Welcome back to an original aBlogtoWatch feature, “My First Grail Watch.” In this series, we ask prominent people in the watch industry about the first timepiece that they lusted after. Today, we’re speaking with Chris Vail, the guy behind the Kickstarter darling, Lew & Huey.aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?
Chris Vail: I own a micro-brand, Lew & Huey. I design and sell watches online. People either love what I do, or wish I’d fall into a tree-shredder. I think most of the industry would choose “shredder.”
ABTW: When did your fascination with watches start?
Chris Vail: Two years ago, when I stumbled on an online forum as I was looking for industry insights. I started off just thinking of them as a “product” like any other, very un-emotional about it. I ended up becoming as big a watch-geek as everyone else talking about watches online.
ABTW: What was your first grail watch?
Chris Vail: I fell in love with the Omega Planet Ocean at first sight. The feeling never really left me.
ABTW: What drew you to this particular watch?
Chris Vail: Like any incredibly well-executed design, it wasn’t any one thing. But what I think I liked most about it was that bright orange, almost pink color of the numbers at 12-6-9, and their style. It was the older version with the vintage font of the ’60s Seamasters.
ABTW: It seems like you have some very vivid mental pictures of the watch – or is it one that you have sitting in the watch box?
Chris Vail: I could have afforded it about ten years ago, long before I got interested in watches. Now, even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t get it. I can’t wear a watch that costs thousands when I sell watches that cost hundreds. I wear what my customers wear.
ABTW: Given that stance (wearing what your customers wear), have you come across a more attainable grail?
Chris Vail: I’ve become less enamored with complications, and more interested in design. Since I make my own watches, my “grail” isn’t any particular watch from another brand, but rather an ideal, a purity and excellence in design I’m always striving to reach. It’s impossible though, because I’m never “satisfied” within anything I’ve done. It’s pretty aggravating.
ABTW: Hmm, that will make it hard to come up with a grail today, I would think. Has there been a time that a grail has slipped through your fingers?
Chris Vail: Sort of. I made a conscious decision early on that I didn’t want my brand to just make close homages of other, more expensive brands’ models. I could have made my own version of the PO had I gone that route, but instead, I designed the Orthos, which draws some inspiration from the PO, among other watches, but is still “different.” It’s like marrying someone who somewhat reminds you of someone else you once loved. You might be very happy, but there’s that little bit of wonder about what might have been…