While watches have always taken design elements from cars, the automotive industry has turned to timepieces to rev up their new models
Watchmakers create automotive-inspired timepieces with reliable frequency. On the upside, automotive designers can be influenced by premium timepieces, a synergy best represented by one of Cadillac’s recent concept vehicles. Revealed at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Cadillac Escala sedan displays refined and eye-catching exterior and interior finishes that were inspired by the craft and appeal of fine timepieces.
“Every designer looks at watches,” says Andrew Smith, Cadillac’s executive director of global design, who often wears a vintage Heuer Camaro or other collectible numbers. “We look at intricate details and beautifully executed products that have a detailed mix of technology and craftsmanship.”
The Escala’s exterior boasts a variety of metallic accents, some of which subtly reflect horological trends and practices, while others more directly draw a correlation to watches. The sedan’s black grille, for example, is coated with a faint bronze finish, which reflects the light and draws attention to the many three-dimensional, chevron-shaped components of its design.
“It’s a very subtle difference, a black grille with bronze highlights and aluminium finishes,” says Laetitia Lopez, a creative designer in Cadillac’s colour and trim department. “These are the type of finishes that you can find on watches.”
Elsewhere around the Escala’s exterior, dual finishes on outlining shapes draw a distinct connection to a watch’s physical features and components. “We utilised brushed aluminium with a polished edge to accentuate the precise and sharp lines of the car, just like a watch bezel,” Lopez explains. Inside the Escala, Cadillac’s designers also took inspiration from horologists’ finishing techniques, accenting small knobs with a delicate contrast of finishes like that often found on movement plates.
“It’s the intricacy of the details around those knobs that are based on the Mondrian pattern of the Cadillac crest,” says Kathy Sirvio, the design manager for Cadillac’s colour and trim department. “The pattern becomes a graphic element, and these buttons and knobs were created tone-on-tone with brushed metal and glossy areas.”
Although the Escala project is now two years old, Sirvio acknowledges that timepieces influence her team’s work on all Cadillac models. Some just feature design elements that provide a more direct link between the two industries. “When new watches come out that make a splash in the industry,” she says, “we all take notice.”