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Changing gears — How Ferrari F1 driver Stefan Johansson launched his own watch brand

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As part of our investigation into the business of watches in Formula 1, WATCHPRO wanted to share the story of how former Ferrari F1 driver Stefan Johansson (pictured above) launched his own watch business from California. Interview by Caroline Reid from Formula Money.

WATCHPRO: How and when did your watch partnership begin?

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Stefan Johansson: I’ve been making my own line of watches since the early 90s. It began when I was asked by one of the Swiss brands to endorse one of their existing watches, which wasn’t a particularly nice design.

As I was already very interested in both art and design, rather than just take the money I proposed we collaborate to make a unique design together. In the end it didn’t work out with this company for a number of different reasons but it taught me the process and how the business works.

After a while I decided to make my own line, designed by me and produced by me. I felt it was more authentic this way.

Stefan Johansson.

WATCHPRO: What input do you have on the creation of the watches?

Stefan Johansson: I do literally everything from the design to sourcing all my suppliers, assembly and testing. I sell mainly through word of mouth and my speciality is to create custom pieces for my clients. I have done several one off pieces where the client wanted something totally unique and special for them.

WATCHPRO: What is unique about the watches?

Stefan Johansson: A large part of what makes my watches unique is the customisation I do but I have also filed a number of design patents.

Several of my designs are unique in that they incorporate little details that tie them into motor racing in a subtle way which gives the owners a talking point.

WATCHPRO: Where are the watches sold?

Stefan Johansson: I sell them primarily directly to my customers [on stefanjohansson.art].

Although I have a few retail stores that carry them I actually prefer the direct method as it becomes a much more personal experience.

Nearly all my customers have also become good friends in the process.

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WATCHPRO: Who are the watches aimed at and what is the typical price point?

Stefan Johansson: I have an incredibly varied customer base. I have sold numerous pieces to people who literally came up to me asking what watch I was wearing, a lot of watch collectors and everything in between.

As the customisation has become something of a speciality for me, I do a lot of limited edition series for companies or people that want anything from five pieces up to 100 or more at times.

The starting retail price is $7,500 and upwards depending on how much customisation and what materials the client wants.

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