Daniel Niederer, Founder, SevenFriday, has been a contrarian in getting his watches manufactured in China and heavily promoting their innovative designs.
In just three and half years, SevenFriday has been able to make a quick impact in the horological world, expanding to 88 countries. The man behind this successful brand, founder Daniel Niederer, comes with rich experience in the luxury products field. Counting the USA, Japan, China, Indonesia and Singapore as SevenFriday’s main markets, Niederer calls India a “very different kind of experience.” He spoke to Raju Bist about this Indian presence and other facets of his company’s short, but fascinating history.
SevenFriday has been able to make its presence felt in just three and half years of being around. How do you explain this quick impact? Is there a secret formula to it?
No. But we have made a unique product and we took several unusual steps. I am Swiss but right at the outset I decided that the watch would not be produced in Switzerland. We have certainly taken a risk but if you don’t risk, you don’t win. Another thing that has helped us is our commitment to the social media. We embraced Instagram in a big way when none of the other watch brands were on it. We were also lucky to have some very good friends among watch bloggers. As far as distribution is concerned, we have believed in shipping quickly, and globally. We are now present in 88 countries.
One of the ideas behind launching SevenFriday was the introduction of `affordable luxury’. How did you get around to this line of thinking?
I was fed up of seeing luxury watches selling at sky high prices. How could anyone justify these prices? I wanted to create a watch brand that was exclusive and unique while still being accessible and not intimidating like some products directed towards luxury tend to be. It is not expensive to be luxurious. People are definitely interested in buying quality luxury goods. But the price should match the product. We saw a vacuum in the market and were able to introduce our watches which were luxurious but rightly priced.
Is this your main concern about the global watch industry?
Yes, the biggest problem right now is over-pricing. The end result is that we are seeing heavy discounts, sometimes going up to 90 per cent. Across many brands, 50 to 60 per cent discounts are the norm. This is happening because the brands are not listening to the market.
You lay a lot of stress on the design of your watches as compared to their marketing or branding. How did this thinking come about? Are you very hands-on about the design process?
Yes, it’s true that the design studio finds a pride of place in our company and design is the most important element in our manufacturing process. Design is one of the most underestimated and overlooked components in product creation. I was very interested in focusing more on it than extra features since most people buy things that look good. My contribution is a kind of balancing act. I have lot of respect for the designers in our studio. I define the design requirement on a broad scale but don’t follow the direction in which the process ultimately flows. But I do fine-tune the final design.
You have gone on record to say that the `Made in China’ tag is no longer something to be ashamed of, even with respect to quality. Can you please elaborate on this?
We don’t care about the Swiss name. You have to be realistic, you have to be honest. Switzerland is not a production country at all. Everything there is expensive, the salaries are so high. China is now on par with Switzerland as far as quality is concerned. The number of factories in China far outnumber those in Switzerland so it is simply a matter of choosing those that focus on quality, not quantity. We could produce a watch in China and then have it assembled in Switzerland and market it as Swiss-made with a more inflated price but that has no value to our consumer.
Can you tell us something about your new collection of watches?
We have introduced two watches, V1/01 and V2/01, under our new V series and launched them simultaneously across the globe including India. One of the influences has been the industrial revolution. This idea is reflected in the design of the hours indication as an industrial gauge, creating a new way to read the time. Apart from the obvious change in the look of the watches, V Series possesses an embedded NFC chip that allows the authentication of official SevenFriday watches by both consumers and retailers.
You have had a long experience working in the luxury markets of Australia, Japan, Singapore and Thailand. Compared to them, how do you find the Indian luxury market? In particular, what is your assessment of the Indian watch market?
India is a very different kind of market. It is a challenging market with many cultural differences when compared to the markets you just mentioned. But with a population of 1.2 billion, there is a huge market waiting to be tapped. The number of families with disposable incomes is increasing and that can only work in our favour.