PRESS
Adrienne Faurote
April 20, 2022

Meet The Modern Watch Brand Paving The Future For The Next Generation Of Watchmaking: VIEREN

Haute Time sat down with the VIEREN founders to hear what makes the brand different in the market and what the future holds for VIEREN.
To describe the VIEREN brand in three words, founders Jess Chow and Sunny Fong would say: modernist, handcrafted, and luxury. Indeed, those three words are echoed throughout the new Swiss automatic watch brand. For Chow, watchmaking has always been a part of her DNA as she grew up with parents that are watch industry veterans, and for Fong, a Project Runway alum and the founder of the Toronto-based fashion label VAWK, merging his fashion expertise with the luxurious world of watchmaking was a natural progression in his career. Together, the pair is redefining the world of automatic watchmaking, ultimately paving the way for the next generation of watchmakers. Haute Time sat down with the two to hear how exactly VIEREN got started, what makes the brand different in the market, and what the future holds for VIEREN.

HAUTE TIME: What inspired you to start VIEREN, and how did you two meet?


JESS CHOW: VIEREN is a love letter to my family. Both my mom and my dad have been in luxury watchmaking for decades and they actually met at Baselworld. Although I grew up visiting watch factories all over the world, I had no interest in watches at the time and instead focused my career building brands as a management consultant in Toronto. That’s when I met Sunny. In addition to being a world renowned fashion designer and winning Project Runway Canada, Sunny is also experienced in brand and digital design. We worked together on several projects and we just clicked! One day, he told me a story about wearing his dad’s automatic watch and it all began from there.


SUNNY FONG: When I turned 40, I started wearing my dad’s automatic watch to keep it powered, because when I don’t wear it, time stops. I use it as my motivation to get out of the house and keep moving. When we started talking to our friends about it, almost no one knew what an automatic watch was. This centuries-old technology that has been honed over generations was being lost in the noise of digital screens and notifications. We wanted to bring the automatic watch back, but in a new way. With Jess’ connections to luxury watchmakers in Switzerland, and my fashion design background, we believed we could create a new narrative for automatic watches – one that is more inclusive, more sustainable, and designed for today’s generation of modern watch enthusiasts.

HT: The Swiss watch industry is centuries old with a multi-billion-dollar value proposition. What did you feel was missing from what’s already in the market that VIEREN brings?


JC: We did a lot of research when we were designing the watch and noticed that there was a surge of iconic timepieces in the early to mid-century. However, more recently, the focus has been on technological innovation rather than design innovation. Today, with digital and fast fashion, we felt many watches looked similar and were often replicas rather than original designs. After talking to industry experts, we realized many brands were purchasing existing parts from the same manufacturers, and then piecing them together in different configurations, to quickly and cheaply create more watches. For us, we knew we wanted to create something experimental – a collector’s timepiece that was completely bespoke, designed just for us, and with an automatic movement that would last forever. Another important factor for me, as a female, was that many of the options available were either very feminine, very small, or made for a man. It’s really old school. I couldn’t find a modern automatic timepiece that was made for someone like me, so Sunny and I decided to create one ourselves.


SF: My high school graduation gift was a rectangular faced watch and it’s always been very special to me. It’s an iconic shape that you don’t see very often (we later learned it’s because they’re incredibly difficult to engineer!). When we were brainstorming, we questioned why traditional watches were classified for men’s or women’s, but modern digital devices like the Apple watches were not. Our vision was to create the first gender neutral automatic watch with a rectangular case that would be the ideal size to universally fit every wrist. After months of prototyping with our Swiss team, our OG Automatic rectangular watch case (27.5mmx41mm) was chiseled from 316L stainless steel and specially engineered to be ultra slim at 9.2mm so it looks good from every angle.

HT: It’s rare to have such young people, as well as a female-founder, at the helm of a luxury Swiss watch brand. How do you hope to inspire other potential young watchmakers, and especially women?


JC: It’s always been a dream of mine to start a business! But I always put it off till later, feeling the need to focus on other people’s needs over my own. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that time is the most valuable resource, and sometimes, it’s a bigger risk to do nothing when you have the opportunity. I encourage everybody with their new ideas to go out there tell your story. The watch industry is an intimidating one, and very male dominated, which is why it’s been slow to change. What we’re offering is very different, and we hope that we can inspire others to dare to be different. I’ve always been an advocate for diversity, and the more stories we hear, the more that industry will continue to grow. It’s definitely scary to put yourself out there, but don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Mentors are very important, so reach out for help and people will support. Your voice must be heard.


SF: I’ve always had a dream of designing a watch but never thought I would have the opportunity to. After two decades in fashion, I thought I had experienced it all and that’s when I met Jess. Although I used the same design principles for this first collection, I knew nothing about designing a watch. Going from garments to gears, inches to 0.1mm was a creative challenge. It was fun to learn something new and reinvent myself after so many years. That’s what ‘Power Your Time’ means to us – celebrating meaningful moments and making the most out of every second of your life. I hope to inspire you to keep pursuing your passions and never giving up on your dreams.

HT: Can you explain the importance of having your watches Swiss-certified?


JC: Our desire to create a world class watch brought us to the historical region of La-Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, known as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre for its significant contributions to horology. Certified Swiss Made is a coveted designation because it’s given only to the most well-made and highest quality timepieces. It’s a legal certification that denotes that the watch must have a Swiss Made movement, at least 60% of the “watch head” value must be from Switzerland, and must conduct its final development and inspection in Switzerland. It takes years of training and specialized machinery to achieve the highest level of quality and craftsmanship throughout the entire watchmaking process in order to handcraft a Swiss Made automatic watch made to last lifetimes.


SF: When I visited Switzerland for the first time, I was blown away by how much the country was centered around time. Every fifteen minutes, the clock tower would ring and the trains are never late. We learned about the generational legacy of watchmaking in this region known as Watch Valley, where the majority of the world’s best luxury watchmakers are located. But when we insisted our watches should be Swiss Made, we heard from the industry experts that we’re wasting our efforts, and that young people didn’t care whether a timepiece was Swiss Made or not. We disagreed. We’re people who care about where and how things are made. We want to support small independent watchmakers, many of which are closing at rapid speed, and celebrate the centuries-old art of watchmaking in Switzerland. We were so proud of our watchmaking studio in La-Chaux-de-Fonds that we produced a video series, Making of VIEREN, to share the behind the scenes creation of our first collection OG Automatic.

HT: What was the first watch you launched? What is the significance of only launching 100 of each piece?


SF: Matte White was the original design that inspired the OG Automatic collection. Our goal was to create the new classic – a chrome and monochrome automatic watch with a white dial. Inspired by the modernist architecture of Mies van der Rohe and tone-on-tone sculptures of Louise Nevelson, I designed Matte White make a subtle statement with any outfit every day of the week. This first watch features a stark white tone-on-tone dial within our 316L stainless steel rectangular case, a custom seven-row single-link bracelet with custom double deployment clasp designed for everyday comfort on the wrist, and our signature 18K gold ring with minutes detail that frames every watch.


JC: We believe in quality over quantity and only handcraft a limited number of modernist automatic timepieces each year. We felt fast fashion has created a lot of waste, and we’re on a mission to create quality pieces that will last and have a purpose in your home. It takes a team of skilled engineers and watchmakers over 6 months to handcraft our Swiss Made automatic timepieces in our studio in La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland so you know they’re handled with care. Each one is numbered out of 100 to mark this special moment in time and comes gifted with a vegan leather watch stand or watch tray to showcase your new watch, while reducing our impact on the planet.

HT: You launched a black croc watch, which has leather bedecked on not just the straps but also the watch dial. Can you explain the creative process and how this watch had to be made differently?


SF: Leather is a material I use in all my fashion collections, so we thought: why not experiment with leather for our watches next? The leather watch has been the same for forever, so my vision was to create a timepiece that was leather-on-leather, resembling a leather cuff with references to bondage. Leather is sexy, and we wanted to create a sleek and sexy leather watch that could be worn all the time every day of the week. Our new Black Croc leather automatic watch pushes the boundaries of luxury watchmaking to the extreme. It’s the first leather dress watch to extend black crocodile embossed leather from the strap onto the dial to achieve a monochromatic look that plays on the idea of seamless continuity. Leather is a material I use in all my fashion collections, so we thought: why not experiment with leather for our watches next? The leather watch has been the same for forever, so my vision was to create a timepiece that was leather-on-leather, resembling a leather cuff with references to bondage. Leather is sexy, and we wanted to create a sleek and sexy leather watch that could be worn all the time every day of the week. Our new Black Croc leather automatic watch pushes the boundaries of luxury watchmaking to the extreme. It’s the first leather dress watch to extend black crocodile embossed leather from the strap onto the dial to achieve a monochromatic look that plays on the idea of seamless continuity.


JC: Creating this modernist style wasn’t easy. There’s a reason why you don’t see these designs widely available. Applying leather onto the dial without compromising our slim profile meant it had to be razor thin and meticulously finished. We sourced a specialized dial manufacturer with the newest capabilities who was willing to create a custom slim dial index that could pierce through the leather without breaking. This kind of collaboration typically doesn’t happen in the watch industry for small independent brands so we’re very lucky to have had the chance to work with and learn from innovative suppliers with the latest technologies in machinery and manufacturing processes on our designs.

HT: Can you tell us more about your watch movement? Do you plan to test other watch complications in the future?


JC: VIEREN watches are powered by Swiss Made ETA-2671 automatic movements with 25 jewels, 44-hour power reserve, and water resistant up to 30 meters (3atm). We always look for the best options for our designs and ETA movements are world-class.


SF: Because of our rectangular watch case, we’re basically fitting a circle into a square so the size and thickness of the automatic movement was critical in the selection process. The ETA-2671 is one of the smallest automatic movements available and helped us achieve the slim profile of our gender neutral rectangular watch case.

HT: What can we expect from VIEREN in terms of product going forward?


SF: For our first collection, OG Automatic , we experimented with structures and materials to create the first gender neutral automatic watch inspired by modernist architecture. We’ll continue to push the limits of watch design and aim to create more industry firsts. Our modernist approach means we’ll always be exploring new ideas and learning from the best in adjacent industries like fashion, design, and pop culture. Currently, we’re planning for our 2022 watch release, which will be previewed in Spring at the new Baselworld next year. Sign up to our mailing list for the latest updates and sneak peeks.


JC: Although we love to play with design, there are a few elements that are signature VIEREN. Our gender neutral timepieces will always be made in limited quantities, and feature Swiss Made automatic movements, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, and our signature 18K gold ring for every day wear.


PRESS
Adrienne Faurote
April 20, 2022

Meet The Modern Watch Brand Paving The Future For The Next Generation Of Watchmaking: VIEREN

Haute Time sat down with the VIEREN founders to hear what makes the brand different in the market and what the future holds for VIEREN.
To describe the VIEREN brand in three words, founders Jess Chow and Sunny Fong would say: modernist, handcrafted, and luxury. Indeed, those three words are echoed throughout the new Swiss automatic watch brand. For Chow, watchmaking has always been a part of her DNA as she grew up with parents that are watch industry veterans, and for Fong, a Project Runway alum and the founder of the Toronto-based fashion label VAWK, merging his fashion expertise with the luxurious world of watchmaking was a natural progression in his career. Together, the pair is redefining the world of automatic watchmaking, ultimately paving the way for the next generation of watchmakers. Haute Time sat down with the two to hear how exactly VIEREN got started, what makes the brand different in the market, and what the future holds for VIEREN.

HAUTE TIME: What inspired you to start VIEREN, and how did you two meet?


JESS CHOW: VIEREN is a love letter to my family. Both my mom and my dad have been in luxury watchmaking for decades and they actually met at Baselworld. Although I grew up visiting watch factories all over the world, I had no interest in watches at the time and instead focused my career building brands as a management consultant in Toronto. That’s when I met Sunny. In addition to being a world renowned fashion designer and winning Project Runway Canada, Sunny is also experienced in brand and digital design. We worked together on several projects and we just clicked! One day, he told me a story about wearing his dad’s automatic watch and it all began from there.


SUNNY FONG: When I turned 40, I started wearing my dad’s automatic watch to keep it powered, because when I don’t wear it, time stops. I use it as my motivation to get out of the house and keep moving. When we started talking to our friends about it, almost no one knew what an automatic watch was. This centuries-old technology that has been honed over generations was being lost in the noise of digital screens and notifications. We wanted to bring the automatic watch back, but in a new way. With Jess’ connections to luxury watchmakers in Switzerland, and my fashion design background, we believed we could create a new narrative for automatic watches – one that is more inclusive, more sustainable, and designed for today’s generation of modern watch enthusiasts.

HT: The Swiss watch industry is centuries old with a multi-billion-dollar value proposition. What did you feel was missing from what’s already in the market that VIEREN brings?


JC: We did a lot of research when we were designing the watch and noticed that there was a surge of iconic timepieces in the early to mid-century. However, more recently, the focus has been on technological innovation rather than design innovation. Today, with digital and fast fashion, we felt many watches looked similar and were often replicas rather than original designs. After talking to industry experts, we realized many brands were purchasing existing parts from the same manufacturers, and then piecing them together in different configurations, to quickly and cheaply create more watches. For us, we knew we wanted to create something experimental – a collector’s timepiece that was completely bespoke, designed just for us, and with an automatic movement that would last forever. Another important factor for me, as a female, was that many of the options available were either very feminine, very small, or made for a man. It’s really old school. I couldn’t find a modern automatic timepiece that was made for someone like me, so Sunny and I decided to create one ourselves.


SF: My high school graduation gift was a rectangular faced watch and it’s always been very special to me. It’s an iconic shape that you don’t see very often (we later learned it’s because they’re incredibly difficult to engineer!). When we were brainstorming, we questioned why traditional watches were classified for men’s or women’s, but modern digital devices like the Apple watches were not. Our vision was to create the first gender neutral automatic watch with a rectangular case that would be the ideal size to universally fit every wrist. After months of prototyping with our Swiss team, our OG Automatic rectangular watch case (27.5mmx41mm) was chiseled from 316L stainless steel and specially engineered to be ultra slim at 9.2mm so it looks good from every angle.

HT: It’s rare to have such young people, as well as a female-founder, at the helm of a luxury Swiss watch brand. How do you hope to inspire other potential young watchmakers, and especially women?


JC: It’s always been a dream of mine to start a business! But I always put it off till later, feeling the need to focus on other people’s needs over my own. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that time is the most valuable resource, and sometimes, it’s a bigger risk to do nothing when you have the opportunity. I encourage everybody with their new ideas to go out there tell your story. The watch industry is an intimidating one, and very male dominated, which is why it’s been slow to change. What we’re offering is very different, and we hope that we can inspire others to dare to be different. I’ve always been an advocate for diversity, and the more stories we hear, the more that industry will continue to grow. It’s definitely scary to put yourself out there, but don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Mentors are very important, so reach out for help and people will support. Your voice must be heard.


SF: I’ve always had a dream of designing a watch but never thought I would have the opportunity to. After two decades in fashion, I thought I had experienced it all and that’s when I met Jess. Although I used the same design principles for this first collection, I knew nothing about designing a watch. Going from garments to gears, inches to 0.1mm was a creative challenge. It was fun to learn something new and reinvent myself after so many years. That’s what ‘Power Your Time’ means to us – celebrating meaningful moments and making the most out of every second of your life. I hope to inspire you to keep pursuing your passions and never giving up on your dreams.

HT: Can you explain the importance of having your watches Swiss-certified?


JC: Our desire to create a world class watch brought us to the historical region of La-Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, known as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre for its significant contributions to horology. Certified Swiss Made is a coveted designation because it’s given only to the most well-made and highest quality timepieces. It’s a legal certification that denotes that the watch must have a Swiss Made movement, at least 60% of the “watch head” value must be from Switzerland, and must conduct its final development and inspection in Switzerland. It takes years of training and specialized machinery to achieve the highest level of quality and craftsmanship throughout the entire watchmaking process in order to handcraft a Swiss Made automatic watch made to last lifetimes.


SF: When I visited Switzerland for the first time, I was blown away by how much the country was centered around time. Every fifteen minutes, the clock tower would ring and the trains are never late. We learned about the generational legacy of watchmaking in this region known as Watch Valley, where the majority of the world’s best luxury watchmakers are located. But when we insisted our watches should be Swiss Made, we heard from the industry experts that we’re wasting our efforts, and that young people didn’t care whether a timepiece was Swiss Made or not. We disagreed. We’re people who care about where and how things are made. We want to support small independent watchmakers, many of which are closing at rapid speed, and celebrate the centuries-old art of watchmaking in Switzerland. We were so proud of our watchmaking studio in La-Chaux-de-Fonds that we produced a video series, Making of VIEREN, to share the behind the scenes creation of our first collection OG Automatic.

HT: What was the first watch you launched? What is the significance of only launching 100 of each piece?


SF: Matte White was the original design that inspired the OG Automatic collection. Our goal was to create the new classic – a chrome and monochrome automatic watch with a white dial. Inspired by the modernist architecture of Mies van der Rohe and tone-on-tone sculptures of Louise Nevelson, I designed Matte White make a subtle statement with any outfit every day of the week. This first watch features a stark white tone-on-tone dial within our 316L stainless steel rectangular case, a custom seven-row single-link bracelet with custom double deployment clasp designed for everyday comfort on the wrist, and our signature 18K gold ring with minutes detail that frames every watch.


JC: We believe in quality over quantity and only handcraft a limited number of modernist automatic timepieces each year. We felt fast fashion has created a lot of waste, and we’re on a mission to create quality pieces that will last and have a purpose in your home. It takes a team of skilled engineers and watchmakers over 6 months to handcraft our Swiss Made automatic timepieces in our studio in La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland so you know they’re handled with care. Each one is numbered out of 100 to mark this special moment in time and comes gifted with a vegan leather watch stand or watch tray to showcase your new watch, while reducing our impact on the planet.

HT: You launched a black croc watch, which has leather bedecked on not just the straps but also the watch dial. Can you explain the creative process and how this watch had to be made differently?


SF: Leather is a material I use in all my fashion collections, so we thought: why not experiment with leather for our watches next? The leather watch has been the same for forever, so my vision was to create a timepiece that was leather-on-leather, resembling a leather cuff with references to bondage. Leather is sexy, and we wanted to create a sleek and sexy leather watch that could be worn all the time every day of the week. Our new Black Croc leather automatic watch pushes the boundaries of luxury watchmaking to the extreme. It’s the first leather dress watch to extend black crocodile embossed leather from the strap onto the dial to achieve a monochromatic look that plays on the idea of seamless continuity. Leather is a material I use in all my fashion collections, so we thought: why not experiment with leather for our watches next? The leather watch has been the same for forever, so my vision was to create a timepiece that was leather-on-leather, resembling a leather cuff with references to bondage. Leather is sexy, and we wanted to create a sleek and sexy leather watch that could be worn all the time every day of the week. Our new Black Croc leather automatic watch pushes the boundaries of luxury watchmaking to the extreme. It’s the first leather dress watch to extend black crocodile embossed leather from the strap onto the dial to achieve a monochromatic look that plays on the idea of seamless continuity.


JC: Creating this modernist style wasn’t easy. There’s a reason why you don’t see these designs widely available. Applying leather onto the dial without compromising our slim profile meant it had to be razor thin and meticulously finished. We sourced a specialized dial manufacturer with the newest capabilities who was willing to create a custom slim dial index that could pierce through the leather without breaking. This kind of collaboration typically doesn’t happen in the watch industry for small independent brands so we’re very lucky to have had the chance to work with and learn from innovative suppliers with the latest technologies in machinery and manufacturing processes on our designs.

HT: Can you tell us more about your watch movement? Do you plan to test other watch complications in the future?


JC: VIEREN watches are powered by Swiss Made ETA-2671 automatic movements with 25 jewels, 44-hour power reserve, and water resistant up to 30 meters (3atm). We always look for the best options for our designs and ETA movements are world-class.


SF: Because of our rectangular watch case, we’re basically fitting a circle into a square so the size and thickness of the automatic movement was critical in the selection process. The ETA-2671 is one of the smallest automatic movements available and helped us achieve the slim profile of our gender neutral rectangular watch case.

HT: What can we expect from VIEREN in terms of product going forward?


SF: For our first collection, OG Automatic , we experimented with structures and materials to create the first gender neutral automatic watch inspired by modernist architecture. We’ll continue to push the limits of watch design and aim to create more industry firsts. Our modernist approach means we’ll always be exploring new ideas and learning from the best in adjacent industries like fashion, design, and pop culture. Currently, we’re planning for our 2022 watch release, which will be previewed in Spring at the new Baselworld next year. Sign up to our mailing list for the latest updates and sneak peeks.


JC: Although we love to play with design, there are a few elements that are signature VIEREN. Our gender neutral timepieces will always be made in limited quantities, and feature Swiss Made automatic movements, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, and our signature 18K gold ring for every day wear.


DISCOVER AUTOMATIC WATCHES

DISCOVER AUTOMATIC WATCHES

VIEREN Swiss automatic watches for men and women editorial