A young engineer, only known as Brian, has stunned the world with his ability to produce pens and watches from scratch by 2022. In a world of dwindling resources and mass production, he has singlehandedly brought the essential skill of production back to the people. By showing us that it's still possible to make quality products by hand, Brian has restored our faith in the future.
Young Engineer Produces Pens And Watches From Scratch In 2022
In 2022, a young engineer by the name of Ian Schon produced watches and pens from scratch. While many would be quick to rely on already-made components and movements, Schon took a different tack, producing each component of his products himself. From sourcing watch movements and pen nibs to crafting cases and assembling the finished product, Schon does it all. Even the screws and other tiny details are put in place by hand. And he doesn't just assemble products- he designs them as well. Starting at around $5,400 for a watch or $70 for a ballpoint pen, Schon offers not only a rare level of vertically integrated craftsmanship but also his unique artistic vision. Personable and animated, Ian Schon took time away from running every aspect of his businesses, Schon Horology for watches and Schon Dsgn for pens, to talk with us about his process, his products and his passion for horology.
We interview Ian Schon about what it means to maintain an artistic vision while single-handedly running a complex pen and watch manufacturing business.
In this interview, Ian Schon tells us about the importance of maintaining an artistic vision while running a complex pen and watch manufacturing business. He's palpably passionate about the challenge of making usable, everyday objects, from initial design through to a finished, high-quality and long-lasting product. Starting at around $5,400 for a watch or $70 for a ballpoint pen, he offers not only a rare level of vertically integrated craftsmanship but also his unique artistic vision.
Q. How would you describe your business and products to someone you had just met?
When people ask me about my brand, I tell them "you're looking at it." It's a guy who makes stuff. All the stuff I make is stuff that I love. I make pens and watches because these are objects that are very personal to me. At one point in time, I set out to make one watch and just make one pen for myself. I take metal and make it into smaller, more interesting metal. The extension of that is that there are people out there who also want things made by a person that they know. They want something with a story and with a face behind it. They want to know that somebody is taking care of the details, somebody who cares about what they're making. That's me.
Q. Which came first: the pens or the watches? Did one lead to the other?
The pens came first. I started making pens in 2010 because as a designer I wanted to make everyday objects that I use and that anyone can use. How they're made and how they interact with the user are very important facets in my work. So I wanted to apply that to watches, and I started working on watches in 2012. Watches are a little more complicated to make than pens because there's a lot more moving parts, but the basic principle is the same. Not many people realize how uncommon it is that a small watch company manufactures its own cases because there's a substantial amount of machining involved. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it's worth it because you have complete control over the quality of the finished product.
Q. What are the parallels between watches and pens? And have you found significant differences you didn't expect?
When it comes to pens, there are a few parallels that I've found. First, just like with watches, people seem to think that they can haggle down the price. It's frustrating, because it's as if they're breaking down a salesperson. They'll order a product and then cancel it without ever paying. It's really disheartening and leaves me feeling drained. Another similarity is that people seem to think that they can just design a product and put their name on it. They don't understand the amount of work that goes into it. It's something that I've struggled with in the watch space and I think it's important for any young engineer to be aware of.
Q. Are you busy today? What are you working on?
Yes, I am quite busy. I am a young engineer and I produce pens and watches from scratch. I have my own workshop and I work on new designs and variants all the time. It's a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun. Each time I come up with a new design or variant, I really push myself to understand new methods and new processes. And while I'm running production on one machine, I'm setting up another because all the machines in my workshop need to be set up to run different parts. It's a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun.
Q. You produce both watches and pens under different brand names, but under the same roof. What's the size of your operation in terms of employees and production?
I am a young engineer who started my own business in 2020. I produce both watches and pens under different brand names, but under the same roof. I have an operation that employs 10 people and I am the sole producer of my watches and pens. In January, I made the investment in another machine that I would need to produce nibs for fountain pens myself. Currently, I buy nibs from a German manufacturer. If my hypotheses are correct, I should be producing my own fountain pen nibs and feeds within the next six months. It's been a really long journey, but it's way easier than manufacturing a watch movement.
Q. What other products or projects interest you? Can we expect other Schon products in the future?
Definitely! I'm always exploring new things, so you can definitely expect more Schon products in the future. I'm currently obsessed with architectural hardware, so I might explore that further in the future. I also love watches, so you might see some Schon watch designs in the future as well. I have a real fascination with all the little details that go into making something perfect, so I'm excited to see where my journey takes me next!
Q. How do materials factor into the types of products you want to make?
My materials factor into the products I want to make in a few ways. First, as a watch brand, I want to be innovative. I don't want to be traditional, making watches with only hand tools — no, I want to use advanced materials and CNC machines. This will help me make products that are truly unique and interesting. Second, the materials I choose play a part in how my products look and feel. Crystalized titanium, for example, is really unique and it makes me happy every time I make a product with it. It's eye-catching and different, and people always ask me about it. I think that using interesting materials is key to standing out in a crowded market.
Q. Why is it important to make every component and handle every part of the business yourself?
It's important to me because I want to have a close relationship with my work. I don't want to be separated from the work, and that's why I don't have people helping me. It's a lot of hand-work on the dials and cases and hands, so that intimacy with the material is important to me. I've never sold a watch to anyone I haven't talked to at length, and it's very rewarding for me to know the people who have my work, who have invested in me as an artist. If there's anything I want to give to this industry, it's an appreciation of how things are made. The impression I want to leave with people is that I'm a maker wants to be honest.
When asked about the future of his business, Ian was quick to mention his plans for expanding production. "I want to be able to mass produce my watches and pens. I know that there's a lot of people that would love to have my products, but because of the nature of my business, I can only make a limited number per day. I'm currently working on a way to change that so I can produce more in a shorter amount of time.
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