An Exclusive Interview With Bradley Price, Autodromo Watches
‘In his own words’ Jonathan Bordell of Page and Cooper, interviews Bradley Price, designer and founder of Autodromo watches:
How did you become involved in the watch business?
I have been a passionate car lover my entire life from a very early age. The idea of starting this company really came about as a result of my desire to marry my automotive hobby with my professional career as a product designer. Watches seemed like the right place to intersect these two worlds and create something entirely new. Having said that, I have collected vintage watches along the way, and have an affinity for racing chronographs of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
How long have you been involved in the watch business?
I had been a designer working on consumer electronics, furniture and housewares for nearly 10 years before turning my attention to watches about 2 years ago.
What is the one thing you are most proud of in your career so far?
I have been fortunate enough to work on many exciting projects and win a few awards along the way, but I have to say that being my own boss and making decisions that I feel are right for the product is a huge thrill. Working for clients is a land of constant compromise and one never feels like the master of his own destiny. Producing my own designs gives a satisfying feeling of complete control. Certainly it has its challenges, but I never feel the need to convince others or water down the ideas on the way to production.
What new techniques or materials have you seen arrive in the last few years?
There’s definitely a big increase in the amount of carbon fiber we are seeing in watches lately. The costs of working with this material have come down considerably of late. Most of it I find extraordinarily vulgar and superficial. But the technology has gotten to the point where interesting carbon cases are now possible. I think down the road I could see making a unique carbon fiber watch that might pay tribute to 1980’s F1 cars, which were the first generation of carbon monocoques. You’ll never see Autodromo watches with a carbon fiber dial, though. It’s just too obvious and too superficial.
The wristwatch has seen a dramatic rise in popularity over the last few years, where do you think this passion has come from?
I think the passion has been there all along, but the macroeconomic factors and rising wealth in new markets have created a vast amount of demand for luxury watches over the last 10 years. Sadly this market is dominated mainly by conglomerates cashing in on the desire for known prestige brands. However the general increase in the market size has made room for smaller makers to offer more unique alternatives to what one might call “mindless luxury consumption.” In more traditional watch markets, I also believe that a generation of younger men and women who perhaps 5-10 years ago proudly eschewed a watch in favor of using their cell phone to tell time have now reached an age and income level where they desire a nice, well-made watch as a means of personal expression.
What do you think of the trend for making larger time pieces?
It’s interesting the various factors that have led to this, from hip hop stars to Russian oligarchs. By vintage standards, our 42mm watches are enormous, but by modern standards they are on the medium scale. I think in the past, a watch was more of a utilitarian necessity, and therefore could be discretely scaled, even if it was an expensive watch. Many vintage men’s watches are looked at today as women-sized watches. Today I think people who pay a lot of money for a watch want it to be noticed. Unfortunately some companies have taken this to hilarious extremes. I personally did a lot of case mockups and measured a lot of vintage watches when creating the Autodromo line, and I have concluded that around 42mm is an ideal case size that can look good on a wide variety of wrists, as well as men and women. This is of course based on a modern standard of size, but I think that 42mm is for me a golden mean.
How much importance do you think the strap commands?
I think a strap makes a big difference to how the watch is perceived both from an aesthetic and quality point of view. Our current straps are genuine leather, perforated to evoke the feeling of a car interior. Our custom logo pattern adorns the inner lining for a completely proprietary look.
How do you see the watch market growing over the next few years?
This is a major question that is very uncertain at the moment. Again, the global economic climate is a little delicate at the moment, and moves made over the last few years by Swatch Group to restrict the sales of their ETA movements will fundamentally change the dynamic of the entire industry from top to bottom.
I can’t overstate the impact that the Swatch Group’s decision is going to have on the entire industry. Many companies who claim to have “in-house” movements were modifying ETA movements, and even companies that did make their own movements still used certain components made by ETA.
On the more mass level, depending on what happens and who comes out ahead in the movement business over the next few years, we could see a resurgence of quartz movements as was seen in the 1980’s, or we could see a surge of popularity for Chinese-made mechanical movements, which are getting better and better, but have yet to really take hold in the minds of most Western watch customers.
I am personally hoping that the Japanese Miyota and Seiko companies will seize the opportunity to offer more and better versions of their excellent automatic movements that they have already been making for years.
Are your customers spread evenly across the World or are they predominantly from the same areas?
At the moment, we sell a lot to the English Speaking world (USA, UK, Canada, Australia) but we have a good following in Japan as well as Norway among other countries.
What is the latest product that most excites you?
We are just about to launch our very first mechanical watch, the Autodromo Monoposto Silver Dial and Autodromo Monoposto Black Dial, which is stunning if I do say so myself, as well as some very nice driving gloves. We simply can’t wait to get them out in front of people. I think our customers are going to love the new offerings.
What facts would you like your customers to know about your brand?
(a) We are 100% independent and designer-owned. Very few watch companies can still claim that in today’s corporatized world. Our products are the vision of a single person with a genuine passion for cars and motorcycles. We aren’t a brand cooked up by a marketing team or licensing firm, but an enthusiast brand aimed at like-minded individuals around the globe who share our passion for good design and high quality.
(b) Our products are custom designed from the ground up, down to the smallest details. Even parts like the crown of the watch or the hands are proprietary designs that we create.
What watch do you wear?
One of the best parts of running a watch company is I can get up every day and pick from any of the watches we make! I wear them all in equal rotation. My vintage watches are gathering dust, sadly!