Behind the scenes: designing the Robotto Shi watch

First a monster, now a robot...

Bedfordshire based designer and illustrator Onorio D’Epiro approached us in 2018, eager to try his hand at watch design. 

We immediately loved his work and he got started on his design for our popular Number Cruncher watch.

For those of you that missed this one, it’s an eye-catching monster, stomping through the city, eating all the numbers he can find (see below).

Number Cruncher both versions

Robotto Shi is another watch designed by Onorio D’Epiro, released in 2019, with the intention of acting as a reminder not to take your time too seriously.

Robot watch - Robotto Shi

Onorio’s fascination for character design started at an early age. After studying model design and special effects at university, Onorio went on to develop one-off collectable designer-art toy robots “justrobots” - which gained a dedicated following around the world.

Onorio D'Epiro robot

"My love for robots is a thread that runs through all the things I create. I love the fact that you can transform a simple box or dome shape into something that evokes such powerful emotions.”

Onorio D'Epiro with robot

After the success of his first watch Number Cruncher, we were very eager to work with Onorio on another design, and with robots being his speciality, we were excited to see what he came up with next...

Robotto Shi was released as a limited edition of 100 pieces and was sold out in less than a day (not surprising!) so we thought you might like to see what went on behind the scenes and how the design developed over the months before the release…

Initial ideas

Onorio's initial robot design

Onorio started with his story, similarly to the Number Cruncher watch, he wanted an over-sized clunky robot placed in the middle of a city landscape.

His goal for the design was to try to evoke emotions and encourage people to empathise with this strange creature. Here's a behind the scenes look into his process...

initial Robotto watch sketches

“I’ve spent a lot of time just working on eyes for the robot but it just doesn’t seem to be working for me as, I really like the look of the one big eye at the moment.

The two eyes just make him look a little stupid and I’m really trying to get people to feel sorry for this big lump of metal stranded in the heart of Tokyo! I shall continue to keep doodling other variations of the robot.”

Robot character sketches by Onorio D'Epiro

Onorio then went onto experiment with different landscape ideas and tried to establish how this mini robot would be interacting with the city in this scene.

landscape ideas for Robotto Shi

“I’ve been busy playing about with lots of potential colour and line highlights for the buildings.

Some are really capturing that neon Bladerunner sort of feel which I think perfectly captures the Japan at night look.” 

Design development

Onorio continued working on the robot character, coming up with different positions and facial expressions, until he was happy with the style.

robot designs

We decided the robot would be gilded with something metallic (either aluminium or silver) so he catches the light and really stands out against the colourful city background

When the design was finalised we made samples to try the different gilding mediums. We then decided to experiment with luminous (glow-in-the-dark) ink on the design. 

Final robot drawings

glow in the dark mock-up

We then sampled this, to see if it would work with the gilding - we suspected it wouldn't. The first sample looked great, but the luminous ink affected the gilding (see below), so we decided against it for this design.

glow in the dark samples

Final samples

Robotto Shi watch samples

In the end, we went with an ultra-thin aluminium foil for the gilding, which shimmers as it catches the light.

Final samples of Robotto Shi

Final watch design

Onorio explains his design:

“At first glance, this is a sweet looking robot, but he has a sinister intent. I really love the idea that the robot has a massive heart, but he’ll ultimately destroy everything in his path.

I consider most of my robots to be sympathetic, but there’s always the danger of a short circuit which turns them into incontrollable destructive monsters.”

Final watch design for Robotto Shi

You can see the finished watch here.

Want to find out more about Onorio? You can watch him talk about his Number Cruncher design here. Or visit his website here.

I'd love to know what you think of Robotto Shi and the design process, please let me know in the comments section below.

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