It was once the fact that new watches came about as a response to need. Today, new watches arise not out of need, but out of passion. Modern watchmakers and their disciples are continuously romanced by the functional satisfaction and beauty of traditional timepieces that serve both as instruments and indicators of taste and status. The world’s most elegant contemporary watches combine the emotional satisfaction of hand-crafting with original designs and aesthetic concepts. Enter TULLOCH watches in 2020 — a new company that presents its T-01 Regulator watch collection today.
TULLOCH is the eponymous brand of Mr. Shane Tulloch, who had the fortune of growing up with a mother who was creative and loved to draw and a father who was an artisan of highly detailed bespoke jewelry. As Shane puts it, “Growing up, I experienced the teamwork between my mother, who was the designer, and my father, who was the creator. My father produced items of beauty, individually by hand. I still remember the smile of appreciation on the faces of clients when they received the final work. I want to give people that same emotion today. That was a major motivation behind creating my own company, TULLOCH watches.
Shane Tulloch earnestly began work on his first watch in 2016, but his journey started long before that. While not a watchmaker, Mr. Tulloch’s background is in micro-mechanical engineering. In 2005, he began to notice an abrupt revival of independent watchmakers. Fueled by the Internet’s ability to help even small companies reach large global audiences, and the existence of some fantastic suppliers in Switzerland, in 2012, Shane Tulloch started to design his first movement concepts using CAD software.
Everything about the TULLOCH T-01 has been created from scratch, and the entire watch is produced in Switzerland. Collectors with keen eyes will no doubt notice that the T-01 does not bear the traditional “Swiss Made” label on it, despite the fact that the watch would, indeed, satisfy the requirements to be labeled as “Swiss Made.” Instead, Tulloch and a host of like-minded high-end independent watchmakers have decided not to place “Swiss Made” on many of their timepieces because the label has been somewhat diluted by standards that allow for products that are not entirely made in Switzerland. While Shane Tulloch himself divides his time between Manhattan and Switzerland, to him, the heart of TULLOCH lies in Switzerland, which is where the timepieces are entirely handmade and assembled.
Shane Tulloch might be a new name for watch collectors, but his collaborators are not. The T-01 case and dial were designed by Mr. Tulloch in collaboration with the famed Swiss watch designer Eric Giroud. To refine and actually build the movement, Tulloch worked in close collaboration with Kari Voutilainen and his prestigious dial and component maker, Comblemine SA. These entities represent not only some of the finest talents in the Swiss watch industry but also those whose work and skills allow for the caliber T-01 movement and watch to be so thoroughly finished and given a serious level of artisan decoration.
“Fabrication of the TULLOCH movement is made with very high precision with skillful technicians capable of creating incredible mechanical marvels. Construction of the movement is classical watchmaking, which enables and ensures future after-sales service with ease. Enormous effort is put into creation of the movement, which can be observed in its beautiful and very original architecture, one of a kind. No question about the quality of finishing which is made by hand to very high standards.”
– Kari Voutilainen
An excellent example can be seen in both the decoration and personalization available for the watch movement’s mainspring barrels. The caliber T-01 movement has dual mainspring barrels that have been uniquely designed to have their tops decorated with guilloché machine engraving. Customers can actually choose from one of three guilloché styles, which are applied via a hand-operated rose engine machine at the workshops of Kari Voutilainen.
The T-01’s movement and dial also benefit from being produced by leaders in their field. Comblemine is one of the watch industry’s most respected dial makers, but as a result, it is also an expert at finishing techniques and the use of specialized materials. Comblemine is responsible for the caliber T-01’s highly detailed polishing and finishing, as well as ensuring that surfaces and textures of the modern-looking dial are created with perfection in mind.
Why a regulator-style design for the first TULLOCH watch? The T-01 is inspired by historic regulator clocks that were once heavily relied upon as reference timekeepers. Shane was romanced by the idea that regulator clocks were never designed for flair or status, but rather as precision timekeeping instruments. He was also compelled by the idea that the original regulator clocks existed during a time when it was the minute and not the second that mattered. A number of people have rebelled against the “to-the-second-society” that we live in today. The global events of 2020 have allowed many people to appreciate the act of slowing down, which for Shane brings new relevance to a product that emphasizes the current moment, as opposed to the current second. Regulator dials by nature feature separate dials for the hours, minutes, and seconds, with minutes being the most emphasized of the three indicators. As Shane Tulloch puts it, he wanted to create “a watch that celebrates the art of taking your time and slowing down.” Likewise, for many enthusiasts, the allure of traditional watchmaking is very much in the practice of artisans taking their time, applying a large number of hours, and never feeling compelled to rush anything.
In his pursuit to create something satisfying but also distinctive, Shane Tulloch imagined a balanced yet asymmetrical regulator display for the T-01. Legibility is ensured by the recessed design of the 18k gold subdials, as well as the use of high-contrast (yet attractive) colors and surface finishes on the dials. Tulloch opted for a clean, uncluttered, instrument-style look for the T-01 as a means to launch the modern-thinking watchmaker brand.
“The starting point from the point of view of design was to consider the regulator as an instrument of time measurement in a very simple, very pure way.
Throughout the creative process, the objective was to make this regulator very sophisticated and beautiful by deep and subtle research into the details, the different treatments and the finishing, in order to achieve a contemporary watch. Great care was taken to obtain a very balanced dialog with the light.”
– Eric Giroud
Built from the ground up, the caliber T-01 movement is manually wound and comprised of 183 parts. The movement has an operating frequency of 3Hz and sports a power reserve of four days between two mainspring barrels. The movement is richly decorated with traditional polishing techniques, many of which are extremely challenging to achieve (such as curved, polished surfaces like the bridge that holds the balance wheel). Visible through the sapphire crystal on the rear of the case, the most spectacular feature of the T-01 movement is its symmetrical bridge design work.
Each T-01 movement is assembled twice in order to give the watchmaker an opportunity to check performance and tweak the fit and finishing of each bespoke-made component. Tulloch has also ensured that for many years to come, all of the TULLOCH timepieces can be serviced by the workshops of Kari Voutilainen — creating peace of mind for collectors.
The T-01 will be produced as a limited edition of 50 pieces across two different case options — 18k rose or 18k white gold with sunburst gray or silver dials. The ergonomically designed cases are 40mm-wide and 11mm-thick. Each of the watches is paired with a matching alligator strap.
TULLOCH will engrave “First Edition” on the brand’s first 50 watches, which incorporates the T-01 limited edition. After that, TULLOCH will no longer produce the T-01 Regulator, but the caliber T-01 movement will be adapted for future planned timepieces with different complications. TULLOCH is positioned to delight modern high-end watch collectors for years to come. Price for the T-01 is $36,800 USD. Now let’s hear from Shane Tulloch:
– TULLOCH is a brand with your name on it, which means the company and its products share your values. Tell us about what those values are. What do you want TULLOCH clients to think about when they wear one of your timepieces?
Shane Tulloch: What sets us apart is original, contemporary design that pulls on threads from the past, coupled with unique movement architecture and exceptional handmade finishing.
You can see this in the design of the first watch. The T-01 is inspired by the regulator-style timepieces made over 200 years ago by master watchmakers such as Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747–1823) and Antide Janvier (1751–1835), except that we re-imagined the look with a creative new asymmetrical layout, modern typography and fine details such as the hand-polished gold embossed numerals. Add the long, sleek center-minutes hand, and the design has a fresh and contemporary feel.
Turn the watch over, and it is clear that handmade craft runs deep in everything we do. Growing up around my father’s workshop, I really loved the passion and intensity he brought to his work, and I learned quickly the difference in quality that you can achieve with a truly handmade object. So, I was determined from the very start to design and build every piece using artisanal techniques and the very best in hand-finishing.
You can see that craft in everything from the handmade guilloché on the barrels to the rounded beveling on the edges of the bridges to the mirror-polished components throughout the movement. Even the balance wheel and bridge are custom-made from the ground up. The result is both an homage to classic instruments of time measurement and a refined, contemporary watch that lends a new face to an old concept from the roots of watchmaking history.
– Creating TULLOCH required cooperation from some of the most well-respected (and in-demand) actors in the luxury watch industry space. How did you manage to get some of these people on board — which resulted in TULLOCH happening to begin with?
Shane Tulloch: My first breakthrough was a little serendipitous. I found Eric Giroud after seeing a video of him during one of the SIHH events and managed to meet with him shortly after. He is a brilliant and creative guy, open to new ideas, and he encouraged me to pursue my first project. I think he liked how I was determined to do something new, especially in an industry that can be fairly cautious.
Eric introduced me to Kari Voutilainen and Christophe Beuchat, head of engineering at Comblemine, to work with on the development and prototyping, and from there I was able to get to know some of the component suppliers. I think one of the reasons that Kari took such an interest in the project was because the concept and design language have their own identity. He likes people willing to create new things with fresh ideas, and what I am doing is very different from Kari’s own timepieces. That made it an easy relationship.
From my point of view, it was an incredible experience to work with people who were open to my creative direction. I was deeply involved in the design and development, not just in sharing the concept but working directly on CAD models of key components such as the geartrain, bridge design, movement architecture, and even the balance wheel. That is very unusual. Most of the time, a firm that works on movement development wants to keep you at arms’ length — they take the specifications and then work on their own to present you with a finished result. Whereas with the T-01 caliber, we built everything together from the ground up.
Kari was an immense help throughout the development process. He attended every project meeting and was a great mentor on the technical side. He is a key reason the movement is just rock solid.
– You spent years developing a new watch movement and original timepiece from scratch. What are some of the lessons you learned that you feel any fellow watch enthusiast should know about what it takes to bring a new movement to life?
Shane Tulloch: It’s a many-sided challenge, a combination of aesthetic and technical finesse, requiring a lot of effort and cost and risk. There are a thousand questions, many of them interrelated, so one choice creates a ripple effect impacting the other paths open to you. In addition, with the first watch, you are making design decisions that determine key elements of the DNA of your brand and the watches to come. So, in some ways, it’s not just one watch you are creating; you also have to have an eye on the horizon.
My view is that, first of all, you need a very strong vision of the watch you want to create, both in terms of design and technical features, so that you can keep everything on track over the course of a long project.
Second, you need a very strong understanding of how things are actually made because the interplay between design and manufacturing is critical. It is easy, for example, to design something that is difficult or impossible to make, and vice versa — if you know the limits of what can be accomplished with tools and techniques, it opens up new ideas in design.
A good example is the balance bridge on the T-01. I probably spent four to five months designing and redesigning that bridge until I got it right. One of the iterations, while interesting, would have cost thousands of dollars to make just that one bridge. So, the manufacturing know-how is not something you can overlook.
Third, you really need a good team that shares your vision for what you are aiming to create. The breadth of skills required in design, engineering, manufacturing, and finishing is so vast that very few things can be accomplished at a high level without the know-how and experience of specialists in different fields. This is one of the key ingredients of the Swiss advantage, there is a deep network of suppliers, artisans and other professionals to draw upon that is difficult to find elsewhere.
– Finishing and detailing are extremely important factors when a client is being asked to purchase a serious piece of haute horology. TULLOCH uses some of the best finishers in the business. Tell us how much effort goes into the finishing of each TULLOCH watch and help watch lovers who have not yet seen a T-01 what type of quality is represented here.
Shane Tulloch: Each piece requires weeks of work by hand at our workshop in St-Sulpice, Val-de-Travers, Switzerland, of which the most intense effort is the artisanal finishing on the dial and movement.
The dial is more complex than it looks, consisting of a number of separate components all finished by hand. The main dial is made from sterling silver, with a delicately textured sunray-brushed finish in silver or gray, while the subdials for the hours and seconds are both made from 18k white gold and frosted in a rhodium tone. The embossed numerals are machined from the dial itself – they are not appliques – and then polished to a mirror finish. The overall effect is to offer many contrasting textures, some of which shimmer and catch the light, while other surfaces are more subtle.
The movement finishing is also extensive, at the absolute high end of traditional craft. The first thing you notice is the guilloché patterns on the twin barrels at the top of the movement, which are all handmade on a traditional rose engine at the Voutilainen workshop and can be customized for each client. The bridges and plate are made from German silver, then frosted in two contrasting colors, a nickel tone on the bridges and a deep space-gray color called “black-gold” on the plate.
The bridges are decorated with rounded bevels and sharp internal angles, a technique that can only be completed by hand with soft gentian wood and fine diamond paste. The double-spoke gear train wheels are made from 18k white gold and finished with circular-grained faces and hand-polished bevels. Throughout the rest of the movement, you find a myriad of other techniques, such as perlage, graining, frosting, chamfering, and black-polishing. It is an intense effort.
– The luxury watch world continues to undergo massive change and disruption during circa 2020. Appetite for beautiful watches remains healthy, but how customers learn about the products and where they buy they is changing. Talk about how the current state of the industry will shape how TULLOCH does business and what might separate it from other like-priced watchmakers.
Shane Tulloch: At the moment, we are small and nimble, which gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of how we manage the business. I like meeting with clients personally, so in the short-term, it has been more challenging in 2020 with the cancellation of the shows and the restrictions on travel. This has led to more emphasis on digital media for both discovery and purchases.
But to me, high-end timepieces are very tactile, the energy and passion come from having them in your hands and on your wrist. So I don’t believe that retail boutiques are going to disappear for the high-end of watchmaking. I would echo something I read recently by Anita Balchandani, a London-based partner at management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., who said that as e-commerce grows in the luxury sector, “brands will up the ante on in-store experiences, aiming to create something that is worth leaving your laptop for.”
For us, in the future, we are aiming for a mix of in-person client experiences (through shows and events) and some retail partners to enhance our reach. As a small independent creator, I really believe in connecting personally with clients; I think it is an element of the experience that differentiates what we do.
– Finally, share some of the things you are most personally proud of in the caliber T-01 movement, the T-01 Regulator watch, and in general about the TULLOCH brand now that it’s launched and people are starting to learn about your work.
Shane Tulloch: I have been surprised and delighted by the number of serious collectors who have contacted me from all around the world – China, Hong Kong, Geneva, London, Paris, Singapore, Taipei, India, as well as the United States. And we have been successful in selling a number of pieces already to clients in different parts of the world. So, that has been a lot of fun.
In terms of the watch, I think the most interesting element is the relationship between the symmetry of the movement and the unique two-tone asymmetrical dial. And I am delighted with the look of the movement the – architecture generates a lot of excitement wherever we show the watch, and the intense application of handcrafted finishing across the movement gives it a special appeal. I am hopeful we will get a chance to show it to more enthusiasts in the future.
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