AN INTERVIEW WITH ERIC GIROUD
CHIEF DESIGNER, MAX BÜSSER &FRIENDS
Publisher and Editor
Posted 14 September, 2006
architect mergers years of experience in furniture and industrial design
into Max Büsser & Friends watches
As the head
designer for Max Büsser & Friends, Eric Giroud’s challenge is to integrate
his style with a rotating array of watchmaking’s technical top guns.
Because each watchmaker brings such a singular vision to every new
project, Giroud essentially has to start on a clean slate each time. This
requires a fantastic amount of adaptability and collaborative spirit. In
addition to working with movement designers Giroud also brainstormed with
other star designers such as the über cool Martin Frei of URWERK, the man
that injected popular culture into high watchmaking. Giroud is fairly new
to the watch industry. His design background is strictly in architecture.
But at the tender age of 30 he was stricken with artistic wanderlust and
roamed the world for 18 months searching for inspiration. This circuitous
path took him to Dakar, Senegal. Following his passions he ended up
trading the macroscopic universe of buildings for the microscopic one of
wrist bound time engines. Through independent watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin
he met Büsser, and in the words of Bogart in Casablanca, “It was
the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Now with the eyes of the entire
industry on Max Büsser & Friends, Giroud finds himself suddenly thrust
into the white-hot spotlight. We spoke to him about how he’s coping with
the newfound fame.
Independent watchmaker Peter-Speake Marin (above) introduced Giroud to Max
How did you and
Max Büsser meet?
I worked with
Peter Speake-Marin on a special project in 2003, and Peter introduced me
to Max during the last days of the Basel Fair 2004. We immediately had
great contact even though fairs are not the best time of the year to
establish a human bond. And the rest is history.
Tell us more
about your background. What kind of architecture did you specialize in?
As a kid,
music was supposed to be my life. But it finally remained a beautiful
hobby. So when it was time to enter the serious world, I realized that
all the people I admired––Gianfranco Ferré, Pininfarina, Achille
Castiglioni, etc–– had all studied architecture. It therefore seemed
natural to do the same. Diploma in pocket, I of course tried to apply my
newly discovered knowledge. I lasted seven years, during which I opened
my studio. But I kept on preferring furniture design to the actual
buildings or houses I was commissioned to create. So at the age of 30, I
closed my studio and left for a three-week holiday in Dakar, Senegal.
Guess what? I stayed a year and a half. Back to Switzerland and the real
world in 1995, I started working on packaging and product design projects
for Swiss design companies. I set up my own design-studio in 1998, and
have specialized ever since on horological
projects. I can finally say I
have found my way.
Who are your
favorite architects and what period or styles of architecture are you
particularly passionate about?
Let’s say that
some of the more important ones are Pierre Chareau for his Glass House and
furniture; Carlo Molino for his choices; Richard Neutra for his individual
houses; Jean Prouvé for his ideas on the industrialization of housing;
Frank O Gehry for his approach to matter and shape; and Zaha M. Hadid for
her conceptual imagination. The period I am attracted by is the end of the
19th and the beginning of the 20th century, (which came) with the
emergence of industry, opening new horizons and structures, as well as
other types of design––automotive or industrial––that you are passionate
about as well?
I am very
interested and fascinated about design in general, without
any particular field, for as everything is design, there are
products in each domain that strike me. That is the magic about it; for
design is applied to every domain, without exception.
started with Max, was there a blank slate for you to start with, or did
Max have any strong predetermined ideas?
Max had a
very clear idea of the shape and design concept, and when he sketched out
for the first time, I thought he must have been hit
by sunstroke during his last trip. And then the real adventure began.
Starting from Max’s initial thoughts, we added, subtracted, modified,
reworked, rethought, and finally looked up at each other one day and both
of us were smiling!
similarities in thought do you both possess that allow you to translate
his thoughts onto paper?
First of all, he
is the first person I work with who always wants to explore further
boundaries and to experiment with new ideas. It can be time consuming,
but it is particularly refreshing! It becomes a game, and Max usually
manages to create a friendly competitive mood. Whereas on any particular
part of the product, we both work on our own, compare our results, and the
one we find best is chosen.
How do you
work, do you both sketch?
We both sketch on
the initial ideas and then I translate them into 2D and 3D designs.
designs been inspired by any pre-existing watches or objects?
In fact our inspiration varies from an architectural element, a piece of
clothing, the detail of a car design, a child’s memory, a color, a
particular texture and thousands of images we digest daily. Max and I tend
to be great consumers of magazines and movies.
Can you tell
us what some of your favorite watches are from a purely design
UR 103.3 byURWERK, The François Paul
Journe collection, Sea Dweller by Rolex, Hemipode by Ikepod, Monaco by TAG
What do you
think of the new generation of star designers like Octavio Garcia, Magali
Metrailler and Martin Frei?
I have never had
the pleasure of meeting Octavio or Magali, but thoroughly enjoyed working
with Martin on a project, which has not been released yet. Martin is
incredibly talented in creating innovative design concepts.
URWERK designer Martin Frei
What are the
challenges unique to designing a wristwatch?
The small size and
scale of a wristwatch render this work rather special. For beyond an idea
or a concept, there is a great deal of adjustment work as to the
proportions, which are really specific at this scale. The intervention of
the movements, which are becoming more and more complicated, must be taken
into account, as well as water resistance, which is difficult to master
depending on the shapes designed. It is as very complete job which
combines concept and thought, and then an application going from the
drawing of a caliber to the shape of a bridge, through a research on the
reading of time, the graphics…it is all very complex and exciting.
describe a watch as male jeweler would you agree? If so why?
I cannot agree,
for the word jeweler is not a male concept for me; it belongs to the
What, to you,
is the most beautifully designed object in the world?
to answer; there are so many. The Concorde, Porsche 911, Georges Nelson
furniture, the original Coca Cola bottle, an LP record with its sleeve, a
skateboard or a surfboard. But the most beautiful thing is still nature,
which is an infinite source of shapes, colors, structures and inspiration.
watches you’ve created with Max Büsser fulfilled your personal goals?
Absolutely, I am very excited as the
result is due to the magic of a working team. The MB&F adventure is a
source of reassessment for me and enables me to go beyond my limits and
progress in my profession. It is a very rewarding adventure.
agree that the luxury wristwatch has increasingly become the primary means
of self-expression in affluent societies?
product one purchases may be, for me it always has two components: 1) I am
rewarding myself and 2) I am sending a message to my surroundings.
Clearly, according to the profile of the buyer, the ratios will incline
more to one side or the other. And even an understatement is a statement.
Thanks to Revolution Press for making this interview available to TimeZone. Please visit the Revolution web site!
Read Ian Skellern's Article on the
MB&F Horological Machine No. 1
Read Wei Koh's interview with
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