Vilhelm: Carbon forging a bronze “Helmet of Will”

SINGAPORE — Vilhelm’s new Talos bronze watch may look like a beefy tool timepiece for tough guys, but the watch company’s origins come from a more sensitive, familial place. Brand creator Nop Srinara named the brand to honor his son, Liam.

“I had been toying with the idea of launching a watch for years,” Srinara said. “But it was the birth of my first child that made me focus and reflect on the lessons I wanted to impart to my son. I decided I wanted to do this to prove to him that you can follow your dreams if you work really hard at it.”

Liam is short for William, which translates to “helmet of will” and that’s the inspiration for the company’s logo – a Spartan helmet. That theme carries through to the case design, which also has a helmet-like appearance. With a rough idea and inspiration from some of this favorite watches, Srinara set out to make a unique design with this first watch, the Elemental. “I knew that I didn’t want to make a homage watch,” he said, adding that he was a fan of Panerai and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak Offshore line. “Those were the brands that really stuck with me and really got me into mechanical watches. I knew I wanted my watch to be sporty and masculine.” Design influences from ancient Greek and Roman mythology can be spotted within the design.

Srinara was also inspired by his father, who was an architect and interior designer. “He influenced me from a very young age.” The difficulty, Srinara said, is using influences and inspiration without outright copying design elements. “You want to maintain a level of identity,” he said. “What I liked about those other brands was how they took different materials and combined them into a single watch.”

Mixing it up with materials

Srinara’s first release, the Elemental, was a kickstarter success. The Talos shares the case design, but offers some key new details. The mid-case is constructed from forged carbon, while the outer-case is made with solid CuSn8 bronze. “I just liked the idea of having materials you’d see on some luxury watches,” he said. “I wanted to mix these elements with eye-catching design. I made a watch that I would want to wear.”

Forged carbon has become a popular material for luxury watches, with examples from Panerai and Audemars Piguet stretching into the five-figure market. Prized for its light weight and strength, the material is now starting to slowly drip into the micro-brand segment. But a mix of bronze and carbon has not been attempted. Srinara was excited to bring something new to the market without compromising his original design vision.

“It’s important for me to maintain a level of identity,” he said. “I had an idea of what kind of watch I’d like to wear and what materials I would use. It’s about making a call and sticking with it or knowing when to dial something back. It’s a balance.”

Balancing Act

Srinara keeps his watch dream alive while working a full-time job in IT. His wife is also a business owner and he has two children, ages 3 and 13 months. “My family has been so understanding and accommodating and supportive,” he said. “The turning point for me was becoming a father. I didn’t want to overthink it anymore. I told myself – if I don’t try this watch thing, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. And what would I tell my kids?”

Srinara also tries to leave time for his other hobbies: music and muscles. He was in a progressive metal band several years ago and spent a lot of time at the gym. “Life always makes you man up and sacrifice things,” he said. “My guitar and amp are sitting in the garage. I’m trying to get back into that stuff a little at a time.”

A friendship and partnership

Srinara didn’t have to go it alone with his watch dream. He contacted a friend from watch trading circles who had some experience with the watch industry. That friend was Elshan Tang, owner of Kickstarter-slaying brand Zelos. Tang offered to partner with Srinara to make Vilhelm a reality.

The Kickstarter campaign launches Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. GMT+8 (8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time).

“It’s always exciting and frightening when you’re launching a new project,” he said. “But no matter how it goes, I’m going to keep trying and striving for new designs that are unique, masculine and sporty and that incorporate luxury materials. The bottom line is: We always want to be different.”

Check out Vilhelm’s Facebook page and website.

Watch specifications: 500m water resistance, Swiss Sellita SW-200 movement, 43mm width, 14.5mm thick. 24mm strap width

KICKSTARTER PRICE: $660 USD

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