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In an era in which obsolescence in consumer products is a given, in many cases design is what sets some products apart from others. And for many if a brand that sets trends were to come to mind it would be Apple. As well as for many others if a name were to come to mind that is synonymous with design, Marc Newson would definitely be at the top of such a list. Now, what would happen if both this man and brand were to join forces? Would time stand still? Or, would they jointly encapsulate time in a watch? A watch that could not just tell time, but… Let’s take a look.

Marc Newson is one of the most influential designers of his generation. Best known for his record setting chaise lounge, a innovatively designed chair that holds the record for most valuable work sold at auction by a living designer, at 3.7 million dollars from a anonymous buyer. This chair baptized “Lockhead Lounge” can be seen in Madonna’s video-clip for the song “Rain” and is one of the products that best exemplifies this Aussie’s futuristic aesthetic. His works are present in major museum collections, including MoMA in New York, London’s Design Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, which all added up makes Newson’s work account for almost 25% of the total contemporary art market.

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Lockhead Lounge by Marc Newson * Image courtesy of : Wikipedia

Newson, aged 51, was born in Sydney, Australia and raised by a single mom. He graduated from the Sydney College of the Arts, were he majored in jewellery and sculpture.  After being awarded a grant from the Australian Crafts Council he inaugurated his first exhibition to feature the Lockhead Lounge, which twenty years later, has set three consecutive world records at auction. Afterwards he moved to Paris and set up a studio he’s maintained even after moving once again, this time to London where he and his business partner Benjamin de Haan set up: Marc Newson Ltd.

This Headquarters based out in London is where most of his clients which represent such prestigious and eclectic brands as: Jaeger-LeCoultre, Microsoft, Heineken, Nike, Renault, Vidal Sasoon, Motorola, and the list goes on… have come to find him. These collaborations have created many runaway success stories for himself and his clients. Which made it no surprise that Marc Newson was included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list. He was also appointed The Royal Designer for Industry in the UK and created CBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As for academia he holds Adjunct Professorships at Sydney College of the Arts and Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

IKEPOD

Despite all his success in design Newson has successfully ventured in other business companies, such as an aerospace consultancy and a fine watch brand: Ikepod. The story of this innovative watch company all began when Oliver Ike, a Swiss businessman who worked in the furniture industry, became familiar with Newson as a furniture designer as well. So when he decided to venture into the watch industry he hired Newson to help conceive a new “unconventional brand” and Ikepod was born.

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Ikepod Hemipode 44mm Chronograph GMT Stainless Steel xxxx/9999

The first watch ever designed by Newson was called “Pod” and that along with Oliver’s last name gave birth to the Ikepod brand. But, one can’t help but notice the synchronicity between Ike’s investment in Newson (just like Apple has done now) and Newson’s first watch being called the “Pod” (recalling Steve Jobs “iPod”). But, coincidences or serendipity aside, they do seem to say that “great minds think alike”. And the similarities between Ikepod designs and the Apple watch don’t stop there. Another element that comes to mind is the fluoroelastomer strap on the Apple Watch which looks much like the Ikepod rubber strap designed back in 1996. At the time it was the first result of Marc Newson working in CAD (computer aided design). Or the basic symmetry in design that Apple implements in its products just like Newson tried on various Ikepod models, while constantly struggling with placement of pushers and crowns around the case.  So why did Ikepod go bankrupt?

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Ikepode Hemipode Backcase, Ref#: H01

Apple Watch – the New Ikepod

Maybe Ikepod was ahead of its time (pun not intended) or suffered from poor marketing and distribution, but the world has finally caught up. As the revitalization of the brand by former distributor turned CEO, Alexandre David and New York entrepreneur Adam Lindemann, now designated Ikepod Geneve and the resurgence of the Ikepod designer Marc Newson as part of the Apple watch team demonstrate.

The Swiss watch industry claim that Apple can’t endanger their market and even accuse them of copying designs already tested and some that failed before. If one is to closely observe the Apple Watch one of the first similarities with past endeavors in creating a “new kind of watch” is the wristband. It’s even hard to call it a coincidence that the fluoroelastomer strap designed by Newson’s Ikepod now reappears on Apple’s product. But, the rehashing of design doesn’t stop there. Apple isn’t even the first to introduce a touch screen, Tissot’s “T-Touch” model already had such a feature, back in 1999. And the “V-Tech Alpha” designed by Hannes Wettstein for Swiss brand Ventura, had a function called “digital crone” which allowed to scroll and select functions. All these designs can be considered inspirations for what now is being present to the world as the next big thing: the Apple Watch.

Ikepod-Hemipode-GMT-strap

Similarities in Design are Obvious even in the Strap

For those who recall history its more than self evident that this Apple Watch isn’t as “new” as it claims. And the Swiss watch industry can argue as many watch collectors do, that this is only a fad. That this latest product will never be a substitute for mechanically and manually conceived time pieces. Watch’s that hold their place on a wrist, not just due to function, but also as pieces of art. However that is the magic of the Apple brand. They may not be the first to venture in many technologies but they have proven to be the best (or at least conquer the market and peoples imagination) as soon as they arrive. That was the case for: portable music devices and the smartphone industry. Time will tell (pun intended) if the Apple Watch is here to accessorize or become the new watch standard.

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Written by Mauro Az