By Shane Snider
LONDON — José Miranda had a radical vision for a timepiece that would jump out among the growing landscape of micro brand watches. The London-based TV commercial producer may be an avid race car enthusiast and speed freak, but he found the road to brand ownership long and winding.
Miranda, undeterred by two previous unsuccessful Kickstarter watch attempts, first dreamed up the Isotope brand in 2012 and the Rider watch in 2015 with the help of Russian designer Vikenty Gryaznov. Miranda always had a love for jump-hour watches – a function developed in the late 1800s and popular for watch designers of the 1960s and ‘70s to market as “digital.” Miranda and Gryaznov took design cues from early 1900s Streamline Moderne design and bauhaus novelties like the Max Bill kitchen Clock.
“We took inspiration from modern art museums and our grandmothers’ kitchens,” he said with a chuckle. “We knew we wanted something that was reminiscent of the ‘30s: fluid and streamlined with no hard edges, like it was designed by the wind. I knew I wanted a jump-hour function, which turned out to be very difficult to work with this case and design we had.”
Miranda spent the next several months trying to find a movement solution that would fit his vision. He finally found a company in Switzerland who could make his movement function the way he imagined. Utilizing a Swiss-made ETA 2824-2, the Bienne-based company modified the functions to include a jump hour module with a central seconds hand — a rare feature in jump hour watches.
Growing up with a mind for watches
When José Miranda was 9 years old, his parents bought him his first watch: a Timex. The watch stopped a couple years later and Jose thought he needed to change the battery. He was shocked to open the back and find a mechanical movement. “That’s when the madness started,” Miranda said. “It was just so interesting to think that this was a mechanical machine not powered by a battery.”
A couple of years later, Miranda’s grandfather returned from a trip to Asia and brought home an Orient. “It was this big, chunky dive watch and I was just fascinated by it,” he said. “It was mesmerizing.” Miranda’s father also had a watch he admired. He doesn’t remember the brand, but the watch was a golden chronograph. “That fascination with watches just stuck with me.”
By his 20s, Miranda started looking at brands and decided on a Breitling Jupiter. “I really did love that watch, but it was a quartz and that made me kind of sad. So I began learning about all the different watch brands and settled on a Rolex GMT.”
By then, “the sickness” had really set in. Miranda would pick up other higher end mechanical watch brands from the bigger manufactures: TAG Heuer, Bell & Ross, Rolex, Cartier, Favre-Leuba, Omega and many others. By 2012, Miranda began thinking about taking the next step with his watch hobby: Building his own watch brand. He saw watches taking off on the Kickstarter platform and thought it was a perfect opportunity to get in on a growing trend.
The problem: Miranda could not settle on a vision for his watches. He started by making homages to the Rolex Submariner that he thought would sell because other homage projects were selling. He had a product and felt like his prices were fair, but the watches were not taking off as he hoped. “I started participating in forums, but that can be a really toxic environment with really childish comments,” he said. “But people did encourage me to try to create something unique.”
Something creative is born
With the Isotope Rider, Miranda wanted to make something that was truly unique. He began exploring ideas that would include the seldom-used jump hour complication. For design inspiration, Miranda looked at design standards from the past and streamlined designed from classic race cars and boats.
“I knew I wanted something different, like it was designed by the wind,” he said. “I took a few lessons in design and watchmaking so I could better understand the process. I was maturing and learning about what people really wanted in a watch design.”
After meeting Gryaznov, the designer who would help him fully realize his vision, the two went through several ideas and prototypes that would eventually materialize as the Isotope Rider. There is not a sharp edge to be found on the case the watch – event the bracelet has curved edges. At 46.8mm, the watch is substantial, but its lugless design will help create a comfortable fit for most watch lovers.
“Everything just started evolving,” he said. “We had a great idea. And this time, I didn’t want to use crowd-funding. I wanted to fund and develop this watch on my own, because I really believe in this timepiece. But time will tell if we need to go to Kickstarter for support as we are now changing a few production details.”
Miranda kept the production of the watches very limited: There are only a total of 99 pieces with six different colors. With a renewed confidence, Miranda hopes future releases will capture the same uniqueness and appeal.
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