Behind the scenes: creating Interrobang ‽

For our most recent limited edition watch, Interrobang ‽, we worked with talented artist Chris Fritton. This colourful and eye-catching design was released in four bold colours, limited to just 25 each. 

Chris Fritton is a letterpress printer, visual poet, and fine artist, based in The United States. Chris spends his time writing, printing, and making his own books, whilst also collaborating with other cultural workers.

Currently, Chris is working on a long-term project called The Itinerant Printer, where he has visited almost 200 letterpress print shops throughout North America in six years, this project inspired his design for Mr Jones Watches.

We spoke to Chris about the design process for Interrobang ‽, here is what he had to say:

What was your inspiration behind the design?

“The letterpress printing that I do almost exclusively involves moveable type (individual characters on separate blocks) — metal type, wood type, borders, and ornaments, all of which are organized into a form for printing.

I wanted to find a simple, elegant way to showcase some of those elements, as well as the process itself. I started by scouring the studio for interesting typefaces and images; I experimented with hundreds before finally settling on a font of 25-line Poster Gothic wood type. 

The characters are clean and bold, but they have personality — tiny angles and asymmetries that really caught my eye and won out over more decorative and complicated pieces — but I had no idea what I was going to do with them. 

That’s when the idea of the interrobang coalesced. 

The interrobang is a combination of an exclamation point and a question mark that was invented in 1962 by Martin K. Speckter, a journalist and advertising executive who balked at using multiple punctuation marks at the end of a sentence. 

Speckter thought the interrobang could contribute “nuance and clarity” that could imply incredulity or enhance written gestures like rhetorical questions. 

It all came together after that: if I could combine an intriguing process with an intriguing character, I might have something. It’s a fascinating piece of punctuation that has a unique history and I think deserves attention".

Is there anything about your design that relates to time-keeping?

"I rarely make playful work — but I immediately saw this as an opportunity to do something that almost operates as a visual pun: anytime anyone, anywhere, looks at their watch, it’s an interrogative. 

They’re asking the question: “what time is it?” But this question is often asked with some sense of urgency, or replied to with disbelief. "It’s that late already‽”  A watch seemed the perfect place for an interrobang".

How does your watch design relate to your previous work?

"A lot of my work centers on visual poetry — deconstructing and reconstructing letterforms to create new geometries.

The alphabet itself is an infinitely plastic thing, and each of its characters are as well. When you start to break them down into their component pieces, you find a cellular system with the potential for endless permutations.

I love to explore those permutations — in this case, the interrobang is an elegant marriage of two simple pieces of punctuation, but what happens to them when they’re separated, then recombined? What do they look like at different angles to one another, or as they approach unison, then pull away from each other again?

The results were curious and whimsical, and much to my surprise, also well-suited to telling the time.

The color-ways are reminiscent of much of my printing as well: bright rainbow rolls that shift from one hue to another that often create one-of-a-kind pieces.

The collaborative process is also similar to how I work in real life — Mr. Jones team suggested that I actually create/print some of the components myself using an experimental method, then send the materials along for assembly.

This is often the nature of my work on The Itinerant Printer journey: collaborative, experimental, and mysterious — you never know what things will become until you reach the final step.

That embodies the magic of printmaking as well — you never know exactly what something will look like till it comes out the other side of the press". 

The colourful dials were printed by Chris in New York, we then printed the hands before our small team assembled and tested the watches right here in London.

On its release day, Interrobang ‽ sold out within several hours, if you missed the chance to get your hands on it, you can sign up to our waiting list here.

If you want to find out more about Chris you can check out his website here.

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