Interview: The Horophile On His Limited-Edition Collabs, New Project Kollokium & What’s Next
We chat with the Instagram influencer, collector, brand consultant and now – whisper it quietly – “anti-brand” co-founder who has carved out a niche as a collector-collaborator.
If you’re a fan of watches and on Instagram, chances are you will have come across The Horophile’s account at some point. The Horophile is an OG of the IG watch scene, having accrued 134,000 followers over the past decade thanks to his sumptuous shots of the watches he owns or admires, and his insightful remarks about the good and bad of the watch industry.
The man behind the account, Amr Sindi, is a Saudi national raised in French-speaking Switzerland, and a seasoned watch collector with a passion for indie brands and offbeat aesthetics – especially the color purple.
He’s also what you might call an industry insider. After cutting his teeth as a TimeZone moderator and Hublot’s social media manager at the dawn of digital, he has worked over the past ten years “in the shadows,” as he puts it, as a consultant to watch brands on their communication and product development.
Moreover, Sindi has developed another string to his bow – the role of collector-collaborator.
Since co-creating the OT-H with Dietrich in 2015, he has now lent his design input to six limited-edition collaborations with watch brands: The H. Moser & Cie. x Horophile Venturer Small Seconds XL Purple Haze, the Sartory Billard SB04 “The Horophile”, Gilt Spectre by Ophion x The Horophile x The Limited Edition, the Raketa x The Horophile Avant-Garde, and La Petite Seconde Metropolis Louis Erard x The Horophile.
And last month, it was announced that Sindi is one member of the trio behind the intriguing new project-based platform kollokium, an “anti-brand” whose debut creation, the neo-brutalist Projekt 01 featuring die-cast steel case and undulating “pin” dial, has had watch collectors purring before its public release this year.
We sat down for a chat with Sindi to discover how he has become a co-creation crackerjack.
Amr, you’ve become prolific as a collector-collaborator. How did it all start?
I had already commissioned unique pieces from the likes of GoS, Sarpaneva, S.U.F., and Armin Strom. I approached other brands I admired with an idea for a unique piece. Understandably, most brands aren’t open to modifying a movement but even when it comes to changing dial or case details, many brands can’t justify the R&D involved in making a single piece. However, some brands are open to doing a small series.
And that’s what happened with Dietrich, with whom I did my very first collaboration. They were one of the first Instagram-era brands that sold online and had an openness, not only to doing a 10-piece limited edition but also to making a watch with purple accents. Most brands didn’t want to make purple watches at that time. Now everyone’s doing it!
What criteria do you look for in brands before approaching them to do a collab?
It’s an anti-hype attitude. I like to champion underdogs. I identify brands I think are interesting but haven't received the attention they deserve. Or brands that have an interesting story to tell that until now hasn't been clearly told. And then I just try to highlight their work in a different way. I always respect a brand’s established design language, but I try and take them out of their comfort zone a little. And maybe it’s an ego thing, but it’s nice to feel I can be a catalyst, however big or small, for their growth.
Take the second collaboration I did, with H. Moser. Nowadays, most collectors know Moser. Back in 2016, it was still finding its feet. I thought it's an interesting brand, it's Swiss German, they do their own hairsprings and have this minimalist aesthetic that was fresh. Together, we made their first steel watch, their first non-retailer watch, and it must have been the most purple watch around – it had a purple dial, balance wheel, and hairspring!
It was a similar situation with Sartory Billard. When he showed me his prototype for the SB04, I asked if we could heat the titanium dial to a shade of purple. He said: “Let me see.” And then one piece became five, five became ten, and we ended up making 20. But I made no money out of it. I bought my own watch like everybody else. It was more about the bragging rights to say: “I found this diamond in the rough and I think you guys should pay attention.” And look how far Sartory Billard’s come today!
Designing is one thing, but how have you dealt with financing the development of these collabs, and then doing the marketing and sales?
For my Dietrich and H. Moser collaborations, I had to buy the inventory, and I sold mainly to my circle of collector friends, which has grown over the years. Selling the last few Moser pieces was tricky – after all, it was priced around CHF 19,000. But I’m not a retailer and don’t receive retailer margins. That's when I realized that while I like co-creating things, I'm not so keen on the selling part, and all the risk that it entails.
I think retailers still have their place, especially those like Pietro Tomajer of The Limited Edition who focuses on independents. I realized it was a good idea to work with someone like Pietro because he has the structure, logistics, and liquidity, as well as his own client base.
Pietro knew my collaboration track record – he had even bought the SB04 “The Horophile” – and so we decided to team up. We identified Spanish brand Ophion as a watchmaker we’d like to work with. I liked what they were doing – their teardrop lug case design and dial with Breguet numerals – but with just a few tweaks here and there, I thought we could do something different, cool, and not too classical.
And so the Gilt Spectre was born, with this matte titanium case, vertically brushed anthracite dial, and gilded Breguet numerals. Ophion said the minimum quantity they could do was 40 pieces. Pietro and I were worried that was too much and we’d never be able to sell them all. There were a lot of sleepless nights. But not only did we sell all of them, we ended up frustrating a lot of people because there weren't many available when the watch launched!
Tell us about the Avant-Garde you made with Russian brand Raketa…
Raketa wasn’t a brand I was intimately familiar with until a few years ago when Manuel Emch introduced me to them. And I discovered a lot about Russian watchmaking. It's hard to imagine the Russian watch industry at one point produced more watches than Switzerland. I just found it really interesting. And then I visited the Raketa manufacture in St. Petersburg and fell in love with the history, the story, and the people.
It takes a certain craziness to come out with 50 purple Russian watches in the middle of a conflict, but I was sure we could separate politics from watchmaking. In the end, we sold all 50 of them. And it wasn’t just about making a watch that is pretty out there; we also helped create awareness for Raketa: A lot of watch fans had no idea that this kind of thing still exists in Russia, or that it even ever existed.
And then you worked with Emch and Louis Erard on the La Petite Seconde Metropolis…
This was a different kind of collaboration: While most of my other design work has involved editing an existing model, here we had a blank slate for the dial. And when you have the whole dial to do whatever you want, it can be daunting.
The success of Gilt Spectre had given me confidence that I could do something other than just making a purple dial, and so I thought I could explore these heavy Art Deco elements for the Metropolis.
Working with Manuel and designer Bart Nussbaumer ultimately served as a prelude to our kollokium project – it’s the same people involved!
You’ve described kollokium as a non-brand, or an anti-brand…
One of my motivations for starting kollokium was that I had become disenchanted with what goes on at brand level. Products are born out of committee meetings and not out of real creativity or passion. Brands look at the market and identify a gap that their product can fit into, and the creative side is sorely lacking. For me, if you try to do something just to please people, it won't be as remarkable, and collectors can feel when something is sincere or if the passion is there. So, after nearly two decades of being involved in watches, I thought screw it, I'll just do my own thing. Luckily for me, I found two partners and friends that were on the same wavelength.
So with no restrictions or barriers, kollokium has been very liberating but also a challenge because we had to define all the elements that are not just going to become a watch, but that will also set the framework for the coming years. Manuel, Bart and I, we love watches but there's a lot of things we’re into – art, architecture, music, literature – and so we started with just mood boards of things that had nothing to do with watches.
The best feedback we’ve gotten is that the Projekt 01 looks like no other watch. And that was kind of the objective. It goes to show that even for a watch priced under CHF 3,000, you can be super creative, you can do something completely different, and it doesn’t hurt to take a risk once in a while.
Another thing people have told us is that the Projekt 01 is “so you!” And it’s true, there's a bit of all of our personalities in this watch. It is really the baby of three daddies – the ultimate collaboration!
What do you have planned for 2024?!
If kollokium goes well, you’ll definitely see more things coming out of that. Also, I envisage the collaboration with Ophion as a trilogy of discrete creations with an underlying theme. So stay tuned for our second Ophion collaboration!