April 17, 2022
by Ariel Adams
From the creative mind of Neil Ferrier comes a new kids’ watch brand called Blok. Wristwatches for kids aren’t anything new, but there aren’t too many timepieces out there marketed toward adults who want to get their child a “proper watch.” The analog kid’s watch market has, for the most part, been dominated by big companies like Timex and the Swatch Group’s Flik Flak. They made nice stuff, for sure, but often, their products are a bit too childish in their design. The reality is that adults tend to choose watches for kids, so many of the current products on the market miss the mark. Enter Blok, which is a well-designed and fun wristwatch concept with messaging that appeals to parents in a package that is meant to look good on their kids.
Based in the U.S., Neil Ferrier is the talented mind behind a cool design brand called Discommon, which has produced wristwatch accessories such as carrying cases. He is also the person primarily responsible for some rather adult accessories such as the URWERK x Macallan Flask. Blok is his latest venture right now (which was also co-founded by Oliver Fowles & James Walker), and the launch product is the Blok 33, a series of 33mm-wide kids’ watches in a variety of colors and with a style that nicely suits boys and girls. Today, I shoot a primarily yellow and also a primarily blue version of the Block 33 on my boy, who has kindly offered to stand in, as my adult wrists would simply not do this fun series of timepieces justice.
Let me talk about some of the marketing points before I get into the important stuff, like the design and ergonomics. While the Blok 33 isn’t expensive in the scheme of watches, it is more expensive than most kids’ watches out there. To justify the cost, Blok has implemented a few features it feels parents will be drawn to. First is the Swiss Made element of the Blok watches collection. Wristwatch-enthusiast parents tend to want to keep “nice watches” in the family, so the inclusion of a Swiss Made quartz movement (as well as final assembly in Switzerland) is surely a selling point for a lot of buyers accustomed to fine watchmaking. It isn’t that a non-Swiss Made watch is any worse, per se, but the Swiss Made theme helps express an element of overall quality, and it keeps Blok in the pantheon of “enthusiast” products, but just for kids, in this instance.
Next is the “sustainable” part of the brand message, which is very popular today. Wristwatch production isn’t particularly environmentally damaging, for the most part, but it is trendy to include sustainable materials, etc. Accordingly, the Blok 33 case is produced from a plastic that comes from castor bean oil (as opposed to traditional petroleum-based plastic). This is a formulation similar to Swatch’s Bioceramic, which mixes ceramic with a “sustainable” castor bean oil-based plastic. There is also the matter of the strap, which is a faux leather (I don’t like saying “vegan” since that sounds like the strap is meant to be edible) on the underside with fabric on parts of the top side.
Next comes the educational theory behind the Blok 33 watches. The Blok name comes from the fact that the dial and bezel are designed to separate intervals of time into “blocks” for easy reading. This starts on the dial as each hour has a block associated with it that helps young minds better visualize how to read the current hour. There are also additional blocks for the minute and second markers, making reading the time and counting digits on the dial about as easy as can be given the space.
On the bezel, Blok does something even more innovative by segmenting the rotating bezel in 5, 10, 15, and 30-minute sections. Rotating the bezel and aligning it with the minute hand thus offers children a very simple way to visualize how to track these four common intervals of time. My son is just at the age where he is starting to read analog time, and I can see how such a system will be helpful so that he can personally experience how long it feels for 5 or 15 minutes to elapse. It’s a good concept and, ideally, enough kids will pick up on the logic, and enough parents will have the patience to explain to young, curious minds how it all works.
I really admired how the Blok 33 watches are sporty, fun, handsome, and not silly looking. The case is 33mm-wide with fixed lugs that are designed for a single strap piece to be woven through them. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters with a screw-down crown, which means it is suitable for swimming and beach days. I also think it is incredible (and part of the price) for a watch like this to have a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. Most kids’ watches are certainly not built as tough. While I don’t know exactly where Ferrier started with his design journey, I feel like he was (wisely) inspired by the TAG Heuer Formula 1 watches from the 1980s.
Inexpensive with colorful plastic bezels and dials, that generation TAG Heuer Formula 1 was one of the best “serious yet youthful” watch collections ever designed, in my opinion, and for the most part never really replicated in modern form (despite the TAG Heuer Formula 1 collection living on). It would not surprise me at all if Ferrier was looking at the TAG Heuer Formula 1 as a place to start when it came to designing the Blok 33 watch collection. Overall, there is very little to complain about here, as ergonomics and legibility are really front-and-center when it comes to the design. Even the crown is placed on the left side of the case in order to prevent it from digging into wrist if it is worn on the left wrist.
When it comes to the strap, I think the consideration was to find a solution that kids could easily put on and take off themselves. There is really no one solution here, and Blok’s approach to using a one-piece strap with a fold-over Velcro section is about as good as any strap choice for kids. I will say, however, that I found the strap to be a bit stiff. I personally care little about the provenance of strap materials or how sustainable they are (because I don’t dispose of straps with any regularity). Rather, I care about their style and, more importantly, comfort. Blok will correctly say that over time the straps “wear in” and form to your wrist, but kids don’t know about that or have the patience to wait. I would have opted for a more pliable strap material that wraps more easily around the wrist. This isn’t a huge deal, but the reality is that the stiff strap might actually prevent kids from wearing it given that they can be fussy and eschew new things stuck to their bodies if they aren’t immediately comfortable. More so, children often don’t have the patience to wait for the strap to wear in and might not even give the watch a chance in the first place, forcing parents to pester them with requests like, “Wear your watch more and the strap will become more comfortable.”
Overall, Blok 33 products are an excellent execution of the idea to make an educational and stylish high-quality Swiss Made kids’ watch. At launch, the brand has six different color combinations to choose from, and I am sure more will come in the future. If you are looking for a wristwatch for a young person in your life that will serve them well, be useful, and also mark them as coming from a “watch-loving family,” the Blok 33 watches are certainly worth close examination. Price for each is $179 USD. Learn more at the Blok watches website here.