I love watches, old watches or modern watches it does not matter, and Arcturus Watches will certainly tick most boxes when they are produced. They would be an excellent addition to anyones collection as there is very little out there like them.
The styling throws me mentally straight into the roaring twenties Americana’s with the mother of pearl in some models being the icing on the cake. I decided I had to have a chat with their creator Alex Ian Loh.
Tell me a bit about the watch
Well some basic information about the watch is that it runs on a Miyota 9132 and the glass will be a double domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating! I chose to use a double domed crystal so that there would be less dial distortion because I’d say that the unique part of the watch is the way the dial was designed. It’s my take on a classic sandwich dial. Usually, sandwich dials give the impression that the holes are cut into the dial, giving it depth. Instead, what I did was I designed it such that the arc containing the hour markings are cut as an entire piece and then merged onto the base layer, giving the illusion that it rises out from the base instead of going in! Also, the hour markings will be filled with superluminova so that it is still visible even at night.
Design inspiration for it came from a litany of more obscure high end brands and some from the art- deco era. As much as I loved diver watches, I felt that there were other microbrands who were really really good at making them, which is why i decided to design something a little more “avant-garde” and unusual. It was a gamble really, but I’m glad that the gamble seems to have paid off!
Your early on with the project – how open has it been?
I’ve been pretty open about the design with the Microbrand Group, asking for feedback on the designs! and I’ve actually implemented some of the suggestions they made about the design – for example, the Mother of Pearl options and the power reserve indicator improvements!
The Art Deco is really cool, it’s screams 1920’s luxury hotel
Initially some people were a little irked by the fact that the power reserve indicator obstructed the date window, so I changed it to a clear hand – crystal or polycarbonate, depending on what my manufacturer can get hold of – and it resulted in the illusion that the date window was not obstructed!
If you look at the dial carefully, there is a gap between the flat top chapter ring and the hour dial and that was done to reinforce the illusion of the dial rising up from the base.
Opulent springs to mind – it’s really nice, and what about the name?
Thanks for the kind words Dan. The dial was really quite technical which is why its been taking so long with the prototypes
Arcturus is actually the name of a star and at the risk of sounding totally cheesey, Singapore’s flag has a moon and 5 stars on it. And the Arcturus star is actually the brightest star in the northern hemisphere. so the comparison is drawn there, where my brand aspires to be one of the brightest stars in the microbrand world (someday at least)
Tell me about the back design?
The pattern that you see on the back is not actually just random lines criss-crossing. Its the pattern of a very iconic place in Singapore which is the Helix Bridge and the caseback pays homage to that. The pattern is actually a movement holder cage inside the watch which holds the movement in place, so it has both aesthetic and functional value
Also, its meant to have a stark contrast with the dial design. Where the front of the watch looks very symmetrical and ordered and the case back shows contrast of “chaos” (well, ordered chaos in this case)
Where did your passion for watches develop?
Well, I’m from Singapore and when the boys come of age, at 18, we have to serve National Service. During my service, I was a weapon’s technician and was taught the inner workings of weapons, how to totally strip it down to its barest of bones and rebuild it. What fascinated me was that everything was purely mechanical and after my service, that fascination was found in mechanical watches! I remember seeing an ETA 6497 through an exhibition case back and was so entranced by the balance wheel oscillating away and decided to do more research about watches.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this is not my first watch project. I have produced quartz watches before, but this was done with a group of people. It was not too successful as I realised I was clearly lacking the knowledge and technical know-how of how watches worked. I then went deeper down the rabbit hole and started learning the different techniques of watch making, diving into watch making/repairing books and from that I got to understand more about mechanical movements.
Initially I bought eBay sourced parts and assembled my first mechanical watch, but there were only so many different permutations you can achieve with what was available. I then moved on to modifying Seikos, understanding dial feet placements, stem height requirements…basically, the nitty gritty stuff and that got me thinking – what if I could produce something that wasn’t currently over done? Something…different? And that’s how it developed!
What was the first watch that you owned and loved?
My first watch was actually a Power Ranger digital watch when I was a child! My parents wanted me to be able to tell the time and be punctual. It got misplaced during all the house movings.
What is your brief history before watches?
Aside from watches, I absolutely adore photography! I do casual photography, helping my friends free of charge with shoots whenever they need a photographer.
Why did you start producing watches?
Honestly, there are pretty fantastic Singaporean watch brands at the moment. Brands like Azimuth, Gruppo Gamma and Zelos. Azimuth does very avant garde watches that bridge on haute horologie and they really are very unique and quirky. Gruppo Gamma and Zelos produce beastly, functional and gorgeous tool watches.
I want to show the microbrand world that Singapore is also capable of producing something unique and classy as well. Something that is worthy of world stage recognition alongside my fellow Singaporean brands. It may sound very cliché, but I simply love watches and wanted to produce something to call my own as well.
Your movement choice, how did you decided on that configuration?
I didn’t want a simple 2/3 handed movement. I wanted something that was robust, yet comparable to what the Swiss were offering and therefore the 9 series movements from Miyota were a no brainer. Based on that movement, I began to visualize the dial, drawing inspiration from a litany of high end luxury watches, watches with different complications and adapted and blended the design to achieve what you’ve seen in the renders. I liked the 9132 especially because it was not an overused movement and the fact that it had a 24 hour sub dial gave me room to play with the idea of a day/night indicator.
How many watches have you made before?
Hand wound: 2.
What was your first colour choice?
Definitely silver! It’s one of the classiest and really, one of the most classic colours around. At this juncture, I’ve actually decided to drop the black case because I realised that black watches were really kind of just a fad. I did toy around with the idea of rose gold, but decided against it eventually because a total rose gold watch would’ve looked a bit too over the top.
Tell me More about your design process warranty, how is the logistics of that going to work?
Currently, I’m working on the prototypes of the watch and am sourcing for manufacturers. Because it’s such a technical dial, that has resulted in some delays. I will most likely launch this watch on Kickstarter since it has such a wide reach! By the time I’m ready to launch this campaign, I will be running it out of Singapore and the watches will therefore be shipped from there.
What response have you had from the watch community?
The level of response has really been crazy. The amount of support for my designs have really blown me away and it is truly humbling. A lot of people have commented saying that it is so good to see a fresh design from a microbrand! Some of the feedback can be seen in the link below.
Is this your full time job? and Whats on your wrist today?
Actually, no. I’m currently reading law at the University of Leicester!
Today I’m wearing my recently modified Seiko Nautilus Homage. Swapped out the dial and hands. Its called the Nautilida.
How have you found the journey of setting up your own brand?
Humbling. Definitely very humbling. It made me realise that people do appreciate designs where a lot of thought and effort has gone into it. It’s also very rewarding because after my first quartz watch, I learnt from my mistakes and came back even stronger this time round. The Microbrands Group in particular has been especially supportive, pledging their support even before an actual prototype has been produced. Their feedback has been truly invaluable as they helped to improve on certain design aspects of the watch. I’m very open to feedback because I’m aware of my limitations and I recognise that I do not know everything about watches and will definitely have to tap on the infinite knowledge that veteran watchmakers have.
My biggest advice to anybody who’s thinking of starting a microbrand would be – be humble. Nothing is perfect. Your designs are not perfect. There always are improvements that can be made no matter how perfect you think your designs are. Be open to criticism and be willing to adapt (within reason) to the feedback given. Also, be daring and take the plunge/risk/calculated risk.
Alex does not a website completed yet, but you follow him and the Arcturus watch project on his Facebook page – click here
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