Sekford is named after Sekforde Street in Clerkenwell, an area once home to an estate housing several craftspeople and watch makers. The brand has so far released just one product, the Type 1A, which is available in five colour ways and priced at £695-795.
Swara, who founded men’s magazine Port with Dan Crowe and Matt Willey in 2011, says he had the idea to set up the brand after working on a redesign of Milanese design and architecture magazine Case de Arbitare.
“Whilst working on the art direction, I was always meeting designers and brand owners who made physical products. I was inspired by their enterprise and wanted to apply ideas of design and aesthetics that I had learnt from working as an art director to a physical object,” he explains.
“I was also looking for a great dress watch for less than £1000 at the time, but couldn’t find one. I asked some friends in Milan if they knew anyone that I could work with that knew how to use 3D software – a friend introduced me to to Cedric [a watch designer] and Pierre [an industrial designer] who are based in Clisson, France; and we went from there,” he adds.
Swara says the watch’s design is inspired by 18th and 19th century English pocket watches, as well as the work of Scottish designer Christopher Dresser and typographer Edward Johnston.
“To my mind, British modernism during the 19th century touched on something very special. Both Dresser and Johnston have long passed but their work is still alive today – look at Alessi and the signage for the London Underground,” he says.
Faces feature bespoke lettering by Commercial Type, based on an early version of Johnston, the typeface used throughout the London Underground. Numbers are in Chiswick, a typeface designed by Commercial’s Paul Barnes and based on lettering found on 18th and 19th century architecture and gravestones.
“The Johnston typeface was made from posters that Christian [Schwartz, co-founder of Commercial Type] showed me from the early period when the London Underground started to use the Johnston font on display posters and signage. We made a light weight version so it’s in typographic balance with the Chiswick numbers,” adds Swara.
Designing for such a small application (lettering on the watch crown measures just 35 microns, or 0.035 mm) was a challenging task, explains Swara, and one that required some guess work from Schwartz and Barnes. “Font software does not go to the scales we needed it to. Christian tells me he couldn’t work to a 1:1 scale for the lettering on the crown … so we had to compensate and use estimates,” he says.
The Sekford logo is a based on an original Gothic-style woodcut created by Lincolnshire-based printmaker Mark Wilkinson. The symbol appears on all of the brand’s packaging and is also engraved on the reverse of watch faces.
“I found Mark after spotting some of his wood cuts on page 50, approximately, of an image search on Google for fox wood engravings,”says Swara. “One of the central themes of modernity, even before the arts and crafts, is the balance between man and machine. I wanted to symbolise that theme with something that was carved by hand,” he adds.
Packaging features a minimal design: each watch is housed in a navy blue box with debossed logo and comes with a personalised label and certificate of warranty. The Sekford website, meanwhile, features hand drawn and painted illustrations by Marc Aspinall depicting both products and the process of making them.
“We wanted to convey a message of craft and attention to detail achieved by applying the skills of many artisans from different disciplines to one product,” says Swara. “The website and all other aspects of the product try to tell this story in one way or another. I love the editorial format of story telling, so illustration will be a continual part of our narrative,” he adds.
Products are currently on sale on Seaford’s website and will soon be stocked by Mr Porter, Fortnum & Mason in London’s Piccadilly and the Aria store in Islington.