Within the period of COVID-19, the idea of time took on a very significant function. For some, this was an event to decelerate and take inventory of priorities. For others, this was a second to hurry up and concentrate on passions earlier than alternative handed them by. The pandemic was a reminder that somewhat than permitting time to dictate our lives, we must always as a substitute direct how we spend our personal time. The importance of the second was not misplaced on Jess Chow, the cofounder of the VIEREN luxurious watch firm, who, in March 2020, was readying to launch a contemporary tackle the standard computerized watch. Jess and her cofounder, famend Canadian designer and Undertaking Runway All Star Sunny Fong, have been compelled to resolve if they might put their entrepreneurial goals on maintain or observe their ambitions to launch a brand new enterprise. As Jess particulars it, since their model celebrates “taking advantage of time versus losing time,” they have been moved to go for it. Jess spoke to us from her dwelling workplace in Toronto to share her perspective on introducing the following technology to an old-world craft, turning obstacles into alternatives, and going all in in your goals.
What’s your founder’s story?
I come from a household of watchmakers. My mother and pa make watches. Rising up, my dad and mom talked about it on a regular basis at dwelling. So, naturally, I did not prefer it in any respect. It was not one thing I needed to pursue. As an alternative, I turned a administration consultant–advising manufacturers, constructing companies and studying as a lot as doable about many different industries. However as I obtained older, my perspective modified.
I’ve lengthy had an curiosity in entrepreneurship–in beginning my very own company–though it was one thing I assumed I might pursue a lot later in life. As a child, you kind of all the time assume that you’ve got a lot time. However once I turned 30, I higher understood that point is so valuable. And all the trouble I used to be investing in different peoples’ enterprise priorities was effort not being spent alone passions and priorities. That’s once I advised myself that if I used to be going to start out an organization, now was the time.
It was kismet as a result of I met a designer, now my enterprise associate, Sunny Fong, who appeared on the world similar to me. After I advised Sunny about my household’s background, he recalled getting a novel timepiece, a watch with an oblong face, when he graduated from highschool. As a designer, he was impressed to create one thing that honored his previous. Because the daughter of watchmakers, I used to be equally impressed to reconnect with my roots, albeit with a twist. Neither of us needed to actually repeat the previous. We needed to carry issues forward–pairing elements of conventional watchmaking with fashionable design considering.
As a beginning place, Sunny and I traveled to Switzerland. We went to go study from the very best concerning the state of the watchmaking trade, together with the craft. Our view as outsiders, affirmed by these on the within, was that there was an excessive amount of sameness. Too many watch manufacturers have been doing a number of the identical things–including replicating each other’s designs. As next-generation leaders, we have been going to do issues differently–pushing past what was acquainted to ship one thing shocking.
Foundationally, Sunny and I each had a fascination with computerized watches. When Sunny turned 40, he began carrying his dad’s computerized watch as a solution to remind himself to all the time hold moving–because that’s the way you energy it, by carrying it. And when you do not put on it, time stops. Right this moment, when too many are sitting nonetheless, watching a display, losing time, we believed that reintroducing the automated answer could be an vital piece of historical past to carry ahead. Once we advised our pals about it, they might typically ask, “Is it like an Apple watch?” Our response: “Nicely, really, it is like the other.” So, we knew we have been onto something–investing in handcrafted heritage artwork from centuries in the past, giving it a contemporary design aesthetic, and granting a brand new technology entry to expertise it for the primary time.
With VIEREN, we’d problem what an computerized watch might appear to be, we’d problem gender stereotypes–to exhibit that watch designs shouldn’t have to be separated into typical male versus feminine options–and we’d problem the concept that acquiring a really high-quality timepiece required paying Rolex costs. We have been going to carry a contemporary sensibility to a conventional area.
That’s our model’s origin story. Born of a shared ambition, impressed by our upbringing, and inspired by some fashionable masters. Collectively, Sunny and I are passionately working to put in writing the following chapter of the automated watch for brand spanking new generations.
You talked about taking an vital journey to Switzerland. In at the moment’s market, how vital, or related, is it to model a watch as “Swiss Made”? Does it even matter?
A variety of trade insiders advised us that no person on this new technology actually is aware of what Swiss Made means. They suggested us towards investing a lot effort and time into one thing that did not matter as a lot to at the moment’s viewers. We pushed again on that.
Too many manufacturers and leaders lower corners to make issues sooner and simpler, however not higher. We needed to supply a high quality product that may final a lifetime. For Sunny, a world-renowned designer, and me, who grew up surrounded by the enterprise, it was important to start out with distinctive engineering and craftsmanship. Whereas others have been ready to lean away from the Swiss custom, we have been going to lean into it–to have a good time it and revitalize it for brand spanking new generations, who, by the best way, do have respect for high quality and craft. Our model of watches was going to be each well timed and timeless, not fashionable and fleeting.
Was it simple to observe via on our plan? No.
First, most Swiss watch producers require a dedication to manufacturing at the least 100,000 items. As we have been creating restricted editions, solely 500 items in our first assortment, we could not simply purchase our approach into a traditional manufacturing settlement.
Second, since our design featured a novel rectangular case, impressed by the identical watch Sunny obtained years in the past at his commencement, new processes needed to be developed to make our imaginative and prescient actual. Placing a watch motion inside required becoming a circle completely right into a rectangle. And since it is an computerized watch motion, you are speaking a couple of greater circle. In case your measurements are off by the slightest fraction, it simply wouldn’t match collectively. It took 5 to 6 months to grasp the prototypes. Not solely have been we asking a longtime Swiss establishment to make a monetary dedication in our model, we have been additionally asking them to speculate their helpful time with none assure of a excessive return on funding.
Nonetheless, we succeeded for one foremost cause: The Swiss watchmaking trade needed to evolve if it was going to remain important. The trade needed to develop into extra agile, versatile and fashionable. In the end, we partnered with a Swiss producer who shared our ambition–to assist carry the previous ahead.
It is really actually cool. Should you watch a few of the movies of our manufacturing facility in movement, you may see that youth are properly represented. So, it’s older and youthful, mentors and protégés, working to make one thing new with the potential to final for generations.
When it got here to the place you manufactured, you did not take the simple route. The identical might be stated for once you selected to launch, in 2020. How, if in any respect, did Covid-19 influence your model’s early success?
Doing issues the exhausting approach, turning obstacles into alternative, has undoubtedly been a recurring theme for us. We have been readying to launch VIEREN in March 2020 when many different companies have been closing because of the Covid-19 international pandemic. So, we took a quick pause and requested ourselves if this was actually the suitable time to launch. Would it not be tone-deaf to launch a luxurious product at a time when the world was extra targeted on important gadgets forward of extravagant ones?
As the main target of our work was on taking advantage of time, not on losing time, we felt like our work had relevance. So, whereas we took a quick pause to evaluate in March, we moved ahead, in a considerate approach, in September 2020. We held a Covid-safe launch occasion at a restaurant in Toronto. We might host as much as 10 folks at a time on the restaurant’s patio. Since I like tasting menus, Sunny and I created a mash-up–taking the custom of the tasting menu and reimagining it with elements of our work: cocktails, an amuse-bouche, a primary and second course, plus a sampling of the VIEREN model. For half-hour at a time, particular visitors might find out about how computerized watches work, find out about our story and, in fact, expertise our merchandise.
The product launch, as we hoped, was successful. Nonetheless, there was one other success that I’m equally happy with. Occasion-goers didn’t simply love the model, in addition they have been moved by our founders’ story of getting an ambition and pursuing it regardless of huge hurdles. Our story helped encourage others to maneuver from dreaming to doing–to elevate their facet hustles into priorities and new enterprise start-ups too.
Sunny and I stated on the outset of this enterprise that, as people and as a crew, we needed to profit from our time. It is significant that, via VIEREN, we’re motivating others to do the identical.
You talked about going again to founding concepts and beliefs that can assist you navigate via tough instances. Are you able to elaborate on that theme a little bit extra?
Our inside slogan, our mantra, is to “energy your time.” It’s instantly associated to the concept that once you put on an computerized watch you’re powering the movement–it is your energy, your time, your life. All of us have the chance and power to make time transfer for us. In an out-of-control world, we’re giving folks a way of private energy and management.
I discover that, particularly throughout this Covid period, some days time strikes in a short time and a few days it appears to maneuver under no circumstances. By carrying my watch day-after-day it jogs my memory, when it stops, that I’ve not gotten out of the home all day. I have to hold it powered. Sunny and I generally joke that the automated watch is, actually, the unique Fitbit. However it works.
As an vital apart, when Sunny and I initially conceived the model, we referred to as it GORDON after my father. That stated, we ran right into a authorized problem with the name–another impediment for our launch. We turned to our model goal to assist clear up the issue. Powering your time–being highly effective together with your time–
motivated us to do a language search. VIEREN is Dutch for “have a good time,” to feast in life’s most vital moments. By way of our work, we’re celebrating those that select to take energy over their time.
Given all you might have discovered launching VIEREN, what recommendation do you might have for aspiring entrepreneurs and future leaders seeking to energy their concepts?
Have readability about why you’re doing the work you are doing–your goal. Belief your instinct. And go all in in your goals.
Because it pertains to goal, when Sunny and I started our collaboration, we had an ambition, however we did not go from zero to 100 immediately. We took the time to analysis, discuss to mentors, and consider if there was a white area alternative. We did plenty of affordable work. In reality, we spoke to so many individuals that the scenario began to develop into unreasonable. There was an excessive amount of analysis. And too many opinions. If we didn’t have a transparent sense of goal, it might have been simple to get misplaced and quit. Every time we’re at a crossroads, we return to our goal to achieve focus and make good long-term choices, even within the short-term.
Because it pertains to instinct, as we proceed to develop VIEREN, we discover that now we have plenty of concepts. We all the time wish to enhance and refine to get to that one good reply. However typically, our greatest concept is the primary one. That is why we named our inaugural assortment OG Computerized. As a result of every time we get misplaced, we all the time return to our authentic concept. And at the moment, we glance to it as a reminder to ourselves to all the time belief our intestine.
Because it pertains to going all in in your goals, the worst-case state of affairs just isn’t that you simply fail whereas attempting. It is that you don’t give issues your all since you worry failure. For me, if VIEREN did not succeed, I might all the time return to consulting–helping others to pursue their goals. That stated, I stay dedicated to first giving 150% to one thing I am captivated with, to realizing my goal and goals by powering the best way I spend my very own time. Within the course of, I am hoping to proceed to encourage others to do the identical with theirs.