Famed architect Frank Gehry once said, “architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness”. It’s either fitting or ironic then – depending on how you look at it – that a passion for architecture directly led to the creation of one of the most exciting watch microbrands of the moment, Neucarl.
The thing is, watches were never the primary passion of Francois Carlier, founder of Neucarl. Sure, he’s always had an appreciation for good design, but when it comes down to it (or up to it, in the case of a high-rise), his aesthetic inclinations were always around architecture.
It makes sense. Good design shapes all of our lives, but architecture shapes our very landscape. What’s London without its iconic skyline? How many Art Deco aficionados have been inspired by New York’s Chrysler building? Even airports have something to lend to the mix – but we’re getting ahead of ourselves there.
And so it was that Carlier spent his spare time between entrepreneurial projects sketching houses, gardens, furniture, gradually moving from grand imagined projects to ever smaller canvases. It was a logical progression then that took him to watches. Planning a huge complex is one thing; designing across the 40mm of a watch dial is something entirely more demanding.
These initial watch sketches weren’t just idle daydreaming either. On 7th May 2015, Carlier set out for himself and founded Neucarl, an amalgamation of the German word for New and his second name. In essence, the watch brand was the start of his new life. Nearly eight years and a pandemic later, it’s good for him then that the project is still going strong.
A large part of that success is thanks to where the design concept came from. Carlier sketched out his first designs in a vacuum, completely away from other watch brands. Rather than being penned in by the standard archetypes – your Submariners, Tanks, various breeds of Nautilus derivation – he began with a blank canvas. Indeed, the only concrete (in more ways than one) inspiration behind the fittingly named Sept Mai (French for 7th May) was the TWA terminal at New York’s JFK airport.
Designed by Eero Saarinen, the flight centre is defined by its gargantuan wing-shaped roof, supported by four y-shaped piers. It no longer operates as a terminal (it’s now a hotel) but remains a historic landmark. It’s also the direct inspiration for the case of the Sept Mai, which pays tribute to the building’s striking retro-futuristic style.
There’s also something distinctly organic about the shape of both the TWA’s wing and the resultant case of the Sept Mai. However, when it comes to sweeping curves and organic lines, no architect in history has done it better than the tour de force that is the late, great Zaha Hadid. It’s fitting then that Neucarl’s second collection – the equally fittingly-named Model 2 – takes inspiration from her work.
Not to be confused with the anOrdain Model 2 – dubbed Project 360 for a reason we’ll get on to – the neu Neucarl is still in the prototyping phase, so we may need to return to it once it actually launches by the end of next month. For now though, it looks like a marked step up for the budding watch brand.
Pairing a curvaceous take on the kind of sports luxe look we’ve come to associate with the Bulgari Octo, the multi-layered case is married with a circular guilloche dial, ringed by a solid block of lume. The result is something between a watch and an architectural installation, all wrapped up in grade 2 titanium across both 40mm case and bracelet.
Together with the Sept Mai, the Model 2 illustrates Neucarl’s distinct approach to design, one that encompasses not just the tenets of watchmaking, but the design codes of architecture and the aesthetics that define everything around us. As Zaha Hadid herself once said, “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?”
More details at Neucarl.