Central Saint Martins graduate Sophie Ellis was selected by IJL to exhibit as part of its Bright Young Gems new talent initiative this year. She was the only designer on show who was creating watches.
In fact Sophie is only the second student in the history of Central St Martins to work in watch design and she is fast becoming the poster girl for new-gen horology. Try telling her that though and she becomes charmingly bashful.
Amid fits of giggles, she says: “Umm, I have no idea what that would look like. I hate having my photo taken for starters.” But underlying this is a real sense of resolve and intention and she says she would love to get younger people, students, fashion fans and – yes – females more into watches.
“They needn’t be intimidated by all the mechanics and boys’ stuff,” she says. “Watches are beautiful and come hand in hand with jewellery.” But she is pretty good with the boys’ stuff herself, confessing a lifelong love of cars and watches (“much to a lot of blank faces among my conceptual art Central Saint Martins school friends”) and her biggest breakthrough this year came when she received an extended contract to work for a major UK car company in their design team.
“I am not diverting away from watches by any means, but gaining further influence for my own designs, as well as essential industry skills expected of a modern design graduate, make me incredibly lucky to have that opportunity.”
Her own designs have been called conceptual, and they have picked up a lot of attention from the edgier end of the fashion and style media, appearing in the pages of publications like Wallpaper*.
Her watches are in fact searingly imaginative, taking elements of timepieces and twisting them into something quite extraordinary. She describes her work as enigmatic, luxurious and even blasphemous.
They’re certainly head turning, and she has caught the attention of the industry and was awarded a scholarship by The Goldsmiths Company to study watchmaking in Geneva with Emmanuel Bouchet, maker of the Harry Winston Opus 12.
When she comes back she says she has promised to return to Central Saint Martins and teach whoever wants to know how to make a watch case. “My proudest moment of 2014 would be if another watch was handmade and shown off at the next Central Saint Martins Degree show.”
Between now and then expect more watches that are, in her words a “feasibility nightmare”. To us, more of her whimsical creations sounds like a dream.
Sophie E Ellis founder Sophie Ellis was a Bering One to Watch in the WatchPro Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here.