younger versus older customers?

A key element in my design approach is humour. Design with a twist is the goal. There are demographics that are price-driven, and there are others that are design and technology/complication-oriented. It is easier to design men’s watches than ladies.

I generally first want to create a nice watch and then consider the components and price category. Of course, the features and materials influence the price and manufacturing method.

A good watch design can be made of plastic or platinum. Look at the Omega Speedmaster. It's an iconic design that costs $5,000 and up, but it's also available in a Swatch version for $250. It's the same beauty.

Of course, there are parameters influenced by movement calibres, from simple quartz to high complication. Most watches are more about look than movement—a fashion accessory matching a person’s wardrobe. There are consumers who are “Brandwashed” vs. independent thinkers who look for individuality.

  • How do you blend new technology into your watch designs while maintaining a timeless aesthetic?

A good designer has his/her own style and signature, which is reflected in beautiful, cool, or functional statements. Technology makes cool art watches as easy as watches with analog or digital movements.

  • What advice would you offer someone interested in a career in watch design?

Designing a watch is more difficult than designing other products. It takes many years to understand its hidden complexity. There must be an innate passion and interest to begin with.

When I was a kid, I wanted to become a car designer, but watches were always part of my interests. I can’t even describe my natural affinity for the watch world and the beautiful relationships I developed with like-minded people in that industry.

There are many ways to enter the watch world. Going to various design and watch trade shows.

Reading about watches. Work in a watch company or get an internship. 

  • Which watch model or brand has significantly inspired you, and who would you love to collaborate with?

Since 1985, I have had the pleasure of working with many great watch brands and companies as a concept creator or also producer.

  • Of the brands you've worked with, which models inspired or challenged you the most?

I enjoyed very much developing tactical timepieces for the USMC, Army, Navy and Air Force.

Reinventing BENRUS also was a very interesting experience.

 

  • What other hobby or passion inspires you?

I love to draw cartoons in my spare time still, cook and play ping-pong.

 

Fredi Brodmann
Linkedin

Instagram
@fredolinsky
@brodmannartoons

 

 Photos by Kerri Brodmann

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