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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'd like to ask the members of this forum for some advice. I have been exploring the idea of launching my own line of automatic chronographs using the ST1940 (TY2940) movement from Seagull. I'm hoping to start selling in early 2013. Pricing is still TBD, but will almost certainly be less than $500 USD. I'm thinking $475. Specs will include anti-reflective mineral glass, transparent caseback, 10 ATM / 100M WR, leather straps with deployment clasps, diving bezels, luminescent markers and one year warranty. Styling will be classic casual/sporty - good for wearing to the office on casual Friday and/or as an everyday watch.

We will not be trying to imply some vaguely Germanic heritage with the brand, but rather be very up front about the watches being just what they are - reliable and attractive yet affordable. I'm curious what you'd say "the market will bear" for the final product. Daily searches online don't seem to turn up much competition selling for much less than $500, but I'd like to ask for others to weigh in here with their thoughts. Do you think $475 USD is outrageous considering it's a start-up brand using Chinese components and assembly (albeit from an OEM factory with a good reputation)? I see watches with the same movements selling in the $600-$800 range, sometimes more.

Thanks in advance for your opinions!
 

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Unless you have a killer design, I personally think that price point of $500 is ambitious for a new brand with no reputation or track record.

You are the second person in the last few weeks that I have seen in these forums wanting to start their own brand, using a chronograph as the first model... I can't help but think would it not be wiser to start with a basic three hander.. It's probably cheaper to produce, and hence you can sell at a lower price... Lower prices will probably get you some customers willing to take a chance on a new brand..and from there build up some form of reputation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Unless you have a killer design, I personally think that price point of $500 is ambitious for a new brand with no reputation or track record.

You are the second person in the last few weeks that I have seen in these forums wanting to start their own brand, using a chronograph as the first model... I can't help but think would it not be wiser to start with a basic three hander.. It's probably cheaper to produce, and hence you can sell at a lower price... Lower prices will probably get you some customers willing to take a chance on a new brand..and from there build up some form of reputation.
I wonder if you just didn't see me mention it elsewhere? I've been a member here for a few months, but gotten more active the last week or two as the launch gets closer, and I've mentioned it in a few other posts. I also posted this same question over in the affordable watch forum (https://www.watchuseek.com/f71/new-...ng-opinions-pricing-788048-3.html#post5750523), where a long thread has developed, and some comments similar to yours have been made.

The $500 point is a ceiling I'm trying to stay under (preferably with retail pricing no higher than $475 on eBay, and $450 on my site). Ambitious? Perhaps, but that's the nature of any new business, isn't it? Everyone has to start somewhere. I made a strategic decision to start with a very limited production run of auto-chronos for a number of economic reasons I won't get into.

As for the design - and this is just my opinion - there are many examples of "killer designs" on the market which are truly awful. I think most people actually prefer a design that isn't so "out there." There's a lot of marketing science to back me up on this (trust me) - people tend to gravitate towards the familiar, not the unfamiliar. The designs will be original (in the sense that they're not copies of another watch), but at the same time they'll have very familiar cues, what I would call a "classic look" - meaning the buyer won't regret the purchase a few years from now (try saying that about those acid-washed jeans).
 

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With regards to the 'killer design', I was not using that term to give indication as to how you should design your watch, rather it was an indication that your design needs to be very appealing to your target audience... Perhaps to word it better I should have used 'appealing design'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
With regards to the 'killer design', I was not using that term to give indication as to how you should design your watch, rather it was an indication that your design needs to be very appealing to your target audience... Perhaps to word it better I should have used 'appealing design'.
I didn't mean any offense. I hope none was taken. I took it to mean very appealing, but what is very appealing? Watch design isn't like other products - a watch dial is a small space and things go where they go - no one wants the 12 at 3. The Invicta Coalition Forces Trigger is an original design. They may have thought it was killer pre-production, but to me it's a ridiculous looking contraption. The point I was making is that with watches especially, appealing might mean familiar, but somehow original, which is tough to pull off, but that's the target I've been aiming for.

To be fair, I asked here and elsewhere for forum members to give their opinions about the pricing. I should have been more specific in that what I wanted was a number based on the specs. Generally what I've gotten is a lot of commenta about what the specs ought to be or what market niche I ought to target, which are all valid opinions - as far as they can be supported - but not really what I asked. Just the same, I'm considering them.

As an entrepreneur, the inherent danger in doing anything different or new is that there will be no shortage of people who want to convince you to do something else.
 

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As an entrepreneur, the inherent danger in doing anything different or new is that there will be no shortage of people who want to convince you to do something else.
As a case in point; just look at Prometheus watches. They had a rough start; a lot of which was this very opposition you speak of. But they have been able to rise above the adversity because, like you, the entrepreneur had a vision.
I think you vision is a lot more clear than theirs was though; so success should be that much easier to achieve.

Here's wishing you luck with the venture and adventure :-!
 

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I'd like to ask the members of this forum for some advice. I have been exploring the idea of launching my own line of automatic chronographs using the ST1940 (TY2940) movement from Seagull. I'm hoping to start selling in early 2013. Pricing is still TBD, but will almost certainly be less than $500 USD. I'm thinking $475. Specs will include anti-reflective mineral glass, transparent caseback, 10 ATM / 100M WR, leather straps with deployment clasps, diving bezels, luminescent markers and one year warranty. Styling will be classic casual/sporty - good for wearing to the office on casual Friday and/or as an everyday watch.
The suggested price seems fair for the specification.

Whether or not buyers will be willing to pay that on an unknown brand is an entirely separate question. If this is the kind of watch with which you intend to launch your brand, then this is the price it will be. Not worth making a crushing loss just to get your name out there. I agree that $500 could be considered a psychological ceiling for some buyers that would be worth aiming below. (Please bear in mind that I have very little instinct for marketing)
 

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Whereas I am a product marketing veteran in a certain category of luxury products. :)

Your pricing should first be dictated by your costs. Seems obvious, but many are willing to take a loss hoping to make it back later on through economy of scale or higher prices. But neither is particularly wise, because the "economy of scale" argument assumes you have the financial reserves to weather the storm, and most entrepreneurs do not. Higher prices is a definite no-no, because it is very difficult to move consumers to a higher pricepoint after you have psychologically trained them to expect a certain value, e.g. your $400-500. So, in short on that topic, keep the volume limited and assure that you can turn a profit on what you do sell.

Okay, now you're at $500 or so. What's in this field? One of the big ones that comes to mind is Christopher Ward. They have the C60 Trident, which regularly dips below its $550 MSRP on sale. This watch offers:


  • A 28.8k high-beat movement (ETA 2824-2 or Sellita SW200-1), which will be viewed with more prestige than the comparable high-beat Sea-Gull, the ST18.
  • Anti-reflective sapphire crystal.
  • 316L stainless steel.
  • Super-luminova lume, the brightest possible hand/index lume.
  • Butterfly clasp on real leather.
  • 30ATM/1000ft depth.

That's extremely stiff competition, don't you think? An established brand towing Swiss prestige and premium materials in its wake. So, what can you offer that Chr. Ward can't? Not materials, not price, not prestige. So the only choice left is a differentiated product.

I would argue that the market has a glut of diver-style watches in the $350-500 price band. Hell, virtually every price segment is flooded with these watches: mushrooms, Parnis/Minorva/Tao/Alpha, then Invicta/Swiss Legend, then Orient, and so on up the price chain. Quality divers are the salt of the earth (with all due respect to the Datejust and Seamaster owners in the house).

What I feel the market is sorely lacking--and please don't take this to mean that you should do an homage--is an affordable Longines Master Collection, Breguet Classique or Patek Complications sort of watch. Stuhrling, Breytenbach and Ingersoll often attempt to play that game, but everyone with $500 to burn on a watch knows their history is ********. That leaves more reputable brands like Tissot, Citizen, Bulova, Breitling or Hamilton, and I'm telling you there ain't a white dial with some blued steel hands in sight.

Once you've burned through a Sea-Gull or a Shanghai or two, the field thins considerably above $300. China has no answer to this price band with this type of design, and you could be the one to fill it. Bring real complications to the west: perpetual calendars, moonphase, power reserve and what have you. Make a nice watch that can take a little rain or a hand washing without rolling over and croaking. Give it sapphire and 316L, don't skimp on the band.

Someone else on this forum is pursuing the dress watch route, with total transparency: "proudly made in China," he says. And people are lining up to buy, because he's targeting a similar price to you with premium components and an honest history. There's room in that town for the both of you, because his designs are quite ascetic... maybe you're the one that offers a little more. ;)

My 2 cents and the very best of luck to you.

//EDIT: As an aside, I don't understand the fascination with chronographs. They're horologically complicated and interesting, but I'm hard-pressed to believe everyone has an urgent need to run around and time everything. "Ahah!" they opine excitedly. "Today I will use my CHRONOGRAPH to time the 3:00 it takes to nuke my mac'n'cheese in the microwave!" Practically speaking, I find it quite useless.
 

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This. There is no affordable watch based on the Sea-Gull ST25 moonphase movement that has premium materials or doesn't sport a mushroom. The only one worth owning was the 2011 forum watch but that one was extremely limited. I'd still kill a puppy for this one. And I'm a vegetarian. Go figure. ;)

wuswatch_face2.jpg

Just look around, most of the watches out there that use this movement are mushroom or ugly. :) There is a big hole where a premium Sea-Gull moonphase could be.
 

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//EDIT: As an aside, I don't understand the fascination with chronographs. They're horologically complicated and interesting, but I'm hard-pressed to believe everyone has an urgent need to run around and time everything. "Ahah!" they opine excitedly. "Today I will use my CHRONOGRAPH to time the 3:00 it takes to nuke my mac'n'cheese in the microwave!" Practically speaking, I find it quite useless.
I use my chronograph every day at work but I imagine it's quite rare that someone would (it involves billing clients for my time down to the minute).

That's why the a three subdial chronograph is more appealing to me than a 2 subdial one as unfortunately sometimes 30 minutes isn't going to cut it for the amount of time I need to keep track of.

Still love my 1963 though, just don't wear it as often as I would if it were a triple subdial watch.
 

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What about doing a good quality mid-priced (less than $500) Regulator. You've got Minorva and PerpetuaL (and a Stuhrling?) - and then a BIG leap up to 'premium' brands.
 

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Actually, I wish to be quite encouraging on this topic. The various technical must haves have been discussed ad nauseum, but there're a few design should haves that you need to consider if you be in the running to sell a chronograph to someone like me:

- Exhibition glass back (let's see that ST19 movement)
- ca. 43mm case size, because that's the fashion these days
- 316 stainless steel case
- Decent leather strap (i.e. minimum 4mm thick) with you logo or brand repeated on the buckle
- Optional but decent steel bracelet (multilink)
- Optional black PVD case coating
- 5 ATM (and warranty to back it up)
- Super-luminova (C3, C1 or something towards the brighter end)
- and yes, the bloody sapphire

Here are the options for the overall design, and I think you might want to read this a couple of times because it's what everyone is telling you, but spelled out in chunkier crayon, Capucho style:

- A Chinese manufacturered "western style" chronograph watch is already being done well and cheaply (less than $200) by the likes of Alpha. So there's a benchmark. So I simply can't imagine what you can add for the extra $300. Going by the cost breakdowns given in the various Forum Project Watch threads, the sapphire, 5 ATM and the decent leather strap, that the likes of Alpha doesn't include, all together comes to about $75. So I'd be paying you the extra $200-$250 because I like the colour of your eyes. Or for that killer design that leaves me so breathless that I can't live without it. Hmm, maybe because of that.

- A Chinese manufactured "Chinese style" chronograph could be more interesting, I think, and you only have to look at the interest in monsieurxu's watch launch that this may be the better way to go commercially. But do you have the background, vision and passion for all things Chinese to go this route? And if Mr Thomas can sell me a 42mm 1963 Chronograph for $200 then why should I come to you for a $500 watch?

- Then I guess we have the homage route, but I can't imagine there's a homage that anyone's willing to pay more than $200 for.

- Lastly, why not use China simply as a manufacturing base for a totally new and fresh watch design to your tastes and passion? Yep, the technology and materials are Chinese but who cares? It's the overall product that matters, regardless of source. The majority of branded tech goods these days are sourced from China, but no one's examining the components of their flat screen TVs for country of origin. Well, then a new problem arises because for $200 there's a bevy of established brands, the majority of which are clothing label designer brands who produce watches that sit next to the counter in the boutique retail outlets next to cufflinks, jewellery, sunglasses, purses and wallets.

So what's left? Well how about making that price point more realistic. I'm sure you have college fees to pay for, and also working on the deposit for the Ferrari, but the facts are that without an established brand the general public won't give you $500 for a watch, and most WIS's are too aware of the technical and material content to give you $500 for $250 worth of content.

So there's the bottom line. Reduce your price point to less than $300. And follow your dream and launch your brand. Do it. A few years of hard work, mistakes, raised and dashed hopes, and that magical satisfaction of having your own business and following your own star, and then you'll have your brand and business up and going and then you can start thinking about a more expensive product, and yes, of that Ferrari. Why should it be any easier for you?

Ric
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Wow. I go away for a few days...first off, thank you, to all of you for your comments. This is much more constructive than a sapphire vs. mineral debate. I literally just got back from the weekend and have only had enough time to read through these quickly, but I plan to take some time and go through them more thoroughly (and learn what some of you are talking about, since you know a lot more than I do). I sincerely appreciate the encouragement and thoughtful responses. I may PM some of you for some explanation if I need it, and I may respond here with more detail, but to sum up:

Is the $$ too high for an unknown brand? I'd be more concerned if I was having 500 or 1000 made. The first production run will be much, much smaller - limiting my financial risk - and so I won't need as many people to step up and buy. That $500 price point (and especially $550 and up) is where I see the "reasonable alternatives" start coming in - mostly Invictas with Sellita or Seiko 3-Registers and Date functions (plus those CWs, Magrettes, and the odd Tissot), so it's more than a ceiling for me, it's a battle royal. $475 on eBay or $450 on my own site is really the upper end of what I think is reasonable (and fair) for the specs (which may include sapphire rather than mineral, and will definitely be 100M WR), and plausible for an unknown brand - and no, I'm not selling at a loss with the intent to raise price later on. The price is a function of my cost, as well as what I see competitors selling for and what I believe the market is saying it can bear. We'll see.

Why a chrono? People like 'em. I know I do, even though I rarely use that function. People pay to put rear spoilers on front drive cars with 120hp. Lots of people buy chronos and divers for the look, even though they really don't need that much in a watch. Based on what I see in the market, as well as the numerous "affordable auto chrono" threads on WUS, I think there's enough market demand for a quality, sporty auto-chrono under $500. Also, it somewhat relates to the "economies of scale" point (even though I'm producing in small numbers) - there are economic advantages to selling at a higher price point (a box costs what it costs, as does shipping, regardless of the watch price), and a chrono can justify a higher cost.

If the line takes off I'll add other styles. It's way premature at this point, but I can envision going up-market (maybe with a Swiss movement) as well as broadening the mix of styles/specs at the lower end (but no real interest yet in going much lower than $400). I've already gotten requests for a "true" diver, and I'll have to take a closer look at the styles mentioned here. When you see the brand, you'll understand why I say a dress watch may not fly, but nothing is "off the table" at this point.

Again, sincere thanks for all the responses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
What I feel the market is sorely lacking--and please don't take this to mean that you should do an homage--is an affordable Longines Master Collection, Breguet Classique or Patek Complications sort of watch. Stuhrling, Breytenbach and Ingersoll often attempt to play that game, but everyone with $500 to burn on a watch knows their history is ********. That leaves more reputable brands like Tissot, Citizen, Bulova, Breitling or Hamilton, and I'm telling you there ain't a white dial with some blued steel hands in sight.
There's a blog by a gentleman who calls himself "The Watch Snob." It's very well-written, by someone who not only has an exhaustive knowledge of horological history and design, but is also possessed of a scathing wit. I love reading it, but he's so not talking to me, except when he tells people to save their money rather than spend $1k-$3k on a new Swiss watch and buy vintage, which I would do. I know you're not him, because I think his head would explode if he knew there was such a thing as microwave mac'n'cheese. But those are the types of watches he seems to like - elegant dress watches with subtle design nuances and lofty prices. To me, it's like discussing Vintage Dusenbergs or New Bugattis - neither of which could I afford, and even if I could, it's not really what I would go for. Now, talk to me about a 289 AC Cobra, a 63 or 67 Stingray, a 70's Hemi 'Cuda, or even a late '70's Daytona Spider (Ferrari, not Dodge), and I'm all ears (BTW - ever notice the best cars ever made all have animal names? And the more dangerous the animal the more likely I am to lust after the car). I'm guessing that if you're into that sort of thing, those are nice looking watches, but since I'm not, I wouldn't know enough to do justice to one. I gotta stay true to my gut - always. I like the idea of a rugged/sporty/casual yet good-looking, reliable and affordable auto-chrono. It's what I'm into, so it's what I'll do. Next will probably be a diving watch or some military-type designs.

Now, if the stars align and I make stupid, obscene amounts of money with this new venture, then perhaps I'll have people working for me who know enough to pull that sort of thing off. Perhaps you'll be available and willing to step up as head of marketing for my new luxury brand? You seem to know your ass from your elbow, which is more than I can say for a lot of people who've tried to tell me about marketing (and the watch market).
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
There is no affordable watch based on the Sea-Gull ST25 moonphase movement that has premium materials or doesn't sport a mushroom.
I had to Google it the first time I heard the term "Mushroom" in this context...startup, sells online, vaguely European sounding name with whiffs of deep horological heritage in the perfume, deceptive marketing, produced in Asia with cheap quality...

If it wasn't for the sleazy marketing tactics (even the established brands use the "80% off!" ploy), I'd say the watch freaks were too hard on these companies. I'm a startup, and I don't have any plans to take the retail storefronts (or mall kiosks) by storm, there just isn't any margin in it, so we'll be online only unless someone wants to place a large wholesale order. I don't plan to either highlight or hide the origin of the components or their place of assembly.

I've got a dark sense of humor. I take whatever I do very seriously, but I don't take myself all that seriously. The name and logo are a play on words with a story behind them, one which I probably won't tell but people will probably figure out and will likely resonate with them. The brand image I hope to convey will be honest, a bit tongue-in-cheek in attitude, and if it's a stick in the eye for some of my competitors, good. Since I started exploring the idea of doing this I can't tell you how many times it's been suggested to me that I compromise on the vision I have. I can't do it. The quality will be a value at the price asked.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
What about doing a good quality mid-priced (less than $500) Regulator. You've got Minorva and PerpetuaL (and a Stuhrling?) - and then a BIG leap up to 'premium' brands.
If I had $100 for every person who wanted me to make something they were into I'd have enough for the deposit on the first production run, so you're in good company. I actually had to look up what Regulators were (I got outed in another thread when I confused a day/night dial with a moonphase). Even though I'm not sure I would get one - I think I'd have a hard time getting used to the layout - I like how some of them look. In fact, this whole idea started out with me looking for an existing line I could import, and there was one company with a design I really liked - featuring 2 sub-dials at 9 and 3 tracking the hour in two time zones with second/minute hands mounted in the main dial. I wasn't sure I'd be able to wear it, but it was very attractive. Since then I keep coming back to an idea I have for a new line with a particular design theme, and a Regulator could play into the theme well. Even if they're not my thing, if there's a market for it and there's money to be made, it's an idea I might explore. The company was in Europe, but the movements were Chinese. I don't know the manufacturer, but if it was Seagull or another company with a solid rep for reliability it might work.

Not sure if I'm a man or one of the mice, but here are my best laid plans...sell the first batch. Take the money and get the second batch made, probably with a few more styles but with the same overall design/specs. Wash-rinse-repeat. I might be able to expand the range of specs/design/pricing by the third or fourth production cycle. Production times are 60-70 days, but if sales are slower than I hope, the 3rd or 4th iteration could be 2014 or not at all.
 

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//EDIT: As an aside, I don't understand the fascination with chronographs. They're horologically complicated and interesting, but I'm hard-pressed to believe everyone has an urgent need to run around and time everything. "Ahah!" they opine excitedly. "Today I will use my CHRONOGRAPH to time the 3:00 it takes to nuke my mac'n'cheese in the microwave!" Practically speaking, I find it quite useless.
That was an important self disclosure. You're not into chronographs, so your entire response was framed in that light. Which in no way invalidates what you said, but you are coming from a different direction.

The watch under discussion is a chronograph, and it is pitched at people who are into mechanical chronographs. Such a buyer will not necessarily think that a Christopher Ward 3-hander is a fair substitute. More likely the chronograph enthusiast will be looking at Tissot, Hamilton or Swatch for a Swiss alternative to docvail's product. Personally I'd happily take an ST19 over a 7750 because I've tried both and I know which one feels better to me (I can't comment on the C01.211 because I haven't played with it). So there's a challenge there for a watch that is not being sold through a brick-and-mortar outlet; the buyer lacks the opportunity to handle the product alongside the competition. Which brings it back to the pure attraction of the design versus established reputations and the value of the word 'Swiss'. That's why the price ceiling is so significant.
 
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docvail,

I'm guessing that with the extremely short lead time you're planning on that your "killer design" is now finalised? And case size, depth and lug width? Also the technical aspects are now crystallised?

I'm curious as to what cards you're holding there. Is there anything you can share with the readers of this thread?

Ric
 
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