Building A Watch Brand Episode 13: The Logistics Of Bringing A Watch To Market
After well over a year, we are finally approaching the moment I can launch my VPC Type 37H. I have published many articles about the development of the watch itself, but today, I want to get into the logistics and commercial side of launching my debut watch. It is another side of the project that typically stays behind the curtains, so it might be interesting to shed some light on it.
But before we get into that, I have to thank my designer Max Resnick for kindly providing three new renders. He used the final production files (with the correct final proportions) to create the more realistic images you see in this article. Hopefully, these make the watch come alive a little bit more for you! It is good not to get overly attached to the dials in any of the renders I have shared over the months.
We did not have access to a virtual representation of the coarse texture on the real dials, which are frosted with a relatively large grain. Also, we could not simulate the exact, specific ways in which our real lacquers reflect light. The real dials, then, appear quite different in terms of texture and even color, even though they use the same color codes. So consider the renders very rough impressions, and be prepared to be a little bit surprised.
I am excited to report that I have now, finally, seen the fabricated components of my watch. All parts for the samples have been produced, and they are being assembled as we speak. Seeing the components was huge for me and, frankly, a moment I dreaded and that has kept me awake at night. I am delighted to share that everything has come out exactly as I desired and specced it. The finishing looks fantastic. As you can probably imagine, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Trusting that the parts will come together as they should, I am now confident that we’ve managed to make a watch to the very high standards that I had from the start.
I will probably get my four samples within a week or so, and then I will set the final stage of introducing my debut watch in motion. This is when the logistics and a slightly more commercial mindset come into play. I have largely ignored these fields so far, just setting out to design and develop a personal dream watch as a passion project. Now, though, I have to take a slightly more entrepreneurial approach. After all, the success of the project, my family’s financial well-being, and my professional future are riding on this single moment.
To that end, my website is being rebuilt as we speak. I built the current website myself but felt that it didn’t quite do justice to the watch. So I have found some specialists who are willing to hook me up with something more in line with my project. I have also been planning a media tour for the samples once they arrive. And, of course, I have been planning the presale. Let me get into all of these to paint you a comprehensive picture of what this stage involves.
The logistics of the first production run
As I have described before, the only way I could offer a watch of the intended quality is on a presale basis. If an enthusiast wants to get on board, he/she can purchase a production slot in the first run. As it currently stands, the watch will then be produced and delivered seven or eight months later. I am aware that this is asking something of the customer; we all want to have our purchases immediately. But, simply put, I would have had to make major compromises on quality if I wanted to pre-produce. It would have been an entirely different project from the outset. I trust that people who appreciate and share my philosophy will understand.
This first run will consist of 300 watches. All my choices regarding suppliers and component specs led to a minimum order quantity of 300 pieces. Considering the relatively high segment in which I operate, this is an ambitious number, so I have to work hard to ensure that I sell enough to start this first production run (more on that later). At the same time, I have been involved in launches that exceeded this number in an hour. It is close to impossible to predict the outcome.
The first production run has a hard limit of 300 pieces because exceeding that number dramatically increases all sorts of associated risks. However, I don’t want to disappoint enthusiasts or create false scarcity. So, in case of greater demand, I will follow up with a second run as soon as I can responsibly arrange it. Worst case, people will have to wait a little bit longer. But I will do everything I can to get a VPC Type 37HW to every enthusiast who wants to buy one.
The logistics of getting the required reach
Now, what if demand isn’t sufficient? If I don’t find enough buyers to initiate the first production run, the entire project will be canceled. Buyers will immediately get fully refunded, and VPC will end right there and then. I carry the full risk personally, so this scenario means that I will be left with the substantial debt I took on when developing my watch. As you can imagine, I have to do everything in my power to ensure that I find 300 enthusiasts. Every percent I can increase my odds is worth working for, so I have to make sure that I get as many eyes on the Type 37HW as possible.
To achieve this, three of the four samples will go on a little media tour. I have found several media outlets willing to have a look and consider publishing about the release. I have also arranged for a small selection of watch-specialized YouTube channels to do hands-on reviews. The fourth watch will stay on my wrist for evaluation. Technical stress testing will be done separately in Switzerland, so that’s not in scope here.
To consider covering the project without payment (free publicity), most media companies have two demands: they want news value, and they want that news to be actionable. In short, they want to show something new, and they want readers to be able to take immediate action. This means that I have to very closely coordinate my launch. The watches will go on their tour under embargo. My new website, the presale, and a launch article on Fratello will all coincide with the lifting of the embargo.
Photography and videography
When the samples arrive, Morgan will immediately arrange for two photo shoots. As an online-only release, photography is crucial. Matthijs, Fratello’s resident videographer, has offered to shoot some macro videos in his spare time, which is extremely helpful and kind of him.
We are planning on doing different photo shoots. Of course, there will be product photography, the aim of which is to provide incredibly detailed and realistic images of the watches. We will also do some outdoor photography to provide a little bit of “air” for the website. Seeing the watches in context should help interested enthusiasts get a proper feel for them. We have planned to do this on an extremely tight schedule so that we can get the watches out the door within a week.
A handful of media outlets will then have the opportunity to do photography and videography of their own. Combined with their evaluations and opinions, this should give interested enthusiasts as comprehensive a feel for the watches as possible.
Practicing restraint and asking for patience
Now, all the above has one big downside: if I want to offer the media news value, I cannot go around flaunting the samples on my own. I have grown quite fond of the sharing-as-I-go approach triggered by this series on Fratello. Unfortunately, now I have to practice some restraint and ask for some patience. The final reveal of the finished product is the one bit of news value that I can still offer. I would be shooting myself in the foot if I released photography ahead of that moment.
I am packing all of the logistics of the coming weeks as tightly as possible, but there will be some radio silence on my end. It pains me because I get daily DMs from people who have followed the project since day one. I really want to show them photos of the samples as soon as I have them. However, if that results in media outlets saying, “Yeah, we’re not covering that; you have already released it,” my chances shrink significantly.
I have to admit, it feels like an odd and uncomfortable shift that I have to make. However, it seems that one cannot build a business while completely ignoring all business rules all the time. This is the one time when I have to prioritize the responsible move.
The logistics of working up to the release
Once the photography is complete, three of the watches will fly out to the selected media outlets. By now, I will have decided on the launch date and time, which will also serve as the embargo date. Once the photography is done, including editing, I will upload the content to the website, which will be ready for it by then. Regarding the online logistics, the hosting has been upgraded temporarily to minimize the chance of overloading the server upon launch. Lastly, a press release will go out — again, under embargo — to a much wider selection of media titles.
At this point, I will inform the subscribers to my newsletter of the planned release date and time. Since these are my most loyal followers, they will know well in advance when it is going down. Speaking of the newsletter, this has been a lot of fun for me. I see the subscriber count steadily increasing. To my surprise, the emails have an average open rate of 84%, and I always get fun replies from recipients. This tells me that there is a solid base of enthusiasts who are eager to see how the Type 37HW comes out. Naturally, I will also schedule a newsletter with the photography on the embargo time, just to ensure they get to see the watch as early as possible. Again, I am sorry that I cannot give you all a sneak peek. It is just not the smart move.
With the launch plans in place, it is a matter of checking, double-checking, triple-checking, and then sitting back and watching it all unfold. I can safely say that I will have done absolutely everything within my power to maximize the odds of a successful introduction. Then it is up to the watch community to tell me if I got it right.
Closing thoughts on the logistics and commercial side
As you can see, a lot of planning and coordinating goes into bringing the watch to market. Although I prefer working on the watch itself, this more logistical side of it is fun too. I have spent a lot of time thinking about and preparing for it, and I would hate to fail and realize that I left potential untapped. If I fail, I will know that it was due to my concept, not my effort. I hope that makes it easier to swallow if it comes to that.
But, honestly, I feel good about the chances. Having seen the parts now, I can see the finished watch in my mind’s eye. It is exactly as I wanted it to be. And, although I am heavily biased, I think it’s turning out as something truly special. We have spent so much time specifying all the tiny details, and it seems that our uncompromising standards have paid off. Assuming that the parts come together as designed, I think that I have succeeded in making my dream GADA watch come alive. Now we’ll find out how many people share my vision.
Regarding a timeline, I now know better than to tie myself down. So far, every step has taken longer than planned. However, if all goes smoothly, I should be able to launch in March, maybe even early in the month. So, whatever happens, I expect to get a full night’s sleep again by April! Since this is the last Building A Watch Brand article until the release, I want to thank you all so much for tagging along! It has been a blast and a very humbling experience to see so many people so involved. It fills me with gratitude and excitement. I’ll see you on the other side!
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- Building A Watch Brand Episode 1: Introduction
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 2: Brand and name
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 3: Finances, risk mitigation, and a designer
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 4: Unveiling the watch concept
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 5: The first design ideation sketches
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 6: Caliber, pouch, case and bracelet updates, typography
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 7: Dial design
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 8: Geeking out on typography
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 9: 3D modeling, tech development, and opening up on the mentally challenging side
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 10: From design to manufacturing
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 11: Manufacturing — The watchmaker’s tools come out
- Building A Watch Brand Episode 12: Ultra-hard coating