Photography by Mr Philip Sinden

As the principal watch designer for TAG Heuer, Mr Behling has been instrumental in conceiving some of the most forward-thinking watch designs in the last few years. Aside from concepts for luxury horology, he is also a dedicated advocate of solar energy. In 2006 he founded his London-based sustainable design consultancy, SolarLab, with the aim "to make solar power a viable option in the modern world". Here, he takes us through some of the talking points in his utilitarian workspace.

Why did you choose this office space?
Portobello [West London] is a very human, very eclectic area; I enjoy walking out and not knowing what I'm going to see or meet. The studio is open-plan with lots of natural light and overlooks one of my favourite buildings, Trellick Tower, designed by Ernö Goldfinger. Apparently the James Bond author Ian Fleming wasn't a fan, which is why he named his baddy after the architect.
How did your relationship with TAG Heuer come about?
I started designing watches for TAG six years ago, after working on the brands eyewear for some time. It was my first watch project. I actually think my lack of experience in the area was beneficial: it gave me a fresh, novel perspective and it made me quite ballsy with my concepts. Now, 95 per cent of the current collection is designed here in this office.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
We try not to have a look as such. We'd rather let objects become what they want to be. For example when we started designing our solar boat we had two references; one was a picture of a satellite and the other was of an image of a boat the Kennedys used in New England. The design we reached for our SolarShuttle was somewhere between these two.

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What is the challenge for designers these days?
To create designs that will last. When you go into factories today and see how much work is put into even the simplest of designs, it seems an absolute sin to conceive of throwing it away. It's our challenge to design something that will excite us and then continue to excite us.
What does it take to be a good watch designer?
Fascination. You need to have a fascination with the mechanical side of watches and a fascination for the scientific, abstract notion of time. My father was a scientist, associated with the abstract, and my mother was a sculptor, so was more on the real, physical side. My personality falls between these two elements.
Which three TAG watches should men aspire to own?
The Grand Carrera Calibre 36: It's a very true representation of our time and the very first chronograph to display the 1/10th of a second. It looks slightly abstract but everything is there for a reason. I believe it will become an eccentric classic.

Carrera 1887: There's a contemporary connection to the past that TAG Heuer haven't really had before and the Carrera 1887 is a 1964 design that's been carefully adapted. It's a very timeless, very well-balanced product.

Mikrotimer Flying 1000 Concept Chronograph: This is a concept watch we presented at this year's watch fair in Basle. It's a real feat as it displays 1/1000th of a second with a mechanical movement. You could argue about the use of measuring 1/1000th of a second, but it's one of those historic achievements that invokes a degree of awe when you come into contact with it and see the unbelievable speed of its hands moving.
What other forms of product do you design?
We design a lot of mobile phones here. I worked for several years with Nokia but got frustrated with the culture where designers build redundancies into the products because they only want people to use them for a year and then upgrade. I prefer to design objects that last.
Finally, as a solar-focused company you seem quite sustainability-aware. How does TAG fit into that manifesto?
Perhaps a little unintentionally, TAG is a very green company. If you look at a watch, it's locally produced, with a minimum amount of resources, can be repaired anywhere around the world, doesn't use a battery but instead uses waste energy from your body, and has a value that increases rather than decreases. You will find it difficult to find a product that is as sustainable. Anybody that manages to create sustainable products that are also exciting and aspirational is a pretty impressive feat.
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