Olivier Gaud, founder of OLIGO Watches, gives WATCHPRO’s Alex Douglas a deeper insight into where the brand came from and where it is headed.
Here’s what he had to say:
WP: What is your background within the industry?
OG: So I was born and bred here in Geneva and I’ve always had watches. From Swatches when I was a kid to Swiss watches as I grew up but even then, I wasn’t massively into watches when I was a kid.
It really, truly started when I was about 20 years old, and started to work for Christie’s as a Viewing Assistant that I really began to become properly interested in watches. It was a student job just to earn some extra money where I could.
WP: What were you studying?
OG: I was studying Business Management here in Geneva. I was lucky enough to be at Christie’s for almost 10 years and as I say, that is really where I fell in love with watches.
I had the most amazing timepieces in my hands between 2005 and 2015, roughly, and that’s where my curiosity for watchmaking also started. Every time the watchmaker was on the bench and was opening a watch, I would sneak over his shoulder and say, what’s this? How does it work? Explain. That’s where I started to understand and pick up the passion for not only watches but also the technical side of them.
Because of that, I decided to take a six month class in the evenings where I learned how to dismantle, clean and then reassemble, oil and regulate basic movements through to automatic movements.
WP: So how did we get to you developing your first watch?
OG: It was basically a joke between my best friend and myself. Around eight years ago, we were sat at his house just having a beer and talking about watches. He’s a watch geek like me and we were discussing how dials on new watches are just becoming busier and busier.
We chatted more on how there’s a lack of design simplicity and how it would be my dream to have a watch or even make a watch that is super sleek. He’s great at that kind of thing and works in design so took his laptop and we spent the evening drawing up our plan.
After the first sketches, we looked at each other and said this might just work.
WP: Does he still work with you?
OG: Very much so, yes. He works with me on all the construction and technical sides of developing the watch. He’s key to all projects and in making a project successful, then connections are important too and with different people we have met on the journey, it has made the floating hands for example, become a reality.
WP: What was the inspiration behind that?
OG: I just love the magical side of it. We rapidly realised in the development of that, that if you want to have a clearer vision of time the hour hand needs to be shorter and below, and the minute hand needs to be longer and above.
The way we set out to do this is to have floating discs but it was initially difficult to understand how we would deploy that. Fortunately enough, there are guys in the same building we are in who specialise in blast discs.
We paid them a visit and immediately realised it could be done. It was amazing because he really liked out project too. The owner was very kind and explained how it would work. From that, and with a number of other connection, we built our first prototype back in 2015.
WP: I’ve seen the watches in the flesh. First at Time to Watches in Geneva and then WatchPro Market in London, they look great. What is the plan for expansion and growth?
OG: So growing the brand will happen in different ways. In my mind, I have three pillars of growth for the next five to ten years. The first is to have you know, the baseline product, which is what I have now. So different colours, dial, always floating hands, because it’s in the in the DNA of the brand. So that’s something I can’t stop and I don’t want to stop because I love it, even though it’s not the easiest to work with.
Second is collaboration with artists, so we will start next year on collaborations with street artists which we have just received confirmation on, with very limited pieces. I’ll give complete freedom to the artists on the dial, and then on both discs, so you can create something really artsy.
The last pillar of growth is communication. I’m a web geek. I usually need and I want complications moving down the road but that’s going to be the future and then the ultimate goal is an in-house calibre.
WP: What about in the shorter term?
OG: Shorter term growth for me is just to be able to continue what I’m doing today and to grow the brand and to start working more closely with this community of clients. For me, it’s a dream come true because I’ve always wanted to make to make my own brand to have my own watches and I’m so excited to share it with the world.
WP: And finally, I know sustainability is a big thing for you. Can you tell me more about that?
OG: Sustainable development is a big thing for me, and it is key to the project. Sustainability is going to be very important to the way in which the brand moves forward. Communication on this is going to be key for me because they are much more than just product, they are ethical watches and I’m keen to continue driving down the carbon footprint.
Everyday changes need to be made and if I can, or OLIGO can play a part in that, that is fantastic. Luckily, I live in an area where it is very easy for me to find good suppliers. The case maker is 15 minutes cycling distance from my workshop and there are many other similar examples of that. He has a good contract for recycled steel, so all the production is recycled steel.
All of my suppliers are around the Switzerland area apart from the strap, but I chose the strap because they are very good quality and are made from vegan PVC.
On this, transparency is also key and I will be putting all of my suppliers on the website in the next few weeks.