I had a little bit of “writer’s block” coming up with the follow-up to the Riccardo. I had a lot of vague ideas, but couldn’t bring them together into one cohesive design. I was looking at dual-crown, “compressor” style diving watches like the Longines Legend Diver, also watches with odd-shaped or angular cases, like the Stowa Seatime, and some diving watches from the ’70’s, but also thinking about what would make for a very versatile style, something you could wear every day.

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Around that same time, the members on the affordable sub-forum of Watchuseek had been discussing designs for a forum project watch, with lots of people submitting sketches and ideas. I realized there were a lot of talented people on the forums, and I decided to run a design contest. I’d put the winning design into production as the next model, give credit to the designer, and compensate them with a free model. Anyone could enter.

There were a number of very talented people who participated, and a number of very good designs. One of the things I found though, is that the people commenting seemed to be drawn to the designs with the highest quality renderings, rather than what I saw as the designs with the most commercial appeal. I’m running a business, after all, and I was more concerned with what I thought would sell than what looked good in a drawing.

Acionna-22-blue-lumeOne of the guys who had submitted a design was Bill Cunningham. Bill’s an expert at working with metal, and was then in the process of making his own custom steel chronograph case using industrial tools he had in his garage. What he made was really amazing, but the drawing he submitted was very rough. He was clearly better at engineering than he was with design software. As a drawing, it didn’t look nearly as pretty as some of the others, but I looked beyond that.

Bill’s design was innovative in some ways. It was very “industrial” looking. When I offered suggestions to all the participants about how they could improve their designs, and what I’d like to see for a production model, Bill really listened, and did multiple revisions.

 

As I was making recommendations to the designers, I started to realize the design direction I wanted to follow, and as that happened I started to gravitate towards Bill’s design more and more, even though it was never the prettiest drawing. Finally I just took over – “Gimme!” – and started to massage it into the final product I wanted it to be, and it became the Acionna.

It’s a little bit Stowa Seatime, a little bit Longines Legend Diver and Hydroconquest, a little Royal Oak or Nautilus, a little ’70’s Omega diver. I took inspiration from a lot of classic designs, but I wouldn’t have gotten there without Bill’s design as a starting point (see the picture to the right – Bill’s last design revision, after about 3 or 4 iterations of him drawing, me commenting, him changing it a little, me commenting some more).

I’m very happy with the result. I think it’s exactly what I wanted when I started – a very handsome design with a very versatile style, refined enough to wear to the office, yet tough enough to go on an adventure. The feedback I’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive. It uses the Miyota cal. 9015, and many customers have told me it’s their most accurate mechanical watch. Everyone says it’s almost impossible to really capture its beauty in a photograph, it just needs to be seen in person.

Bill asked for a black one. He hasn’t been on the forums much lately, but I asked him how he liked it in an email. I think he’s very proud of it too. He should be. It was really a great collaboration.

Cheers,
Chris Vail
Owner, Lew & Huey Watch Company