Oh partner where art thou

Finding a suitable ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) to partner with to create our first watch has been an eye-opening experience. Our initial idea was to partner with someone in the UK, partly for the 'made in' cache but also for ease of visiting for prototyping / manufacturing. Unfortunately, all the contacts we tried were happy to build a few as one offs, but couldn’t scale up for production to make our idea financially viable, so we started looking further afield. 

Of the US companies we tried, it seemed common practice to ask for $000s for marketing plans and mind mapping exercises before ever getting to or seeing a design. Interesting to marketing bod like me but no.

Onwards to Switzerland, we knew full well that looking at any manufacturer here would be costly and we weren’t wrong. Even the most basic ‘me too’ white label designs were expensive, with the cheapest quote for design work coming in just shy of 5,000CHF, (£3,280 GBP).

So far so expensive, but we believed (and still do) that where there’s a will there’s a way.

We took to forums and blogs such as watchuseek, ablogtowatch, wornandwound, amongst others, trawling through comments and threads looking for information on microbrands, specifically who their manufacturing partner may be. 

A few names kept coming up, but one in particular stood out. Based in Hong Kong we found recommendations of their work and even positive reviews of their own brand watches, so we got in touch and started to move this journey on.

It’s a big leap of faith and trust to go into partnership with anyone let alone, entrust whatever design you come up with to a company to manufacture to the quality level you want and need.

Unfortunately, we’d developed a view of ODMs as being inflexible and very expensive even for the most simple and basic of idea, so it’s been refreshing how accommodating and helpful our ODM has been.

It’s taken literally months of emails, questionnaires, conversations and design example presentations to get to where we are today. The biggest bridge builder, has been not being restricted to their interpretation of what they think we wanted, instead allowing us to put our imaginations to work and create the design ourselves.

It’s why we started on this journey after all.

It’s helped that we had a clear idea of what we wanted, I can definitely imagine everything  being much more difficult with lots of back and forth if we didn’t.

It’s not been plain sailing though, not that we expected it to be. The time difference has been hard to work around especially when arranging times for calls and answering emails. The time gap while they go find an answer to a question has also been frustrating. Its required a bit of give and take on both sides setting expectations to keep moving forward.

On the subject of not plain sailing, our first design didn’t pass our partners feasibility test, nor did the second to be honest, it was third time lucky for us and even that was only after some pretty major changes.

Maybe we’ll go back and revisit one of the other designs in the future, we are planning a three-watch series to start with, but one thing at a time. For now we’re focussing on the getting this first watch to production.


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