We spotted the Notion (now NTN) watch a couple of years ago when the prototypes came out and there was a bit of buzz online. They were beautifully designed watches being made in Dublin and we wanted to know more so we had a chat with the man behind the project.
Tell us a bit about NTN.
NTN is a watch brand based in Dublin. Although when I say that I immediately think we are far too new to consider ourselves a brand, perhaps micro brand or studio would be more appropriate. Our small team of two designs, prototypes and produces our hand built timepieces all in the one studio in Dublin city centre.
My background is in industrial design and this plays a huge part in our approach to producing watches. I would in fact primarily consider ourselves to be a design company, in that every decision we make is driven by a desire to create objects of design merit or significance.
I established the brand in November of this year although the NTN name has existed for around two years prior to that. In it’s original format it was a side-project within the design studio notion which I co-founded in 2009 with Marcel Twohig.
Why did you setup NTN? What do you do guys do well or differently from others?
I had been working as an industrial designer for over a decade, seven years of which were spent in my own practice as I mentioned above. We operated a consultancy model where we were commissioned to design and develop products for other people or companies. They come to us with an idea or a brief, we design it, they pay us and then produce and sell the manufactured item. The type of products I designed varied from headphones for a well known audio brand to iPad cases to medical devices for Irish startups.
This is a great way of working and as a designer you often get to work on diverse projects with equally diverse teams. However as I approached 11 years of that type of design I began to feel the need to produce objects with a little more longevity – that people could perhaps feel more attached to than a pair of headphones for instance. I also noticed a growing need to be less responsible for all the plastic in the world, and an interest in producing things on a smaller and more local scale.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was also interested in developing some autonomy. When you invest so much time and effort into projects for other people you begin to want to do the same for yourself.
In terms of what we do differently to others I believe that boils down to two things; design and provenance. We operate in the “design watch” category in which most companies focus almost entirely on the watch face with little or no consideration of the overall product. Our approach is that no view or orientation has precedence over another, and that informs the overall form and shape of our watches. I like to think that the rounding and seamless surfaces on the back of our watches is as important as the face itself, and that it makes them more “human” than the alternatives. Together with that I am focused on building our watches as locally as possible – that provenance is not something our competitors currently offer.
What challenges did you face getting NTN off the ground? What do you wish you knew before starting?
It’s early days yet! I would hate to shoot myself in the foot by saying we are fully “off the ground” just yet but things are certainly getting exciting since we launched and I am really looking forward to 2017.
In my particular case the biggest challenges were monetary. Having started a company before I had a reasonably good idea of the process and practicalities of doing so, however I quickly learned that starting a consultancy versus starting a product brand are two very very different things.
When you start a consultancy you don’t really have any major overheads – you can pretty much survive with a laptop, food, water and some form of studio (our first location was a wooden box built in a shed out the back of Moxie Studios R.I.P). You just have to survive long enough to get some clients in and then do good enough work, by which I mean massively over-deliver, that you keep them.
When you start a product brand however it’s like an exercise in spending as much of your money as you possibly can in the shortest amount of time available. It’s an altogether different model, one where you can’t do business until you invest pretty heavily. Finding the money to do so was and continues to be a huge challenge. I was saving to try and think about tentatively buying a house – but it’s safe to say that idea has gone on hold for the foreseeable future.
What can we expect from you guys in the future?
Our collection of watches which we launched last month were a development of the original W1 watch which I designed in 2014. We have been designing the W2 watch which we will add to the range in Spring of 2017 and I am really excited to get it out there.
I am also really interested in the idea of “Time and Space”, and how the products we surround ourselves with can encourage quality time well spent. I have some ideas around how this can trigger new products within the NTN brand but all of which are too half-baked to share just yet!
Tell us about 3 designers that inspire you
In terms of pure design I always come back to the usual suspects…
…however I’m much more inspired these days by people designing and producing really high quality products, not always in the high-design realm. I find myself constantly looking at the work of: Almond Surfboards, Topo Designs, Jeff McCallum, Derek Wilson, Rural Kind, etc. etc.
This article has been produced in association with The Locals