Below you can find a republication of the interview with Pierre Junod by Dezeen Watch Store from last July:
The founder of Swiss watch company Pierre Junod speaks to Dezeen Watch Store about his history of watch-making and working with late designer Massimo Vignelli.
Pierre Junod comes from a family of watchmakers based in Bienne, Switzerland, and has been designing and manufacturing watches with his wife Danuta since 1993. His company has produced watches for brands and designers such as Alessi, George Jensen and Michael Graves.
“We love the intemporal designs; a watch that will still be nice after many, many years,” said Junod.
Junod and Vignelli worked together to produce simple and minimal watches including the Halo MV05 34, which the Italian designer – who died last year aged 83 – created with his wife Lella. The pair most famously designed the New York subway signage and the American Airlines brand identity.
”Each time we met with Massimo, it was an extremely stimulating and creative experience,” said Junod. “He was never tired of exploring new fresh ideas about whatever object we were talking about.”
“His ideas were very largely taken into consideration, which means that time, place and social roots were discussed before any project was finished.”
The Halo timepiece features a simple black numberless dial, striking grey hour and minute hands and a black leather strap.
“[Vignelli’s] research of Minimalist designs – no visible crown, no logo, no name on dials, no visible band-attachment – is unique,” Junod said. “Of course, he never wanted a watch with a calendar or a second-hand, only essential elements. Massimo even asked us one day if we could make a watch without hour and minute hands.”
The case is surrounded by an interchangeable coloured “halo”, which Dezeen Watch Store stocks in black, navy and grey.
“I remember meeting Massimo and Lella Vignelli to choose which colour should be offered with every watch,” said Junod. “They sent me Pantone references and I visited them with 17 samples. Lella and Massimo discussed (in Italian…) for hours. In the end, they told me to go on with all the colours.”
Junod’s company aims to source ethical components for manufacturing its watches. Most come from the suppliers located in Bienne – the city at the heart of the Swiss watch industry – while leather used for straps is brought in from Belgium.
“We want to produce eco-friendly watches,” said Junod. “We use only 100 per cent Swiss-made movements and non-lithium or mercury-free batteries. Even our packaging is made of recycled cardboard, no Asian-plastic gift boxes that cannot be recycled.”
See Pierre Junod watches at Dezeen Watch Store
Read below for a transcript of our interview with Pierre Junod
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I come from a family which has always been involved in the watch industry. My father had his own watch factory, so I remember playing in his office and workshop since I was three years old. I was living 25 metres from his factory.
In the 1980s, together with my father and brother Paul, we produced a lot of watches for Georg Jensen, Tiffany, Alessi, Milus, etc.
My city, “Bienne” in French and “Biel” in German, is also a watch-industry town: Rado, Omega, Rolex, Longines, Swatch, Mido, Calvin Klein, Tissot, Blancpain, Certina, Mido, Milus, Glycine, etc, are produced in Bienne or in 15 kilometres around Bienne! Here, everyone has a family member or a friend working in that industry – hands, dials, movements, watch cases are also produced around Bienne.
Which watch do you wear?
I wear watches that we produce and which are assembled by my wife of course, but I also admire beautiful watches made by big names as Omega, for example.
What drove you to start the company, and who is behind it?
I started my company in 1993 together with my wife Danuta. We had the chance to meet Michael Graves who designed some bestseller models for us. New York’s MoMA quickly bought our first models, which helped us a lot to promote our small company. At the same time, we met Richard Meier, Massimo and Lella Vignelli, Mario Botta, André Ricard, etc. They all accepted to design watches for us!
What would you say the priorities are for Pierre Junod in terms of design?
We love the intemporal designs; a watch that will still be nice after many, many years. By the way, we still produce a watch designed by Vignelli; its design is from 1994.
What was Massimo Vignelli like to work with?
Each time we met with Massimo, it was an extremely stimulating and creative experience. He was never tired of exploring new, fresh ideas about whatever object we were talking about.
His ideas were very largely taken into consideration, which means that time, place and social roots were discussed before any project was finished.
That is why it was so marvellous to see that we could find simplicity in each product, Minimalism. That fact permitted each time to create timeless products.
We could hardly find somebody more charming, thoughtful and understanding. We spent hours without knowing the time is passing discussing and making new designs. The work with him was really effortless for us because we had so much to learn from him and admire his capacity to innovate.
What is the concept of the Vignelli watch and were there any other influences?
His research of Minimalist designs (no visible crown, no logo, no name on dials, no visible band-attachment) is unique. Of course, he never wanted a watch with a calendar or a second-hand, only essential elements. Massimo even asked us one day if we could make a watch without hour and minute hands.
Can you tell us more about the interchangeable ‘halos’ that come with this watch?
I remember meeting Massimo and Lella Vignelli to choose which colour should be offered with every watch. They sent me Pantone references and I visited them with 17 samples. Lella and Massimo discussed (in Italian…) for hours. They found all colours were matching the watch very well and they could not decide about which colour to eliminate. In the end, they told me to go on with all the colours. Men often buy Vignelli watches with the more traditional colours such as silver, anthracite, black, burgundy, blue jeans. Girls play much more with lemon, rosa, light blue, green, etc.
What makes a great timepiece?
Non-fashion, Minimalist, intemporal products and of course high quality; a watch has to last long in my opinion. I also hate wasting goods by throwing them away because they break.
Can you tell us about the materials used?
We use 316L stainless steel, scratch-proof sapphire crystal, ETA Swiss quartz movements, anodised aluminium, titanium, brass.
All our manufacturers are in our region, with the exception of leather bands, which come from Belgium. We are proud to use “ecological leather” which is tanned and coloured without chemical products, without chrome, etc. If I am right, we are the only company using this type of leather! We hate crocodile, lizard, snake leather knowing how these animals are treated and killed, just for the bad taste of some snobbish high jet consumers! I even saw watch leather straps made of mink – no comment.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when designing this collection?
We want to produce eco-friendly watches. We like producing Swiss-made watches. That means we use components made in Switzerland. Assembling is also made in our own workshop. We use only 100 per cent Swiss-made movements and non-lithium or mercury-free batteries. Even our packaging is made of recycled cardboard, no Asian-plastic gift boxes that cannot be recycled.
How long has it taken for the range to come together, from inception and design to manufacture?
It is quite a long process: the discussion with the designer, waiting for his drawings or hand-made maquette, making a prototype, often a second prototype, making tools. It often takes 10 to 12 months.
Why are wristwatches still relevant today?
A watch, and particularly for a man, is often the only jewellery that he wears. He wears it as a symbol, status, for pleasure. Today, you can perfectly live without wearing a watch. But, happily, many people still do wear them. Time is everywhere, on your phone, in your car, on a train.