ark Parker, a veteran of the fashion watch industry (which these days has its manufacturing base mainly in the Shenzhen area), works out of Hong Kong. Previously, he worked for two of the biggest players in this segment, both American: he headed the Fashion Watch division of Timex Group, before moving to the Fossil Group, where he was manager for Asia and the Middle East.
His new role, however, will involve working with much smaller structures: watch startups. In today’s digital world, a growing number of entrepreneurs are considering launching their own watch brands. It has never seemed so easy to do, on paper at least. With facilities in China and Switzerland, private label company Montrichard finds itself on the receiving end of these ambitions. As a manufacturer, it is amassing an impressive number of requests for new watch ventures.
In today’s digital world, a growing number of entrepreneurs are considering launching their own watch brands. It has never seemed so easy to do, on paper at least.
The solution they have come up with to manage this growing demand is to launch a “watch incubator” that will introduce these new players to the world, bypassing the traditional intermediaries. The manufacturer is moving over to the distribution side. And Mark Parker is the man in charge of this new project.
- The incubator will be launched on the watchmaking scene with an initial portfolio of five newcomers.
A new watch ecosystem
“The market is changing, new players are arriving and it’s time to acknowledge this new reality and make a radical statement,” he says. “I believe that direct-to-consumer sales are the future, and that retailers and brands operating on a traditional distribution model will face increasing difficulties.”
- Mark Parker, co-founder of the incubator, has decades of experience in the fashion watch segment. He has worked with the Timex and Fossil groups.
“The market is changing, new players are arriving and it’s time to acknowledge this new reality and make a radical statement.”
The goal of Kudeta Lab (a pun on the French phrase coup d’état), is to “bring new watch projects to new target audiences”. The first five projects will be launched on an online platform after the Chinese New Year (which has been prolonged this year). “We are now combining two aspects, manufacturing and distribution, with all the economies of scale that entails. Our online platform will be the gateway to a brand new watch ecosystem. At the same time, our partner brands will also be able to develop their own websites.”
- Using the capabilities of the Montrichard private label group, the incubator will be able to accompany new projects from their initial development to the distribution phase.
Swiss made or not?
Parker is convinced that new brands mostly cater to the tastes of specific “tribes” of consumers, and he points out that the first online projects, far from being generalist brands, will focus on a few specific targets: urban, aviation or fashion, among others. “As we have been involved in these projects since their inception, a large part of our role consists of supporting the founders in the conception and choice of an appropriate design.”
The incubator is not restricted to the fashion watch segment: it also aims to incorporate Swiss made timepieces: “One of our first partner brands is offering Swiss made watches. The new reality applies across the board. Newcomers to the watch world, whether Swiss made or not, are naturally opting for a direct-to-consumer distribution model, in the face of saturated retail networks.”
- Remi Chabrat, director of Montrichard and co-founder of Kudeta Lab
“ Newcomers to the watch world, whether Swiss made or not, are naturally opting for a direct-to-consumer distribution model, in the face of saturated retail networks.”
So far, Kickstarter seems to have been the main incubator for watch startups around the world. Hundreds of new brands (many of them short-lived) have been launched through this platform. “Kickstarter has already evolved into a direct distribution site, rather than just financing or online marketing,” notes Mark Parker. “We see ourselves as a complementary channel because we’re involved from the outset.”
“We don’t have the size of a player like Kickstarter, but we specialise in watchmaking,” Parker adds. “Each of our project managers has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. We cover design, marketing, e-commerce, logistics, R&D and manufacturing. Our aim is to identify talented newcomers who are interested in our support and a quality network. Kudeta Lab’s role will be to propose solutions that allow brands to express themselves, and also to develop a sustainable business model.”