British brand Uniform Wares, founded by Oliver Fowles and Patrick Bek, has won fans across the fashion and watch industries, as well as a global audience in countries including the US, Hong Kong and Germany. WatchPro speaks with Fowles and Bek about the rising number of women shopping for Uniform Wares timepieces.
WatchPro: Your watches have a particularly minimal style and little branding. Do you think your female customer is different to those of most other sub-£500 watch brands?
Oliver Fowles: Our female customer seems to look for a watch that is less of a jewellery piece and more of a [utilitarian] tool. Most of our female customers find our product offering refreshing in a marketplace that largely offers oversized, statement chronographs or diamond set bracelets. We find that our customers have been looking for a watch for some time but have found it hard to find a watch that offered both simplicity and also colour, texture and elegance.
WP: Have you developed any of your timepieces with women specifically in mind – for example, with specific case sizes, finishing or colourways?
Patrick Bek: All of our watches are designed to be unisex and our straps will fit most wrists. This approach is intentional. We look to design a watch that is beautiful, regardless of the gender of the customer. Some ladies’ watches can be a little patronising in their design and focus on prettiness, which seems a little old-fashioned. Our largest watch is 42mm, which is still relatively small for a chronograph; it’s really up to the customer what size works for them. In a traditional sense we expect our new 152 Series watches to sell more into the female market than some of our other models.
WP: How is Uniform Wares keeping up with the desires of female customers – do you carry out market research or ask retailers for their sales feedback?
OF: We are always asking for retailer feedback and we had an opportunity to meet our customers direct at the temporary shop we set up in Shoreditch over London Fashion Week and the London Design Festival [last September]. We were surprised that just under half of the customers there were women buying for themselves. We’re not particularly interested in trend forecasts or going up/going down scales in fashion magazines. We think about our friends and peers; what kind of watch would they like to wear? We try to engage in conversation with as many customers as possible, male and female. It’s great to find out how they found the brand and what watch they immediately gravitated to.