Klasern Watches founder and Saigon-native Tuan Hoang is a cross-platform designer with experience in web development, and graphic and product design, who’s been working to change perceptions of what Vietnamese design is today. He’s formerly in-house designer and photographer for one of our close partners, District Eight—another Vietnam-based company who pride themselves on creating handcrafted furnishings that reflect the raw, bold character of Saigon.
Inspired by minimalist Scandinavian design and the philosophies of Germany’s Bauhaus Movement, Tuan recently launched his own brand, Klasern Watches, a line of products driven by his desire to blend the classic with the modern. It’s an amalgamation he finds reminiscent of the city of Saigon itself.
Always on the hunt for stories about the new, emerging Vietnam, we reached out to the local designer and Klasern founder. We wanted to learn how he’s working to help establish Vietnam as a country capable of producing items crafted to world-class standards—a reputation that is just beginning to blossom.
Kickstarting Klasern Watches
Behind the launch of Klasern Watches was a targeted Kickstarter campaign. “I feel everything pitched on Kickstarter must have a clear goal or end product. Ours was to make classic, timeless watches that are also modern products (which is where we got the portmanteau name Klasern) conceived and crafted in Vietnam but worn around the world. For us, it was not only to raise the money we needed, but to also receive support and feedback from our local community,” says Tuan. “Part of the reward for us was the chance to share our ideas with the people here.”
Besides helping to gather feedback, Kickstarter offered an introduction point to the fledgling company for people in Vietnam who share the brand’s interest in the development of Vietnam’s design industry, and strengthening Vietnam’s position as a global brand. “So for us, launching a Kickstarter campaign was the perfect way to complete our project while simultaneously introducing our brand to local investors,” Tuan adds.
The power of prototyping
“Klasern Watches is built around a focus on quality, aesthetics, and affordability. And these three principles help to shape not only our products but the brand as a whole.” For Klasern, the intense prototyping process can take up to one-year. Tuan’s team employs state-of-the-art technology like 3D printing and CNC milling—a form of computer-controlled drilling and cutting. For example, during the development of the watches’ casings, Klasern employs a CNC machine for rapid prototyping by milling from a solid block of stainless steel, ensuring a precisely made product.
”We take the process of prototyping very seriously. By carefully researching and iterating our designs, methods, and materials, we’re able to guarantee that Klasern Watches meet international standards,” Tuan continues.
Klasern’s modern Vietnamese design philosophy
Vietnam is a country in the process of reinventing itself. And as key players like Rice Creative and District Eight continue to elevate the country’s presence on the global design stage, Vietnamese identity looks set to enter the global spotlight. ”Now, we have brands like Maison Marou who are really fostering Vietnam’s sense of individuality, and as a result, the perception of what it means to be a Vietnamese brand is evolving,” Tuan reflects.
“I have witnessed a new wave of creativity over the past few years and young Vietnamese designers are really starting to push innovation,” Tuan continues. “Saigon itself is a place with features that are both classic and modern. We want our designs to incorporate the idea of timelessness, but also compliment modern characteristics like functionality and simplicity. To me, these are some of the recurring themes beginning to emerge from Vietnamese designers, especially those coming out of Saigon.”
Putting the pieces together
“We want to position Saigon as an industry leader in high-quality retail craftsmanship. In the past, Vietnam has been viewed as a place for cheap labor and mass-produced, low-quality items, but this simply isn’t true anymore. Vietnam is full of talented craftspeople and we are capable of producing a wide range of products that meet and even exceed international expectations,” Tuan says.
Klasern Watches is a branch of the Saigon-based multi-disciplinary design studio, Nogias. After leaving his previous position Tuan and his partner started the studio—which is focused on graphic design and web development.
The studio also has a furniture production department, which doubles as the production and assembly house for Klasern Watches. This is where all the components, including the Swiss-made quartz movement, sapphire-enhanced glass, three-layer dials, and buckle are put together. “Doing all the production in-house is the only way we can successfully control quality,” he says. “And our partner companies maintain CE (European Conformity) and RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) standards as well—so we simply have to conform, and preferably exceed, international health, safety, and environmental protection protocols.”
Looking into the future
A handful of Vietnamese brands have already begun to penetrate international markets across the world. Take Pasteur Street Brewing Company for example—their award-winning brews are already available in outlets across the United States. Then there’s Copper Cow Coffee, a Vietnamese pour-over brew that will be hitting Walmart’s shelves in the near future. Now, Klasern Watches look like becoming another name to add to the list.