Kevin Bertolero has a contempt for time.
“How often do you look at a clock, or check the time, and are you happy? said Bertolero. “When was the last time you thought, ‘Oh, sick, it’s 10:30 p.m. Great.’ » »
This is one of the reasons why the 30-something makes watches that don’t tell the time. They’re meant to be worn like a traditional watch, except you won’t see a dial when you check your wrist. Instead, you’ll find a small 3D-printed swimming pool with magnetic duckies and bubbles.
After quitting a stressful job at a plant-based yogurt start-up, Bertolero wanted to engage with his “childhood self.”
He was using all sorts of strategies to overcome childhood trauma at the time.
“I think we’re all traumatized in quiet ways — you can’t not live in modern society, to some degree,” Bertolero said. He said when people’s trauma erupts, they use shopping, socializing or community involvement to ease the discomfort. Bertolero found another option: cute things.
The idea of watches that don’t tell the time came to him in a “sleep state”; a watch as elegant as an Apple Watch, but fun and interactive as Legos.
Little rubber duckies struck him as something undeniably cute. He knew he wanted to make them tiny, because “the smaller something is, the cuter it is. The more people like it.”
Bertolero says the sensory aspect of being able to touch and move the ducks is similar to toys like fidget spinners or slime.
Bortelero said he had always been drawn to art, but had no formal training. He found ways to express himself creatively in his local makerspace, where he learned to 3D print.
He used a friend’s resin 3D printer to print a small pool for the ducks to sit in. He posted the process on TikTok and, to his surprise, the video went viral.
A collaborative design process through TikTok got Bertolero excited, and he ended up incorporating some of his followers’ ideas.
Bertolero said he has sold more than 300 watches that don’t tell the time and is on track to sell 1,200 by the end of the year. They are available on Etsy and its website, watchesthatdonttelltime.com.
As far as Bertolero knows, there is not a genre of watches like his – although there are some products on the market, including terrarium watches and a watch without a dial to tell the time.
“I created these watches because they made my inner child happy,” Bertolero said. He thinks his watches elicit the same reaction from many people.
Crystal Burwell, a licensed professional counselor who works with adults and adolescents, said re-engaging with the inner child brings people back to a place where they can heal themselves with care, and solve a problem in a way treatment is not the same for everyone.
She encourages her patients to embrace their “weird, personalized happiness” with sensory toys like squishy stuffed animals. It can help people reconnect with that part of themselves that they have disengaged from.
Toy designer Whitney Pollett says there’s a demand for simple, comforting toys. Objects that we interact with tactilely and act as an emotional reminder.
Bertolero said: “I think people are at their wit’s end.”
“And you know, it’s nice to have that little reminder on your wrist that there are cute, happy things around you in the world,” he said.