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QUICKFIRE Q&A: LIV Watches eyes bright future for boutique brands

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The latest in WatchPro’s Quickfire Q&A series, Alex Douglas catches up with LIV Watches’ co-founder, Esti Chazanow.

Check out what we discovered in conversation here:

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WP: Can you give me a brief history of LIV Watches?

EC: My husband, Chaz, had been in the watch industry for over 22 years and realized that the prevailing model of selling Swiss timepieces wasn’t working for a large percentage of watch fans and collectors. Large mark-ups throughout the distribution chain meant the price point for a quality Swiss Made watch was beyond the reach of many.

So we had the idea for a direct-to-consumer alternative that would eliminate these mid-channel expenses. Under this approach, a Swiss Made watch with quality equal to or better than the big brands could be accessibly priced for this underserved market.

At the end of 2014, Chaz and I launched our first watch on Kickstarter, the GX1 Swiss Quartz Chronograph. It was fully funded within 11 hours! The GX1 is still one of our most popular sellers. We followed up with Kickstarter launches in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, and 2021.

So, why do we fund our watches on a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter?

I’d have to say it matches our model of involving our buyers, who we call fans, in both design and funding. It is the ultimate test of a design and a brand. If the design doesn’t resonate with our fans or previous watches have fallen short of expectations, the people vote in the funding process.

WP: What would you say the brand stands for?

EC: Living your life on your terms. We started LIV Watches to shake up the status quo and live our dream of providing premium, Swiss-quality watches at very reasonable prices.

We also stand for being individuals, unique, and not afraid to step outside the lines. The two are tightly interwoven. Like at any time in history, there are those people who refuse to settle for the mainstream; they want to express themselves uniquely. A LIV Watch satisfies that desire for a lot of people.

WP: How did you get into the watch industry?

EC: Through Chaz. His friend and his friend’s father helped him get started with his first job in the warehouse. Over the next 22 years, he took on ever more responsible roles, and here we are today.

WP: Your website suggests you’ve got a great team; how does the operational side of the business work?

EC: We do indeed have a great lean team comprised of very passionate and devoted individuals who are as obsessed with detail as I am. I can safely say that everyone on our team qualifies as a watch freak.

The operations side is well organized and efficient. We have our watches assembled and inspected in well-respected watch workshops in Switzerland. Once a run of a watch is completed, these workshops ship them to us here in Miami. We do a final inspection before they are sent off to a fan.

It is important to note that we are a small batch company, and many of our pieces are designated Limited Edition. We set a maximum number of each model and color we plan to produce. Then we build them to meet initial orders and an additional number for stock. Since we don’t have a mammoth warehouse full of watches, our operations processes are easier to manage with our small, hands-on staff.

WP: In terms of watchmaking and design, what’s the process at LIV?

EC: Our initial couple of designs came from a contest we conducted before we launched the company. We selected the most interesting and innovative designs and got started putting them into production. We work closely with our Swiss workshops all through design and production.

But I have to say our fans provide us with great guidance when it comes to design enhancements and added functionality. We strive to create a personal relationship with each fan. When a fan suggests an improvement, we give it serious consideration. Not all ideas make it to a finished timepiece, though. There are many factors and challenges to be considered and conquered before a suggestion makes the cut.

WP: You’re hitting a great price point, I think. Is this position in the market where LIV will continue to be?

EC: Yes, we plan to continue to offer Swiss Made quality timepieces at accessible price points. After all, this is precisely why LIV was started; to cut away the distribution and marketing fat, passing along those reductions in the form of better prices.

WP: How do you see growth for the brand in years to come?

EC: We see a very bright future for LIV Watches and boutique brands in general. We design and market men’s watches. For a man, his watch can be his most distinctive piece of “jewelry” or a personal statement piece. What we are seeing, though, is that women gravitate to our watches too, so we are seeing that as an opportunity for growth into the future.

WP: In terms of markets, which countries perform best?

EC: The US is our largest market by far. Other strong markets for LIV include the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, and Sweden. One of the coolest things about our business model is that anyone anywhere with an internet connection can buy one of our timepieces. Proof of that is we have fans in 45 countries.

WP: How would you describe the profile of a typical LIV watch lover?

EC: A great question that just so happens to touch on a founding principle of our company. We describe our customers as fans. Think about the difference. A customer, especially an online customer, is just a number to many companies. A fan, on the other hand, is as invested in the company as they are in their favorite sports team. We work to make them feel part of the LIV Watches team.

Our typical fan is interested in a watch that will turn heads with its edgy design. They are watch freaks and love to show off their latest acquisition. They also demand quality and value. They typically own multiple LIV timepieces, and many also have some big-name brands in their collections. In these cases, we constantly receive glowing feedback about how well our watches compare to those other guys.

We are gladdened and humbled by the reaction of our fans to our watches. On tough days, knowing these folks are standing with our brand is a great comfort. Thank you, LIV fans, collectors, watch freaks, and aficionados everywhere for being part of this journey.

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