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June 25, 2017 12 min read

What's taking so long?

Like I said in part one, I gave Aaron some general ideas about the style I had in mind for the DevilRay's dial, hands and bezel, while I set about drawing the case.

Have I mentioned I have NO IDEA how to use traditional design programs, whatsoever? 

I've tried to learn to use Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Rhino, and some others, but I quickly lose patience. I taught myself how to do everything in Microsoft office applications, which are NOT meant for this sort of work. 

It takes me a while, but the upshot is I know how to get EXACTLY what I want out of them, and they give me the ability to know my designs inside and out, down to the fraction of a millimeter.

Here's what I came up with for the case, eventually


Before you go thinking, "meh, it looks easy enough" - this was the final result of hours and hours spent massaging each and every line to get them all just so, with some dead-end detours explored along the way. 

But before we got here, there were a number of previous iterations. 

In a perfect world, I'd know what I want from the start, before circling back to Aaron for some finer details to be added to it, like the saw-tooth bezel, and to get him to put it all together with his dial/hands/bezel treatment. 

But this isn't a perfect world. 

What usually happens is we add, remove, and change stuff as we go, for weeks on end, arguing about it between us, sometimes with Rusty joining in, and sometimes getting input from the fanmen.

The bezel shroud in particular gave me fits, as I was trying to figure out how best to join it to the case sides and lugs. 

I thought I wanted something more faceted, sort of like the Seiko Sumo, but not wanting it to look exactly the same. 


There was an iteration where the shroud-to-lug transition looked like this from the front:



I'm not sure I ever liked it that way. Maybe I thought I did for a while. But I remember I either couldn't figure out how to draw it from the other perspectives, or I could, but that's when I decided I didn't like it. 

At some point, we weren't sure how close the shroud could be to the bezel, or how to make it all work with the bracelet attached, and I guess I got Aaron involved in that, because he did this:


I liked that better, so we gave up on making the shroud-lug transition somewhat Sumo-like, and kept the lines simpler, going back to the shroud being tighter up against the bezel. 

We must have been wondering about clearances for rotating the bezel, because Aaron modified my case drawing this way (his version, top, my original, bottom):

Yuck. I know some bezels are shaped that way, but I always prefer to keep things as elegant as possible, and that sort of bezel profile looks inelegant to me, so we ditched that idea.

We hadn't yet settled on a handset, nor started on the bracelet design. Aaron put sword hands on it as a placeholder.

I was thinking about maybe doing another H-link bracelet, but this goes back to why I struggled with the bezel-shroud-to-lugs transition. I hated the way the end links looked.

Here's an earlier version, showing the "SuperDiver1" with the H-link bracelet, that awful end-link, sword hands, a smaller 12-hour marker (that I wasn't crazy about), matte black dial with a gray center section, no numbers on the depth gauge, knurled crown, lume pip on the 12-hour bezel instead of the count-up timer, smaller/thinner bezel markings, and "grip teeth" on the bezel, which became something the guys in my inner circle argued over. 

We couldn't agree about which way the slope of the saw teeth ought to be oriented if the teeth had smaller grippy nubs on them. In the end, we got rid of the grippy nubs, and increased the aggression of the bezel's edge.

As I was trying to sort this hot mess out, Rusty took a stab at rendering the case. 

For him to do that, he's got to take my 2D line-drawings, and re-create them all in his 3D modeling program. 

Sometimes, some little details can get missed, so I've got to go over everything with a fine-tooth comb, comparing what he's got to what I gave him.



No bezel insert, no crystal, no crown, no case back. Just one of many early iterations ginned up as a trial balloon, to make sure he was going the right way, and I wouldn't get all crazy-drunk, angry-hair Nolte on him.


Getting better, but still not all the way there. Case sides aren't quite as dramatic as I wanted, lug ends are straight up-and-down, bezel insert is flat, rather than sloped, but...progress. 

Rusty and I also got to work on coming up with an end-link and a better bracelet. 

We figured out that with the shrouded bezel, and the turtle shape of the case, there was no way to get the surface of the end-links to marry to the case and lugs in such a way that it all seems like it was cut from a single piece of steel, the way we usually like it. 

The end-links' surface would need to be recessed below the lugs.

For the bracelet, I started out thinking I wanted something sort of Panerai-ish, but with more detail, like the Certina DS-3, and perhaps a flared first link, so the bracelet tapered into the case.







What we (mostly Rusty) came up with:



Nope. No bueno. I don't like that at all (plus, Rusty, you missed the domed crown surface, and the crown is still knurled, not saw tooth...)

"Yeah, yeah, Chris. These are DRAFTS. Don't get yer shorts in a knot..."

I showed that to Aaron. He agreed with me, and couldn't believe the insubordination I put up with from Rusty.

Rusty's bracelet reminded us of tank treads, which was an interesting idea, but it looked too "industrial" to me. 

I asked Aaron if he could try to come up with something somewhere between this and the Panerai. I wanted something "swoopy", a mix of the Panerai and the Certina DS-3 bracelet, with more links across, maybe with a shape that sort of emulated the actual Devil Ray (the fish), and with a thin center link, reminiscent of the Devil Ray's tail, which we'd polish.

From all that, we got this:

Alright! Now we're getting somewhere. 

By this time, my case design was "final".

"Rusty! Quit mucking about. Make your bracelet like this, but without the flared link, because yuck. Just taper it from 22mm at the lugs to 20mm at the clasp, and fix your case so it looks like mine, while you're at it."


Rusty got hot on updating his model. Aaron and I went looking for a better handset, but the handset supplier's website is the WORST, WEBSITE, EVER...


It's got a search function that's supposed to let you search all the handsets according to the length of each hand, and only show results that meet the specified criteria - but the search function is crap. 

If you enter the length of more than one hand, it won't return any results at all. Instead, you have to enter just one handset length from the three in the set, with the best results coming if you enter either the minute hand or hour hand length. Forget the seconds hand - search that one by itself. 

That search returns dozens of pages of results, 12 postage-stamp-sized thumbnail images per page, which we have to scroll through, looking for one with the right style, as well as correct length for BOTH hands. 

The only other option is to just scroll through the entire catalog, one section at a time, hundreds of pages. 


I've tried to get Aaron to do it for me, but he refuses. 

Damned Scots! They ruined Scotland! 


The drill is, I find the handsets I think will work well with our design (which is only 80% "done"), however long it takes me (it feels like for - wait for it - ever), and send Aaron links to those pages on the handsets supplier's website. He pulls their crappy images, and tries to re-draw them as they'd look in real life, then we (me, Aaron, Rusty, and the fanmen) argue about it all.


First option, "Handset A" (seen here, with not quite the "final" version of the bezel, or dial, or crown, or bracelet, or 12 hour marker, but like I said, we figure things out as we go, so...):


Meh. Just meh. And the lume patch on the minute hand is too small. What else ya got?

Next, Handset B:


Gawd. What are we doing here, selling condoms with subliminal advertising? 

Handset C:


Mmmmmnope...I like the hour hand better, but the minute hand still looks like Mr. and Mrs. Johnson just put the kids to bed, and there's nothing on TV. 

What else you got? 

Lemme guess, Handset D?


If only they made the arrow a wee bit BIGGER, am I right?

Handset E:


What's better than one sword? Two swords. But not here. What else?

Aaron: "That's it. Those are all the handsets we both agreed were worth illustrating. The others we looked at were all worse."

Me: "Crap. That sucks. I don't like any of them (and neither did the fanmen, at least, we couldn't get anywhere close to a majority consensus)...Wait a tick! Gimme one with the hour hand of C, combined with the minute hand of D."

Aaron: "I like where this is going..."

Handset F:


"F me. Please. That's the winner (all the fanmen agreed). Bob's yer uncle. Looks even better with "DEVIL-RAY" on the dial, but I think that would look better in an all-caps font, no hyphen, all one word...

"Also, we still need to fix the 12-hour marker. I think it needs to be bigger/longer than the other markers if it's going to be split down the middle... 

"And even though I like the handset, I'm not sure about the color on all their frames... 

"It's too much color, I think, and it doesn't look right with the metallic frames of the hour indices. I think the hour hand and seconds hand should both have metallic frames, but give the seconds hand an orange tip. Leave the minute hand alone, but make the lume on the hands match the lume on the markers...

"And add the right bracelet to it. What's the matter with you?"

Yeaaaahhhhhh...now we're getting somewhere. Now we've got to finalize all the colors. 


There are a bazillion shades of "blue", "orange" and every other color of the rainbow, but with manufacturing, we've got to specify Pantone colors, if we want to be sure we'll get the shade we're expecting. 

I asked the fanmen to not just vote on 5 different shades of orange, and 8 (yes, 8) different shades of turquoise, I asked them to rank them in order of preference. 

Some of the fanmen accused me of screwing with them, because they all look exactly the same (and Aaron hadn't updated all of them with the other revisions yet):



Here's the crazy part, when it comes to the colors - 

I have to give the factory Pantone color codes, which we pick based on Aaron's renders, which I KNOW are NEVER 100% what they'll look like in real life.

But I've also got to convert those Pantone colors into RGB colors for Rusty, because his 3D modeling software can't accept Pantones, and the RGB's are NOT precisely a 100% match, so....yeah, I hate trying to pick colors almost as much as Aaron hates looking for handsets.


In the meantime, "Oh, crap! We need a case back design!"


I'd worked with Francis "Bombfish" del Mundo on previous case back designs (read: I gave Francis some ideas, and he drew something that sounded like what I wanted, except more awesome and bombfishy), but Francis has been busy with his own micro-brand startup, Tangramatic, and I wasn't sure if he'd be able to help on this one. 

Aaron recommended his friend Matty, who was able to work fast to come up with some ideas, after I told him the size and detail restrictions, and some of the ideas I had in mind.

He sent me some sketches (yes, that's his chosen avatar in the lower corner, a pile of poop - artists are weird people):


Back to the fanmen, who were still reeling from the arguments over the handsets and the dial colors, to ask them to argue over which of these ideas was the one to develop into the caseback. 

The one in the top left corner won out:



Back to Rusty, to see if he got his case to look like mine, so we could send the 3D model to the factory.

You see, I used to just draw the case from 3 or more perspectives, like the image at top, and send my 2D drawings to the factory. 

But it always seemed like they had to change something, because I didn't know how thick the crystal or caseback had to be to achieve the desired water resistance, or how thick the dial or the movement spacer was (or, early on, the movement), etc. 

With each new design, I asked more and more questions of the factory as I was designing, particularly about engineering issues, in order to have fewer changes made to my "vision" - how thick will the crystal (or case back) needs to be if it's this big, this shape, and we want 500m WR - etc?

Eventually, it just made more sense for us to do a 3D model of the case up front, and send them that, rather than send them my 2D drawings, and have them do the 3D's. The hope is they won't have to change anything.

And...still hoping. 

Remember I said Rusty has to re-draw everything I give him, and sometimes we miss little details going from 2D to 3D? 

Well, whatever we miss, the factory gets. Then the engineers hack away at it, and the production people weigh in with their concerns, forcing more changes, and by the time I get it back, I often want to die. Or cry. Or die crying.

My case became Rusty's case, which became their case, and I just want what I drew four months ago, dammit!

Rusty's (pretty close to mine, except for the lug ends):

Theirs (no case back attached, and you can't see the crystal, but still, much, much, much different than how I drew it, originally):


They stretch this, flatten that, miss these, exaggerate those, etc, etc, etc.

I have to go back to my original drawings, and notate everything the way I want it, then negotiate from there, otherwise, what you get isn't really what you envisioned.




Wash. Rinse. Repeat, until you're all exhausted, and the design is "final"...





On top of that, we also send them Aaron's 2D renders, and honestly, sometimes we're drawing stuff in 2D, and we have no idea what we want it to look like in 3D. I tend to make a lot of notes on images, like this:


They send me back illustrations showing me different design options, asking me which I prefer:


There are literally - not figuratively - dozens, if not hundreds of tiny details like this, which need to be discussed and decided upon, unless I want them decided upon for me (and I don't). 

Make the black and white dials sunburst. Make the orange and blue matte. Ditch the gray center section. 

Oh, the markers on the bezel have to be wider, in order to lume them, and that means we have to remove some? Okay. 

Make the teeth on the crown go the other way, because you're winding clockwise, so it makes more sense that way. Make the crown's surface domed, not flat. And yes, of course I want the engraved logo lumed again. 

How thick are the links in the bracelet? 3mm? Not thick enough. I don't want people complaining the links feel "cheap" because we made them precisely proportional to the case. 

They're 3.5mm? Still not thick enough. How thick is the clasp? Make the links thicker, in order to more closely match the clasp - make 'em 4mm. And make the two on either side of the clasp wedge-shaped, with the end near the clasp 4.5mm. 

And don't drill the micro-adjustment holes in the expansion clasp this time. That confuses people. 

And give me a half-link on either side.

And make precisely this many removable links on each side, with this many fixed links, so the bracelet can be sized by anyone with a wrist from 6" to 9".


Know what? Screw it. Make them all removable. Five-inch wrists need love too!

How about that date window? Does it have a metal frame around it, or a printed frame, or is it just a square hole cut in the dial?

Just a square hole cut in the dial? No bueno. Looks like crap. Show me the metal frame.

Nope. I don't like how much real estate it's taking up. It cuts into the marker too much, and it's unbalancing the dial. This is no bueno:

No metal frame. Just print a frame around the date window instead.


No detail gets overlooked. Not if I can help it.


Eventually, inevitably, inexorably, I wear everybody down. That's the secret to my success, whether the game is poker, sales, or making watches. I'm relentless. I outwork you - days, nights, weekends - whatever it takes. I'm working while the other guys are sleeping. Eventually, everyone who's every stood in my way gives up, and I win.

"Chris, we will make everything according to your drawings. Please disregard what we sent you."

And that, folks, is how my old friend Sergeant Mack would have gotten it done, by sheer force of will and determination...


"Rusty! Did you make yours look like mine? You better have, Hoss. It's time to show these peeps why my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard!"


Rusty: "Something like this?"






But let's not show it all to them just yet. You need to fill in the lume on the bezel markers, brush the top of the case, polish the sides, fix those colors...




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