From his multi-floor design lab in Milan, Giorgio Galli—the design director of Timex Group—oversees developments across the historic (and ubiquitous) brand’s portfolio. While headquartered in Middlebury, Connecticut, Timex looks to the Giorgio Galli Design Lab in Italy for many reasons, including their illustrious experiences together and proximity between Galli and Timex’s luxury licensed brands, Versace and Ferragamo. Galli has been in the watch industry since 1990 and has worked with other major players. A decade ago, however, Timex bought his design studio and the rest is history.
To design watches isn’t like designing any other product… It’s a completely different thinking
“Watches have always been my passion,” he shares with us. “It’s in the Italian blood. Everyone loves watches here, but it’s very peculiar to try to design them. To design watches isn’t like designing any other product. It’s between industrial design and accessory design. It’s a completely different thinking.” And for Galli and his studio, this is further divided. First, there’s the development of Timex products and the expectation of defining a brand. Second, there’s the immersion into the DNA of their licenses brands, imagining a fashionable object while delivering on the technicality of it—and then getting it approved.
“With Versace, you have more freedom in terms of material and price point,” he continues. “But it’s freedom that’s limited to the brand identity. You get to do things that are quite fun because Versace is so creative, but it must be within their limits and the limits of watchmaking.” He notes that it’s actually harder to design for Timex because “you work within the limitations of the price point. You must make something that looks cool or has a sense of luxury, but it must respect the price.”
With much excitement, he teases to developments at Timex—that will hopefully shift and expand its global reputation. “We are rebuilding the brand—or refreshing it. The perception of the brand, it’s always been mass market. We are trying to bring it back to the beginning—the heights it reached in the past. We will launch many things, with the first being American Documents, the made-in-America collection.”
Out today, the American Documents watches see a return to production in the US. “We are making every single component in the US except the movement, which is Swiss,” Galli explains, “It was not possible for us yet.” From the US-sourced stainless steel to Gorilla Glass and a leather strap from American hides, produced by American craftsmen, the individual American-made pieces are assembled in Middlebury. An “Aged Waterbury Brass” case back honors the brand’s roots and history.
“It’s exciting, to be honest,” he says. “There aren’t that many authentic brands out there. So many brands tell stories [that they’ve devised]. Timex has those 165 years. The brand is the result of years of building.” With American Documents, they respect their origin and the work that went into making them long-lasting.
Galli and his team begin with a brief, then proceed by collection, adding pinnacle products as well as others that are more accessible. Then, they work through every single detail. “From the case to the hands to the dials to the graphics and straps, we think about everything. We sketch or, today, we go to create a 3D design. We do also 3D printing when we need to understand the correct size. It depends on the watch but you always need to understand the proportions. Proportions are the key to a successful watch,” he says.
They know, from the brief, what materials they’ll be working with and designing for. “Sometimes,” he adds, “we see a design has much more potential and we will use a more premium material. We see that there’s an opportunity.” Over the last 20 years, Galli has seen much progress regarding materials—especially in making high-end components more available.
Still, he feels the innovation is now on his side. “Before, it was low price watches copying what high-end designers were doing. Now, in some cases, creativity and information get fed to the luxury brands from less expensive ones.” This is something we’ve witnessed, as well.
As for how he knows when a watch design is complete, Galli says, “It is experience. You immediately understand the potential from a render, but only when you have a prototype in your hand do you know it is close or complete.” From there, it’s personal.
He doesn’t feel that his design studio has a specific signature. “It is not visual,” he explains, “It cannot be visual as there are so many brands. So, there is no fingerprint in terms of style, but there is a philosophy related to watchmaking, based on precision and discipline. Discipline is the key to our designs.”
American Documents are available online now for $495.