Independent watchmaker Hannes Bonhoff rethinks time
Hannes Bonhoff never set out to launch a watch brand. A doctor of mechanical engineering, he was studying ’vibration isolation in machinery’, but had long been intrigued by different ways to display time other beyond the traditional analogue dial. Having patented two watch designs, he has now brought his third - the Bonhoff IP3.0 - to market. With its distinctive leather-covered case and brilliantly graphic dial, it displays time through a series of concentric rings that have to be aligned to give either the hour or the minute. It looks simple but sounds complicated, so we had to track Bonhoff down in Berlin find out more…
Wallpaper*: You’ve said that your watch makes telling the time a more deliberate act; that the wearer has to think about it more. How does that manifest itself in the dial?
Hannes Bonhoff: How we experience time is actually psychologically very complex and the way we typically show time perhaps too simple - it’s effective, but boring. I wanted more interactivity. You have to work a little to get the time on the IP3.0, which maybe makes you appreciate it more. Similarly, I once had a clock that ran counter-clockwise - I liked the fact that you had to think about it.
You are a mechanical engineer - what new design thinking did you apply to the IP3.0?
Well, I know how a technical solution should work but I really struggled with the watch’s leather cover. It’s cut in 3D, which made it really hard to do the technical drawings - one angle just seemed to transition into another. But then I’ve never liked lugs on watches much anyway - they always seemed to me to break the flow of the bezel’s circle. And I didn’t want any to get in the way of operating the bezel either.
The art of making and selling a watch is not just tricky it’s almost impossible for a single watchmaker. How did you bring the watch from concept to market?
I was lucky in that the price of my flat in Berlin went up really fast, so I could sell it to finance the development of the watch. Now I have to sell some watches to buy a flat (the IP3.0 retails at €4300). But being self-financed meant there was much less pressure. Initially, for example, it proved impossible to mount the display’s five sapphire discs without trapping dust inside, so in the end it had to be done using specialist machinery. I wouldn’t have had the time to work out that solution with a bank chasing me…