If you’re thinking about getting into watch design, you may be wondering where to start.
In all honesty, designing watches can actually be slightly overwhelming.
But one of the best places to start the process is figuring out what software to use.
Back in the good old days, watch designs were sketched by hand with dimensions and measurements that manufacturers transformed into fully functional machines.
But things are different now.
With the power of computers, we’ve been able to push the world of watch design even further.
From basic design programs for watch faces to CAD/CAM programs to help you imagine the design in 3D space and aid in manufacturing, there is a whole load of programs to pick and choose from.
And in this article, we take a look at the best software for designing watches.
These programs were designed for people of all levels and are great for beginners and those with a bit more experience.
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Where To Start When Choosing A Watch Design Software
It’s important to know when you first start designing watches that you’ll probably be using multiple programs.
This is because there are different programs for designing the watches and for designing the cases.
For designing the cases, designers commonly use CAD/CAM programs (but more on that later).
While the face of the watch is usually conceptualized and designed using graphic design programs that handle bezier curves.
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The Best Programs For Designing Watch Faces
Before diving into specific programs, you first need to understand the most important thing to check for when researching software: bezier curves.
A Bezier curve is a parametric curve used in computer graphics which can be traced back to the 1960s’ when Pierre Bezier used them when designing Renault cars.
In simpler terms, it is basically used to produce curves that are smooth on all scales, that way you can really dive into the intricacies and tiny details in your watch’s face.
Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time to check out some programs that you can use when designing watch faces.
1. Adobe Photoshop
This program is synonymous with modern photo editing, and it’s also one that’s used by a lot of graphic designers all over.
While it’s mostly used to edit photos, it is also very capable of being a quality graphic design software.
On top of that, it also comes in a package that’s hard to refuse.
Aside from the program, you also get access to the Adobe Creative Cloud where you can upload your files to save on disk space and also use unique features such as content-aware cropping and cloud documents.
It also has a user-interface that’s easy to understand and get used to, which makes it an ideal choice for those who are starting out with watch design.
It’s an accessible, easy-to-use, and one that’s packed with features that can be used in graphic design.
-Easy user-interface is ideal for beginners
-Has a lot of 3D design capabilities
-Access to the Adobe Creative Cloud
-Recurring payments for the program may be costly
-Doesn’t have as much support for vectors as compared to other programs
2. CORELDRAW Graphics Suite
Moving on, we have arguably the second-most popular graphics design program out there, the CORELDRAW Graphics Suite.
This suite comes packed with pro-level features that can be used by anyone to create new and innovative designs for watch faces.
CORELDRAW is one of the most popular programs among watch designers as the user-interface is very friendly and easy to navigate, making it easier to do real-time adjustments to certain elements of the design and see how it affects the entire aesthetic.
And if you aren’t entirely happy with the user interface, it’s also fully customizable for you to truly bring your workflow to the next level.
-Works great with illustration tools like the Surface Pen
-Has both desktop and tablet mode that gives you access to touch features
-Has a very user-friendly and fully customizable interface
-Not the ideal choice for beginners
-Doesn’t come with complimentary mobile applications
3. Adobe Illustrator
This is another program from Adobe that’s an integral part of the graphic design world.
Illustrator is one of the most used programs in the industry, and it’s largely because of all its functional features that are designed to help graphic designers work more creatively and efficiently.
The program is very customizable, allowing you to load multiple preset layouts, which can be great when designing a lot of watch faces.
Aside from all that, it also has a user-interface that’s just as accessible as Photoshop’s.
And if you’re familiar with Photoshop, you’ll find a lot of familiar features that can make the shift much easier.
-It generates graphics based on mathematical calculations as opposed to using pixels to store data, which produces sharper and crisper images
-You get access to Adobe Stock where you can use over 90 million different graphics, templates, and vectors
-One of the best vector-based programs out there
-Costs slightly more than other programs
-Uses a lot of computing power
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The Best CAD/CAM Software For Watches
CAD stands for computer-aided design and CAM stands for computer-aided manufacturing.
It’s a fairly modern process that is used by a lot of manufacturers for their products.
It is basically the use of computer software to control machines that are used in making certain products like watches.
Software for this process usually allows you to see a 3D model of the watch you’re designing and make certain tweaks to see how it affects the entire watch.
There are more than a couple of these programs out there that you can use in designing watches, and we take a look at the best ones in this section.
This is one of the most popular Softwares among watch designers and also one of the oldest.
Historically, learning this program involved a pretty steep learning curve. However, the release of Rhino 7 in 2021 made learning the program a bit easier.
It is without a doubt a professional-level CAD software that uses very precise and complex mathematical models that allow you to manipulate curves, surfaces, and solids in a whole variety of ways.
Since it is fairly complicated, this program is best for those with prior experience with CAD software as the transition will be much easier.
This program is packed with features that allow you to design watch cases with ease. Rhino lets you, the designer, work in free form while it translates your vision to a precise model.
-Professional-level design tools
-Comes with great 2D drawing features that allow you to import sketches and quickly come up with ideas
-Available in multiple bundles
-May be difficult to learn
-Prior experience helps!
This is another very professional program that is used by a lot of established designers in the watch design world.
It comes with great features that can be used in designing watches such as reverse engineering and design validation.
As this is a program normally used for industrial objects, it is very detailed and practical.
Another unique feature of this program is the way they process curves, instead of inclining flat surfaces, it uses a system called NURBS.
Without going into the intensive mathematical details, this system basically allows you to create very detailed curves that you can make very specific adjustments to, which is a great plus when designing objects like watch cases.
It may have a steep learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be using one of the most detailed CAD Softwares for designing your watches.
-Allows you to create very detailed curves
-It’s a professional-level software
-User-interface takes a lot of getting used to
-Limited ability to import .STL files
Taking a step down from the more complicated professional-level Softwares, we have this one designed for beginners.
When starting out with CAD, one usually starts with Autodesk, one of the simplest programs out there.
If you have any experience with Autodesk, BlocksCAD is the next best step after that as it is a program designed for those starting out.
You won’t have a lot of options when using this program, which can actually be a good thing when starting out.
It’s a great way to learn the ropes of designing watches with CAD software, and a big plus is you can import the files you make on BlocksCAD to more advanced software when you want to take another step further.
-Easy to learn
-Comes with all the basic design tools
-Is free to use
-Has a limited set of tools
-Can’t be used professionally
So there you have it, all the basic when it comes to software for designing watches.
As you probably know by now, there’s a lot to learn if you’re just starting out with watch design.
But with a little bit of effort, you’ll find that it isn’t as hard as it seems.
There are programs out there designed for absolute beginners to get the hang of things, and there are also ones out there that will allow you to do it professionally.
When choosing a program to use, the most important thing to note is that you have to be comfortable with the program as that will let you learn the ropes easier and also have a better and more efficient workflow.
So now that all the best programs have been laid out for you, the only thing left to do is to figure out which ones you’ll start with and get designing!
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If you’re interested in learning more about the fascinating world of watches and memorable watch designs, take a look at the following guides & articles.
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