Once the home of Anchor Brewing Co (back in 1853), Hudson River Landing stretches along the river in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Only a set of train tracks separates the building from the swift body of water. In the north side of the building, Autodromo‘s founder and designer Bradley Price set up shop almost one year ago. His shift from Brooklyn Heights didn’t mean giving up proximity to others with artistry at the forefront of their lives. There’s occupied studio space all around, housing artists and dancers—and The Pantry pop-up in the lobby satiates all cold brew needs. As for the Autodromo studio itself, Price lets the natural light speak for itself and uses negative space to emphasize his watchmaking set-up and tight collection of auto memorabilia.
“I either want tons of stuff or nothing,” he says. “I like minimally furnished spaces—or being over-crowded.” With his engraving machine and 3D-printer stowed in a vast walk-in closet space, along with thousands of watch parts, there are two focal points to his office: his desk (and his wife’s) and the watchmaker bench. Both are integral to the process behind making his watches.
“I spend a lot of time iterating on the computer,” he explains. It takes him an entire year to develop a new watch in this way, long before sending out schematics to parts producers. “When I get the first round samples in, we are pretty close, but I will put it aside for a few days to learn to live with it. Certain things are immediately wrong, while other details require more thought.” Price is a master tinkerer—with ideas, designs and physical products. Every detail reflects a decision that he labored over.
There’s been a watchmaker’s bench in the studio for a few months now. Price has two local watchmakers come in a few days a week to build and test. “We built it out for the Ford GT Owners Edition. It’s a simple bench,” he explains. “It doesn’t take rocket science to have a watchmaker’s bench. You just need some equipment and the watchmaker brings his personal tools.” Price supplies a pressure testing machine, time grapher and more. All of the parts are kept in storage on site, sorted out into kits. One of his watchmakers is Swiss and teaches watchmaking. The other, in his 20s, attended the Rolex school in Pennsylvania and lives a few blocks from Price across the river.
They custom build each GT watch to the owner’s specs. “Because of the quality of the components, I could have assembled them in Switzerland and marked them Swiss made. But since Ford is an American company, I knew it would be nicer to assemble them here,” he begins. That said, Price’s desire for perfection and quality control also factors in. “Each time I send these watches out I feel excited but tense because I want them to be just so. I can’t imagine trusting someone across the ocean to do that for me, while I just hope for the best.” Each watch is tested and Price sits at the bench and cleans them himself before shipping.
We do not use any off-the-shelf parts except for a buckle from time to time
Price knows every single piece of his watches, from those composing the movements to the indexes and strap. And he’s meticulously selected partners who can actualize the components for his vision. “We do not use any off-the-shelf parts except for a buckle from time to time,” he says. Sometimes, Price paints the dials himself.
No example demonstrates this more than the sapphire hands of the Ford GT Owners Edition. “Ford gave me a brief explaining that they wanted me to do something that’s a bit crazy and bold. They didn’t just want a classic chronograph. They wanted heritage, but of today,” he says. “So I wanted to create a digital effect—a slightly 3D hand feature that’s not purely an old-fashioned analog watch face.” The hour and minutes hands achieve this thanks to their illustrative composition.
“For me, as a car enthusiast, it was a huge honor to design this watch,” he continues. “As a brand, it shows our weird position—halfway between the micro-brand world and the established independents. This watch pushes us further.” And while it may affect their market positioning, nothing demonstrates their quality like numerous high-quality components he has all over his office.
“I think materiality is one of the pillars of good design,” he says. “There’s a lot of focus on form in the design world. At the end of the day, what makes a product stand out is the materiality. With watches, what sets apart a high-end watch is the level of finishing, the play of the brush and the polish. It’s critically important to me to have the highest level that we can at our price point.”
As for his studio, he adds, “It’s more space than I need. I could have five people in here if I needed to. I do wish I could put a racing car in here, though.” He’s considered picking up a Formula Junior. Maybe one day he will.
Images by David Graver