After determining your Brand Archetype (see my section on Performance, Pedigree and Persona) and positioning it style wise and price wise (see Perceptual Brand Mapping), you will likely need to hire one or more creatives to help you implement the brand vision. Based on my first hand experience, I recommend to seek creatives who have experience with hard goods (metalware) and lithography (displays and signs). Those two fields involve constraints that most designers are not familiar with, and their work might end up not being cost-optimized.
A few years ago, I worked with an industrial designer who had a long experience with injection moulding, which is a capital intensive manufacturing process: the biggest cost goes into making the mould, and the parts are extremely cheap to mass produce.
This designer was tasked with designing watch cases, but the process is labour intensive: the moulds are not so expensive, but the parts take a lot of time to lathe and polish. Because this designer tried to apply principles of design for injection moulding to design for deep drawing, and the output ended up costing 60% more than it should have for the target price segment. I will discuss the various manufacturing processes in the section about Materials and processes
Dials also require a sharp eye for typography and space. The position, size and thickness of characters must be skilfully balanced, otherwise the result will look like something that has been lumped together in Microsoft Paint.
Additionally, a lot of physical and manufacturing constraints are specific to the field: How thin can a wall of metal be? How thick should a crystal be to ensure water-resistance at a specific pressure? How thin are the hands? How much clearance do you need between the hands and the crystal so that they don’t tough each other? How many grades of surface brushing are there? How thin can artwork be printed or acid etched? How much clearance should there be between dial elements?
All this information takes months, if not years of interaction with suppliers to master, so if the designer that you hire has no prior experience nor training with watch design, the work will require more iterations to be production ready. If you cannot afford to waste months, simply hire a designer who is familiar with watch design.
So Where Can You Find a Specialized Watch Designer?
You can start with me of course, but as a good product developer you should at least consider two other options, so see at the page bottom for alternatives.
Some of my commercial work is showcased at fejack.design, and you can see examples of what I have done in terms of technical products, traditional timepieces and fashion timepieces. My expertise as an artisan watch designer spans over 16 years and covers: trends research, concept ideation, 2D illustration and 3D modeling:
I design for steel, titanium, precious metals (silver, gold, platinum, palladium), hard materials (sapphire, high-tech ceramic and tungsten), composite, soft materials (natural canvas, synthetic canvas, woven polymer, leather and cork) and visual merchandising (paper, cardboard, polymer, PU leather, metal and wood veneer).
I am however NOT a 3D rendering artist. I have been working with Rhinoceros CAD modeling since the early 2000’s, and designed my first patented watch construction in 2001. I consider photo-rendering to be a specialized profession, and I have focused on training in golsmithing and watch assembly, which makes me proficient with the constraints of metalware manufacturing and surface finishing.
Besides, since watches are a luxury product, stakeholders and customer need to touch the physical product with their hand before making a decision, so a physical watch sample will always speak more than virtual images of it.
In that respect, I can recommend Kevin Boutwell for product photography, for having worked with him:
However, if you absolutely need 3D imaging, I can recommend to hire Blade Render, the best timepiece rendering agency in the industry:
If you need a hybrid solution that involves blending digital and physical images, I recommend to hire Per Olsson, who has done outstanding work for the Swedish brand Kronaby:
Alternatives: should you seek to evaluate watch designers who can do 3D rendering, or if you must get a second and third quotation, you can peruse the various portfolios showcased on Behance and Coroflot.