Muji is a globally famous product design company, known for their stunning design-less design. Meaning? Meaning their products are as simple as they get. But don’t think that making design-less products look (and feel) great is easy – on the contrary – it is very difficult. Simplifying the product to a point, where it loses any characteristics that define the designer, but still maintaining the unique “nothingness” is insanely complicated. The only way to make your product stand out of the crowd is by prioritizing details. Every product is crafted to perfection with their proportions, colour palettes and choice of materials, to eliminate any feeling of “cheap, shapeless hunk of squeaky plastic”. Muji is generic on purpose, with purpose.
Imagine an analogue clock. What do you see? A round, white dial, perfectly legible (not stylized) numbers in Helvetica, a short black hour hand, a long black minute hand and a thin second hand. What I have described here is the Muji Round Face watch. This basically what design-less design is – a celebration of a shape that defines the object. The watch is very easy to read: the numbers are very big, very clear. The minute hand is distinctively thinner and longer than the hour hand. The same applies to the second hand.
The easiest way to describe the design would be to say that it’s simple. Simple face, simple strap, simple numbers, simple hands. Muji Round Face comes in three variants: silver, dark gray and black. All of the variants have a white face, with every other component matching the chosen colour. The watch is 34mm in diameter, with an 18mm wrist-band.
The choice of materials are pretty much self-explanatory: anodized aluminium for the housing, slightly rubberised polypropylene wrist-band, transparent glossy glass crystal. Looks and feels sturdy and well made.
Form vs. function.
Muji is one of those design companies that prioritise the function over form. Partly there’s not much design to begin with. Partly that their products are made to be used, not to gather dust in a drawer. The ease of use is incredible, it only requires a glance to read the time. That’s pure function for you.
Good idea, good design, poor execution. I am a proud owner of one of these watches. However, I had my first one replaced after 6 months. The biggest problem of the watch is its band. It’s not durable at all (I’m being nice here). The band started cracking on the inside after the first two months. Eventually the crack in the band creates a pinching sensation when watch moves around, constantly reminding of its existence on your wrist. I always look forward to taking it off after a long day in the office. It’s how I imagine taking off handcuffs would be like. As if I was a prisoner of time (yes pun). I think an aluminium body was a good choice. But it’s nowhere near as hard enough as it should be for this particular design. The bezel of the watch has an thin edge. Guess what happens when you clip a metal clasp on your rucksack? Yes, the thin anodised layer gets damaged and reveals the light gray colour of aluminium below it. After a few months it starts looking like an upside-down bottle cap. After all this, naturally, I wanted to buy another one! Yes, I was prepared to pay the full price again. However, I have been informed I could get it replaced due to the failure of the strap. Happy me. 6 more months later, I’m in the same position I was 12 months ago. The pinching is back. The face looks like the rim of a bicycle wheel. Fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me.
This is the best and the worst watch I’ve ever had. I love it, but I hate it.
All images are original content.