Most of you have now seen the different dial options for the upcoming Aoraki. In this post I’ll talk about the design decisions behind each of those variations.
One of the early inspirations for the Aoraki was the Tudor Ranger. With its baton markers, Arabic numerals and a handset that was simple yet distinctive, it really is an unmistakable field watch design. I thought about how I could create something similarly unique, while still conforming to some of the design rules I had laid down with the previous model, the Kruger. As such, ‘Vector’ was the first design, and it shared the same pointed batons and running seconds sub-dial as the Kruger SE. I used the same typeface for the numerals as the standard Kruger versions.
While the Ranger has a more classic handset with a slightly curvy arrow hour hand, I opted for a more geometric arrow, aligning with the very sharp and angular design of the watch case, and Draken watches in general.
Looking at other inspirations, IWC’s pilot watches with its Flieger ‘type A’ design was also a favourite. We had previously used the rhombus-shaped handset on the Kruger, and I have always loved how masculine and aggressive it looks. While a Flieger (pilot watch) is a completely different category from field watches, I liked the idea of having a smaller aviation-styled watch in the line-up (we had already done a bigger pilot watch, the Peregrine – a 44mm pilot watch we brought out in 2017). I stuck with the same font as Vector and Kruger for this version so as to not have it too similar to IWC’s pilot design.
The third design was the very traditional Khaki style field watch, popularised by Hamilton and produced for the American military after WWII. Again, I wasn’t trying to create a homage of that style – it’s been done to death. What about a more modern interpretation of the Khaki? Again using the same font for the Arabic numerals as the Kruger, and adding in the 24-hour secondary track. Instead of a full railroad track (typical of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ watches), I thought it would be interesting to do a hybrid track, somewhere between a railroad and typical minute ticks. Circles of lume at the hours broke up the railroads, reducing the complexity and visual dominance.
The handset for the ‘Zulu’ had to be syringe style, but again I didn’t just want it to look like another homage. I put out a poll on one of the Facebook groups showing four different stock handsets on the ‘Zulu’ dial. The results weren’t conclusive, but the bold syringe set was a favourite.
At this point, I had three designs to choose from. I liked all three almost equally and it seemed a shame to have to only do one. I had a lightbulb moment – what if instead of a single design with different colourways, we did different designs all in black!?
I thought I should add a fourth design to the line-up, to give customers a bit more to choose from. For ages, I had been searching for a particular font used in vintage cockpit instruments. When I finally found it on some obscure website, I knew I had to use it on the Aoraki project. With further inspiration from cockpit dials (longer, bolder minute track ticks), ‘Milspec’ was born. The handset was one of the runner-ups from the poll I had done previously and worked well for a clean, minimalist design.
The ‘Milspec’ did present some challenges. Because the minute track ticks were longer, the numerals were brought more into the centre causing the ‘6’ to be ‘bitten’ by the sub-dial. We put it to a poll on whether we should leave it as is, or replace the 6 with a made-up ‘arrow’ design element. Opinions were divided, so I decided to go with my gut and leave it bitten.
A note on the colours and luminous paint
All four dials have a base colour of ‘velvet black’. This is the blackest matte finish paint available that will still allow you to print markers and lume on top of it. We used different combinations of C3(X1) and BGW9 Superluminova for the various indices and Arabics. We opted not to use them for the minute track ticks as lume does not always print as clearly on smaller-scale elements, thus reducing QC issues and keeping the dial a bit more traditional.
The sub-dials are unique for each dial and are actually laser engraved to create platforms to accept the lume on the upper surface of the dial.
Thanks again for reading and please feel free to leave comments, but note that changes are not possible at this stage as we are now in production. Below are some never before seen renders of the different Aoraki versions on the bund leather strap, and lume shots. Enjoy!
Milspec on bund