Culem Watch Designs

Just two weeks after sending the Culem Watches design brief to the awesome designer, Damien Ummel, (see earlier post), I received the first designs. I remember I was having lunch in an Italian restaurant and received an email from Damien containing the first phase of the design presentation. I opened the presentation and was blown away with amazement and overwhelming emotion. It was a perfect moment! I could not believe it and did not expect it! Yet, I realised that Damien and I had a great connection and this was the result.

1st Phase - 4 Blue Designs

In Damien’s words, this is how he described each design:

Design 1A :

  • Case & Crown - Round, elegant case with an edge going all around the sides of the watch and a unique crown representing ocean waves.

  • Dial - Contemporary way to represent the world map with stainless steel painting and shades of blue inside. On the outside of the dial, there is a translucent plate with indexes on top of it in order to see the end of the map at extreme east and west.

  • Hands - Elegant mountain shaped hands.

  • GMT Hand - The tip of the GMT hand is the perfect shape of the tale of the dragon on the Wales flag. Small detail, but so cool !

My thoughts: Perfect case, crown, indexes, hands and contemporary world. The only change I wanted to make to this was to add a white circle around the dial representing the clouds rising above the blue world below.

Design 1B :

  • Case & Crown - Very contemporary case with nice edges on the lugs and another very unique crown with the same ‘ocean waves’ inspiration.

  • Dial - Very unique way to represent the world map, by printing some shades of blue, giving a very strong impression of 3D. Further, the dial with a sunray brushed and radial gradient finish.

  • Hands - Elegant rounded hands reflecting the land coming out of the sea.

  • GMT Hand - Same as above.

My thoughts: Perfect and stunning dial with a unique impression. I was in love with this world map and have never seen anything like this extra dimension on the dial. Uniquely Culem! Also, another perfect case, crown and love the hands.

Design 1C :

This design was beautiful in its own right, but I didn’t feel that they reflected Culem and my vision for the brand.

Design 1D :

  • Personal interpretation of the « unseen » concept

  • Case & Crown - Same case & crown as design 1A.

  • Dial - World map outline is metallic blue printed on a white sunray brushed dial. Additionally, some luminous material is applied ….... So, when you go in the dark, the world …...! [This is a surprise. So, I have left out Damien’s main words here].

  • Dial & Hands - Blue indexes and hands to give a nice contrast with the dial.

  • GMT Hand - Same as above and still cool!

My thoughts: Perfect case, crown and GMT hand. Also, I liked the idea and cool surprise element of this design, but I felt that the rest of the dial needed a lot of work to make what it could potentially become.


  • Open case back with image of Pangaea on the inside of the glass.

  • 24 destinations around the world with the correct time in GMT and BST.

  • Screw down caseback.

  • Watch specifications engraved around the caseback.

My thoughts: I loved the open caseback and the composition of the 24 destinations around the dial. I did not like the image of Pangaea on the glass, but it was an interesting idea. Also, rather than engraving the specifications of the watch, I wanted to put the continents - names that would inspire us all to travel.

2nd Phase - 3 Blue Designs

If you recall from the design brief post, I only to wanted to have two designs in total: one with an image of the world and one without, based on a concept of seen/unseen. And, for this sea and ocean-inspired collection, I only wanted blue dials.

Just before going to phase 2, I decide to continue working on designs 1B and 1D even though I equally loved 1A. After telling Damien that I did not want to design 1A anymore, I could not sleep that night because it felt like I was losing something that I love. At the moment, I realised that designs 1A, 1B and 1D are a family, and they are Culem. So, I decided to continue with all three designs.

All changes were made to designs 1A and 1B based on my thoughts above and the results were perfect. Design 1D evolved, but still needed a lot of work. I could see what it could be, but we had to bring it to reality.

With the new design, the caseback was inspiring me. Featuring the names of the continents;I prefer to see words like Africa rather than 5ATM on the back of my watch. ‘Africa’ inspires the traveller. 5ATM may not. It is not quite the same, is it?

Additionally, we maximised the view of the movement on the caseback overall and enlarged an additional section of the glass at the top of the case back. It looked totally superb.

3rd and Final Phase - 3 Designs

For the first two phases, Damien and I were communicating via email and video calls, but we met in Switzerland to do the final phase together.

We kicked off the morning by working on Design 1D. I explained to Damien that because the world was supposed to be unseen, I wanted this design to be as bare as possible, yet the world known and visible to its owner. It is like the world is there, but you cannot see it from a distance, a secret masterpiece for the watch owner.

We stripped back the dial completely still showing the world map with a blue outline on a white sunray brushed dial. Now, we had something to build on.

I had this idea to have the finest indexes in blue just in the quarterly positions on the dial. Above the indexes, I wanted to make the GMT (24 hour part of the dial) minimalist and decided just to have every two numbers going around the dial. Finally, I wanted to have the thinnest possible blue hands rising above the invisible world.

We did it! Design 1D became a very special, quiet and contemporary watch for a visually rich GMT. And I have not even said about the surprise element, which has an amazing effect. You will have to wait for that!

3 Designs - 4 Colours

I wanted to design two watches in blue, but now I have three and they are perfect to me. They are Culem.

Damien and I decided to play with colour options and I could not believe the results. We created all 3 Designs in blue, black, grey and gold.

The blue dials have a stainless steel case, the black dials have a black PVD case, the grey dials have a stainless steel case and the gold dial has gold plated (GP10) case.

I was amazed by every one of these designs and so decided to take the leap and ordered all 12 prototypes. In real life, they were even more beautiful.

Read about what happened next, in my next ‘Watch blog’.

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Thank you for reading.  M.

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