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PaceMasters Watches
How to launch a watch brand
or how we created our first racing inspired timepiece

1
Formula 1 as inspiration
Evgenii started watching Formula 1 in 1992 when it has been first broadcasted on Russian TV. To be fair those days it was not easy to follow F1, as there was no full coverage of the season, they used to show some of the races, and sometimes it was not live and you could wait for 1-2AM sometimes to turn on the TV and watch the race. The biggest problem was to avoid any kind of radio and TV sports news section where you could have learned the results before watching the race. Luckily those days there were no social media, and it was much easier to manage the information flow.

Racing had been in low priority on TV for a long time and even in 2000-s you had to call all of the sports bars in Moscow to find the one who would have live broadcast from RTL (in German, obviously) or another foreign channel, and it was not easy to get there on your own being a 14 years old boy.

I remember one day we went a sports bar together with my father, and there were no places to sit and we have joined a German man's table, who was in Russia on business. In that bar, they had a contest, so each table could make a forecast for the Top-3 at the end of the race and will get a 6-pack of beer if they make it right. Our German friend was kind enough to offer me to take the call. I guess that was the only time I was lucky enough and 2 hours later we shared the prize. As I was 15 those days none if prize reached me, obviously.

My first F1 merchandise was a Ferrari cap, which a friend of mine has brought from Austria. Apparently, it was a fake one made with a bit of a poor quality, but still having those laurel wreaths on the cap visor was something really cool. I felt like I am the one in the world who knows what it is and I have never met other boys with this kind of caps.

The years were passing, my hobby was getting bigger and bigger and I have been updating my merchandise with the help of friends who were going abroad. Those years I have been supporting Michael Schumacher and the number of golden stars symbolizing World Champion Title on the caps was increasing pretty fast.

Though you could follow F1 on TV and in printed magazines it felt like it is something out of this world, happening far far away in a distant galaxy. But one day it has changed.

October 18, 2003

I have just turned 17, that was my first year at the university, the studies have recently begun, and it was a beautiful but cold autumn day in Moscow. The day I have been waiting so much...

Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli were the first ones who visited Moscow for a road show with the real F1 car from Mild Seven Renault team. Together with a friend, we arrived at the Sparrow Hills where the Moscow State University is located. We had no idea how long we should be waiting, there was no schedule or any announcements, so we decided to go early in order to get the best places to see. We waited 4 hours on the street at blistering cold and a bit of rain but in the front row keeping our half a square meter. Luckily we were rewarded with the best sound of an engine one could possibly think of - V10
The crowd was huge and there was a lot of pressure ( I mean physical one) coming as everyone wanted to get as close as possible to the fence, and I was the one in front just 3 meters away from the track. I remember those emotions. First, you hear how the beast has been awaked as the noise from the fired engine approached. We were waiting and waiting, and then...

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaawwwwwww...

BOOOM!

A blend of pain in ears and pure excitement came up when Fernando has changed the gear right in front of me. Why nobody told me it gonna be SO LOUD?!
I could not even see what that actually was but remember it was something blue and yellow which passed by like a meteorite. It appeared were right in the middle of the straight where the car was getting to maximum possible speed. A couple of seconds later again ...

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaawwwwww...
Formula 1 has arrived to Moscow for the first time.
Fernando Alonso is driving Renault on Moscow State University square
It felt like you have just seen a UFO in a 3 meters distance and you didn't have a chance to get any details, but you have seen it... with your own eyes... and now you are in a privileged group of people who have actually seen-a-Formula-1-car-not-on-TV.

I made 2 pictures on my first 3.2Mp digital camera that day: the blurred F1 car going from the right to the left, and the same one blurred F1 car going from the left to the right. But still was pretty happy with the result.

That was one of the happiest days of my life. I have seen a REAL F1 car in action, I have seen a REAL F1 driver even though I could not understand if that was Fernando or Jarno driving, as that was so fast, and I have heard a V10 engine with my own ears, which was a bit painful.

I will definitely go through the archives of my own photos to find some from that day to update this post just for the history.

It was an absolutely amazing day and that evening I could only dream about visiting a Grand Prix sometime in future. Well, I couldn't imagine I would be able not only to visit a Grand Prix 7 years later but also get into Paddock without any permission, meet the drivers, take some photos and get some autographs.

2
Beginning with idea and developing the concept
It all started with straps, actually.

The idea of starting a watch brand came somewhere in December 2016.
I was sitting at Starbucks and thinking about fashion watches on next person's wrist that had colorful NATO-strap giving some fancy look and highlighting that it is not only a watch but a colorful bracelet as well.

This thing started digging my mind. It was so obvious that people want to have some accessory which reflects their personality, and if there are watches for fashion addicted people, for businessmen who need to show their status, for hipsters with their all-the-time-changing-trends, for regular people just to show them the time, for many other groups of people, why aren't there watches for Formula 1 racing fans like me?

Since that time I started digging watch brands with motorsports-inspired products.
It appeared there are plenty of automotive-inspired brands, having petrolheads as their target group, but there were none proper F1-inspired products.

By saying "proper" I mean both: reasonable pricing for a common racing fan, as well as attention to details to be called "racing-inspired". Of course there are many hi-end luxury brands with $5-10-15K price tag and luxury materials used in products, but they are too far from real world. And there are also reasonably priced watches, which are just "parasite" on the racing theme. In my opinion, putting a "Formula 1" sign on the dial, or using some famous driver's name is just not enough to call yourself a "Racing timepiece". There is a lack of soul in that, if I may say so.
I wanted to create a watch that a race fan would wear it in the office or on the weekend, who would be proud of his hobby and explaining the details and highlights of his watches to people, so this would bring him a feeling of being part of a special group of people - Formula 1 lovers.

I would say that F1-fans are pretty different from other sports supporters.
Some say "come on, they are driving around the circle and you can see them for half of a second every 1.5 minutes" and find this as a boring sport. We, racing fans, can see much more there: tactics, engineering tricks, technology, personal skills and vagaries of nature, the power of emotions and just... luck sometimes.

Keeping this idea in mind, and targeting same people as we are, we started working on what later became PaceMasters Watches.

We started first steps with drawing straps in racing colors to see how it should look like. After several iterations, we realized that it is not enough just to take a regular looking watches and add some racing livery to them, but there should be something more there.

After 2 months we had around 50 different sketches of watches, trying to find our unique style. So by March 2017, we sorted out 4-5 ideas which were standing out of the traditional "automotive" techniques and were looking fresh and promising, and later become PaceMasters unique points.

In our first project - Paddock Chronograph - we have implemented 2 of the concepts and will use others in the next projects. As you may guess, it is about Pit-board part which is covering the Date disk and creates a unique look and the Main Straight with Pole-position marks on the dial to make a parallel with the actual start/finish straight of the circuit.

After we have determined the main distinctive features for the Paddock Chrono concept, it was time to work on rest of the dial and case.

This is the moment when Denis (car designer from Berlin) and Stefan (watch designer from NY) step in.


3
Sketches, drawings, defining the unique style
We are trying to create the unique style for PaceMasters Watches and it was not easy to find our own design features at first. We are a small team of four professionals and luckily three of us have education in arts and design.

It is a great opportunity to have a car design professional consulting you, moreover, having huge experience with interior side of supercars, Denis has suggested using some of the premium materials like carbon fiber and Alcantara. Carbon fiber is pretty well known because of being used not only in sportscars exteriors and interiors but in watch industry as well. But using original Alcantara, which is manufactured only in one place in the world - Italy - was a bit of a challenge because of the price of material itself and limited availability.

The manufacturer describes the material as follows:
Made by a sophisticated industrial process with no rivals – the recipe is still a secret – Alcantara embodies the new paradigm of a material which has, besides functionality, also the emotional side (it is used as interior material in supercars, and who doesn't like supercars?) and is environmental-friendly. Alcantara is a thoroughly avant-garde material with aesthetic, technical and sensory qualities that no other material can equal.
At PaceMasters have a direct contact with Alcantara manufacturing company and getting it directly from them in order to make our straps.

So when we asked Denis to provide us with some sketches just by defining some of the features we watned to implement, he came back with several proposals based on different styles and eras. It was not easy to decide which one we would start with, but end of the day, being inspired by modern racing of 2000-s and 2010-s we have selected the modern style for the first project - Paddock Chronograph - though leaving some of the design proposals inspired by 70-s and 80-s for the future projects.
After our way was determined we turned to Stefan who is a professional watch designer and engineer. He has a huge background in the watch industry, several awards in design, and projects created by his hands have raised more than $1Mln in crowdfunding.

All together we have spent a lot of time creating the unique style, trying to keep the balance of 70/30 between dial and case for Paddock Chronograph. We wanted these watches to be modern looking, have some sharp edges and bright colors, but considering different groups of F1 racing fans, we have ended up offering two color solutions for the dial: a multicolor racing livery and a more traditional looking black-and-white option.

4
Working on case and dial design
There is a long way between the sketching, technical design and 3D models.

First of all, after sketches and defining our way, we started with the case design drawings in 2D as this is one of the most significant parts. Later on based on these 2D files the CAD model is built and the case mould is created.

We have decided to have the modern and sharp style of the watches and it took several iterations to find the right shape, create new edges to resemble F1 racing car air diffusers and to achieve the proper shape of the bezel.
Pushers is another thing to take care of.

It is pretty common to see these days oversized round pushers, each having a separate color. To have a sleek transfer from case to pushers and the crown, we designed them in a flat style putting different decorations on each. The Chronograph start button actually has a "Start" sign debossed and filled with the traditional for Paddock Chronograph acid yellow color, while the stop/reset button has horizontal grooves.
The crown is formed of 2 pieces: unpainted steel base with PaceMasters logo engraving and a Black plated teeth. The crown has a screw down type.
The next step was to compose the dial.

As we have fixed the concept of the pit board from the very beginning, we should have thought about the movements which can be used. We were planning to make a Chronograph hence the placement options for the subdials were pretty limited, and we have selected the 3 vertical oriented subdials of SII/Seiko VK67 movement. Also, this subdial composition affords us to make an upgrade to one of the most popular and reliable automatic movements in future, keeping the concept without major changes of design.

From the start, there was only one part clear - there should be a pit board enframing the date window, but the rest should have been conceived. In order to manage the layers properly and to keep the thickness of this "sandwich" under control, designers often use these kinds of schemes to classify each of the layers.

Also, having a racing-inspired chronograph we wanted to use some materials from the racing world, and that is how we implemented a carbon fiber layer for the dial (and Alcantara strap as another material used in racing). This layer is milled from a 0,4mm carbon fiber sheet, polished and lacquered to get a shiny look.

5
Going deeper into details
One of the most tricky parts of Paddock Chronograph is the Dial. It is combined with 6 different layers, including a 0.4mm carbon fiber layer, and a Pit Board on top, which is a separate metal part enframing the date disk window and fixed on the chapter ring with a screw.

The multi-layer dial is a complicated part and it needs extra precision to make all the layers be perfectly aligned with each other.

The pit board is a separate element of the dial. It is a metal plate with the stamped cushion and grooves. It is being painted into Acid-yellow color first and then the words (Ex: Laps to Go) are being printed in each separate cell. When the pit board is ready it is being placed on the special cushion and fixed with a screw. The date disk is being reprinted so the numerals are also acid-yellow and can match the dial.

One of the layers is the one with applied numerals ("applied" means they are a 3D object which is placed on top of the base, and not just printed. Printed indexes are usually called "up indexes") are filled with Super-LumiNova BGW9 lume with pure white color for the great night performance. We are also experimenting with other colors of the lume and might be adding more options later on.

BGW9 lume is one of the brightest and long-lasting and is located in the TOP-3 list based on performance, compared to other types.

We are also very picky about color matching, so it takes several steps to get the final "proper" color tone, which can be matched with the Pantone color code mentioned in the technical description. Here is a fine example of the "Start" pusher which operates the chronograph feature. Not only the characters themselves look sharp but the filling color is also matching the Pantone card for this Acid-yellow racing color we wanted to have in Paddock Chronograph. Each of the printed or filled with paint components is passing through the inspection in order to match the initial design.

Another example is the chapter ring, which is divided into 3 sectors by different colors (resembling the actual racing graphics used to identify the sectors of the circuit) and is produced in 5 steps: first, the base of the chapter ring is getting polished and prepared to be painted, then it is being covered with black paint which is the major color, then 3 sector identifying colors are applied one by one using a separate stencil for each part.

6
3D model, technical drawings, prototyping
After all the design features are fixed it is time for 3D model, technical description, and engineering schemes.

Firstly the CAD model is done, which later is used for different purposes.
Designer applies different textures to parts of the model to make them look like they are done from a real material. So the case is getting steel pattern with polishing, dial gets carbon fiber texture and the strap is covered with Alcantara texture. Later on, this model with textured applied is fine-tuned on different software to get the final renders which can work as a reference for manufacturing.

Each and every part image is thoroughly described as text, so there is no misunderstanding between a designer who created the product and has his own vision and the engineer who will actually make the physical object based on that design.

Engineers are working with CAD model to disassemble it into segments and make engineering schemes for the factory, so each component has not only 3D but a 2D view with all the parameters mentioned in the scheme.

After all the 3D models, schemes and technical description are ready the prototyping stage begins.
As Pacemasters Paddock Chrono has a completely unique design (there are no stock or open market components used, apart from the movement), it took us around 4 months to get the first prototypes. The complexity comes from the molds, as each component have to be manufactured for the first time, so the mold is needed for each and every part.

After 4 months pass the first samples are being manufactured, which then go under testing to see if there are any issues with design or mechanicals. Finetuning of the prototypes might lead to another several rounds of prototypes to be done in order to get the final product, which later can be confirmed for mass production.

It is extremely important to get the experienced and flexible manufacturing partner who can not only implement all the design features you have, but who can be flexible with approach and look for solutions, but not explanations why it is hard to manufacture this or that part. It took as several months of negotiations to come to an agreement with our current factory. We are glad to work with a very experienced manufacturing partner so the first round of Pacemasters Paddock Chrono came out nearly perfect. There are minor issues we are going to fix in the 2nd round of prototypes, mostly aesthetics ones, related to finishing and painting.
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