This week, we feature an interview with the owner of a small watch goods company. I had the opportunity to meet this person on a recent trip to San Diego and was really taken by his story, his real interest in watches and, most importantly, the quality and design of his watch rolls. Erik gave me a watch roll of his own creation and it’s been my “go to” accessory during travel and, believe me, I travel a lot. We hope you enjoy this candid view from a collector.
What’s your name and where are you based?
Erik Akin and I’m from San Diego, California USA. I’ve lived here my whole life except for 5 years in Japan.
What’s your business and what type of products do you create? How did you come up with the name?
DECAMP is all about watch rolls for the collector, of late I’ve also started creating some wallets too. I had been thinking long and hard about a name that would evoke an emotion instead of something eponymous. I was out to dinner one night and gazing out the window when I saw a sign for a shop called “the camp”. “DECAMP” popped into my head almost immediately. I had a vague understanding of the word so I googled it and one part of the definition is “to leave suddenly”, which was perfect: watch rolls for the collector who has to go on a trip with short notice and can take multiple pieces with him/her. The triangular DECAMP logo was inspired by the tip of a GMT hand, which brings to mind travel as well. Whether the trip is for fun or an arduous business trip, taking along a few watches can only make it better. Also the ceremony of unraveling the watch roll to select a watch for the day is more refined than pulling a watch out of a balled up sock.
Why did you start this business and why should potential customers check it out?
A friend asked if I knew of anywhere online where he could find something to store his watch in while he was at the gym. I didn’t have an answer, but I researched online and found that there wasn’t much, and what there was expensive. I’m fortunate to work for a shoe and apparel company where there are fabric and leather swatches that get tossed out from time to time. Over a weekend I decided to tinker with a few swatches and slowly the design came together – a design I must say originally inspired by an image on Instagram by @btint. I posted these original pieces on Instagram (@ethokin) and got a lot of encouragement from followers. I gifted those first pieces as they were pretty amateur, but as I got better I created the @decamp_goods IG page with the purpose of actually selling them. I sold the first batch quickly and since then it has evolved into a custom business where the customer decides the size, color and leather type. I make these out of a passion for watches and desire to create something for people that should last their lifetime at a fair price. I personally measure, cut, hole punch and stitch every single one of my products. My wife, from time to time, is recruited for sewing if someone requests the pockets to be a fabric instead of leather, though.
All interaction with customers is by email and Instagram. Instagram really has opened the world to me for all things watch related.
I really love it when a wife/girlfriend contacts me to purchase a watch roll for their husband/boyfriend as a surprise. Getting feedback from them that their husband/boyfriend loved it really warms my heart. It’s so great to see a spouse supporting the passion of watch collecting.
Do you work globally with customers?
Yes, I do. I’ll ship anywhere. I recently sent one of my card wallets to Malaysia – it took one month but it eventually got there!
What kinds of options do you offer for your accessories and maybe talk a little about how you source your materials and the cost?
The customer gets to decide on the pocket configuration. I can also add smaller tool, strap pockets, or add a flap so they can store jewelry or cufflinks too. I’ve also adapted the rolls for knife and pen collectors by making the pockets taller or narrower as needed. I source most of my leathers from a great supplier in Minnesota. Also, as I mentioned before I’m lucky to be able to re-purpose many leather samples from my day job – which are usually one of a kind. I’m now using Maine Thread Company thread too.
My prices start at $45 for a 2 pocket and increase $20 for each additional pocket. The most common request is for a 3 pocket, which is $65. Priority shipping is included in that price in the US.
The biggest cost driver is the time involved in creating the watch rolls. Hand stitching is slow, but I feel it really adds to the rustic, handcrafted nature of my watch rolls.
How can customers get in touch with you and how long does it normally take to receive a product?
Customers can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Lead times and turn around can vary. I only have time on Saturdays to work on these, but usually I can get to a custom order within 2 weeks.
Personally, what got you into watches and what types of watches do you collect?
As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by watches. I had a pocket watch in the third grade that I wore to school (thought I was so cool) and my entire first paycheck I got when I was 16 went towards a gold-faced Pulsar Diver with a Pepsi bezel. In my early 20’s I spent 5 years in Japan teaching English and I went crazy for Japanese watch magazines, which laser focused me on getting a Submariner, which I have to this day. People that follow me on Instagram will also note my passion for vintage Seiko watches. Of late, the Seiko quartz 7A28 chronographs from the 1980’s have been really catching my eye.
Currently, what’s your favorite watch and why?
I’m completely in love with my most recent acquisition, a 1984 Seiko 7A28-7040 Quartz Chronograph. It has such a rugged character with the rotating diver’s bezel, lack of day/date and the dial design with zero fussiness. Pure utility.
Last question, you hail from San Diego. What is San Diego like as a watch collecting community?
I’m sure there are many collectors, but I’m not aware of a “community” per se. There might be, maybe the surfboard collecting and Prius meets ups take precedence?! Kidding aside, I’ve met a couple others through Instagram but not sure if the community is at the Red Bar level.