Hoptroff No.16 (photo:hoptroff.com) Hoptroff No.16 (photo:hoptroff.com)

There's a definition of time and there's Hoptroff. I read about Richard Hoptroff about a year ago and could not believe that he could create atomic timepieces with the precision that differs with only 1.5 sec in a 1000 years. In this interview we learn about his view on the market and gain a new perspective on independent watchmaking in the UK.

Johan Sehlstedt: - When did your interest in watches begin?

Richard Hoptroff: -I never wore a watch until I started learning to fly in around 2000. Pilots are required to wear a watch, so I put one on and put it  on my right hand even though I'm right handed - I didn't know any better. I still do, which is why our watches are available in left-handed and right-handed versions. Pilots are also required to carry a pen and paper, but I didn't develop a similar fascination for them. I think the plane cockpit, with all those dials, was where my love of complications came from.

I was thinking the other day - I've owned a plane, but never a car. I doubt if many people can say that.

Hoptroff No.10 (photo:hoptroff.com) Hoptroff No.10 (photo:hoptroff.com)

Johan Sehlstedt: - How is it even possible to create a timepiece such as No.10 (I know it's more of a statement than a question)? When did that process begin? Did you ever have any doubts?

Richard Hoptroff: - The start was accidental. I had bought the atomic physics unit for calibrating our quartz watches. It was a month before it crossed my mind to put it in a pocket watch. I remember the moment, sitting in a bar, Valentine's Day 2013, waiting for my wife, when it hit me. She didn't get much of a romantic evening - I wouldn't talk about anything else.

- From that moment on, it became inevitable. I knew I had to do it, to win the mantel of haute horlogerie back from the Swiss. Harrison and Graham wouldn't have forgiven me if I hadn't. There were inevitable consequences, too. I wanted a good, long battery life, so used a mobile phone battery. That made it 82mm in diameter. With all that space, I had a lot of real estate for complications. 28 on the front dial. Probably a further 20 on the back, which I haven't finished designing yet.

Hoptroff No. 10 (photo:hoptroff.com) Hoptroff No. 10 (photo:hoptroff.com)

Doubts, sure, all the time. I knew it was going to work, because we were already using it for calibration. But could we make it beautiful? How would it be received by the public and the press? The worst moment was when we got the first case back. We tried 3D printing it, but the result was awful. These things stress me out so much I have to run to the bathroom to throw up. Employees have to get used to that kind of thing with me.

It had its comic moments, too. When we first showed it, the stand we displayed it on was too flimsy, so it wobbled in the display cabinet. And it was too low, so we had to put it on a shoe-box covered in felt. The stand looked really amateurish compared to the watch, but nobody noticed - they just stared at the watch. I'd need seen jaws literally drop, but you get used to it with the No.10.

Johan Sehlstedt:- Technologial compabilities and traditional complications- You've definitely taken watchmaking to another level (or levels) within the field of horology. How far can Hoptroff go?

No.16 (photo:hoptroff.com) No.16 (photo:hoptroff.com)

Richard Hoptroff:- I never have any clue what we will do next, so I have no clue how far Hoptroff can go. We have to be commercial, so I have to design things that people will like. Hoptroff watches must be things of beauty, joys to behold. That kind of creativity is very stressful. People are not shy about saying when they don't like what I do, and you can't please everybody. Or at least, if you did, I have many friends who are designers in the fashion industry. They just tell me to get used to it.

One thing I've had on my mind is animation. We can do magical stuff that nobody else can. To see what I mean, take a look at this video. I was at Le Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris last week, researching mechanical automata for potential ideas. I like to do that - take ideas from other fields. There wouldn't be a No.10 if all I did was look at other people's watches.

Johan Sehlstedt: - How is Hoptroff received by watch enthusiasts?

Richard Hoptroff: -When we first showed the watches, we were right at the end of the spectrum. People couldn't understand that these were both mechanical and electronic watches. Even in our regular watches, there are thirty gear wheels, many more than a regular mechanical watch. But now smart watches have come along, we're right in the middle, operating a unique space where we can do interesting, unique things.

We tend to appeal to a younger crowd, people who grew up with technology. They are more comfortable with what we do.

Todays Wristshot: Hoptroff Hotblack Sports (photo:Hoptroff´s/facebook) Todays Wristshot: Hoptroff Hotblack Sports (photo:Hoptroff´s/facebook)

Johan Sehlstedt: - How important is social media (Instagram/Facebook, etc) for an independent watchmaker as Hoptroff?

Richard Hoptroff: - I recognise its importance for brand-building now but I was pretty slow to pick up on it. Instagram is the best for the industry, because our products are so visual. I only started being active on Instagram about a month ago, but it's really beginning to take off. Social is only part of the marketing mix. Journalists such as yourself are very important to us, too.

The last part will be published on Monday. In the meanwhile you can follow Hoptroff on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Of course you can follow my Instagram.

HAGWE(Have A Great Weekend Everyone!)

Johan Sehlstedt

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