May 16, 2017
 5 minutes

Handmade Shoes and Mechanical Watches

By Jorg Weppelink
Caulaincourt Stiefel und MB&F Kaliber, Bilder: Caulaincourt und MB&F
Stiefel von Caulaincourt und Uhrwerk von MB&F, Bilder: Caulaincourt und MB&F

It’s easy to draw parallels between the art of watchmaking and that of creating handmade shoes. Both represent a true craft, a trade that has little to do with today’s digital development and in previous times, was often passed down from father to son. There are many companies that have been making shoes or watches for decades, and sometimes even centuries. A question to ponder, however, is whether both industries can survive on the craft alone and the romantic ideas that surround it. It’s good to look at some of the sentiments behind the love for handmade products, and how some companies have successfully brought their historic craft into modern times.

It’s safe to say that if you have ever owned something handmade, you will appreciate the craft behind it. Whether it be shoes, a watch, or a shirt, it’s a feeling that connects many people from around the world and inspires many a conversation. Over the last couple of years, there has been a massive increase in the appreciation for genuine quality products. It’s good to understand where this is coming from and how it affects the development of handmade products. If we take a look at consumer behavior patterns, there are two typical reactions during rough economic times. Both are built on the idea of trust between consumer and brand.

Two Paths, One Direction

First, there is the absolute belief in power brands. In bad economic times, consumers look for reassurance in big brands so they can be sure of what they are getting. Although this trend is mostly visible in fast-moving consumer goods, it’s also visible in luxury goods. Just look at watch companies with timepieces that retain their value well. These are typically brands that are well-known powerhouses within the watch industry. The second consumer trend is to look for authentic products and believable stories. In bad times people also seek reassurance in stories that they can relate to and those built on years of experience spent perfecting a product.

This is interesting because it not only renews interest in classic watch and shoe companies that have been making products for decades, for example, but also inspires new companies to arise and do something to move the industry forward. Let’s look at some footwear and watch brands that have been able to do just this while still respecting the history of the craft.

New Shoemakers

Caulaincourt "Spectre" Single Monkstrap
Caulaincourt “Spectre” Single Monkstrap, Image: Caulaincourt

Caulaincourt is the brainchild of Alexis Lafont who founded the brand in 2008. His shoes are based on traditional silhouettes, but leave room for bold creativity. Lafont designs his shoes in bold colors, combining different leathers in a single shoe and offering a wide range of different models, from espadrilles to a classic Gatsby boot. Passion is the fundamental base of Caulaincourt; passion for design and for the craft, resulting in a truly unique pair of shoes.

Feit shoes
Feit shoes, Image: Feit

The second shoe brand we’ll mention is Feit from New York. Feit shoes are designed by Tull Price and are built entirely by hand using natural materials. Each pair of shoes is produced and signed by a select group of master cobblers from around the world. The founding of Feit in 2005 was a reaction to the then market trend of impersonal mass production of shoes. The thing that sets this brand apart is their design. There are no classic silhouettes here, but rather modern takes on classic designs that incorporate truly premium materials. Let’s hope this will become the new modern standard.

Sabah shoemaker
Sabah shoemaker, Image: Sabah

While living in Turkey, Sabah founder Mickey Ashmore was introduced to traditional Turkish handmade slip-on shoes. After wearing a pair himself and asking a Turkish friend to have a cobbler modernize the design, he decided to create a brand for the shoes in 2013. Sabah means ‘morning’ in Turkish and suggests the moment you should put these shoes on: at the start of the day. Sabah is a true homage to the craft of traditional shoemaking in Turkey. They use purely natural materials, while updating designs to modern standards. The true beauty of these shoes comes after some wear, as that is when they become not just a pair of shoes, but your pair of shoes.

All three of these brands represent a new take on a genuine craft, thus creating new relevance in shoemaking. If we look at the watch industry, we can also find some interesting new brands.

Independent Watch Brands

MB&F, or Maximilian Büsser & Friends, understand what it means to create art in a timepiece. After years of working in the watch industry with Jaeger-LeCoultre and Harry Winston, Max Büsser decided to follow his creative ideal and start something new in 2005. MB&F is a creative platform where the most talented watchmaking professionals get together and create truly unique horological machines. This has resulted in designs that go beyond horological timepieces to wear on your wrist. MB&F embody the idea of working together and creating new opportunities instead of worrying about the limitations the watch industry might throw at them.

HYT have done something truly revolutionary in the watch industry. This brand launched their unique watches in 2012, simultaneously unveiling their technique of using liquid and mechanics to indicate time. Two fluids are used to indicate the time via tiny capillaries that are part of a specially developed movement. HYT watches have successfully combined modern day science with the traditional art of watchmaking; integrating these two elements into a single bold design and leaving people stunned at the result.

SEVENFRIDAY was not founded by a watchmaker, which already makes the brand unique in itself. SEVENFRIDAY was actually founded by Studio Divine, a design studio based in Bienne, Switzerland. The idea behind the brand was to create an affordable, unique-looking timepiece using hand drawn designs. As most watch prices have skyrocketed over the last years, SEVENFRIDAY has come up with a modern watch for a very attractive price. This has given the brand a lot of positive attention from the very moment they launched their P1/01 in 2012. So, instead of mainly focusing on the technique that goes into a watch, the company has chosen to focus on creating an aesthetically-pleasing watch for everyone to enjoy.

Now that all six brands have been discussed, you can debate whether they are the future of their respective crafts. Are these craftsmen game changers? We’ll have to wait and see. However, this is not a discussion of replacement. None of these brands were founded with the intention of replacing more traditional brands, but they will likely attract a new audience to handmade products thanks to their unique stories. Let’s hope the combination of both the traditional and fresh ideas will make sure the shoe and watch industries will have bright futures ahead.

Read more articles:

Which Watch Should I Buy?

Mechanical Watches And Vinyl Records

The Return Of Gold Watches


About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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