In the past few years the global economy has taken somewhat of a battering. Ongoing uncertainty in the global financial markets, increasing levels of unemployment and rapid declines in retail spending have all taken their toll. Invariably small businesses often suffer the most in these tumultuous times. Typically they don’t have much in the way of cash reserves or institutional support and so they really need to rely on their own support networks, the ongoing patronage of their loyal customers and more than anything, finding a way to do what they do better than anyone else. Boutique watch brand Xetum is one such example of a small company, launched in 2009 in the midst of the madness, which has found a way to succeed despite the odds.
Now we’ve always been pretty impressed with Xetum (see our coverage here, here and here), a brand that decidedly walks to the beat of its own drum, and even more impressed with their products and so we caught up with Founder Jeff Kuo to learn how he did it. Here’s what he had to say:
TWL: Your primary goal in creating Xetum was to blend modern design with traditional swiss craftmanship for a reasonable price and it certainly seems you have achieved this. As a small brand though what were some of the challenges you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
JK: The biggest challenge was getting the design right. As a new brand starting out with a clean slate, we went through hundreds of variations to get all of the design elements to work well together. In particular, getting the sizes and proportions right was a challenge. When we got our first 3D models of the watch case produced, none of the proportions looked right, and we had to tinker with the dimensions numerous times in order to get the proportions where we wanted them to be.
Thinking back, if was nice to have the freedom to take our designs in any direction without preset constraints, but at the same time, narrowing down the design options from ‘anything goes’ down to a specific design aesthetic was a huge challenge.
The Tyndall by Xetum with off-white dial
TWL: Have you been surprised by the apparent success of your concept and your company so far?
JK: We have been thankful for the reception we’ve received so far from customers and the press. As a newcomer to the industry, we weren’t sure how our collection would be received. We had received a great deal of helpful input from members of the watch community as we went along, so we knew we had addressed many things that people were looking for. But even then, we still didn’t know whether people would want to wear our watches on their wrists. Fortunately, that answer has been yes!
TWL: Beyond the high quality and design of your timepieces what do you attribute this success and growing popularity to?
JK: Our customers often comment on our attentive customer service. Part of the pleasure of owning a nice timepiece comes from the experience around the watch, and we make great efforts to be responsive to our customers whether they’re visiting our showroom in person, asking a question on our Facebook page or otherwise looking for assistance.
The Stinson by Xetum
TWL: Is your vision for the company still the same as what it was when you first launched in 2009?
JK: It is still largely the same. We set out to offer a collection of automatic timepieces in a modern design aesthetic, with a mid-sized (but still substantial) dimension, and to offer that collection at an accessible price. We plan to continue developing the collection along these lines.
TWL: Finally, the question on everyone’s lips; what’s next!? When can we expect to see a new timepiece from Xetum and can you give us any hints as to what it might look like?
JK: We will soon be offering steel bracelets on our watches. This has been a popular request from our customers and we’re excited to be able to offer a steel bracelet in the near future.