The archives of yacht designers GL Watson
by William Brooks
Will Watson’s legacy and current engagement with classic yachts mean that this will always be the firm’s core business? Certainly, there is a great knowledge and skills base in this area and this is invaluable for future projects but for this firm, classics are primarily about quality design and mere antiquity does not in itself justify restoration or contemplating a replica.
Noting the company’s work with existing designs and collaborations with interior designers such and Bannenberg & RowellBannenberg & Rowell and Rémi Tessier, Collier presents another vision of the firm’s strengths.
‘With so many potentially conflicting demands within one project, much of our role is in harmonising these to assist all those contributing design work to achieve coherent and quality solutions. If existing design means that some parameters are in effect crystallized, the challenge is all the greater;’ he says.
‘On classics in particular, much of our design work is in finding elegant solutions to the lack of space and incorporating modern infrastructure. The success of this type of design work is in its invisibility. While this is rewarding in itself, the appeal of a more outwardly visible creative role is self-evident.’
In the future we can expect to see a new generation of Watson designs that will seek to continue the firm’s reputation for excellence and the firm hopes to take on roles that are more comprehensive than solely that of designer. Its on-site presence and detailed project knowledge is a key factor in the Watson approach. Could it extend to a supporting role in the realisation of third-party designs?
‘Certainly, if the quality of the design is there as well as a desire to see a high-quality implementation, there is the possibility of a meaningful contribution of the type the firm welcomes,’ says Collier.
As GL Watson & Co approaches 13 years in the ownership of William Collier and partners it is clear that its strengths lie in a strong knowledge base and a commitment to yachts that spans from the earliest stages through to years of sustained enjoyment.
The range of in-house expertise is surprising, with the firm straddling various aspects of design, project management, owner representation and a wide range of consultancy activities.
Apart from the attention its projects attract, it has also been remarkably low key and this seems to be driven by the nature of the firm’s clients. The Liverpool location is an intriguing one but there is no mystery: walk-in clients are not a feature of the business, Liverpool is a city they like and with two international airports within 40 minutes of the office it is a practical location for a company where two-thirds of the staff are based at shipyard site offices.
Originally published: June 2010.