Why isn’t anyone we know wearing a watch these days? When this seemingly innocuous query came up amongst a quartet of Melbourne-based pals one afternoon a while back, it sparked a creative wildfire. After pondering whether wristwatches were obsolete–conclusion: absolutely not–they began to consider what it would to take to put together a good-looking, cool, unisex collection that would appeal to their own friends and peers. Then their focus shifted: Could they make it happen themselves, with no technical background in the field?
AÃRK Collective is the resoundingly affirmative answer, a new brand born of two years of hard, but ultimately rewarding, work. The all-caps moniker is derived from founding partners’ names–Auver Cedric Austria, Sara Su, Celica Austria, and Karla Magayanes–who all had 9-5 jobs when the concept was initially hatched. As they delved deeper into the creative process, however, pursuing the project full-time became inevitable. “It was almost as if we were feeding off each others’ energy, pushing and coaxing the business into life,” Su tells Co.Design. “What stuck in my mind the most was the thought: How do we measure risk and reward? If one day we were going to regret pursuing this, then that regret was going to be a heavier burden than any financial loss.”
And thus began the challenging task of translating their paper-and-screen-centric plans into physical, wearable products. To start, this meant pulling together epic hue-based mood boards and collecting materials with textures they liked. “None of us had any experience in making a watch,” Su says. “So we turned to those who did.” They met with manufacturers and learned the mechanical aspects of the production process, then made continual refinements until the first samples were ready. And while the final results are sleek and well-considered, the endeavor wasn’t without hiccups. “Getting everyone on the same page when it comes to aesthetics is very difficult when a thought goes from designer, to engineer, to the guys who hand-finish each piece,” she says. “Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most difficult to achieve.”
The three models offered were conceived with distinct personalities in mind: Classic is “definitely all about colors,” Su says, with vibrant real-world inspirations like yolk and white peach; “luxurious” finishes such as chrome, onyx, and karat were key for Timeless; and Iconic’s larger face takes its cues from avionics and industrial chic style.
These won’t connect to your smartphone or gauge your heart-rate or alert you when a text comes in, but that’s not AÃRK’s aim. “I’m not sure whether people will wear these to make a statement about an homage to the old days, but I think they represent the relevance of design objects,” Su says. “Our main intent is how they make you feel.”