Nicolas Lehotzky-Watch Designer Extraordinaire

When we think about watches, the first thing that probably comes to mind is someone sitting at a bench with a loupe to his eye and working on a movement. Certainly, watchmakers are an integral part of making and repairing a timepiece. They understand the mechanics involved in a watch’s function. But a watch is more than just an engine. It’s a whole unit composed of elements including the dial, case, strap and also involves making decisions about style and color. There is someone coming up with those concepts and he or she is a watch designer. And though a watchmaker and designer collaborate, it’s the designer who guides the aesthetics, what we first see when we lay eyes on a timepiece.

Nicolas Lehotzky imagines concepts for watches and clocks. A talented young man of Swiss heritage, he represents the next generation of watch designers. I had the opportunity to sit down and discuss his background, inspirations and why he chose the very niche area of horology to apply his talents.

Meehna Goldmsith: How did a Swiss gentleman end up going to school in America at Art Center?

Nicolas Lehotzky: I am naturally creative, and I spent many hours as a child trying to build the many ideas I had, and nearly lit my bedroom on fire (the burn marks are still there for proof) on two occasions. I was looking for the ideal college while in High School, and Art Center College of Design had the correct balance of artistic spirit and discipline.

MG: Why did you travel across continents to do your schooling here in America when Europe offers great programs in design?

NL: One has to leave his comfort zone to stand out; how can there be innovation without adventure? Switzerland is the world capital of watches, but it is also a comfortable, traditionalist, and conservative place with a fairly rigid set of traditions, all of which adversely affect creativity. The world has too much to offer to remain in the same place. In Los Angeles, I’ve studied and worked with people from Asia, the U.S. and Europe. Besides, Los Angeles is still the city of dreams, and it is one of the most creative places on earth, a great place to be for someone like myself.

MG: You started off in transportation. What made you switch over to Product Design?

NL: The automotive designers and engineers have to adhere to strict rules and regulations, which makes innovation slow, difficult, and limited to styling. In contrast, Product Design is an endless source of opportunities.

MG: Who do you think are the coolest designers and what products have they designed?

NL: I am attracted to iconic designs, those that stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression. There’s I.M. Pei and his Bank of China tower, Santiago Calatrava and his balanced designs, Philippe Starck and his Alien Juicer, and the many designers who often work in the shadow of brand figures without ever getting credit for it.

MG: You switched your focus to watches? What sparked your interest to focus in this area? Was there a product or person who was influential in this decision?

NL: I grew up reading watch publications, and even built a wooden watch prototype as a child. I re-discovered watch design during a project at the Art Center. It is a field where I have high confidence in what I do, and as my ideas are finally getting more attention, I’m starting to take them to reality; an exciting process.

MG: Which watch designs do you admire and wish you had designed?

NL: I admire watches featuring unusual mechanisms, such as the Urwerk watches, Jacob & Co’s Quenttin and MB&F among others. These watches stand out from the rest because they are innovative. That said, I also like some very classic designs such as an Omega Speedmaster or the Jaeger Le Coultre Reverso, and believe it or not, these can be hard to design as well!

MG: Do you think more exciting designs are happening in fashion watches? Where do you think design and haute horlogerie meet? Is there more freedom in one area or another?

NL: Most fashion watches come and go with each season to generate short term revenue, they are more akin to disposable fashion accessories than respectable timepieces. This is something I aimed to reverse in the latest fashion watch line I designed for SKYWATCH. I wanted to create a product with long term value, and put the same dedication into the design and engineering refinement as a higher end watch. Every aspect of the watch was designed, nothing came off the shelf except the movement. The case proportions were determined after a dozen prototypes, and each surface was adjusted to provide a pleasing reflection. Materials and finishes also were carefully selected, a difficult task considering the cost parameters. Good products have a certain honesty to them, and quality should speak for itself.

MG: Who and/or what has most influenced your own design aesthetic?

NL: I purposefully stay away from following, or getting my inspiration from limited sources, as this would also limit the possibilities in my own designs. I look for inspiration everywhere, whether it is the machines imagined by Jules Verne; architecture; the surface treatment on a sports car; antique Japanese artifacts; the list never ends. The world is full of usable resources, and talent is the ability to see and use them.

MG: What is your favorite watch complication?

NL: The Vacheron Constantin Skeleton Calendrier Perpetuel is a classic timepiece that will still look good decades from now. Cartier has a number of really interesting complications, such as the Rotonde Flying Tourbillon Skeleton and the Astrotourbillon.

The Harry Winston Tourbillon Glissiere; Hublot King Power chrono; the Montblanc Metamorphosis and the Cabestan are avant garde complications that are among my favorites. That said, antique mechanical clocks are interesting as well, as I can look at their gears and understand how they work. A watch does not necessarily have to be exceptionally complicated to be mechanically interesting.

MG: What have been your latest watch projects? Please describe them.

NL: I need to keep most details under wraps at this time, but I am about to complete a series of high-end mechanical clocks featuring never seen before mechanisms…it will be truly spectacular pieces. Also, there is a NASCAR themed toy watch in the works, and a TV watch line I’ll start working on soon for my American clients.

To view more of Nicolas’s work, visit his website.

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8 thoughts on “Nicolas Lehotzky-Watch Designer Extraordinaire

  1. Dear Meehna,

    I like to encourage creativity in watchmaking as much as the next person (you can check the tone of my own blog), however I need to point out that:

    1. Nicolas Lehotzky has only been working two years full time;
    2. the only products we have seen so far are 3D renderings, or prototypes of concepts that defy the laws of micro-mechanics;
    3. his Website is broken… which is never good for the image of a creative.

    And he’s already a genius? Aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves with superlatives here?

    In the last 5 years, the watchmaking industry and customers have really matured. Unlike Mr. Lehotzky, I am witnessing by the week creative people taking hold of opportunities in the watchmaking field. I don’t have Swiss roots myself, which makes the following statement less biased: Mr. Lehotzky seems to be very critical of his homeland Switzerland, but there are good opportunities over there, regardless if one bears a name from Bohemia or Hungary. I guess the only requirements are the right attitude, the skills to build a good network, and a solid product concept.

    Judging by the coverage he receives from the press, Mr. Lehotzky seems to be very charismatic. I wish him the best in his career, and I look forward to seeing him prove his merits through commercially successful products.

    Francis J.

    1. Dear Francis J.

      The purpose of this blog is to inspire discussion and I’m glad you took the time to express your opinion. You bring up several points that I’d like to address. Nicolas and I met when he contacted me while he was still in school at Art Center. I was impressed with his energy and ideas. He showed me some prototypes for some watches that I thought were interesting for their creativity and use of materials. He was thinking in a different way and I responded to his designs.

      I’m not an engineer or physicist, so I can’t make an educated judgment on whether or not the Nicolas’s prototypes can work. I can say that for the Devon Works Tread 1, everyone told Jason Wilbur his idea was not plausible or possible and he made it happen. He wouldn’t accept “No” for an answer. I’d also like to point out that the way that horology gets pushed forward is by taking new, previously unachievable ideas and finding a way to execute them.

      As for Nicolas’s website, I think you’re being a bit petty. Websites have technical difficulties all the time and we fix them by having things pointed out.

      I do think Nicolas is a very talented guy. Whether he’s a genius or not, I don’t feel qualified to say and I didn’t use that word to describe him. I did use the word “extraordinaire, which is outstanding or remarkable in a particular capacity. I do find Nicolas remarkable and outstanding for his energy, ideas, enthusiasm and the progress he’s made in such a short time. He’s only in his 20’s, yes. And I realize he’s only been working professionally for two years. People with long and successful careers have to start somewhere. It’s through being discovered and talked about that new talents get the opportunity to grow and have their voice heard. Time will tell whether or not Nicolas will capitalize on his talents. I see potential in him and wanted to give my support. It’s easy to talk about someone who has already proved their mettle in a field and look back with rose colored glasses on the process.

      Without a doubt, being charismatic and personable goes a long way in establishing a career or at least jump starting it. I feel it’s a necessary component. I, for one, prefer to work with ambitious and personable people. Nicolas is certainly a compelling person and he uses his charisma to good advantage. I’m eager to see how he develops.


  2. Francis,

    Judging by your arrogant message, you must not be aware that some of my products are already on the market, and some are already successful. Secondly, you’re ignoring the fact that about half a designer’s work is anonymous, which means there are products I can not publish.

    I find your assessment that the length of one’s professional experience equals quality, absurd. How many year do you think it takes, for one to become “officially certified”? If that was the case, how do you explain that a number of products you see in stores, or on the road, were done by students with, according to your philosophy, “o” years of experience?

    Regarding your comment about “concepts that defy the laws of micro-mechanics”, how is a blogger qualified to evaluate that? Some of the concepts you’ve seen are impossible to manufacture as such, and were never meant to be, and they are purposefully called concepts for that reason. It’s a legitimate part of design. Now if you’re talking about the H-W designs, they’ve been reviewed by movement engineers and deemed feasible.

    There are very few of us in watch design in Switzerland, about a hundred, and I know most of them by name; it’s a small community, and if there was one more by the week, we’d know it. Ah facts, why can’t they just go away? On a side note, I work as a sub-contractor for a few of them between projects.

    I’ve been involved with Industrial Design since 2003, and actually have a 4-year degree in I.D. unlike many designers. My list of clients includes a number of famous figures in the Swiss watch industry, and all are very happy with the products I designed, or am designing for them. Shall I have them chip in and say it themselves?

  3. I love the products and the style of Lehotzky, I would buy any of them, and I think they’re actually better than some existing products from other famous brands.

  4. Dear Meehna, compliments for keeping this blog open to discussion.

    Mr. Lehotzky, thank you for taking the time in addressing my questions.

    Coroflot (the design portal where you host your portfolio) is full of 3D renderings that for various reasons never make it to production. Since the general public has not access to your most significant work, you can guess why people like me have a problem understanding what differenciates your showcase projects from all those on Coroflot that will never get produced.

    I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the recent opening of your consulting studio. I can understand how being a self-employed designer is a challenge, and I would like to salute your courage and wish you success (but you already seem to be on the path towards it).

    You can get an idea of my familiarity with manufacturing constraints on my blog, and I look forward to reviewing the watches you designed (and are allowed to mention).

    One last thing: I checked on various browser and platforms and your Web site [] is still not working properly. Feel free to contact me by mail, I would love to help you to fix it at no charge.

    Francis J.

  5. Francis J,

    I like to encourage discussion and I’m glad that you are partaking in it. I hope you’ll visit frequently and give your opinion. It is a really nice gesture and very generous of you to offer to help Nick with his site.


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