It doesn't take a lot for a guy to go out and buy a watch from one of the major timepiece producers. Sure you need the actual cash, but purchasing a Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, or any of the other name brands is often a mental no-brainer. That's because those brands have created a blanket of trust and sophistication behind their name. Buying one of those watches is like entrance into a club of like-minded people who share your passion and taste. So what does it take to pick up a timepiece from a little guy? An independent brand? A start-up brand? These companies have zero awareness, little branding, and sometimes only a design and goodwill. What does it take for you to want to their watches? Are these only right for select people?
I've been thinking about these questions a lot, and they led me to further inquire about the types of people who don't just buy watches from small brands, but also the people who actually start them. You need to have a seriously high level of patience, dedication, and passion for design to actually go out there, defy the odds, and start your own watch brand. People do it many times a year, and here at aBlogtoWatch we get to hear from many of them. One such small brand born out of some mix of passion and dissatisfaction is Individual Design by Mr. Mark Carson from Hawaii.
Regular readers of aBlogtoWatch have seen Mark's name show up a lot on the site as he is among the most prolific post commentators. His deluge of daily thoughtful opinions are the sign of the truly watch obsessed. I decided to write about watches on a daily basis because of my passion, and a guy like Mark decided to read about watches, comment about watches, and start his own little brand. The first model is the Individual Design Ka La. The name "Ka La" apparently means "the Sun" in native Hawaiian. There is a certain solar quality to the design of the watch for sure. The dial and the case reminisce the shape and rays of the sun. The overall package is a nod to the grace of the circle.
Individual Design is not exactly a brand which you'd call "restrained," given that to start, the Ka La watch is available in 12 versions. This is between the Ka La Classic and Ka La Roman (which refer to the style of hour indicator). Then you get into case colors from polished steel to steel offered in PVD black or rose gold. The dials are just as varied and the Ka La is offered in a more formal or sporty guise given Individual Design's ability to play with colors and straps. For a first attempt, the Ka La is a nice looking watch. Starting a brand is the hardest when it comes to dealing with suppliers and parts makers. So for the brand to come out of the gate with something that looks this unique, is a testament to Mr. Carson's dedication.
On the wrist, the Ka La has a very one-of-a-kind design given the loopy lugs and the disc-based seconds hand - the case is 43mm wide. Inherently the things which make this watch different than most other three-hand timepieces are simple and basic. Having said that, playing with the design of the lugs and the seconds hand really makes the watch look like something else. Rather than have a hand, the Ka La uses a disc for the seconds indicator, and it really changes the dynamic of the dial.
To be honest, I thought that this would really effect legibility. However, after wearing a few of these I found that legibility is more or less retained in a surprisingly good way even though you get less of the hands to see. The broad tips no doubt are in part to thank for that. The Ka La Classic models have lume on the hands as well as the hour markers.
As swoopy and loopy and the Ka La looks, it retains a graceful composure that is still masculine, but also unique. A few things are a bit rough around the edges given how new the brand is. The crown screws in a bit roughly, and there is always room for minor improvements on the dial. But for the price and freshness of the brand, these items are to be expected. Inside of the Ka La watches are Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movements, which can be viewable through the sapphire crystal exhibition window. The front crystal is also sapphire, and slightly domed.
I mentioned that Individual Design offers 12 versions of the Ka La, with four of them being shown in this review. The brand wanted me to get a good view of the collection's broad style. I could see myself grabbing for the black and red model when I want something sporty, and at other times, go for the silver and blue dial when wanting something dressier. At the same time, the black and gold toned model has an attractive boldness to it that grew on me. In a store, walking by these watches, I wouldn't know what to make of them, but I did find that once you put a Ka La on the wrist, it feels more at home.
Individual Design probably isn't the most creative name for a watch, but it is neat/egotistical that Mark Carson also included his name on the plate-like seconds hand. The brand's website is admittedly still basic, but in time the veneer of a true brand will fall over Individual Design more and more. I think that with a few more years of playing around, the details of the products and presentation will come closer to competing with that of other established brands. That isn't to say that I recommend against early adopters, but rather that the people who will be among the first to wear Ka La watches are mostly in it as an appreciation of a man's hard work and for the "individual design."
The watches come on a range of straps choices including leather, leather and carbon fiber, and crocodile. Individual Design Ka La watches are priced at $1,200. individualdesign.com
>Brand: Individual Design
>Model: Ka La
>Would reviewer personally wear it: The right one at the right time, so yes.
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: Guy with no affinity for big brands interested in investing in something perhaps hip and new, as well as unique.
>Best characteristic of watch: A few differences from most standard watches feels like it makes a world of difference.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Still a new brand so certain elements of the piece and overall brand presentation are still rough around the edges.