We recently met with the Founders of Freedom To Exist (fte) a new company with an unconventional approach to watch design and production. A London based, self-funded start-up, they specialise in affordable minimal timepieces for Men & Women. The name ‘Freedom To Exist’ represents the company’s desire to move away from the noise of branding and technology.
Indeed, their timepieces are purposefully non-branded and an antidote to the Applewatch/Fitbit’s of this world. They say that an fte watch is an exquisite product that tells the time, nothing more and nothing less. Almost 2-years in the making, with a lot of passion, hard work & plenty of prototyping, it is incredibly interesting to gain an insight into what makes an fte watch tick.
The fte Founders, Kirsty Whyte (Creative Director) and Paul Tanner (Managing Director), have their backgrounds firmly in the design business, previously working for Habitat, where they met. They then moved to China to help build MADE.COM, an experience that inspired them to create fte.
There are three distinct ‘pillars’ for the fte design:
Honesty – We do not dress things up or hide behind pretty words and design jargon. We let our design speak for itself.
Considered – A piece is only finished when it’s been tried, tested, tweaked, changed and we have fallen in love with it. If it doesn’t have design details we’re proud of, then we are not done.
Affordable – Our prices are fair, for design lovers of every walk of life.
The design was based upon key elements the team loved about vintage timepieces, and extra care was taken on the sizing on the strap to ensure that it would comfortably fit those with a petite, average or large wrist.
The attention to detail is clearly evident and it really does show that the design team were closely involved in every element of the design. From the domed glass, to the applied markings, and most of all their covert branding. They decided to choose tones that complimented clothing rather than shouting out for attention. Keeping the watches timeless, rather than jumping on seasonal trends or gender specific colour combinations.
With the watch finalised, it was time for the packaging. They wanted their core design principles to follow though. Keeping the watches safe during their journeys around the world and giving customers the best out-of-the-box experience possible. The box was kept deliberately slim and easy to open, with a simple insert with minimal text. The insert contained a link to the support page, for all those, ‘geeky’ enough to read up about all of the design elements.
Production started in the Autumn of 2015 followed by the launch on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and the fte website in October 2015, populated with newly taken images to each platform. Instagram took off particularly quickly with them gaining 500 followers during our first weekend alone. It has consistently been the strongest performing platform and now has an impressive 15,000 followers.
Initially, you could only purchase a watch from the fte website. A year on fte watches can now be purchased at a growing number of retail locations, including, Skandium, Sunspel, Wolf & Badger, Barbican Shop, Another Country, Clerkenwell London, SCP and TwentyTwentyOne in London, with more stockists being added soon across the UK and the World.
Today, the fte team has continued to evolve the range taking all the learning and [hugely positive] feedback from customers. The many positive comments about the design were from people wishing to have a larger version, so they took to Kickstarter to fund a larger 40mm (40 Edition) watch.
The 40 Edition takes all the same design principles as the 30 Edition, and scales them up. The sizing of the watch was a huge part of the reasoning behind the project, and was applied to the new design, ensuring it would fit Men or Women that preferred a larger face, catering for petite, average or large wrists.