We had a chance to sit down with Ted Brown of Berkbinder & Brown to talk about his Tool Watch. So far, we covered the beginning of the Tool Watch, Mr. Brown’s “watch cred”, choice of movement, and the case design. In today’s installment, cover a few more areas, and start to wrap things up.
Going back to the Kickstarter process, and some of the posts that you had written – it seemed like you had quite a learning curve with the assembly process. Has that gotten easier for you now?
The process has gotten easier for me. Not being a watch maker, all those fine motor movements (putting the case tube in, the crown, setting the case clamps, etc) – it’s something that you just have to develop a proficiency for.
In terms of time, I really didn’t contemplate having to do that much polishing and hand finishing. There are more handling marks, etc, on the cases now that it’s in more of a production mode. Originally there weren’t going to be any graphics on the back of the case, but somebody brought that up. I explored that, and found a supplier to do the laser engraving, so that’s another process that has to be cleaned after as well. All told, it’s a little over three hours per watch, right now, to assemble.
So, you’re the only person doing the assembly now?
Correct. I did have someone helping me out, but it wasn’t just to my expectations. I found it easier, and had more control, doing it myself. Eventually, I will hire someone to help assemble the watches.
Have you gotten traction simply by being an American brand?
I have. Sure, the movement is Swiss, as are things like the crown tube. But the dials are made here, as are the cases. And of course the assembly is done here. Compared to the turn of the century, when there were 197 American watch manufacturers, there are very few today.
While researching your watch, I came across a thread on the WatchUSeek forums, looking for feedback early on in your process. Did that inform any of your decisions?
Actually, no. It’s really interesting. Kickstarter had launched, and I was soliciting feedback on WUS. Of course, watch people have strong opinions. They like what they like, and they don’t like what they don’t like – but you don’t need everybody to like your watch.
Everyone was very polite with the feedback. There wasn’t a huge amount of feedback, but those who liked it really liked it. And frankly, you don’t need to sell a watch to all of those people. In the end, I’m not looking to sell 10,000 watches; 250-500 watches per year is my goal.
Where are you at in attaining that annual goal?
Between the watches sold via Kickstarter, and since then, I’m at about 125 watches.
So, while going through this process, is there anything that you wished you had done differently?
Anticipating the supply needs. I really didn’t grasp that I’d sell this many watches – so it was really an exercise in gearing up. You know, thinking you might sell 10-20 watches, and selling over 80 right off the start was quite a shift. One thing I did do, I started ordering parts back in September, prior to the Kickstarter project closed. Some of that was due simply to lead time: for example, crystal orders take six weeks to process
I suppose getting more orders than you expected isn’t exactly the worst problem to have
No, no, that’s a high-class problem – not a complaint by any means!
Have your orders coming, are they just within the U.S., or are they international?
I’d say about 15-20% of the KickStarter orders came from overseas. Australia really seemed to like the watch. Ireland, France, Italy – Europeans really like watches. A couple of them mentioned that they’re watch collectors, and they really wanted to add an American watch to the mix.
And that will wrap things up for today’s installment. Tomorrow, we’ll conclude our interview with Mr. Brown.