Building a watch and jewelry brand in Shapr3D

Front Page DisplayProduct design

Feb 08

Michael was an early user of Shapr3D, and also did one of the earliest purchases. His first activity is dating back to the summer of 2016. He has built a successful Kickstarter campaign since, and now working on his own automatic watch movements, so he doesn’t have to outsource and import it. This is his story.

Emerson and michael Kickstarter
Michael is a self-educated jewelry and watches designer, with some early exposures of design in his student years in a fine art high school in Baltimore, and from his father, who has taught him a “great deal”, as he was a fine arts professor at the University of Maryland.

Early struggles to find the right workflow

He had no formal training in CAD design, so naturally, he started off making engagement rings and watches by hand. After the initial sketches, he partially carved them in wax and cast them. This turned out to be enough only for a short period of time, and he started to experiment with hiring professional CAD artists to make his ideas a reality.

This turned out to be a dead-end, as the artists were both expensive and rarely did they came back with something Michael envisioned. These freelancers worked from Michael’s sketches, so they needed constant input about the precise dimensions, looks. This workflow ended up to be too expensive, as a simple adjustment on a dimension required a new round with the CAD artists.

“There’s nothing like throwing it yourself. You know exactly what you want and you know what changes to make real time.”

So, he tried CAD again and used Matrix, a CAD system developed solely for jewelry design, but it never got to the point, where he ended up with a final design, only a few cuts. The way the system worked was just counter-intuitive and the learning curve was so steep. He would have ended up in thousands of dollars in investments just to get a proto-product and spend another 2-3 months to master it. On top of this, he just hated the mouse, after an hour of work he had to have 30-40 minute breaks just to start working again.

He then turned to his iPad Pro and set out to make it his sole workstation.

After a brief stint with uMake he stumbled upon Shapr3D in the App Store. He liked our promo video and the idea to work with the pencil so he downloaded it. After a week, with the help of the in-app tutorials, he managed to master the app and simply said, Shapr just worked out for him. So much so, that with our latest, 3.0 release he will use only Shapr3D to create his designs:

“Especially thanks to the new update Shapr3D is going to be my primary software for creating my watches and engagement rings. I was planning to buy Rhino and Solidworks along with a Mac,  but I definitely no longer need them.”

His workflow



Before we say anything, Michael’s credo, his design philosophy should speak for itself:

“Love plus skill equals a masterpiece. My desire is to make beautiful things that cause the viewer to fill an emotional void.”

watch sketch

As every designer, he needs to understand the problem first, then he needs to get inspired. Here is how he does it:

“Many of my best designs come from just walking around the city or walking through a jewelry tool supply shop. I get lots of inspiration from nature and also dreams. If I drink a few cups of coffee the design visions come racing in. Complete works. I quickly sketch them out.”


He uses Sketchbook or Procreate to sketch ideas out, then after he is ready he goes to Shapr3D to model them.

3D model watch

He sits down at home, in his favorite chair, and he starts experimenting with different dimensions and ideas until he gets to the desired outcome. Usually, it takes 5-12 hours to come up with a final design.

3d render watch

Prototype / Manufacturing

After finalizing the model in Shapr3D, he goes to Shapeways to have it 3D printed, just to get a general look/feel. With the prototype printed, he can consult with customers and colleagues, to see what they think or if they have any input. At this stage, there is still time to make adjustments.

3d print watch prototype

In case of the watch, the file goes to the CNC milling company he is partnering with, and they take over manufacturing.

CNC milled watch

In case of jewelry, he sends it to the caster to make a cast. After casting and molding, it goes to the workbench to a final polishing and benching. 

Marketing the product

After the product and prototype are ready, comes the marketing. He does a photo shoot, to make the products look great in a real-life environment on the marketing materials.

marketing watch

With the watch he went further, he launched a Kickstarter campaign – his first – to see if there is demand for it. He prepared for the launch the same way anyone would’ve done it:

  • reading best practice articles
  • consulting with friends, who have already done a launch
  • decided on pricing based on other watches on the platform
  • creating a mood video and amazing visuals

emerson and michael watch brand

It turns out there was indeed a demand for the watch, and he doubled the goal he set out to achieve, earning 6.000$ on the first day of the launch. This success meant he has to say goodbye to his one-man band enterprise and start to build a small company, just to meet the demand.


About his iPad Pro

 “hands-down the best purchase I have ever made.”

He started using iPad Pro in 2015.

“Once I saw its capabilities I wanted to see if I could make it my exclusive machine, so far so good. I have two laptops in storage that I have not taken out for several years now.”

He uses his iPad Pro for both work and fun. It’s part of every aspect of his workflow we have covered above

  • Procreate, Sketchbook for sketching
  • Shapr3D for modeling
  • Lumafusion for video editing

He also uses it for his hobby, music production. He has dozens of music apps downloaded and a Cubase for putting together his music.

One of his advice for designers at the beginning of their career is simply to buy an iPad Pro:

“The iPad Pro is the best investment you can make, because it puts hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of software at your fingertips for a minute fraction of the price. If you invest in an iPad you literally have everything that you need to get off of the ground. My advice is to be persistent be hungry trust your creative instincts and work your butt off.”


Michael’s future plans

“I’m launching my own watch company which will feature our own in-house movements rather than purchasing the movements from overseas. Currently, I’m in the process of drawing my own automatic movement directly on Shapr3D which I’ll be debuting this Spring.”

watch movement