What is a watch microbrand anyway?
A definition is an excellent place to start. Microbrands are cropping up all over. Consider for example,
- Craft beer establishments
- Independent jewelry makers
- Custom knives
- Bespoke suit tailors
- Bespoke motorcycle builders
- Swiss watches
Definition: A microbrand is a company that manufactures small numbers of premium products. They typically sell direct to consumers and offer prices well below what the big brands charge.
To sum up a microbrand’s characteristics, they:
- Focus on premium products
- Offer unique designs
- Sell in smaller quantities, often limited editions
- Appeal to people seeking a unique product
- Sell direct-to-consumer, typically online
- Strive to build direct relationships with their customers
- Often provide superior customer support
- Charge less
Why is there a need for microbrand watch companies?
The big name watch companies use an old-fashioned way of doing business. Using this model, they:
- Pump out stale, blah, boring designs
- Spend lots of money on celebrity endorsements to convince you to buy
- Mark the watch up six times before it reaches the retailer
And, how does this business model work? Premium Swiss watches are priced out of reach for most people.
For hundreds of years, this has been the case. Watch freaks, collectors, enthusiasts, and people who want a Swiss watch have been held captive, forced to pay the big price or do without. There were no alternatives.
Until now. Microbrands are tearing down these walls and stirring things up. You might call them iconoclasts.
Financing a watch microbrand
A logical question is, “How does a microbrand get money to operate?” Banks aren’t interested. They are risk averse and prefer safer investments in “stodgy,” but established companies. The growth of crowdfunding has unleashed the power of microbrands. And, what better approach for a company looking to break the old way of doing business than to use the new way of raising capital?
With a microbrand, the old advertising slogan, “We cut out the middleman and pass the savings on to you,” is right for once.
Watch quality versus status symbol
A big reason people buy a big name watch is that it is a status symbol. Like the way they market or not, the big players have done a great job positioning themselves as a luxury, status item. If you are going for status, you are better off with a name brand watch.
On the other hand, microbrands replace status with exclusivity and quality. Microbrands frequently offer value and quality equal to or better than the status symbol watches. The goal is to give more people access to these quality timepieces.
Watches designed, built, and sold by microbrand and big brands frequently share the following characteristics:
- 316L stainless steel cases and bracelets
- Sapphire crystals
- Hand assembly and finishing
- Quality Swiss movements
Who builds watch microbrands?
Small teams of young, passionate watch enthusiasts typify the people who form watch microbrands. These are individuals who have found a lack of watches to suit their needs, taste, and budgets. This combination of needs and desires drives innovation, producing unique, high quality, and eye-catching designs.
Replacing blah watches that cost as much as a car is why some microbrands have made it a mission to change the possibilities for their fellow collectors and enthusiasts.
What to look out for when purchasing from a watch microbrand
Jumping on an appealing microbrand comes with some risks. Not all crowdfunding campaigns end up delivering the promised watches (or other products). Some companies are unscrupulous and never intend to meet campaign commitments.
Saying this, remember that many successful microbrands started on crowdfunding sites. The best advice to manage this risk is to do your homework.
To make it a little easier, here are a few basic pointers for what to look for:
- Where is the movement from? A cheaply made movement is likely from China. And although not always the case, it's often one of the first red flags that final quality may be unacceptable.
- Look for labels and specifications that say Swiss Movement. One of the main reasons for buying from a microbrand is to access genuine Swiss movements affordably.
- Where is this watch assembled? Read between the lines, as companies go to great lengths to disguise that their watches were in fact, made in China. Often, creative marketing and wording such as 'designed in...', is used which says nothing about where its produced. If it doesn’t say “Swiss Made,” it isn’t made in Switzerland.
- Whether or not a company is new or has a track record is a useful indicator. Just keep in mind that every microbrand was a new company at one time. Research the company as much as possible.
- When becoming part of a crowdfunding campaign, research the crowdfunding company itself. Established ones like Kickstarter and Indiegogo do a pretty good job weeding out the bad guys. If you’ve never heard of the crowdfunding site, proceed carefully.
Understand how the strap is attached. Such advice may sound trivial, but a funky, edgy design might involve a one-of-a-kind strap attachment. Straps eventually wear out. If you cannot find a replacement, your wristwatch just became a pocket watch.
Microbrands are changing how people buy premium watches
The emergence of microbrands has changed the premium watch landscape as far as the majority of watch collectors and enthusiasts are concerned. This heretofore underserved majority can finally acquire high quality, limited edition, Swiss Made timepieces at prices they can afford. Buyers in this market just need to proceed with caution and look before they leap.