Radium X German Industry Design Legend Dieter Rams
Thomas, as Radium creator you have been intimate with the Radium brand since its birth in Oslo, 2013. You are Creative Director and designer of every Radium watch.
Let’s talk about Radium design. What is your background?
I’ve done novels, worked as a feature film script writer and director, executive producer. Comms-biz for years. I enjoy making stuff and have been fortunate to participate in all sorts of areas. (Laughs) hey, if you live in Norway you might see concrete delivery trucks resembling giant bees. I did those.
So why have you been designing watches for the last 10 years? I love watches. Well, I don’t actually love the physical objects themselves, but I love the feelings they can induce. During a couple of hours, a good movie can evoke an exciting world and tap into your dreams. A good wristwatch can do the same in a split second. It’s a small object. It performs only one task. The physical variations are limited to case, hands, dial and caliber. Making watches is a highly interesting process as you have to distill your imagination into a core idea, and then force that core idea to tell a story within the confines of a small, static object.
Which stories do watches tell?In my assertion many watches attempt telling the story of its owner being either a successful or affluent person, a fun-loving or young person, an adventurous or sporty person, a fashionista without a cause or professional in the realm of stereotypical masculine endeavors like aeronatics, diving, professional soldiering and so forth. However at Radium we delve deeper.
Well, for example, an owner of a RADIUM SABOTØR (Saboteur) watch isn’t silently hoping that people mistake him or her for a saboteur, rather it’s a celebration of the people, sometimes relatives or friends of the family, who gave their lives to get rid of the Nazis. Radium is less about “me” and more about “us and what we stand for”. That’s what we are trying to achieve. We try to say "I'm not here to impress you".
You mentioned forcing a core idea onto an object - what is Radium as its core?At its core, Radium reflects kinship with simpler times.
Simpler times. Big topic! Please elaborate.
I can only speak for myself. To me, simpler times are symbolized by tools that bridge generations and prompt memories. Like my dad's old Picard leather grip claw hammer, which induces a sensation of companionship and belonging whenever I use it. It's an inward experience.
How do you go about the design process?I go to the genius of German Industry Design Legend Dieter Rams.
Dieter Rams. Tell us.
Dieter Rams (b.1932) is a German industrial designer who was responsible for the design of Braun’s consumer products for many years. I hope you will add some of his work in this interview. About 50 years ago, in his quest to answer the question “Is my design a good design?”, he developed the 10 principles of good design. It’s amazing to see how valid these principles are today. Most of us have grown up with one or more his products and thrown them away, not knowing the story behing them.
But nowadays, Braun's mass-produced coffee-makers and calculators, even hair-dryers, designed not only by him - but by his department - are becoming collectors items. Because they manifest a rule-set for optimal design.
Let’s look at Rams’ principles. So, according to Dieter Rams’ Ten Commandments, good design:
ONE – Good design is innovative.
The word innovative is often used for adding functions or features, however in the world of inventive problem-solving, innovation also means “reduction”. Removing elements such as tachy, stop-watch function etcetera. Granted, there are a lot of "desk divers" out there and it's a huge market - but - according to Dieter Rams - if you don't dive - don't get a diver's watch.
One thing we did add when switching to central seconds for the SL AUTO, was the “eclipse” ring on the seconds-hand counterweight. This feature gives the user twice the chance of recognizing a second-to-minutes dead-on if viewing the watch at an awkward angle.
TWO - Good design makes a product useful.
Indeed. A product is bought to be used. We believe that the simpler it is to use, the more it will be used. Therefore, we use extremely legible dial and hands and matte case finish so as not to distract the eye. In my opinion, all Radium watches are highly useful due to ease of reading, but I suppose KOMMANDO and NAVIGATØR are as easy as the ORIGINAL. None of them have secs/mins indexes, as this level of precision is seldomly relevant, even for most professionals, who always operate with safety margins anyway if they have any sense.
We don’t talk badly of other manufacturers, but there are extremely many brands out there that ignore the “useful” principle. If you have to bring your wrist up to your face to distinguish the hands from the rest of the design and read the time, well, then it is no watch, but we’ll leave it up to people to call it a watch if they need to legitimize buying it (laughs).
Furthermore, the low weight of aluminum adds usability – we’ve heard people tell us that wearing a Radium for a while for then switching to a steel or gold watch can be tiresome as you join “the chain gang” again. However, maybe if you’re accustomed to heavy watches, you might feel something’s missing if you wear an aluminum watch. Just guessing.
STILL READING? GOOD! THE ARTICLE WILL CONTINUE NEXT WEEK, WITH FOCUS ON DIETER RAMS' PRICIPLES OF (3) “AESTHETICS” AND (4) “UNDERSTANDABILITY” WITH EXAMPLES AND ELABORATION. CHECK OUR FACEBOOK PAGE FOR HEADSUP!