I was contacted recently about a Microbrand release on Kickstarter, and i realised how much I like carbon cases, maybe its because I have always been a fan of military watches, maybe I like black.
Beyond that however I love the clean look of the watch, I think the explorer dial compliments the darkness of the case with the modern fonts, and I think the branding is not to powerful or over stated. It ticks the Automatic box for those that like automatics, but it also grows on you very quickly.
I spoke to Tom at Willis Judd watches and fired a few questions at him.
Where did your passion for watches develop?
At first, I just liked the designs of different watches. After a while, I started to take an interest in movements and understanding more about how they work and different manufacturers. Dan always had an interest in watches, so we would always be talking to together about them. It was always a common ground and between us we have around 25 watches not including our Willis Judd Watches.
What was the first watch that you owned and loved?
My first watch was a Timex Weekender and Dan had a Casio.
Do you still have it?
Unfortunately not. It went through a lot! I’m much more careful now
What is your brief history before watches?
We both grew up in England. I moved to China at 18 to start university, and Dan worked on private yachts before moving to Australia with his wife. We both have a role in our family jewellery business.
Why did you start producing watches?
We loved watches and are always trying to expand our collection. In the background, we always talked about someday putting our ideas and designs into reality. Over the years we watched companies like Christopher Ward start up which has done really well for themselves. And also a few other companies from crowdfunding projects, such as Melbourne Watch Company and a few others which have gone on to be really successful.We really like the idea of crowdfunding because we could see if the watch community liked our watches and it allowed us financially to get it up and running. Once we started to look into the cost of watches, we were really surprised by the prices companies were charging for their watches compared to the costs. We talked to some of our factory contacts and found a great supplier for our needs. Over time we then launched our first model which went well and now we have just launched our new watch. I think most watch lovers would love to design and watch and get it made, and that’s exactly what we did.
Your movement choice, why that one?
We wanted to maintain a good price point without compromising the quality. The Miyota 90s5 and 9015 ticked all the boxes for us – It’s a great movement at an affordable price. We chose the 90s5 for the open heart feature. We did look at some Chinese movements too as we feel that they are starting to, but we felt the overall perception isn’t quite where it needs to be.
How many watches have you made before?
In our last collection, we had 3 case colours and 3 dial options. We have many ideas in the works for future.
Tell me about the carbon case, why carbon, how it carbon produced?
It’s really interesting and not overly common in watches, especially at our price point. We worked a lot with carbon fiber in our jewellery and always try to stay on top of the trends. A watch case made of forged carbon isn’t a standard piece in a collection.Our first watch featured a carbon fiber dial. The process of forged carbon is very different and it took a while for our factory to be confident in producing it. We went through many samples to get the perfect effect. This one is made from small strips of carbon that are cut and placed in to a mold. Once they melt and bond, they create a very strong but lightweight case. It’s really interesting to see the unique patterns created on every watch due to this process.
You offer a warranty, how is the logistics of that going to work?
We offer a one year warranty on all our watches. Any claims are sorted from our Australia office and they held looked at case by case. Customer service has always been a strong point for us, so if anyone did have an issue we would always do our best to accommodate
What response have you had from the watch community?
Response from the watch community has been great. There are a lot of micro brands starting now due to the crowdfunding platforms, so we are trying our best to stand out whilst sticking to our roots. We feel that as long as we keep our designs great, good quality and at a reasonable price, we will be able to have a successful impact within the watch community. Feedback from our backers from our first campaign has been great.
Did you make any of the large shows? Baselworld?
We went to the last Hong Kong watch show. We plan on attending Baselworld next year and hopefully meet up with a few of our customers get some feedback on some new designs. We’re super excited for that.
Is this your full time job?
This is only part time for us at the moment, but we have high confidence that we can make it full time.
Whats on your wrist today?
Our forged carbon watch of course! We have been wearing it non-stop since getting our prototypes made. Before we made it we I would normally be wearing my Stowa Marine Automatic white and Dan would be wearing his Christopher Ward C9 5 Day Automatic.
How have you found the journey of setting up your own brand?
The journey has been very exciting and we’ve learnt so much along the way. We are skilled at sourcing and finding great quality for our needs. Putting the brand out there and getting it known can be tricky, but we’re confident that keeping our watches well designed and great quality we can start to become very respected. It’s a job that brings different challenges every day.
It’s great to have a solid idea of what you are after and making sure that the manufacturer is able to accommodate. You also need to be open to suggestions from the factory, if they say something will not work, it’s best to take that into consideration. We made sure we were 100% confident with factory and settling any quality issues out in the sampling stage. It helped that we were able to meet in person and build a more personal relationship with the project managers.
Any thing else you would like to share?
Thanks for having this interview and we hope that you and everyone else likes what we’re doing. We’re here to make a name for ourselves and we’re confident that our customers will be pleased with the watch and happy to have a unique piece in their collection.