Pala Nusantara: Pride in a Nutmeg


Founders Ilham Pinastiko and Slamet Riyadi have been championing exotic wooden watches for years even when people were still busy looking for sophisticated, status-symbolizing timepieces. Slowly but surely, Ilham and Slamet’s watches created behind the label Pala Nusantara stood out and caught the attention of many.

As Indonesian product designers, Ilham and Slamet are fond in creating things out of the country’s rich natural resources. Pala Nusantara watches are made out of locally sourced wood, and leather, assembled by talented local craftsmen. “The only modern process we go through in making each Pala product is computer numerical control to watch over the precision,” says Ilham. “We leave the majority of the process to the craftsmen, as they are very well experienced in wood and leather processing.”

Pala Nusantara’s watch faces are not fixed to their bands, hence the latter can be used separately as a wristband. It reminds us of children’s watches back in the day. With this system, the watch is more ergonomic as the flat back stays put on the flat surface of our wrist. The big square panel gives the watch a bold and catchy look even without any visible logo. It’s simultaneously a statement piece and a simple accessory that can be paired with any apparel.

In developing their first collection “Jam” (‘watch’ in Indonesian), Ilham and Slamet chose to expose the fine wooden texture and colours. When picking the straps, both designers heed the philosophy of the colours to best represent Indonesia’s rich culture. Dark brown, for instance, represents the humbleness and warmth exhibited by Javanese people. Red represents the bold and lively Torajans, while blue symbolizes the nobility of the Baduy Tribe. All of these straps have exposed stitches that are testaments to them being handmade.

Additionally, Pala also created “Dasi” (‘bow tie’ in Indonesian). The bow ties — all handcrafted — are all made of wood instead of the usual fabric. They go well with formal wear and appear just as spiffy when worn with casual apparels, adding a contemporary yet artistic flair.

When Pala Nusantara first launched their collections, they were showered with compliments from fellow designers and design enthusiasts. The word ‘Pala’ translates to ‘nutmeg’, one of the spices which our Nusantara (nation) is celebrated for. A combination between fine materials and bespoke local craftsmanship has Pala Nusantara in an ideal spot to put forward Indonesia’s contemporary design and handiwork competence. In a nutshell, the designers hope that their “Pala” would be a celebrated wearable form of Indonesian pride.

Like this story, share to your friends
Barbara Hahijary
Barbara earned her bachelor's degree in architecture from the Interior Architecture Program of the University of Indonesia in 2013. Historical or heritage buildings, as well as utilitarian design, fascinates her as it is the interaction between people and architecture that remains her favourite topic to explore. Besides architecture, her interests include design, handcrafts, literature and social issues.