Micro-brands: Overfeeding The Crowds

This year there must have been a record, with so many micro watch brands launching crowd funding campaigns, the majority of them even for the very first time. Many of them even get successfully funded, but the question remains: when is the market saturated?

On crowd funding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the majority of the watch brands that launch offer watches between US$100,- and US$600,-. When brands go higher, you really need to have something special to offer (and make some additional noise to get people on the platform that normally wouldn’t shop there). When brands go lower, they often target the more fashionable consumers. Watch collectors and connoisseurs can only spend their money once, and that makes it continuously more difficult for new brands to have a successful launch.

Lets not forget that there is also an entire market outside of the crowd funding campaigns that offers watches. Hamilton, Stowa, Tissot, Seiko, they are all aiming for the same slice of the market. These established brands have an advantage, not only because they are better known, but also because most people have seen and tried on their products. It is actually incredible when you see the success of micro-brands like CJR and Straton, and you realize that almost all their customers buy them sight unseen. This says something about how the market place is changing, because for many of these brands there is also no reference, because it is their very first watch.

I am in the very fortunate position that I handle quite a few watches from micro brands on a regular basis, as well as owning a few myself. Most of the time the owners poured their heart and soul into these watches. The quality is almost never disappointing, and more often than not, it’s even surprising to see how a new, small brand can have such a high quality watch produced. But just as there are too many conventional watch brands, there are also too many micro brands. The market is being overfed with often great products, but most customers need to choose and that is why I expect that especially for new entries, it will be considerably more difficult to get a significant amount of orders.

Even those that have tasted success once, will need to step up their game to do it again, as I already wrote about here.  In fact it is unlikely that many of these brands actually survive the harsh market environment that the watch world is. This might be sad for the founders, who maybe had different hopes when they started their adventure, but fortunately their customers don’t luck out. Their watches often run on popular movements, and are of a quality that will last for at least a few decades, if cosmetic parts don’t fail. In fact, I wouldn’t even be surprised when some models of micro-brands that didn’t make it, become desirable collectors items.

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