Q&A with Isotope founder Jose Miranda
TimeCaptain: When did you found Isotope Watches, and why?
Jose Miranda: Isotope was created in November 2015 and registered as Trade Mark in the Summer of 2016. The concept behind the brand was created five years ago.
Watches have always been an interesting and important part of my life and 5 years ago, Kickstarter was blooming, creating the perfect conditions to invest time and money in a new watch brand.
So we started a long learning process studying the existing brands, designs, movements…
Failure was part of the process and before Isotope we had two brands that did not succeed. The first one was based on a design off the shelf from a Swiss supplier. The watches were animated by a Ronda Quartz, overpriced and really not exciting. They were good though, but the market was (and still is) flooded with similar products.
The second was a homage to the Submariner, made in China and with a NH35. Extremely well built and with a great price tag. Nevertheless, we decided to cancel the project. This was all part of a bigger plan as we wanted to come to the market with something new, original and distinct from the competition.
We learned how to create a movement from scratch, how to assemble and disassemble a movement and a watch. We learnt about the watch industry, the suppliers, the competition, the press and, above all, what customers are looking for.
As soon as we were happy with our progress, I started searching for a watch designer. For me, design is an intelligent interpretation and execution of something useful and beautiful.
Therefore our watch designer needed to have the same principles and priorities. We discovered the designer of one of my favourite watches and after a brief presentation (horological complications demystified) he was on board and the work began.
Together we created an amazing watch inspired in the Streamline Moderne style. Our timepiece pays tribute to the creator of the jumping hour concept, Josef Pallweber, and Gerald Genta, the designer who, in our opinion, created some of the most iconic jumping hour watches ever.
This was in December 2015. Now, more than one year later, we are ready to launch the Rider, a limited edition of 99 Swiss Made Jumping-Hour watches that fulfils everything a watch lover is looking for.
We understand that your watches will be Swiss made, where is Isotope located?
Our offices are based in Harpenden, a small town in the North of London. Our Swiss partners are based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Geneva, Biel and Lucerne.
Have you always been a watch fan?
Yes, I still remember my first watch, an automatic Timex with white dial and big black Arabic numerals. I was 8 or 9… I lost it when I moved home… Through my life, I’ve had all styles and brands of watches. And clocks, most of them Streamline Moderne and Art Deco.
My taste has also evolved. In the beginning of my collection, my goal was to own a Rolex GMT and after owning one, I discovered that there were so many other good options to choose from so I started learning and investing in other iconic brands and models.
If so, what was your first “grail” watch?
My “grail” watch is the Blancpain Fifty Phatoms… simple, elegant, discreet and with an amazing story. Probably my favourite “rational” watch until now. Apart from these, and on a more emotive level, some Gerald Genta, Konstatin Chaykin and MB&F designs/concepts.
Do you have a watch collection?
I used to have a very interesting watch collection. I sold most watches to fund the creation of my own brand… Only who has been through this process is able to understand the amounts we need to invest, to learn and to create a new brand and a new watch. Everything has a price and I definitely miss some of them, like the first watch I bought with my first salary… a Breitling Jupiter Pilot. Back then I didn’t even know it had a Quartz Miyota inside! It was a Breitling, period. But I loved it and it was really sad to see him go.
Which timepieces inspired Isotope?
Isotope, as a brand, is totally distinct from all other pieces in the market. Isotope, or in this case, the Rider, may be considered as a tribute to the Josef Pallweber / IWC Jump-hour watches and to some Gerald Genta designs. But the true inspiration comes from the most amazing design era, the Streamline Moderne. The dome shapes, the colours, the aesthetic… everything was created as if it was designed in a wind tunnel… and I love it. So the style behind our brand will always have this timeless design and inspiration. The reinterpretation of this style opens immense possibilities not only to create affordable complications, like a bespoke jumping hour, but also a future diver, a GMT and other surprises. Original concepts and complications that I want to create as soon as the brand is able to support the development of our own movements. Until then, and even after, we will keep on working with the best Swiss suppliers.
The first Isotope we have seen is clearly auto racing inspired. Are you a car fan?
I am a sports car fan indeed. I love the design and the efficiency of a 356 or a 911 and our initial designs had a few elements from the 356 bumpers and lights… but it would have been a mistake to follow that path so we searched and found a much more interesting inspiration.
There are already too many car inspired brands in the market. Some of them are doing a great job, but the concept is already explored to the limit. Nevertheless, I wish them all the best as there’s space for everybody as long as they have a good concept, design and price tag.
So, just like the concept behind the Streamline Moderne, our inspiration comes from the principle “designed by the wind”. As an example, I can refer to the Phantom Corsair designed by Rust Heinz in the 30’s or the Speedboats created by the visionary Garfield Wood. These are our real inspirations: not the models specifically, but the concept and the vision behind them.
Our design has various ingredients that make our creation so familiar to everybody. The gauge scales, the redesigned font, the reinterpretation of gauge hands and something that we were expecting comparisons but, strangely, no one as mentioned yet… the Max Bill Kitchen Clock. I used to have one and it’s simply hypnotic and brilliantly designed. Therefore the inverted water drop in the dial.
The Rider is using an interesting movement with a cool complication, tell us more about it.
Isotope’s first watch needed to create a statement: Horological complications demystified.
With this loved and useful complication, we show watch lovers it is possible to make an amazing, distinct yet affordable watch.
We needed to be different and I couldn’t find records of another Micro Watch Brand with a Jumping-Hour… so we are probably the first micro brand to offer a premium solution that can only become a collectable and valuable item.
The movement is the ETA’s working horse with a module mounted on top that delivers effortlessly one of the most precise jumping-hour in the market. The 2824-2 is robust, extremely well designed and used by some of the top Swiss brands as well. The module was designed and assembled in Biel and has been specifically adapted to our requirements. The hour positioned at 6 o’clock is very rare in Jumping-Hour watches and so is the central hacking seconds hand. The idea of positioning the hour window at 6 o’clock was one of the toughest decisions we had to take as it was extremely hard to find a supplier that was able to do exactly what we were looking for. Gladly we found an excellent partner that has been patiently cooperating in the development of the module and hands. We are only making 99 movements + modules (and a few more as backups and prototypes) with this configuration as the Rider is a limited edition.
Which type of person should purchase an Isotope?
Anyone that wants a valuable watch with an amazing concept and timeless design. The collectors that are missing a Jumping-Hour in their collection. The collectors that only collect Jumping-hours. Those that are starting a new collection and the ones that only buy limited editions… or simply because it’s an easy reading watch with a concept and a soul. Because it can be personalised, either changing the rotor design, choosing the dial colour, the straps or by hand-engraving the watch… There’s no stereotype… if you love it, grab it. We are only making 99 of those and their value will only increase with time.
Who would be the ideal ambassador for Isotope?
Someone effortlessly stylish, active, young at heart and with excellent taste!
If you could sponsor any event in the world for free, which event would you sponsor?
24H of Le Mans, The Monaco Grand Prix and the Four Grand Slam… just to name a few! Those are some of the most incredible, eclectic and traditional events that I religiously follow year after year.
It’s an honour for every brand to be a part of such notorious events.
What can you tell us about future Isotope products?
All our products will always own distinct and original characteristics. Bespoke, exciting and as fresh as the Rider Jumping-Hour.
We’ll have a new complication, a solution that our brand followers will love to own as well, yet distinct from the competition.
We are here to innovate, to test and introduce new designs and complications. There is no point in trying to make the same watches other brands are already making.
Therefore, the Rider is the first of a series of demystified horological complications… so expect something new before the year end. Maybe sooner…
In five years we want to make the watch I’ve ever dreamed of… but that will require an investment that will only be possible when the brand is consolidated. We have time.
Isotope Rider Technical Specifications
Case, Crown and Buckle: stainless steel 316L
Length, including lugs: 47,7mm
Width: 46,8mm (without crown) / 47,4mm (with crown)
Height: 12,1mm (excluding crystal) / 13,7mm (including domed crystal)
Domed AR Sapphire Crystal: ø37mm
Case Back AR Sapphire Crystal: ø24mm
Lugs width: 22mm
Buckle: Pin Buckle, 20mm
Movement: Swiss Automatic, self-winding, ETA 2824-2 with bespoke ISOTOPE Jumping-Hour module
Functions: Mechanical, Hour positioned at 6 o’clock, central minutes and hacking seconds
Accuracy: +20”/-10” p/day
Frequency: 28800 A/h
Shock Protection: Incabloc
Power-Reserve: 38 hours
Strap: Leather with quick release spring bars
Price: under £2,000 without taxes — pre-orders will start soon at £100+VAT (there will be three instalments).
For more details about the Isotope Rider, and to learn more about how it can be customized, visit www.isotopewatches.com