Reuven and Shneur Lakein of Brooklyn’s Rebeltime launched their Kickstarter earlier this month, and have blown past their initial funding goal. They’re brothers, and business partners. WWR interviewed them to get the story behind the four chronographs they’re making.
The watches start at $149 USD, are 10atm water-resistant, fully stainless steel, equipped with a Miyota os20 and sapphire crystal. They’re aiming towards raising enough to make their leather straps in NYC; you can learn more about the watches at rebeltime.com
WWR: What is your background?
Reuven Lakein: My passion as always for building things, I greatly enjoy starting a new venture, building the pieces, putting the parts together and coming out with a better product then the next guy. I fell into the cellphone industry a few months after I got married in 2008 when my company in Ukraine went bust due to the great recession. It grew on me slowly and we had some good years selling online.
WWR: Before you became a watchmaker, what was your intended career path in life? How did you come to watch making?
Reuven Lakein: About 4 years ago we started making our own items in China, had a few good runs but then realized that the cellular accessory market was getting very saturated, and it was time to look for a way out. So I founded TickledPet. TickledPet is a line of all natural single ingredient pet treats that takes up most of my day. It took a while to get it going and is still in its infancy, but that is what I consider my day job.
WWR: Why is now the right time to become a watchmaker?
Reuven Lakein: When I was sourcing my cellphone accessories I came across some watch manufacturers and kept their info for later use never thinking that I would actually use it. My family spent last Pesach together in Costa Rica where my brother Shneur mentioned that he was getting burnt out at his sales job (he sells small business loans), being that he always liked fashion, and owns multiple watches and I know amazon, I told him he should start a watch brand and I will hep him sell them on Amazon.
We started last May. Our initial idea was to make a watch that we could retail for $79-89 online, but we quickly realized that we dont want a cheap watch, and if we are already spending the time and effort, we should compete with watches that go for $200+. It took a few weeks to come up with a good name and buy the domains, then we spent a few weeks working with designers to see who we wanted and finally chose a designer who took a few more weeks to send us 8 options to choose from.
We probably should have gone with just one design, but we took two styles that we liked and tweaked them a bit then started working on the supply side. Helping us with the design QC was a Swiss fellow who ran a high end brand for a while, we hired a fellow who worked for swatch for many years to help with factories, we had two full sets of samples made of all the parts which took about 6 weeks each just for production. We finally had our final design in the beginning of May, then it was a month to get a video etc.
WWR: Why this watch?
Reuven Lakein: There are two designs in two colors, one is more classic and one is more modern. We could not decide which to go with so we are going with both. I think white is the way to go, but it does not cost us more to offer a second color, so we are doing that as well.
WWR: Where do you think the industry is moving?
Reuven Lakein: Getting a watch designed is not so hard, you need to find the right designer, the production side of things is also not so hard, its just time consuming making sure all the i’s are dotted, the numbers are exact in the right place, the luminous is one you want etc. When we were in doubt over quality we took the higher quality part. The hardest part for us so far has been the one we neglected which is getting our product in front of people.
WWR: How do online communities play a part in that?
Reuven Lakein: Both of us are very private people, and putting out a Facebook page and asking friends for likes is not really our thing, so we procrastinated and spent our time working on the design, finding local leather strap makers and finding a local factory that can make us rubber straps from recycled rubber. We learnt that if crowdfunding is your way to finance production you need to play by its rules which is building a crowd of people who gave you their opinion so that they are in your corner and feel some ownership when you launch.
WWR: What is your history with wristwatches?
Reuven Lakein: Shneur always liked fancy watches, fancy rings etc. I was given a Raymond Weil by a friend for a present when I was 20, and that was the only watch I ever wore. Our great-grandfather was a watchmaker back in Ukraine and started a jewelry store in Baltimore in 1913 called Lakeins Jewelers that our grandmother ran until she passed about 10 years ago, so jewelry was in the family.
WWR: How do you define your ideal consumer? Who is it, in your mind, that wears your brand’s watch?
Reuven Lakein: Our ideal customer is someone who is young at heart and wants something different. Someone that having the same watch as everyone else is not an option. We also spent time finding local manufacturers for whatever we could and have straps lined up assuming we hit the minimums. We would also like to possibly assemble our watches here in the city at some point in the future. We feel that these two watches have the same quality as a citizen that costs $250+ yet are unique great looking designs that are not mass produced. We spent a lot of time on each detail to give it a sleek yet sophisticated look that is young at heart.
WWR: What are your guiding principles when making design choices? How do you think about design and its role in your life?
Reuven Lakein: Our design choices were made using our large family and friends Facebook group for the preliminary. We had one designer who was too classic for us, so we went with one who’s designs do not imitate the classic brands but were rather fresh.
WWR: What would the crowning lifetime achievement be for you and your brand as a company?
Reuven Lakein: An achievement for this brand would be to have sufficient volume to do assembly here in Brooklyn – even on a small scale – and be recognized as a quality brand, one that gives value to its buyers and that keeps one feeling young.