You know that saying “Every day is a school day”, I had one of those the other day when I came across Zahnd & Kormann watches on Facebook and again on Kickstarter too. The Valjoux 7751 (top grade) used in their watch is covering so many bases it would almost put any smart Watch to shame. Except of course it sort of already does if the comparison is about that its a beautiful piece of fine “mechanical” engineering that is “self sustaining”, providing you wear it and give it the love it deserves.
Chronograph – Full Calendar Triple Date – Moon Phase
I had to find to more about the team behind this watch so contacted Roger Zahnd for a chat and to get to know what makes them tick.
Where did your passion for watches get developed?
When you grow up in Switzerland you get in touch with the “prestige” and the history (at least the modern part of it) of the Swiss Watch industry. Also the story of the Swatch Group and Nicolas Hayek is well known and is a part of every (administrative) study. But my passion and interest came about when my Grandfather bought me my first “real” watch back when I was 15.
What was the first watch that you owned and loved?
Well, my first watch was a FlikFlak from the Swatch group, when I was maybe 5 years old but I am not sure if that counts. The first “real” watch was a Tag Heuer Kirium, in the 1990’s, back then advertised by Boris Becker.
Do you still have it?
Yes, I still have it and I will always keep it as a memory to my Grandfather who bought it for me. May he rest in peace.
What is your brief history before watches?
Actually we are two friends, Florian and I, from Thun and Bern, Switzerland, 34 and 35 years of age. Commercial apprenticeship, working in several administrative jobs in different industries, studied business administration, travelled, both not married, we were always looking for a project to realize our dream of creating something on our own.
Why did you start producing watches?
This project is about realizing a once of a lifetime dream, always remembering that the time given on this planet is very limited, and what a better symbol could there be than a watch. Roger, is working in a small technology driven company near Biel (home of Swatch Group, ETA, Rolex and others) and they are a supplier to some of the most famous watch brands, which is super interesting and this re-vitalized our interest in watches and the watch industry.
At the same time concepts like Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing were popping up and the Swiss watch industry started to suffer. We thought the one might be a chance for the other as crowdfunding is giving small brands, like us, to offer Swiss Made from a Swiss Brand at affordable prices, also maybe showing others that it is possible to produce high quality Swiss Made watches without asking for astronomical prices just because of branding.
Your movement choice with chosen complications is stunning, how did you decide on that configuration?
Our main focus is to offer quality. Further we were looking for a movement with which we can really show that this quality can be made affordable. At the same time it should combine classical elements and should be “easy” when it comes to service. All this is offered by the ETA Valjoux 7751. We pushed it further though as we initially started with the ETA Valjoux 7751 Standard and then changed to the ETA Valjoux 7751 TOP and at the same time were able to lower the price making this a real “Best Value” offer.
How many watches have you made before?
This is our debut collection and we hope it will make it to market
What was your first colour choice?
For me it was clear to go for blue and my colleague was with black from the very beginning.
Pandas do not seem to be very fashionable these days (except in the vintage market), do you think it will be popular, or are you hedging bets in another direction? (I love the panda by the way)
Thank you very much
Next to the blue and black we wanted to offer something different and also a bit more sportive and it was by coincidence that Baume Mercier was launching the Clifton Cobra (with black dial, silver sub dials and yellow texture) and we loved it straight away. Don’t get us wrong, our intention was not to copy something, but we just loved the look and we knew that we needed to do this. The Panda and inverse Panda is design wise the chance to combine the classical elements with the sports look.
You offer a 2 year warranty, how is the logistics of that going to work?
That is one of the reasons we did chose the ETA Valjoux 7751 as it can be serviced all over the planet (more or less). If there should be a damaged module, we will let you know the address of a service point near to you. If there is non, you can send it back to us or better still we will get the watch be picked up at your place.
I am also handling import and export in my regular job and you can import and export goods for repair without out problems (by saying that and also having the experience dealing with customs I have to admit that there is always the risk of getting involved in some extra administrative work, unfortunately).
What response have you had from the watch community?
I would call it “different”
We have now more than 20’000 followers and are getting compliments for our watch designs from people who really love them. So far we raised close to 100’000 Swiss Francs (Pre-Kickstarter + Kickstarter) which shows us that there is a niche for us. But there was also critical feedback and we had to take heavy flak from time to time, as some of the watch lovers were calling the design boring, the story boring and overall boring. But most of the time we are getting constructive feedback.
Quite a lot of our backers and potential backers are asking us to replace our Brand Name “Zahnd & Kormann” with the logo “z&k” or asking us for options like folding clasps or giving us technical advice and that’s perfect and is also motivating us to learn and to improve. So what we are currently doing is working on a dial design just showing the logo and we will replace the “Automatic” on the dial with “Bern” making this watch a bit more unique.
We will also do a survey asking our backers regarding several options and depending on how many of them would like to get a folding clasp for example, we will sit down with our supplier and see what we can do. This means we are flexible and willing to learn from people who are more experienced in this business and listen to our customers, without loosing track.
Did you make any of the large shows? Baselworld?
We visited Baselworld meeting our supplier and some customers. But our budget is far too low to have our own booth at one of the shows. We are micro and so is our marketing budget.
Is this your full time job?
Not yet, I am working as “Head of Internal Services” (Internal Sales, Accounting, Import and Export, logistics) at a small technology company in the Swiss Machinery Industry. Florian is working as a Purchasing Manager at the largest Telecommunication company in Switzerland.
Whats on your wrist today?
Like everyday: Blue Moon and Florian is wearing the Black Moon
How have you found the journey of setting up your own brand?
Super interesting and super intense. It is definitely not a 8 – 5 job and it is not a walk in the park. It is super motivating to meet all these people around the globe, to get all the feedback, to improve, to explore, to fail, to re-try and on the other hand there are days of frustration (but thats the minority by far). Within this more than one year journey we have learned more than a study can ever teach us about having our own business (at least trying to setup one) and about ourselves. We love to do this and it is our dream to do this for a living. Would I recommend it or better to ask, would I do this again (even if we should fail)? Our answer: Immediately and without hesitation.
Any advice for a potential startup?
Don’t do it if money is your motivation, at least not if you are a one or two man show. Without passion and the absolute will and belief that you can be successful you won’t make it. As I said before, this is about a lifetime dream and we are willing to take a stand.
If you are in the initial phase of the project (also in the others), ask your potential customers (the market) what they do like and don’t like and get advice from experienced people. But also stay focused. Listening to people with more experience than you have doesn’t mean that you need to change your opinion or idea every day. Take what you need, learn, improve and be willing to take critique and “just do it”!
From our initial idea to the first contact with a potential supplier it took about 12 hours. There is nothing to loose only a lot of things to learn, and by saying that, we know that we do have still a lot left to learn.
Any thing else you would like to share?
Design updates will follow soon.