John Todd has been a professional, practicing artist since 1992 and has been designing and making unique and bespoke “Art watches” since 1994.
The American artist Joseph Cornell once wrote; 'The artist is the magician of detail...' and its this sentiment that most defines the ethos of John's design, being especially captured and distilled in the small and delightful visual parcels known as TODDWATCHes.
Watches are only a part of his creative output, with his other creative output being accessible from this site.
"I am now sporting GJ33. It was bought as a 40th birthday gift and is admired often, by myself and others. I must say that I've never encountered a piece of personal jewellery of such originality and craftmanship: a lifetime treasure!"
-Stuart Gent, UK
TODDWATCH is a unique brand of bespoke handmade watches, designed and made by John Todd that are designed, machined and entirely hand constructed in England in the West Midlands workshop.
Many watches have been made since 1994 and are all over the world - currently represented on most continents.
"Many of our more unusual watches are entirely one-off creations, but we sometimes partner with skillful local artisan engineers to enable production of small batches of designs.
The careful attention to detail ensures that our designs continually evolve, giving these watches a truly unique character that is not achievable with mass production."
TODDWATCH demonstrates how superlative craftsmanship is alive and thriving in England.
TODDWATCHes, which are individually numbered, are made in a range of sizes and are fitted with handmade own-brand high quality leather straps. They are all fitted with quality quartz movements, Swiss made water-proof crowns and mineral crystal lens. Sapphire crystal lens' can be fitted by request to all new orders.
TODDWATCHes have been made from a whole range of materials including sterling silver, wood, aluminium, brass, copper, stainless steel, rubber and plastic. Predominantly though, TODDWATCHes are made from anodised aluminium, brass and stainless steel.
Some of the earlier examples of TODDWATCH had bodies made from wood and rubber, whilst many had recycled materials as a feature.
All the watch faces are different from each other and to date two identical watches and never been produced.
All watches are fitted with precision quartz analogue movements (+/- 20 sec. per month), have scratch resistant mineral crystal lenses, and precision Swiss made ‘crowns’.
In the early spring of 1992, while studying Fine Art at Loughborough College of Art and Design (LCAD - now part of Loughborough University) my friend Rolf and I were living in a typical student terrace house along with two other people. It is from this time that I am able to trace the origins of TODDWATCHes.
Rolf and I had originally met in 1989 and became firm friends. During our time in Loughborough we shared houses, creative similarities and inspiration, studio spaces and other mutual friendships. We have remained friends even though Rolf now lives thousands of miles from me.
So in early spring 1992, Rolf found a working and wearable Swatch watch while walking along the street in which we lived. He gave this watch to me as I had no watch at the time.
By the summer of 1993 it became clear that the plastic of the watch body was deteriorating rapidly and small chunks of the body started to break off, especially around the strap. I had also become fairly attached to it as it connected me to Rolf, Loughborough and my other friends, plus it was a useful object to have.
Over the next year the watch became more and more unwearable, until eventually it could only be carried around in my pocket, half of the strap having completely snapped-off. It was essentially unrepairable, but only in the conventional sense of repair.
I had, more through necessity than anything else, been finding ways to reuse other people’s rubbish or discarded objects in some way for some time, either in my art or in the places I lived (I made my first bed/desk with left over timber from a skip in the summer of 1990), so I set about trying to find a way to continue using this watch.
The solution presented itself in the chance find of a number of flat ceramic rings with 2 screw holes and the words ‘engaged’ and ‘vacant’ on the surface. These were from the handle and locks used on the doors of public toilets. By turning the door lock, people on the outside of the cubicle would know that it was ‘engaged’ and when a toilet was free it would read ‘vacant’.
It just so happened that the hole in the centre of the ceramic ring exactly fit over the lens and face of the Swatch watch. The body, now broken completely, was wholly covered-up by the ceramic disc leaving only the face showing. I made a small ‘box’ which housed the entire watch and fitted the disc onto the top of this. Scrounging an old piece of leather from from the local cobbler and using an old buckle, I made a hefty and large scale strap, which was very basically screwed directly onto the back of the ‘box’. The result was a very distinctive, but completely over engineered wrist watch which sat about 3-4cm off of the wrist.
For me this was the utilitarian solution to my problem. It meant I didn’t spend any money on a new watch (I had none anyway) and I continued using recycling to solve a real life problem. I felt that it was also a great looking design too.
To my surprise, whenever I wore this watch (probably because it was so large) I would get comments from many people, even complete strangers. Many friends also encouraged me to pursue the idea of making more, but at the time I really wasn’t very interested in doing this.
Towards the end of 1993 my friend Michelle (a textile designer) lent me a book called “A Case of Curiosities”. This is a fictional novel about a young man, Claude Page, in 18th Century France, who had a love and talent for drawing, making and creating. He learns to make watches and is a consummate enamelist, who is guided in learning and making under the tutelage of the ‘Abbe’. The book is divided into titled sections that focus on specific times in the life of Claude, such as ‘The Jar’, ‘The Linnet’, ‘The Nautilus’, ‘The Watch’, ‘The Bell’, etc. This book, and its use of a selection of disparate curios as metaphors, caught my imagination from the first chapter. Seeing resonances within my own life (most specifically my own fixation with making and owning curiosity cases and objects with bizarre and personal significance) , gave me the resolve to pursue the idea of making more of my ‘recycled’ watches.
But where to start?
It turned out that in the town where my parents lived was a small watch making company called ‘Tikkers’. Acting on my Dad’s encouragement I called them to ask if they could offer any assistance and without hesitation they invited me to visit the factory, gave me a tour and supplied me for the next 2 years with their unwanted watch mechanisms, hands and components.
My journey into making one-off Art-watches began and continues till the present time.
Through the years I have made many different type of watches, including those made with recycled materials: those made in silver, enamelled watches, wooden ones and even rubber ones too.
It was only several years after starting making and selling watches, when pursuing an MA at Birmingham School of Jewellery that I discovered my original Swatch watch was actually called and sold as “Nautilus ” (one of the chapter titles in “A Case of Curiosities”) designed by Maro Fani from the 1986 Swatch summer collection. I remember clearly feeling as though I was destined to do the things I have done.
Whatever one’s take on a seemingly random and chance analogy between fiction and my real life connections, I love it when surprising twists and parallels of this nature become apparent. For me the true-to-life equivalence of friendships, inspiration and interconnectedness remind me that our lives are certainly bound together with often undecipherable cords, and that without one another and the consanguinity of our relationships, our lives are less rich in meaning and experience. I wonder if I would still have made watches if Rolf hadn’t given me that watch, or Michelle lent me that book or my Dad hadn’t told about that factory. Whichever veiled part others may have played, it certainly adds perspective to know the part others have played in the creation of my Toddwatches.