For many people, the clock on their phone is the only watch they own. They constantly tap their screen throughout the day, relying on their electronic devices as a timekeeper. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, Sunny Fong and Jessica Chow decided to revive a classic—the automatic watch.
Fong and Chow come from two different worlds, Fong is a Canadian fashion designer and Project Runway All-Star, and Chow is an experienced consultant from a family of watchmakers. When the two of them discovered their shared passion for well-made watches, the decision to start VIEREN seemed like the perfect next step.
From a design perspective, they knew they wanted it to be an automatic watch with a rectangular face. But when it came to manufacturing, there was a lot to learn. They realized through their research that many watches on the market look the same because all companies go to the same suppliers. Instead of following suit, Fong and Chow decided to offer bespoke designs that highlight the mechanics of the timepiece. To bring their vision to life, they started collaborating with a team in Switzerland to create something high-quality that also looked beautiful and modern.
We sat down with Fong and Chow to talk about what was missing from the luxury watch market, how VIEREN came to life and why they decided to reinvent the automatic watch for a new generation.
What inspired you to create an automatic watch?
Fong: I have a deep love for automatic. The inspiration for the OG Automatic is because I started wearing my dad’s watch again when I turned 40. There was sentimental value, that was one thing, and another thing was the mechanics of it—you have to wear it to keep it moving. It inspired me to get out and do things instead of sitting at home and waiting for things to happen.
Where did the idea to start VIEREN originate?
Chow: I’ve always wanted to start a business, but you get into a full-time job (I was a management consultant for a decade) and you just kind of continue on working. You think to yourself that you’ll do the things you want to do later. The time is now to pursue the things you want.
The time is now to pursue the things you want.Sunny Fong
Ironically, when Sunny told me the story about wearing his father’s watch, I thought that could be something that inspires me to focus on what I care about every day.
Fong: I feel like it really all started when I met Jess. We had a conversation about fashion and design, and she told me her family was in the luxury watch market. I thought: I’d love to design a watch. We gathered every week to come up with brand identity, where we wanted to take this and what watches we wanted to make. Day after day we pushed the dream forward and it actually happened.
What were you noticing about the watch market before starting VIEREN?
Chow: When we started talking about watches with our friends and talking about this automatic watch, nobody knew what we were talking about. When younger generations are exposed to watches, they really only know about sports watches, which are battery-operated and mass-produced. This whole art of this crafted machine that was created centuries ago is something that’s becoming a lost art.
How are the look and feel of VIEREN watches different than older automatic watches?
Chow: Getting into the heritage stuff, we saw a lot of it was very old school and we wanted to modernize it for today’s generation. Being monochromatic and matte and being gender-neutral are some of the things that, in our point of view, are modernizing the industry. And it wasn’t available in the marketplace. We wanted to create something people could connect with and something that could really inspire them.
How does VIEREN’s focus on education help people connect with the brand?
Fong: We all love to learn how things are made and with watches, it’s not a DIY project at all. It really requires a skilled hand the get in there and put a piece together. It’s very exciting to show people and get people to feel what we feel when we’re putting it together. I think bringing that type of life to an inanimate object is what we want to do.
How are you merging quality, functionality and accessibility?
Chow: Being creative and thoughtful is really important. Sunny taught me about this modernist approach and that everything is about form and function. Everything we do has a purpose, not just embellishment for the sake of it. For example, we were thinking about the packaging and most people put it in a box that gets thrown away. That doesn’t make sense to us. We thought, let’s actually put it in a watch stand and when it arrives it’s a full experience. That’s how we see value; it’s not just price.
How do you design something timeless?
Fong: I definitely look back in terms of design and I reference a lot of things that happened in the past: art, architecture and any form of design. I pick up any motifs that continue over periods of time. Trends are easy to create and get out there but they’re only a flash in the pan, so I love to create things that will stand the test of time through silhouette, structure or cut.
What are you most excited about for 2021?
Fong: We really want people to experience our product in person. We had an opportunity in September which was really nice to show the world our pieces and get a reaction. That type of experience really helps us to grow. It’s is such a tactile piece and we want to have that one-on-one experience.