Amidst the chocolaty aromas and friendly faces that fill the coffee house, 29-year-old Jonathan Ferrer sits as he has for years, blissfully tinkering with one of his timepiece designs. It’s here that he is at peace, creating something he’s passionate about in an atmosphere that’s both comfortable and familiar. But for the founder and designer of Brew Watch Co., this happy ritual is more than just where he likes to do his work. For Ferrer, it’s the very source of his inspiration for each watch he creates.
The details of Ferrer’s designs feature little vented cut-outs on the crown and on the back, denoting his affinity for coffee shops. At times, the former NJIT grad will even sneak in a few java-esque surprises—most recently, a small timer set for 35 seconds (the optimal time for espresso). For Ferrer, each watch tells a story and in many cases, it’s one connecting the sophistication of a timepiece with those serene moments inside a café.
“Coffee shops are my place of peace. This is where I enjoy designing, meeting with people and it just seems as though everyone around me is enjoying their time, too. So I thought it would be cool to put my own personal story into that. It’s a story that other people can relate to, which is the most important thing—relatability and connecting. That’s why I called it Brew.”
Ferrer’s passion for watchmaking ignited during his time at NJIT, where he studied industrial design and still adjuncts to this day. During his collegiate years, the aspiring watch designer held an internship with Movado, a brand that traces its roots to La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. From there, he began making his own designs and eventually worked up the nerve to crowdfund his own watch brand.
“During my time at Movado, I got really hooked. It was also the moment where Kickstarter got really popular. I began freelancing and traveling all over the world and these guys said, ‘We don’t have a big budget, but we’ll fly you to Switzerland’—so I just took the ride. They introduced me to manufacturers all over the world. When I began working with some of the connections I’d made, I was freelancing out of coffee shops in New Jersey, just sketching away. I shared my ideas with these manufacturers and basically had everyone on board for my passion project. I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this. I can get this on Kickstarter.’ So I launched it and did $40,000 sales in one month. It was totally unexpected,” he told me.
From concept to a finished product, Ferrer’s designs typically take around eight to 12 months to complete, though each timepiece is not without its challenges—specifically in functionality. “The hands on a watch have a very specific weight to them. So depending on how much paint there is and the dimensions of the watch hands, that all affects the accuracy of the watch. All these different weights have to be tested. If anything is inaccurate, we would have to remake the hands. The engineering, testing and the concept is the most difficult part of the journey. That takes three to four months just for that,” he said.
To build his intricate timepieces, Ferrer sources supplies from all over the world, including manufacturers and engineers that can tweak his designs for quality control. Brew Watch Co. began with one design per year and now after five, the brand produces two to three designs annually—thanks to Ferrer’s drive and dedication in all aspects of the company. “I was doing everything from design and engineering, to sourcing samples and supplies. But I was also doing the PR, photography, the website creation—and so on. That’s where it’s really exciting for me, and it all sort of snowballed.”
Growing up in Woodbridge, NJ, Ferrer’s passion is also one that ultimately may be passed down from generation to generation. His father, currently a jeweler and designer for Tiffany & Co., and grandfather, formerly a designer for Cartier, undoubtedly had some impact on his creativity. “When I was a kid, my father always told me to never get into this industry because it’s especially labor intensive. So he sent me to NJIT so I could ‘use my mind, not my hands.’ But I just fell into the same groove,” he laughed. “There really was no escape.”
Today, the demand for Ferrer’s designs continues to grow. As Brew Watch Co. evolves, Ferrer keeps himself engrossed in all things design—teaching at NJIT in Newark once per week and collaborating with anyone in the industry. Though he has a small office in New York City, he can still be found at his local café, where he loves to spend his time doing, of course, what he does best.
“I see the demand so I’m trying to increase my productivity for more designs per year. But I don’t want Brew to lose its genuine nature, I want everything to be well-designed and have enough time to tell my story for each one. Every collection I work on, it has to have a certain amount of familiarity or nostalgia that pulls someone in—but still have that uniqueness.”
Photography by Jonathan Ferrer