Instrmnt Watches – Minimal but Functional

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Instrmnt is a Glasgow based design studio that made its name with the Instrmnt 01 watches collection, which launched at the end of 2014. Developed by the duo Pete Sunderland and Ross Baynham, the company initially succeeded in fundraising about four times the set goal by 978 backers in just one month with a Kickstart campaign.

Inspired by amp meters, volt meters and industrial equipment from the ‘50s, Instrmnt comes in 4 colour combinations: gunmetal/tan, rose gold/brown, brushed silver/black and black/black.

The case is built from PVD coated steel, connected to a 18mm German leather strap. Inside, a Swiss Ronda 585 3H movement gives life to this beautiful piece of design.

We went to meet the two minds behind this project in Glasgow, in their victorian apartment just off Kelvinbridge, with boxes and watch cases spread a bit all over the place.

Tell us about yourself before Instrmnt

Ross: We met at university, Pete was studying Product design, I was studying Graphic Design. We were sharing similar aesthetic in design, we both liked watches and design products from the fifties and sixties.
Pete: We started sharing a studio space and firing off ideas between the two disciplines became a lot easier.

When did you decide to start working together?

Ross: we both went away for about a year after we graduated, we didn’t really think about working together at first until we came back with an idea and decided to collaborate. I had a company before called Harrison & Fyfe, selling man clothes and watches. It has been a good starting point for setting up our own company.

Your story seems like a dream path: you had an idea, you kickstarted it and now you’ve got a successful company. Has it really been this easy?

Pete: We were actually kind of apprehensive at the beginning about kickstarting the project, we were worried it would have detracted attention from the brand. But eventually we got so many good contacts from it, even MoMA emailed us.
Ross: It’s silly to call it the dream, but we were certainly lucky and we had a pretty nice ride through.

Has there been any point where you thought that you weren’t going to make it?

Ross: We talked about this before: everybody has ideas, but if you actually do it, if you actually send fifty emails and start getting replies back and start conversation you get to the point where you can’t stop. We’ve never been at the point where we had to push it forward, it just kept on going.
Pete: We started with an exclusive with Dezeen, now we work with different shops around the world and we keep doing it all ourselves, packing and shipping: it’s a lot more work. We wouldn’t have been able to do it from the beginning.

Talking about the products: what is your creative process?

Pete: Ross does most of the graphic stuff, I do more of the product stuff. We don’t have a written creative process that we go through, it’s quite natural. It evolves from looking at different things. We would have liked to do much more designing, but it’s only now that we can start thinking about new future products.
Ross: Because of all the time we spent promoting and starting the company, we’re getting now in the stage where we’re starting a real proper creative process.

Talking about the products: what is the idea behind letting the customer put together the watch?

Pete: I did my dissertation about how if you involve the user in the process of the product, they will become more attached to it. Some people don’t even know how a watch strap attaches to the case. It was definitely not the easiest way to go.
Ross: We were a bit worried that people would have complained that we were cutting corners while actually it would be so much easier if we let the manufacturers put all together. It’s something that people remember about our products, in the end it worked out well.

Why starting an analog watches company now, with all the wearable tech products coming out?

Ross: Mainly because it never crossed our mind, it’s not something we were really interested in. We like a watch because it’s a classical piece of design, if you wanted to see the time you just take your phone out of your pocket.
Pete: I think it’s going to take a lot of time for the watch industry to change, to replace watches as we know them.

Have you ever thought about moving from Glasgow to start your activity?

Pete: There is a lot of cool stuff that it’s starting to happen or it’s happening in Glasgow at the moment. Even though, it would certainly be nice to look at different places when we grow a bit.
Ross: Glasgow will always be our home and we love Glasgow, we think it’s a really great city, but we’re also quite international. It will always be our base though. If you don’t know Glasgow, it has great clubs and music scene, great bars and food, really good food now. And it’s easy to get around.

What are you planning for Instrmtn in the future?

Pete: We’re thinking about opening a shop for ourselves, it’s going to be Instrmnt 00, almost like a base. We’ve got a few collaborations coming in as well, it seems like every shop we go into asks for a collaboration, we’re running short of ideas.
Ross: Even though we won’t be able to put our hands onto anything new before this Christmas because the watches are still going crazy, it’s nice to be at the point where we can start thinking at what the next thing is going to be.

How would you describe your products in three words

Pete: (In three words… oh no…) I like the word utilitarian.
Ross: We’ll think of something, but we might come back and improve it. I think minimal but functional. There are watches that are much more minimal than us, but they went for: “let’s be minimal, let’s not put numbers on the face and make everything black”. We’ve gone for what we think it’s the most minimal but still functional.

What shined through this half an hour conversation, other than the aesthetic behind their products and the story behind the company is the enormous passion that Ross and Pete have for what they do and how, whether you like or (unexplainably) dislike their products, this is one of the fresher and most interesting studios to keep an eye on in the future.

Buy their products on their online store or follow Instrmnt on Facebook.

Fabio Maragno


Born in Milan, Fabio followed his passion for design all the way to the Scottish highlands. He is currently a Graphic Design student at the University of Dundee. He loves to research any aspect of the creative industries, through social networks, blogs and printed magazines. When he is not in studio or updating his Pinterest boards, he’s a bass player and shoegaze fan.

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