A Conversation with OH no Type Company

OH no is a type foundry based in San Jose, California, founded and run by type designer James Edmonson. We’ve been a fan of their work for years, which can be seen in our use of their font ‘Obviously’, which is peppered throughout our dials and across our identity. 

It was around the time we were getting ready to attend San Francisco’s Wind Up Watch Fair and trying to decide what extra-special-new-product we should make to launch at the show, when we got a message from OH no complimenting our collection. Naturally, we jumped at the chance to collaborate and was thrilled when they were just as excited at the idea as we were.

The dial, housed in our distinctive Modul case, was an open brief to showcase the talent of OH no that we already loved so much. The only direction was to reference Californian design history to tie in with its San Franciscan launch; as a born and bred Californian, James was definitely the right person for the job. 

We asked James a few questions about the design process behind the final product:

What were the main design influences you drew from when designing the dial, and how do they relate to California? 

I'm a big fan of compositions that fill all available space! The “wall of type” strategy often works for me. It was employed to great effect on the psychedelic concert posters from the late ‘60s, a truly unique part of Californian graphic design history. This particular style isn’t remotely psychedelic, so the challenge becomes making a number look expressive while not changing the contrast or weight modulation. Luckily, the Paulin team was okay with me experimenting with proportion and locking everything into a layout that’s a little weird for watches.

60s psychedelic posters by Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoco and Stanley Mouse. 

How did you find designing for a watch dial different from other briefs?

A watch is an entirely different challenge for me—someone who typically works on logotypes and typefaces. It’s something I might only glance at quickly, but I hope that there are also small details in the positive and negative space relationships that can be appreciated for those who will continue to look at it. It’s also weird for me to think about something being colourful. Even this time, I played around with colour a bit; I firmly trusted the Paulin designers to make the final call. Seeing the end result is really fun! I had no idea how it would all come together, and I love it.

 Some of James's initial sketches

What challenges did you have to confront? Anything surprising?

I was surprised that there would be five different ‘1’s. I had never noticed that all watches and clocks have five ones on them! The challenge here was getting all five ones to be similar enough that they match but different enough that they don’t look like I lazily copied and pasted them. It was tricky to fit everything together like a puzzle while keeping an even texture across the dial. Ultimately, that is my job, so I should be more comfortable with it by now!


This limited edition collection – available in three colours, two sizes and with either a quartz or automatic movement – is available to pre-order via our shop. To learn more about OH no and explore their catalogue, check out their website! For the typographers and type fans amongst you, we’d also recommend their research-packed blog and podcast.