Fiona Kruger is a Scottish designer executing her own style of unique horology, originating from her work at the Lausanne school of design ECAL.
1. Describe briefly your childhood?
I was fortunate to have a very multicultural upbringing. My father worked for an international company producing ball bearings, so it meant I grew up in France until the age of 10, then Mexico from 10 to 13, then Sao Paulo Brazil from 13 to 16 before returning to Scotland where I finished high school and went to study at Edinburgh College of Art. It was a great experience, and though at the time some of the later moves were a little tough, it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
When I was little I wanted to be an illustrator for Disney. I spent all my time drawing – that was my favourite pastime. As I got older I always had a keen interest in making things, doing lots of different classes and crafts. Then I thought about perhaps going to study psychology so I could help people, but ended up going to art school instead.
3. What is your first significant childhood memory?
There are a few… going to markets in Mexico City is a very vivid memory of mine. Seeing all of the local crafts and artisans was incredible. I remember all the amazing shapes, vivid colours and bold patterns, it was quite unlike anything I had ever seen before. Another memory is painting with my grandmother. She was a very good painter, and I remember painting with her from a very young age.
4. Have you ever had another profession? What did you do?
I was an assistant gallery manager at an art gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa, for two years (this was after I completed my fine art degree and before moving to Switzerland for my MA). I was also an office manager for an amazing design start-up brand producing beautiful lighting, also in Johannesburg. After completing my MA at ECAL in Switzerland I was hired as a teacher for the same masters course and worked there for about 4 years whilst in parallel setting up the business.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
It actually all started as my diploma project for my Masters course. As part of the course, my class were asked to design a watch for Audemars Piguet (they were a sponsor at the time). It was thanks to this project that I learned about the history of watchmaking and the industry. I fell in love with watchmaking during our visit to the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva, and it was during this project that I actually designed the original skull watch (back in 2010). I then decided to produce a working prototype for my diploma project, and that was made possible thanks to the patience and help of a kindly watchmaker. He looked over my design, gave me some supplier contacts and said that if I could get the various parts made in time he would assemble my final watch. Six weeks later I presented it to my diploma jury, following which a couple of images of it went up online and before I knew it I had over 100 emails from people asking if they could buy it. That made me think “well, it’s not just me that thinks this is interesting” and so I spent a couple of years figuring out how I could turn what was a nice idea into a real product. Re-developing the design and finding the right production partners that I wanted to collaborate with was key, and everything came together at the end of 2013, which is when I launched the production of our very first series, and the rest is history…
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
I don’t know about worst, but as a youngster in summer I worked in a clothing factory and a chip shop ahead of going to university. From a career point of view I haven’t had any terrible jobs, but doing anything that is really repetitive, admin-heavy or inefficient are real pet-peeves of mine.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had many difficult moments as the founder of my own business, some personal and some practical. In both circumstances remembering that you are not your business, it is a part of many things that you do in life, helps. And remembering that you always have choices, you are in control of your own life, so chose what works for you, that is also important. (Plus a good night out with great friends always puts things into perspective!)
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
Well there are a few, each for very different reasons. I’m always inspired by art and design, so going to galleries, exhibitions or reading about those is like oxygen to me.
With regards to people, I’ve had a number of very positive influences throughout my life.
I’d genuinely say my parents and my two grandmothers – they taught me a lot about character and kindness and always encouraged me to follow my passions, which I’m very grateful for.
Secondly my husband, Michael. He’s got this rare mix of very practical and pragmatic thinking with an incredible amount of empathy and great sense of humour – all qualities I really admire.
Thirdly I would say my high school art teachers Mr Wilson and Mrs Roy. They saw the artistic talent in me, and it was Mr Wilson who realised early on that my brain worked well in 3D. He gave me a lump of clay one day and a painting of a pair of hands and said “see if you can replicate those as a sculpture”, and I did. It was completely natural. So it’s thanks to them that I went to art school.
Finally I would include Maya Angelou. Listening to her speak really touches my soul, and I always learn great life lessons from reading her work or watching interviews she’s done. She is grace personified to me – remarkable.
9. What are you most proud of?
I’m very proud that we’ve brought into reality something which started out as a thought. Having an idea is one thing, bringing it into the world is another. I’m also proud that we’ve upheld our creativity-first approach, that we’ve continued to work in a collaborative manner with all our partners, and I’m proud that our pieces are touching people outside of the watch bubble. I think this is an incredible industry, so it’s really exciting when our pieces enable more people to discover it. I’m also very proud that we’ve just launched our second collection, which is powered by our own movement, which I got to design in its entirety and produce with one of the most valued and respected companies in the watch industry today (Agenhor). If you had told me that was what was going to happen even a couple of years back I would not have believed it. Finally I’m proud that we remain curious and that Michael and I are unafraid to take risks.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something thinking of taking a similar path as you?
- Be really honest with yourself about what you want and why. It means that once you start climbing that ladder (be it career, starting your own business or whatever) you are sure it’s leaning against the right wall! And when times get tough the “why” will keep you motivated.
- Genuinely anything is possible. Lots of people say that, but once you realise that everything you see, from the chair you sit on to the “system” that runs a large corporation started out as a thought in someone’s head, you realise there are no barriers, and you are just as capable as anyone else of doing anything.
- Remember to enjoy the process, that’s the best bit. It’s where you learn and grow, and that’s really where the value is.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
- To go on a huge self-drive safari in Africa (again!)
- To go on honeymoon! Michael and I have been married 7 years and still haven’t gone!
- To go to a massive music festival for a weekend with friends. I love music, and the last time I was at a festival was years ago – that would be ace.
12.Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years time.
I hope it will be more outward-looking (if we are talking particularly about the Swiss watchmaking industry) and open-minded. I would love for more people to know about watchmaking, and by that I mean really discover all the incredibly talented people who create the beautiful watches that we see today (all the artisans and manufacturers) as well as discovering the incredible historical pieces which are part of the heritage, and still astonish me to this day. I would like to see creativity and design being properly valued and recognised, and I would like to see a positive, proactive and collaborative working spirit become the norm across the industry. I see it as a big ecosystem – everyone has an important role to play from large brands, to independents, from manufacturers and artisans to retailers and press. By working together we can achieve a lot, so that’s where my focus is.
To learn more about Fiona Kruger www.fionakrugertimepieces.com