I once found myself on one jolly old flight from Beijing to Brussels with Julien Gueuning, industrial designer for the sleek ‘n steel Greyhours watch brand. Another re-definition of the “Made In China”label.
In the darker donjons of the mind and soul, most of us possess at least one fashionable fetish; for some it’s pink, for others sunglasses, while some (men and women alike) get all hung up on stilettos. For another few – including my very own mama –watches are the time-consuming passion. Julien Gueuning, an industrial engineer by origin, is also part of the latter sub-culture.
The China-based Belgian native and Swiss-educated entrepreneur managed to crank his love for watches up a few notches, culminating in his designs for a brand that has been making waves since 2014: Greyhours.
Whipping into shape your own China brand requires a personality made of stainless steel.
Steel & Masterskills
“A time to laugh, a time to cry” – sing along if you know the lyrics – and a time to pack your bags and move to Guangzhou, apparently. Gueuning had spent four consecutive years in China’s Guangdong Province without even one solitary visit back to his native town of Geneva – Switzerland (watches, it all makes sense), when in 2012 he decided to apply his industrial 3D design skills in the field of wearable “stuff”.
With a few years of industrial and graphic design in China under his belt, Gueuning was mainly specializing in furniture and logo design, conceptual interior design and branding. Talking to an engineer about design is always more, shall we say, “to the point” than interviewing a more deliciously dramatic Hu Sheguang, but in no way as cold as the literally un-scratchable and un-scorchable steel Greyhours watches are made of.
Make sure your wardrobe contains a little androgyny. Freud would surely agree.
Skagen & Moloko
The China time is now for many foreign entrepreneurs. Similar to Danish watch brand Skagen, with whom the brand actually did share a production factory, the Greyhours design is on-fleek minimalist — with a marginally “elitist design philosophy“. Apparently, diamonds are not just a girl’s best friend; Greyhours has a fondness for them as well, encrusting their watch faces with the precious stone in a manner so subtle that it is invisible to the naked eye. There is no doubt that the brand’s watches have tightened the rope of first class production. The combination of simple androgynous design paired with top-grade materials, a trustworthy manufacturer and limited editions in grey, white and black shades will certainly appeal to those who go weak at the knees for timepieces.
As is starting to be the case for many of China’s design-related projects, be it landmark skyscrapers or silk scarves, quality comes before quantity. People have long seen the sheeny fat and faux Rolexes sashay down the streets, as well as the classic masterpieces crafted by Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix. They’re now ready to venture out onto a more daring level of design, with a consumer market slowly expanding its views and no longer being restricted by the lure of a price tag which comes with the mere famous/luxurious brands. In short, the China time for creating innovative, quality brands is now.
Shakers & Movers
The Greyhours brand is just one example of foreigners using China as a platform to put their design visions into palpable real-life pieces. Nevertheless, whipping into shape your own brand requires a personality made of stainless steel, not in the least as the promising sound of that China Dream tends to come with much-spiked pitfalls. Financial turmoil, production flaws, cultural miscommunications, shady business partners or just plain bad timing…
All these factors may leave any new entrepreneur with one or more scratches. Have a good exit strategy and a clear safe word. And watch where you’re going.
Copyright©2015-2016 Temper Magazine All Rights Reserved.