Designing the Pebble Watch

March 04 2016

Not many people know this, but Pebble, our debut collection, took years to get right. KiBiSi’s ambitious, state-of-the-art, slightly asymmetric design meant that every individual element, save for the movement, had to be built from scratch. If you’re unfamiliar with watchmaking, this may not sound all that extraordinary. But keener students of the intricacies inherent in crafting a timepiece will know that starting from scratch poses severe challenges in terms of design, engineering, supply and pretty much everything you can think of. Simply put, there’s a very good reason that it took the better part of two years to bring our unconventional watch to the market.  

The main reason is that traditional watch design is founded on geometric shapes: The classic circle, the slightly more unorthodox square, the rarer rectangle and so on. When your point of departure and source of inspiration are the pebbles found along Scandinavian coastlines, you’re effectively working within the haphazard serendipity of nature. If you want to get design-philosophical about it, you might say that you’re working outside of civilization as the straight lines of geometry is the sole domain of us human beings. 

More specifically, working this way means that finding manufacturers who can supply you with pre-made asymmetric watch elements is impossible. Needless to say this all adds to the hours and cost of making a watch.

 The first 3D-printed prototype of the Pebble watch from 2011. 

Adding to this, our design partners at KiBiSi are the most thorough and conscientious people we know. It’s safe to say that they don’t do anything by halves. As KiBiSi Designer Bjarke Vind puts it:

'When we first started out, the main challenge was definitely that we wanted to challenge the conformity of the watch industry. Then, when we arrived at the asymmetric Pebble design after months of ideation, the fact that we didn't have a circle or a square shape was a big challenge. Our collective expectation - that the business of making timepieces was ruled by conformity through and through – was made very manifest. Which we realized when we were met with a long line of manufacturers who were either unable or unwilling to accommodate our unorthodox design. It was a fairly steep learning curve. Also, because Bulbul is a company that doesn’t compromise on quality of materials, there were no easy shortcuts.'    

Moreover, as we’ve touched on earlier, watchmaking is heavily steeped in tradition, craft and heritage. A heritage that you have to respect and acknowledge to a certain degree. 500 plus years of engineering thrusts a certain responsibility upon watch designers, and while we were interested in creating a watch that was genuinely state-of-the-art and new, we weren’t interested in newness just for the sake of being new. 

 To say that all of the above amounted to a challenge would make a grave understatement. But we were determined to make the project happen - and happen it did. After many months of late nights, discussions, prototypes and general complexity – a complexity that saw our increasingly worried Founder, Jacob, out of pocket for a significant amount of money – the Pebble-shaped watch finally saw the light of day.


Fortunately, the global design and watch press liked what we were doing, which garnered interest and supported a growing customer base. It also created the Bulbul way of doing things; To this day, we approach all projects with the same attitude and mentality. What the process taught us is that there's no cutting corners if we want to arrive at the right result - the product, which hits that elusive, fertile spot between tradition and innovation, ambition and commercial interest.