Interview with Kilo Founder Lars Larsen on the Oblong Watch

October 25 2016

Photo credit: Lasse Bech Martinussen

Launched via Kickstarter, the new, rectangular Oblong watch is currently up and running and available worldwide. A hybrid of past and present with a distinctly modernist edge, the watch is now fully funded and growing at a steady, comfortable pace on the world’s biggest crowdfunding platform.  



The Oblong watch marks a subtle yet significant departure into heritage-tinted territory for Bulbul. Adding to that, our latest release is the first Bulbul watch exclusively designed by Kilo, the Danish design studio headed by Lars Larsen, a founding partner and former head of design at our erstwhile design partner, KiBiSi.


We sat down with Lars for a chat about Oblong, channeling emotion into design and Kilo’s information-driven design process. 

Could you start by taking us through the Bulbul design family that precedes Oblong? 

Lars: If we start out with Pebble, it’s been through the most extensive design process, which is a natural consequence of it being the debut watch. Pebble also has a very unique design vernacular in that it´s influenced by pebbles found on the Danish beaches where Bulbul founder Jacob Juul grew up. The rest of the watches leading up to Oblong are all relatively minimal in their own distinct ways. If you take Facette, it’s very much about minimizing the visual thickness of the casing, creating a slim touch point for the strap as well as a link between inside and outside. The general aesthetic is quite masculine compared to the Pebble watch, which does have a certain rounded sensitivity to it. Ore, the third release, is a stripped-down, cleaned out version of the two previous watches.


With Oblong, we’ve aimed for channeling more emotion. We’ve tried to play on various, specific tangents on the emotional spectrum. Oblong is essentially a classic men’s watch made modern and tight. In that way, it taps more into a certain set of emotions compared to our previous watches, which are more about telling a specific story about tight and clean design. 


Does it take a bit of boldness to tap into those emotions?

It's probably a matter of getting older and growing the portfolio alongside the evolution of the brand. From my perspective, Oblong is actually a bit more grown up. Moreover, we’ve already got a lot of very tight, nice and clean design, so there’s no reason to repeat that ad infinitum. Strategically speaking, we’re building a design family. Along the way, our ambition has grown and we’re at a point where we’d like to reach a wider section of watch enthusiasts. Right now, as I see it, the watch world is simplified segmented into heritage watches and independent design watches. With Oblong, we’ve gone further into the past to try and tap into the heritage of watchmaking - while still pushing that heritage into a modern context. We’re essentially trying to create timepieces that will stand the test of time and be relevant for a long time to come. And if we’re to succeed, I personally think we have to invest more emotion into the design.

Minimalism has been the all-pervading trend for quite a while now.

Yes, and this time around, the challenge for us has been to draw inspiration from the past in a way that lifts the design by infusing emotion into the minimalism. Adding to that, we also have to consider the previous designs in the Bulbul collection. The DNA of the brand. It gets more and more interesting every time we add a new member to the family. We already have a pretty firm idea of where we want to go in the future and what the upcoming watches will look like. In other words, we’re in this for the long haul and we already have a clear idea of what the entire Bulbul design family will look like through our long-term strategy.

Do you approach all your designs with the same method?

Pretty much. We’re not artists. We don’t just sit down and design something we think looks cool. Every client is different and we always want to understand the strategy that grows out of the relationship between us and the client. But the survival of the fittest process is how we arrive at the finished design. You could say that our design process is an information-driven, inverted pyramid. We start out with a huge amount of content in the beginning, and then the entire process is essentially about whittling down until we have the final product ready to take on the market.  

Could you tell us about the design process on oblong?

Oblong has two new main ingredients that links it emotionally to the past and evolves the collection as a whole; the logs and the rectangular shape. As for the holistic buildup, the DNA has grown out of paying attention to and designing around the essential functions of the watch. The definition of the rectangular casing and chamfered edges create a direct and integrated transition to the logs and link the outside appearance with the inner ring. And the dial has two indicator markings, which means that you can choose what side you prefer the crown on when wearing the watch. The crown has a linear grip, it's dimensioned for optimal use and it has a balanced relation to the watch body. The buckle is simple and designed to allow easy strap access, which also gives your leather straps a longer lifespan. 




Tell us about your role in selecting components and materials.

Well, we’ve had a common point of departure, which was to make a quality watch with a steel case. Once we established that as our paradigm, we didn’t really see any need to change all that much. We started out with high-grade steel, durable sapphire glass, high-quality leather, and a precise and reliable Swiss movement. There might have been minor changes, but those are the essentials. In terms of new additions, the new Oblong buckle has been optimized to last with wear and tear. When it comes to the blue silicone loop, it’s an attempt at bridging modern production methods and contemporary materials with more traditional watchmaking. Merging those elements creates a unique aesthetic. In overall terms, I think Bulbul is anchored in its present and well as its past. It’s in the tension between the two that Bulbul happens and I think Oblong is a quintessential example of this.

Who would you like to see wearing the Oblong watch?

Everyone! We don’t only aim to make iconic and timeless watches, we also aim for a degree of universality. Simply put, we want as many people as possible to get into these watches. Hopefully, by venturing deeper into heritage territory and tapping into the emotions that come with it, we’ll succeed in doing just that. 

Go here to back Oblong on Kickstarter:                       

For more on Lars Larsen and our design partner at Kilo, check out: