Emotion & Design: The Aesthetics of Watches

In our time, everyone owns a tablet or another device which can let them know what time it is, with enough precision to catch a plane or a bus. This is the reason why watches have been redefined and designers have discovered new ways to express luxury and style through their pieces. Watches today have become more elegant, more subtle and refined and are not just timepieces anymore; they are veritable style statements and means of expressing one’s personality.

Design has the power to transmit messages and to create emotion. It does not serve just as a case for a function; it never has. Brands and designers compete and to create unique pieces that convey the messages of luxury and refined goods that their brands represent. But what is it that makes a quality watch different than a knockoff you might wonder. In this article, we take a look at the elements that, if done together right, lead to the creation of a highly elegant piece that won’t fail to compliment your look.

To give you an example, Audemars Piguet is a luxury brand that has been producing watches for over a century. They have developed their craft, a personal aesthetic and are currently redefining classic pieces, because they understand that in today’s world, watches have changed their meaning.


The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore uses fine lines for its design and features a rose gold octagonal case and sapphire crystal glass.The new Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore uses fine lines for its design and features a rose gold octagonal case and sapphire crystal glass.


A well designed watch is balanced; it expresses emotion and quality through material, color, shapes and overall construction. The watch itself as well as the band need to be of high quality, to be comfortable and to be consistent.



Visual factors

There are three factors that compose the features of any piece. These are the visual factor, the tactile and the aesthetic one.

These factors of a product are the ones that have the biggest power on drawing the consumer, but not the whole power (prices, marketing strategy and other elements have an impact on the buyer as well). The visual elements included in a design are:

  • Designing an Audemars Piguet watch: there is a long road from concept to product and it all starts with simple lines.

    The line. The lines, respectively the outlines of a product are the things that constitute its overall feel. The lines can be rounded or square, long or short, combined or single and they are the ones that set the vibe of the whole product. When you look at the watch, you can notice its line and the way different types of lines are combined: a well-designed watch has a combination of lines that leads to a harmonious whole. One of the key words in design is balance: if a timepiece is misbalanced or feels out of shape, it probably really is. Always go with pieces that look as if all their components go together. Ripoffs usually fail at having proportional lines and volumes: they simply imitate something without checking any dimensions, angles or a sense of continuity.

  • The color. Color is described by hue, chroma and value. Hue is defined by the simple words we use to define a color: purple, green, blue, red, etc. Chroma or saturation is the dominance or strength of a color. Thirdly, the value or lightness of a color is used to describe the overall intensity to how dark or light a color is.  A true master knows how to mix colors, how to mix shines, how different metals go together and how they work together with other fabrics, such as leather or string.
  • The texture. The texture refers to the way a certain surface feels: whether it is rough or smooth. This factor is extremely important in fashion, as people come in close contact with their clothes and accessories, and therefore, the surfaces need to feel just right. Because we are speaking of watches, you should think of how important both the main part and the band of a watch are. If the leather or the metal that comes in contact with your skin does not feel right, you are certainly not going to wear that watch more than once.
  • The shape. The shape is the two-dimensional geometrical form of an object. It’s what we see when we look at it from a distance and from a single angle.
  • The form. The form is the three-dimensional version of the product: it’s what we see when we go around a product and look at it from different angles. The form of a product is one of the deciding factors when we choose whether to purchase something or not. This is why today online shops offer several pictures of their products or one from an unusual angle or allow you to go around a piece digitally, instead of using a simple, frontal photo.
  • The size and proportion. Size and proportion are very important as we would not be able to make sense of the world, should we not be aware of how big things really are. But that’s not what is most important here. When it comes to these factors, it’s not the numbers in themselves that count, but how they are in relationship with other elements. A watch should be proportionate to one’s arm; it should also be in the size range of what we know a watch should be. If you make a watch that’s too small, nobody will wear it.



Design and association

When it comes to shapes, lines and overall design, we always use our involuntary imagination and because of our visual culture and background we always tend to make associations. The human mind is designed in such a way that it always associates new things with elements with which it is familiar. This is why it is said that indigenous people in America did not see the European ships approaching, as they had nothing with which to associate them. The association process is not a complicated one; if we try to go too deep, we might miss the forest for the trees.

Sometimes, certain shapes are associated with certain colors. For example water is associated with the color blue, even though water is not blue. Something resembling waves will therefore also be associated with the color blue. This way, designers can play with references and surprise us. That’s somewhat risky though, as you can’t know how some people will react to, let’s say, orange waves.


The Audemars Piguet Millenary is a watch that references 19th century hand-made mechanics, 20th century Art Nouveau and maybe even the moon phases, all while keeping it modern and dynamic. What does it tell you?


The thing about associations is that they are quite different from one person to another. Even though some associations are almost general, with few exceptions, the way in which we associate things can also be very personal and different, as our visual backgrounds tend to differ so much. Our connection and experiences connected to a certain thing also tend to have a big impact on the way we interpret designs.

This is why it can sometimes be risky for designers to opt for strange associations as they can’t be sure what the response will be to their product.



Design and function

The visual element of a design will always be determined by the function of the object. A very appealing product that does not work very well won’t be appreciated, and on the other hand, a product that is simply functional but not aesthetically attractive will not be appreciated either.


This is the strap of an AP Royal Oak offshore watch. It is made from alligator leather which is a sign of luxury, as alligator skin is not very common. Exotic materials are always an indicator of wealth. It is well fastened with a strong string and a firm buckle.


A design can also express function. This is something very often found in watches. Since today most people have phones that indicate the time, watches have become more a fashion statement than a utility good. This is why watches need to express their meaning; such as quality materials, careful craftsmanship and an appreciation of a combination of the two. This is why watches are such amazing accessories: they are functional, but they are also the expression of the wearer’s admiration for a well-done object. Watches today have changed half of their function: they are timepieces which indicate the time with an amazing precision, but they are also indicators of one’s personality, wealth and in some parts of the world, status.

It is amazing to observe how an object that had an informative purpose and was adorned to express the wearer’s position has become a widespread indicator of elegance, an indicator of comprehension of style and an acquaintance with fine workmanship and finesse.


Fraquoh and Franchomme






P.S. What type of watches do you like? What are you looking for in terms of design when it comes to timepieces? Share your comments and if you liked the article, don’t forget to subscribe to the website and to our social media!


12 thoughts on “Emotion & Design: The Aesthetics of Watches

  1. My dad used to make watches – this article is definitely giving credit to watchmakers, which I am very thankful for!

Your Comment and Input