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Editorial - The big design rip-off debate

Editorial The big design rip-off debate

Breaking down a recent online discussion on watch design and creativity.

If we’re going to talk about watch design, there’s no way to avoid the kind of conversation I’ve heard a lot lately about a recent watch launch. Basically, an established watch brand debuted a new collection with an integrated bracelet, and the immediate response was that it was a derivative design, followed by a deluge of (frankly unnecessary) comments comparing it to other popular watch models.

Ok, you know what, I’m going to be direct here. It was the Bell&Ross BR-05, and critics were panning it for being a rip-off of the Patek Philippe Nautilus or the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, or the I-don’t-remember-because-it-didn’t-even-make-sense.

The fact is, all creative output is to some degree derivative, for reasons that are related to format, available technology or the way that the human eye is hardwired to find certain things aesthetically pleasurable.

Before accusing a design of being plagiaristic, how about examining the actual intentions behind it? I’m not going to say that design plagiarism doesn’t exist, because clearly it does. But sometimes things resemble each other simply because certain elements look best together when they follow certain aesthetic codes.

An integrated bracelet looks best when it echoes the lines of the case and has a seamless transition at the attachment point. Hands look best when they follow the curved aesthetic of the case. The bezel looks best when it has a certain proportion and width in relation to the rest of the watch. This is what the basic formula for this kind of watch tells us to do.

Just because someone already discovered the best equation for achieving a desired result doesn’t mean no one else is ever allowed to use it again after that. Mathematics lessons would be like hell on earth if that were the case.

Here’s the bottom line. Yes, the Bell&Ross BR-05 may resemble some other existing watch models in a superficial way. As watch enthusiasts, we see this only because we are already familiar with what came before. And that can be a good thing. But for a major percentage of watch buyers looking for a well-designed, versatile, modern-looking daily watch that is not round, with an integrated bracelet, who may not want to purchase in the Patek Philippe/Audemars Piguet price bracket, it is an excellent choice. Why shouldn’t these buyers have something that they want, just because some people think it somehow cheapens or degrades the more highly priced product? You know who thinks like that? Snobs. Please don’t be one.

You can have an uninformed opinion that you keep to yourself. You can have an informed opinion that you are entitled to share with others in a fair and equal exchange of ideas. Or you can have an uninformed opinion that you choose to inflict upon others, but then you should also be prepared to receive correction of varying levels of severity. These are the rules; I didn’t make them, but I’m always happy to see them being enforced and followed.

So how about it? Are we ready to have an actual conversation about watch design?

Lecture 2 Comment(s)

17 September 2019
Stephan Meyers
Un peu oportuniste sans doute. Pas mal quand même. Dans ce cas tout le merite revient à Mr Gerald Genta et à personne d'autre
16 September 2019
Laurent MAZOUNIE
Bonjour, Oui j'ai critiqué le design de cette montre dans un premier temps sur le réseau LINKEDIN. Au vues des réactions violente (jeu de massacre sur la marque), J'ai ensuite modéré mon propos, en disant qu'il est très difficile de créer une nouvelle forme novatrice, vu la quantité qui ont été trouvées depuis deux siècles. Et puis les aficionados de la marque aimeront, d'autant plus que les modèles B505, sont huit fois moins chers que les nautilus ou les Royal OAK. De plus je dirai maintenant que je me suis habitué à cette forme de la BR05 que je trouvais de but en blanc, peu équilibrée. Pour vos images illustrant votre article, je suis très étonnée par le choix de la photo de la Nautilus avec une lunette amincie et une date à 6h référencée 7118/1A petit modèle de 32,5mm au lieu de la traditionnelle 7511/A1 avec une lunette large et une date à 3h grand modèle de 40mm. Nous voyons au sein même de la marque, une variation du modèle qui donne lieu à des débats de préférence.

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