Are children being taught how to tell time?
Neil Ferrier, a father of two, thought not, and that was why he created Blok Watches. Its first wristwatch, a 33-millimeter timepiece called the Blok 33 that was introduced in March, has a patent-pending rotating bezel engraved to indicate 5-, 10-, 15- and 30-minute blocks of time, a design detail that inspired the brand’s name.
“It teaches kids how to read analog time, and also how to appreciate time,” Mr. Ferrier, who also founded the industrial design firm Discommon, said in a call from his home in Greenville, S.C.
Once children see time pass on the watch face, they would know what, for example, 15 minutes represents, Mr. Ferrier said. “We’re not born with an intuitive understanding of the passage of time,” he said. “When you give a child these blocks of time, this ability to see time pass, you’re giving a sense of control.”
Some industry observers have said that children have difficulty connecting with traditional watches. “Analog timekeeping is positively ancient to children,” said James Lamdin, the vice president of vintage and pre-owned timepieces for the retail chain Watches of Switzerland. “Kids today are immersed in digital technology. Everything is touch-screen.”
Mr. Ferrier credited his family — his wife, Megan; daughter, Isla, 7; and son, Lennox, 5 — with inspiring him to create Blok. One co-founder, James Walker, is an investor, but another co-founder, Oliver Fowles, is no longer involved with the company.
“Megan complained about the lack of accessories for boys,” Mr. Ferrier said. But there are watches — a fact he knows well, given his own collection of TAG Heuers. “Lennox was fascinated with my watch collection,” he said. “Blok is an ode to him.”
There are other watches designed for children, but Mr. Lamdin said Blok was different, because it was designed to teach children analog timekeeping in an analog way — and to understand the passage of time.
“This is new territory, as there haven’t been any other purpose-built children’s watches designed to do that,” he wrote in a later email. “There are other tools to help children learn geography, spatial awareness, colors and language. Blok is the first informational, educational wristwatch designed to impart children with a deeper understanding as to how time affects them and the world around them.”
The design approach was also distinctive, Mr. Ferrier said. “Why do kids’ watches have to treat kids like kids?” he asked. “They’re all cutesy and frilly and bubble gum colors.”
In contrast, he said, Blok 33’s six variations come in more sophisticated shades: “Our pink is not just fairy princess pink, but a fuchsia, like Valentino. Our aqua is a nod to Tiffany’s. We have a black, a white and a navy blue, like a Rolex GMT blue. And there is a real pretty yellow that’s a hair over to the color of mango.”
The watch has a quartz movement made by ETA, with a battery life of as long as 10 years, a scratch-proof sapphire crystal lens, a stainless steel screw-down crown that is waterproof to 100 meters (almost 330 feet), an adjustable strap in vegan leather with a Velcro close, and a two-year warranty. It is sold only online, from the Blok website.
Ronda Time Center, in Switzerland, assembles the timepieces. “We were contacted by Blok Watches in 2019 and were allowed to accompany the project comprehensively, be it with advice for movements, technical support and assembly,” the company’s managing director, Felix Rudin, wrote in an email. “The assembly is in many respects identical to conventional watches for adults made of steel.”
And so, some might say, is the price: $179. “Kids’ stuff is expected to get broken, expected to get lost,” Mr. Ferrier said. “But kids don’t expect to break or lose a thing, they can relish the challenge to protect a thing. This is your first watch.”
In fact, spending on high-end goods for children is expected to keep growing, with the market data company Statista projecting that global sales of children’s wear will reach $237.8 billion this year.
“I see firsthand a lot of watch-obsessed folks buying watches for their kids because it is fun to share their passion (and a nice excuse to buy yet another watch),” Nora Taylor, deputy editor of the online watch platform Hodinkee, wrote in an email. “I know plenty of people who grab watches for their kids because they want them to practice caring for something of value, or to develop a sense of time.”
Who would buy Blok? “People who consider their purchases,” Mr. Ferrier said. “They don’t buy the cheapest sneakers possible because they want their kids to have good shoes. They buy sustainable.”
Besides, he noted, “A kid can hand it down to their younger brother.”