Individual Design Ka La Watch Review

Individual Design Ka La Watch Review

Individual Design Ka La watch-5

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.

Individual Design Ka La watch-8

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.

Individual Design Ka La watch-17

Individual Design Ka La watch-7

Individual Design Ka La watch-23

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.

Individual Design Ka La watch-26

Individual Design Ka La watch-11

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 Ka La watch-21

Individual Design Ka La watch-13

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

Necessary Data
>Brand: Individual Design
>Model: Ka La
>Price: $1,200
>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.

  • Ulysses31

    This ties in with a comment I left somewhere else that I would be much more interested in smaller brands that try to do something different for the love of the craft rather than phoning it in all the time a la Rolex/Omega/Tag etc.  Reminds me of an obscure episode of Red Dwarf where they meet up with Pythagoras who can’t go a single sentence without mentioning triangles, something that he is obsessed with to the point of nauseating the crew.  The big guys make great quality watches but are afraid to do anything different, resting comfortably on their laurels. 
    This watch Mark has created here will make most people do a double take, whether they like it or not.  I quite like the silver version; it’s definitely different but not in a way that would offend.  It’s quite space-age with those large curved elements .  Of course, “space age” is an anachronistic term these days that no longer means “the future”, since the heyday of the space age was in the 60s and 70s and I can see some of that same love of design from that era here – and for me a favourite era for watches.  Somebody who owned an Airstream caravan would probably like one of these.

  • TimelyOne

    It is nice to find something fresh and a bit unknown. The movement insures future repairability, and the branded rotor is a nice touch. I find the black face really jumps out on the RoseGold model. All that is needed is a marketing plan that includes wrist time on a few celebrities and this could become a future classic.
    P.S. I would place Mark’s name on the face, and be a bit more creative with their signature disc second hand. Perhaps a wood veneer, or leather that matched the band would be nice….a lightly frosted silicone disc would be killer.

  • Zeitblom

    Love the face, the lugs…..not so much. A lugless design in good heavy steel, and I would buy this.

    • MarkCarson

      ZeitblomOn the wrist, you typically only notice one lug ring (they are angled downward from the main case body) so the case is not as massive looking as most photos make it appear. But still an ‘acquired taste’ as Ariel says in his video review. The lug rings on the black cased model are much less prominent. 
      I also have a one-off (at this point) piece where I have a PVD rose gold main case but with black crown and  case back/lug rings. On that one, the lug rings fade into the background with a black strap. 
      Some photos of it are here: http://individualdesign.blogspot.com/2013/01/reference-10833-bi-color-case.html
      Cheers

  • Livefyre

    Love the face, the lugs…..not so much. A lugless design in good heavy steel, and I would buy this.

  • antjay

    Congratulations Mark . Nice work . I like the black one myself .

  • Kris C

    Interesting; there is a lot to enjoy here, and my favourite is easily the silver dial with blue highlights. The PVD with red is certainly the most dramatic, but as I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of red and personally think that replacing that with something a little more unique would up the ante a bit, but I also realize that I’m often alone in that thinking; so I don’t suggest it was a mistake.
    Regardless, these are an outstanding effort, and I look forward to seeing more from the brand.

  • adisoon

    Mark, I really really like the shape of the case.
    Do you have any plans to go beyond time and date? Perhaps a GMT complication or Worldtimer?

    • MarkCarson

      adisoonHi Adi. Yes, I have designs for both a GMT and a Worldtimer. However they would require a case redesign as the movement dimensions of the ETA 2893-1 (or -3) and ETA 2893-2 differ from the ETA 2824-2 used in the Ka La watches. 
      While I would love to do a worldtimer, the 2893-1 or -3 is unfortunately getting to be pretty hard to find. My vision for a  worldtimer is to have the 24 hours on the rotating inner disk and the city codes (I like airport codes) on the fixed outer portion of the dial. The printing of city codes would be oriented both vertically and horizontally around the dial to optimize readability. Dials would be custom printed for each customer so their choice of city codes would be on the watch. 
      For a GMT watch, I’m thinking of a drivers/pilots watch with a black dial and white and red makers and hands (sorry Kris C) in another unique case that sits on the inside (not top or bottom) of your wrist so it is visible without turning your wrist while your hand is on a steering wheel or control yoke.

  • MarkCarson

    A couple of minor corrections/clarifications to the review: the crown does not screw in and the stainless steel finished case is brushed (not polished) except for the crown and the bezel and lug ring grooves.

  • CG

    OK… I may be way off base but I love the late 60’s & early 70’s watches from off brands of the period.  This is a watch my favorite guitar player of all time would have worn when I saw him in concer in those dayst… David Gilmour. The style seems to rekindle a technology future we had been waiting for… damn nice watch. Black & red/Stainless with blue marke rfor me… only thing that seems like a misprint are the Roman Numerals… I personally have to struggle stylistically to even look at watch with them on it. None for me thx… but others, a big thumbs up!

    • MarkCarson

      CGAhhhh, the Pink. Brings back memories – listening to Dark Side of the Moon and Animals in college dorm rooms. Jeez I’m ancient!
      The Ka La watches with the round lumed markers were the original design. I was getting advice (not on design but the watch business overall) on a consulting basis from another watchmaker a couple of years ago and he suggested not producing a single watch but rather a “line” of watches. Hence the variations in case finishes, dials (and hour markers) and hand finishes. 
      The roman numerals seemed like a better variation than Arabic numerals on these watches so I went that way for a more elegant/traditional dress version. The black dial with rose gold hands and case and roman numerals seems to be a reference that many people respond to. But not everyone – you being an example. Guess that’s why having a number of models is good. A single style of anything just narrows your audience too much.
      The reference 10311 was the original design. http://individualdesign.com/ID/shop/viewitem.php?productid=8
      I’m with you on the 10122 – that is one my my favorites for weekend use. Put the top down on the car and enjoy the sun with a sporty watch on your wrist!

      Cheers

  • CG

    changed my mind…. 10122 is the one…. sweet.

  • Livefyre

    changed my mind…. 10122 is the one…. sweet.

  • Ryan B

    This is a great design Mark, the lugs are fitting to the whole look of the watch and they definitely give me a retro feeling. Good range of colors too, any chance you would do an all black version?  ( I think the term I’m looking for is “black out” but not too sure )
    Keep up the good work !

    • MarkCarson

      Ryan B I have two black dials (with round lumed hour makers and silver or rose gold roman numerals) and of course PVD black cases and black straps in crocodile or alligator. The seconds disks are all sun ray silver with either red, blue or rose gold markers. But I can mix and match any dial, hands, case and straps you see on my website.

  • DG Cayse

    An excellent design concept: circles within circles. Very timeless…(pun intended)
    Well done. Only suggestions – brass for a patina? Solar powered to complete the cirsle?
    Perhaps a srew-in crown with rubber straps for a more water resistant ‘sports/diver’ model?
    Changing or skeletonizing the seconds wheel?
     The canvas is still open to new additions for the collection. Well done.

    • MarkCarson

      DG CayseThe case construction (as it is currently implemented) is 50 meters  (165 feet) of wtaer resistance, so its OK for swimming but not really enough for serious scuba diving.  However I have put a NATO (really the “G10” spec issued by the UK’s MoD) strap on a Ka La watch where the strap goes over and under the lug rings (and does not use springbars at all). Actually a pretty cool and robust strap mounting option (and hides the lug rings for those who aren’t crazy about that aestetic).
      http://individualdesign.blogspot.com/2012/07/nato-style-strap.html
      Thanks for the other ideas (but probably not a solar powered quartz).

      • DavidJGreenspun

        MarkCarson DG Cayse   The color combo with the nato-style is fantastic. Could the nato work with the spring bars, leaving the lug rings exposed?

        • MarkCarson

          DavidJGreenspun Hi David. The answer is YES. I grabbed a green NATO strap I had at hand and mounted it on a reference 10222 just now and took some quick and dirty photos. 
          http://individualdesign.blogspot.com/2013/03/g-10-nato-strap.html
          I think an all black or the black/red/gray NATO strap I used before would look even better.

  • Panagiotis

    Very nice indeed Mark! I like how you’ve correctly written the IV (not IIII) and I really dig the silver face/blued hands! And the blue croc strap on that… yummy!!! I think also that a domed crystal would round (pun intended) thing up nicely!

    • MarkCarson

      Panagiotis The top sapphire crystal is domed (and AR coated on the inside). The dome is modest but is makes the watch feel that much nicer if you rub your thumb over case and crystal.

    • MarkCarson

      Panagiotis The blue strap on that one is genuine Louisiana Alligator (not crocodile) and I agree that the blue strap works well with the blue ion plated hands and hour markers. Gives the watch a look somewhere between casual and elegant with a bit of sportiness thrown in.
      The “IV” vice “IIII” is sort of a  pet peeve of mine. I know the clock history usually attributed to the “IIII” but since “IV” is used everywhere outside of watches & clocks, it still bugs me a little. So the cool part of  designing your own watch is doing things the way you see fit. 
      I started this whole project to put a watch design I made on my wrist. But it makes no sense to produce a single watch, so I found myself in the watch business as a result. Guess I should be more of a capitalist and be concerned with markets and what would sell vice what I want on my own wrist. But that would not be as much fun!

      • Panagiotis

        MarkCarson I appreciate all the effort that went into the details Mark. The difference between using Alligator vs. Crocodile or worse yet, stamped Croc (shudder) is a big plus in my book! Again, congrats!

  • JonnyD

    My favourite is the silver dial with blue accents and that blue croc strap – extremely attractive. Well done on making your passion a reality.

  • DavidJGreenspun

    Love what Marc Carson is doing… Keep up the good work.  It adds a west coast feel to the loopy, curvy, space-age design of the DeButhene DB27 Titan Hawk.  That’s a good thing, as I thought the DeButhene was a bit austere in its articulated lug lines.  Looking forward to more design inspirations from Mr. Carson.

  • MarkCarson

    The 4 watches that Ariel used for the review are headed back to me now that his review is over.
    Normally, review watches are either sent on to other reviews or kept by me as samples or personal use pieces.

    As an obviously limited offer, these 4 watches (worn by none other than Mr. A Blog To Watch himself) can be purchased for a special price if anyone is interested. All orders will include a hand made Hawaiian Koa wood box (a $100 value) plus no extra charge for the 3 watches which have alligator straps (normally a $50 upgrade).
    $1000 USD for your choice of the exact watch you see in this review.
    If interested, send me any email to either Mark AT MarkCarson DOT com or Sales AT IndividualDesign DOT com. Do not order directly from the website (because I assume you want the special pricing).
    Reference 10363 – Rose Gold Case, Black Dial with Roman Numerals, Rose Gold Hands, Black Alligator Strap
    Reference 10222 – Black Case, Black Dial with Round Lumed Markers, Red Hands, Carbon Fiber and Red Leather Strap
    Reference 10111 – Stainless Steel Case, Silver Dial with Round Lumed Markers, Blue Hands, Blue Alligator Strap
    Reference 10141 – Stainless Steel Case, Silver Dial with Roman Numerals, Blue Hands, Cognac Alligator Strap

  • Panagiotis

    I see you put up a banner on the left of the site Mark. I wish you all the best and may your clicks be plentiful!

    • MarkCarson

      Panagiotis Thanks but actually, I have had ads on A Blog To Watch since Oct 2012. They appear on about half of the articles (usually in the same place).
      Ariel did a great job taking photos, but like most watches, they look even better in person, on your wrist. I do offer a 7 day return policy so customers can take a look at the real thing before being committed.

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  • CHawk

    Startup design is challenging, but the metalwork of the case reminded me of a childhood ring game I enjoyed for hours at a time when I played with it.  So seeing this watch and the rings on each side of the straps reminded me of some fond memories.  I wish more companies would share their passions with the world of watchmaking.  Keep up the bold efforts and may you continue to succeed in building beautiful watches.

  • David 52

    The design on these watches IS quite unique. The sweeping lugs and the semi-mystery dial hand arraingmet  is very striking. The size is nice too. Not too big but not too small. It seems to lay very nicely on the wrist. I’m glad he went with a tried and true movement that will make any rpairs needed in the future easy to aquire.
     The smallest brand that i have been buying of late is the Bremont  brand out of England. They are still a small company by compairison and have been putting out some very cool limited editon pieces. I now own 5 of thier watches and have anorder in for the latest ltd edition “the Codebreaker”. Last I heard it is now sold out after being on the maket less than two months. I know you have reviewe the” Victory” watch  not long ago.
    Keep up the good work Mark. You have a real winner of a design here and your price point is right on too!.

  • twilighthobbit

    Sweet Looking!

  • Shawnnny

    I just received the email that I am the winner! Thank you Mark Carson and thank you Ariel Adams. It’s a very unique time piece and I’ll be proud to wear it. It’s Ironic that I just purchased my first watch winder yesterday.

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  • Shawnnny

    Mark: I’m wearing it to Maui!! Not in the water though.

  • http://MarkCarson.com/ MarkCarson

    Shawnnny Want me to send you a black and red waterproof composite strap?

  • Shawnnny

    Oh, that would be very cool!! Is that the strap that looks like carbon fiber? Do you have my address still?

  • http://MarkCarson.com/ MarkCarson

    Shawnnny I still a number of the carbon fiber straps with red leather trim left. But they are both overly long (for your 6.5″ wrist) and the leather trim is not a good thing to get wet. Plus the loops were not as durable as I’d like so I stopped using them as one my standard straps (but theyare still available for sale upon request). What I will send you is this: http://markcarson.com/ID/shop/viewitem.php?productid=56
    I still have your S.V. address so no worries. I’ll drop it in the mail on Monday so you may get it by the end of the week. I assume you have a springbar tool?

  • Shawnnny

    Oh yeah, those are very nice! Thank you very much!! I’m looking forward to putting it on. Red/black is my favorite color combination.

  • Shawnnny

    Oh, it’s buy Maratac, very nice. I’ve always wanted one of their watches. Hey, you should do a pilot watch next! That would be very nice.

  • http://MarkCarson.com/ MarkCarson

    Shawnnny I’m getting a price quote for dials and hands for what I’d like to use in a dive watch. But at this point, if I have them (custom) made, I will offer them in my Ka La case immediately. My design for a dive watch would require a new case which is a larger capital expense.

  • Shawnnny

    That is very nice. I was just looking at your GMT and that is Stunning with a capital S. It’s amazing the different look you can get with just a dial change. If you do a new case for a diver and need a tester and review writer, let me know, I’d be glad to do that.

  • http://MarkCarson.com/ MarkCarson

    Shawnnny My watchmaker just completed assembling another GMT a couple of days ago (before he went on vacation), so I will be wearing a GMT (black case and strap) to BaselWorld 2015 as my travel watch.

  • http://MarkCarson.com/ MarkCarson

    Shawnnny The diver design would have articulated lugs and the strap would attach via Screw Pins (aka T-Bars) which are far stronger than springbars being solid steel rather than tubes with springs and sub-millimeter pins on the end. And the design calls for a sapphire bezel with lumed markers printed on the bottom of the sapphire ring. Note the dual scale bezel (count-down and elapsed time). Maybe something I could fund via Kickstarter. Shown are 3 hand and GMT versions. The hinged lugs would make for a snug fit on any wrist plus the give the watch a bold “tool” look.

  • Shawnnny

    I like that very much. The lug design even has a dive look to it. I’ve seen some Seiko Fathom mods with lumed bezels and its a great look. I think you should move ahead with that idea and I’m all for the a kidkstarter idea. I bought a pair of boots from Thursday Boots, a kidkstarter project, and they are the best. What is the case size going to be?

  • Shawnnny

    See through caseback?

  • Shawnnny

    You do realize this is a world premier! The New Mark Carson Individual Design Dive Watch, coming soon!!

  • Shawnnny

    That’s gonna get some attention!

  • http://MarkCarson.com/ MarkCarson

    Shawnnny 43mm for the case body but with an overhanging bezel which also acts to protect the crown. And being up, the larger bezel (roughly 45 – 46 mm) would be easier to turn too and would not cause it wear larger (but it does make it look larger). 
    While a dive watch “should not” have an exhibition case back, the sales reality is I would offer it with both a solid and see-through back option. 
    I’d like to have the bezel be easily changed by the customer so they could swap the dive bezel with a 24 hour one for a 3rd time zone (on the GMT watch), or a 12 hour one for a 2nd time zone on the 3 hander. Plus by changing the bezel (from blue/black) to one printed with another color (like black/red which I know you’d like or all black), the look of the watch could change greatly.

  • Shawnnny

    Ok, I replied to this but don’t see it. So, here it goes again. I like that a lot. And the more I look at it, the more I notice. I like how the date window is on top of the 6 marker. I also like the Mark Carson and the Hawaii on the dial. I’ve seen Seiko Fathom mods with lumed bezels and I like that look a lot. The lugs look good and they look like some kind of dive equipment. All together very nice and I say move forward and Kidkstarter is a good idea. Maybe a bigger crown? What is the case size and will it have a see through caseback?

  • Shawnnny

    Oh, there it is!

  • http://MarkCarson.com/ MarkCarson

    Shawnnny The crown is currently designed to be 7mm and clears below the overhanging bezel. Unlike an onion crown on a pilots watch that is designed to be set and wound while wearing gloves, a dive watch should not be adjusted underwater, only the bezel if you change from timing your bottom time to your decompression time. But with the dual scale you’d set your bottom end time on the count down scale (the outer one) and then without any bezel change, the inner scale shows your total decompression time. So you should not have to adjust the bezel while diving so long as you “plan your dive and dive your plan”.

  • Shawnnny

    This just keeps getting better! I live it all. I hope you do it! Although, I’ll have to win another one to afford it? Haha, but one can always dream.

  • Shawnnny

    See, that’s what I mean. Every time I look I see something new. That’s the sign of great design! And I like it all.

  • Shawnnny

    Oh, the red/black with the white dial is nice, I’ve been wanting something with a white dial. Ok, it’s bed time. I’m very impressed Mark! Good night!

  • Shawnnny

    I meant love. Damn iPad!

  • http://MarkCarson.com/ MarkCarson

    Shawnnny One last one to sleep on – and one I think you’ll like. A black dial with silver hands version with the “Coke” bezel.

  • Shawnnny

    Oh yeah, that’s also very nice. I’m thinking I like that better, because the hands stand out better. Talk to you tomorrow!

  • Shawnnny

    Hi Mark,
    I recieved the strap in the mail, it’s very nice! I’ll try very hard to take my Ka La watch for a swim in Maui. But I’m a little anal, so it may be difficult. But, it will be on my wrist in Maui. Gotta have a Hawaiian watch on my trip to Hawaii!
    Thank you very much!
    Shawn