press
Odessa Paloma Parker
March 2021

The Automatic Shift

How two Canadians are bringing the art of Swiss watchmaking to a new audience

Jessica Chow and Sunny Fong see time differently from the rest of us. The duo co-founded unisex luxury watch brand Vieren last year and are keep on re-establishing automatic timepieces as the pinnacle of modern design, even though the concept is hundred of years old. “It’s like the original Fitbit,” jokes Chow about the fact that for an automatic watch to function, you need to move while wearing it. They’ve delved deep into the finer points of automatic watchmaking in order to develop refined yet eye-catching styles that will appeal to a generation used to looking at their phones to see what time it is.

Chow, who comes from a family of watch entrepreneurs, and Fong - better known to Canadians as Project Runway Canada winner and founder of fashion label Vawk - met while working together at a creative agency. “Sunny told me that he’d always dreamed of designing a watch,” says Chow about what initially sparked the idea to give automatic timepieces an update.

Fong says that he relished the chance to return to design with a new focus (a minuscule one at that), noting that his metric of measurements has gone from inches of fabric to millimetres of watch components. He was inspired by an automatic watch that belonged to his father and was passed on to him; wearing the heirloom made him come to appreciate the notion that time literally “stops” when the watch isn’t being used. “It’s a reminder to keep moving,” he says.

This is particularly relevant when you consider that Fong was taking a hiatus from his fashion brand and Chow had decided to refocus her career after almost a decade as a management consultant when they embarked on launching Vieren. And it’s also notable that they introduced it in 2020 - a year in which time seemed to simultaneously crumble away and stretch out indefinitely and unpredictably before us.

We had planned to debut the brand at the Baselworld show in Switzerland,” notes Chow. “When everything started to get cancelled, we took a step back and thought about what the right way to move forward would be.” She notes that with everything that innovators and makers endured last year, the pair was motivated to create a grant in order to “inspire passionate entrepreneurs who continue to push innovation forward in Canada.” The give-back program will roll out this year.

Chow and Fong have also resolved to harness the power of content creation to capture the unique craft details behind the brand. “We learned a lot through this process, and we wanted to share the story with others,” says Chow, with Fong noting that his Project Runway Canada experience showed him the value of exposing the raw, authentic elements inherent in the creative process.

And there’s a good reason for Vieren to give customers insight into how its pieces are made via slick videos on its website. Chow says that when they began devising design ideas, they found that many watch brands use the same watch parts from manufacturers, resulting in offerings that appear unsurprisingly similar. Instead, they approached Swiss producers to create bespoke components for their designs - some are flecked with diamonds, while others serve as understated accents thanks to matte-black casings and bands.

“It’s the storied craft that has been honed over generations,” says Chow about the creation of automatic timepieces and why she and Fong are so passionate about preserving what they described as this intersection of art and science. “We want to celebrate that human story.”


press
Odessa Paloma Parker
March 2021

The Automatic Shift

How two Canadians are bringing the art of Swiss watchmaking to a new audience

Jessica Chow and Sunny Fong see time differently from the rest of us. The duo co-founded unisex luxury watch brand Vieren last year and are keep on re-establishing automatic timepieces as the pinnacle of modern design, even though the concept is hundred of years old. “It’s like the original Fitbit,” jokes Chow about the fact that for an automatic watch to function, you need to move while wearing it. They’ve delved deep into the finer points of automatic watchmaking in order to develop refined yet eye-catching styles that will appeal to a generation used to looking at their phones to see what time it is.

Chow, who comes from a family of watch entrepreneurs, and Fong - better known to Canadians as Project Runway Canada winner and founder of fashion label Vawk - met while working together at a creative agency. “Sunny told me that he’d always dreamed of designing a watch,” says Chow about what initially sparked the idea to give automatic timepieces an update.

Fong says that he relished the chance to return to design with a new focus (a minuscule one at that), noting that his metric of measurements has gone from inches of fabric to millimetres of watch components. He was inspired by an automatic watch that belonged to his father and was passed on to him; wearing the heirloom made him come to appreciate the notion that time literally “stops” when the watch isn’t being used. “It’s a reminder to keep moving,” he says.

This is particularly relevant when you consider that Fong was taking a hiatus from his fashion brand and Chow had decided to refocus her career after almost a decade as a management consultant when they embarked on launching Vieren. And it’s also notable that they introduced it in 2020 - a year in which time seemed to simultaneously crumble away and stretch out indefinitely and unpredictably before us.

We had planned to debut the brand at the Baselworld show in Switzerland,” notes Chow. “When everything started to get cancelled, we took a step back and thought about what the right way to move forward would be.” She notes that with everything that innovators and makers endured last year, the pair was motivated to create a grant in order to “inspire passionate entrepreneurs who continue to push innovation forward in Canada.” The give-back program will roll out this year.

Chow and Fong have also resolved to harness the power of content creation to capture the unique craft details behind the brand. “We learned a lot through this process, and we wanted to share the story with others,” says Chow, with Fong noting that his Project Runway Canada experience showed him the value of exposing the raw, authentic elements inherent in the creative process.

And there’s a good reason for Vieren to give customers insight into how its pieces are made via slick videos on its website. Chow says that when they began devising design ideas, they found that many watch brands use the same watch parts from manufacturers, resulting in offerings that appear unsurprisingly similar. Instead, they approached Swiss producers to create bespoke components for their designs - some are flecked with diamonds, while others serve as understated accents thanks to matte-black casings and bands.

“It’s the storied craft that has been honed over generations,” says Chow about the creation of automatic timepieces and why she and Fong are so passionate about preserving what they described as this intersection of art and science. “We want to celebrate that human story.”


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