The Ocean Diver Automatic – image courtesy of Jittery Jim at the Watchuseek Forum.
A few weeks ago we told you about a relatively new watch company and the rather unique story behind the creation of their first piece, the Ocean Diver Automatic. We are of course referring to the Prometheus Watch Company, a Portugese based company that has produced a very impressive (not to mention affordable) diving watch. So intrigued were we by this innovative little start-up that we decided to learn more and who better to tell us than the founder himself, Mr Carlos Carvalho?
So we hope you enjoy this interview with a man who had both the vision and the drive to turn his humble dream into a reality.
TWL: What was the catalyst that prompted you to establish the Prometheus Watch Company in 2008?
PW: I have always worn watches for as long as I can remember, in fact I don’t think I can recall a time when I was without one! Initially they were all digital watches such as the Casio alarm/chrono types, and later on, of the Timex Indiglo variety. At that age analogue, three hand watches seemed a bit boring to my curious child mind. However that viewpoint changed when around the age of 16 my parents gave me a Swatch analogue chronograph with a tachymeter.
It was through this watch that I discovered analogue watches had a lot more to offer than I previously realized. After that Swatch I didn’t go back to digital, although I was still wearing quartz powered watches. From the Swatch I transitioned to Seiko: a Kinetic stainless steel with a light blue dial, which at the time was my best watch to date. It became my daily wearer and I couldn’t imagine myself without it during those times.
Some time passed and the inevitable transition into mechanical watches commenced. A few years after living on my own and working hard I saved enough to acquire an IWC Flieger Chronograph, which sealed the deal for me: from that point onwards I would only ever wear mechanical watches. I became fascinated by how such small machines were able to endure so many challenges on a daily basis (shocks, bumps, temperature differences, etc.) and still be so reliable and consistent. As my interest grew I felt certain that one day I would have my own watch brand.
Whilst I always kept this idea in the back of my mind, it was a few more years before this became a reality. Through reading watch forums I found that others like me had done the same thing and successfully started their own watch companies. After seeing the success of others, I made the decision to take the risk and fulfill my dream and so here we are now.
Designed by Brian Green – image courtesy of Jittery Jim at the Watchuseek Forum.
TWL: What first inspired you to make the Ocean Diver Automatic? Was it something you thought about for a long time before taking the steps to make it a reality?
PW: As a matter of fact the Ocean Diver has a cool story behind it. I wanted to make a watch that would create bonds between people and allow them to feel that they had been part of its conception through the contribution of their own ideas. In short, I wanted people to feel that a part of the watch was theirs too.
So, to facilitate this process, I came up with the idea of launching a design competition on the Watchuseek Watch Forum. This proved to be very successful, with many people participating and Brian Green winning it overall with his great design.
TWL: What were the biggest challenges you faced in setting up the brand and actually making a high quality product?
PW: In bringing the Ocean Diver to reality we endured a number of difficulties. Initially we were thinking to produce the watch in China but after many trials we decided that the quality was simply not up to our requirements. Therefore we had to scrap the project twice until we finally found a team in Switzerland that could bring the concept to reality without compromising on quality.
TWL: The origins of the design of the Ocean Diver are quite unique in the sense that final look of the watch was the result of a design competition run on the Watchuseek forums. How did you come up with this great idea and do you think you will run future competitions?
PW: As I mentioned before we really wanted to get people involved in the design of the watch and give them the opportunity to develop a bond with it and so it seemed to me that this would be the best way to do that. Obviously this we’ve had some success following this approach and so we do something similar again in the future but it’s hard to say at this stage.
Right now we are just focused on delivering the rest of the Ocean Diver collection, which includes a GMT model and a Chronograph model.
A nice close-up – image courtesy of Jittery Jim at the Watchuseek Forum.
TWL: Given the incredible success of this initial competition will all future designs Prometheus watches come from competitions, or will you perhaps produce a mix of both your own ideas and concepts and those of enthusiasts?
PW: Whilst not all future designs may come directly from competitions, they will certainly come from communicating with our customers and that’s where our official forum on Watchuseek comes in. It allows us to listen and interact with our customers so that we can listen and respond to their needs and from there produce the product they are looking for.
TWL: How valuable was it being able to get regular feedback from forum members during the design and manufacturing process? Do you think that listening to this feedback has helped to improve the sales of the final product?
PW: We think that is a win/win scenario. By giving members a chance to participate and discuss ideas we were able to produce a product that meet the requirements of what they were actually looking for.
TWL: As you are based in Portugal, how difficult was it to organize suppliers and manufacturers in Switzerland?
PW: Thanks to the internet it became easier. The internet allowed us to start to work in a more virtual way, thus reducing the need for a physical presence at the manufacturing site. I am in touch almost daily with the manufacturer in Switzerland and therefore I am able to get things organized from my office in Portugal.
TWL: Looking back now is there anything in the process you would have done differently? Why?
PW: Looking back now I can see how hard it was to reach stage we are at now but it was definitely worth it. It has been a great learning process with every mistake presenting an opportunity to improve. Throughout the process we have learnt a lot of lessons that we feel will allow us to provide better and better products in the future.
TWL: What is the next step from here? Will you introduce another dive watch or will you look to increase the breadth of your product offerings?
PW: At the moment we have our Ocean Diver collection that consists of three models (day/date, GMT, chrono). A surprise will also show up soon but can’t divulge too much right now. (*Editor’s note: the watch Carlos is referring to has now been announced, check it out here.)
TWL: Finally, what is your favorite feature of the new Ocean Diver Automatic Day/Date?
PW: What I really like is its simplicity and way it wears. It is such a comfortable watch to wear that it has become my daily wearer and I’m not just saying this because it’s my watch!