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Atelier Wen: The New Chinese Chic - Quality Mechanical Watches - Official Affiliate Thread

am55

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Hello Riva :)

Yep, that would be a good indicator of where our most "compatible" audience is located. But that should be nuanced with the fact that our media coverage was fairly uneven; i.e. it was strongest in France and that could lead to some misleading conclusions on our side. We are planning to launch in China after CNY, and this, as well, should give us some additional useful insights. I am surprised by the number of American backers on Kickstarter; our coverage there wasn't awesome, but, still, it's doing as good as France (where our coverage was excellent)! So I'll try, over the next few days, to intensify a bit our efforts over there. Same with Singapore and HK :)

Nope, the watches won't be a limited edition. We're really new, and I don't think that we have the sufficient brand equity to justify making a limited edition just yet. I don't know, I feel that it would be a little bit... arrogant of us to do it. That being said, the watches, because of both the movement and the high waste rate of the porcelain dials, take a long time to make. So while we will make some more afterwards, production will be in very small batches, and it will take a lengthy amount of time to create them. Thus they may be tough to acquire :p

If we make some additional dial colours, these ones though will be strictly limited in quantity. Red clay, Celadon green, "Imperial" yellow... all would be awesome!

Have a nice day!
If you spent more money on PR in France yet most of the sales are coming from the US, either your PR teams are wasting your money, or StyleForum is an amazing place to advertise (I know what Fok will say).

If you are not doing it already, I'd recommend (which is faster than Google Analytics) figuring out what your web server's user ID equivalent is, then track where the traffic is coming from and what the users are doing, then see total purchases / total unique visitors for each source. I'm sure Kickstarter has their own analytics. It smells like you either are getting no traffic from PR (you'd see "direct" visits) or they're not converting. I prefer doing my own tracking after many years in the field taught me that Google's numbers are, ahem, interesting aggregations (and statistically sampled, sometimes off 3% of the total visits, with the raw data discarded unless you pony up for Premium). Can't argue with web logs...
 

Riva

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"We've been talking with our suppliers for a few weeks about upgrading our sapphire crystal and that's it, we've taken the step - double-domed sapphire crystals!

What does that mean?

Well, up until now we'd been using a single-domed crystal, which is flat on the inside and curved on the outside. It looks great from on straight, but unfortunately causes reflections at angles. No longer! Indeed, we've decided to upgrade to a double-domed crystal, which is curved both on the inner and the outer face ensuring that the dial is perfectly visible at all angles."

Nice! Basically you got a watch that's usually $4k msrp for only 10% the cost with the super early bird price. Contemplating if I should get more...
 

LA Guy

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If you spent more money on PR in France yet most of the sales are coming from the US, either your PR teams are wasting your money, or StyleForum is an amazing place to advertise (I know what Fok will say).

If you are not doing it already, I'd recommend (which is faster than Google Analytics) figuring out what your web server's user ID equivalent is, then track where the traffic is coming from and what the users are doing, then see total purchases / total unique visitors for each source. I'm sure Kickstarter has their own analytics. It smells like you either are getting no traffic from PR (you'd see "direct" visits) or they're not converting. I prefer doing my own tracking after many years in the field taught me that Google's numbers are, ahem, interesting aggregations (and statistically sampled, sometimes off 3% of the total visits, with the raw data discarded unless you pony up for Premium). Can't argue with web logs...
Ahem... First page of Google results, and I've done this on clean machines:
27D5E643-9894-4827-AD34-B1783CF9AF96.png

And a lot of bloggers lurk or are members here, so the effect is magnified beyond direct visits.
 

Fandegrue

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I wouldn't mind an ultra rare Chinese ironwood dial :D
They may put me in jail for that hahah! :D

If you spent more money on PR in France yet most of the sales are coming from the US, either your PR teams are wasting your money, or StyleForum is an amazing place to advertise (I know what Fok will say).

If you are not doing it already, I'd recommend (which is faster than Google Analytics) figuring out what your web server's user ID equivalent is, then track where the traffic is coming from and what the users are doing, then see total purchases / total unique visitors for each source. I'm sure Kickstarter has their own analytics. It smells like you either are getting no traffic from PR (you'd see "direct" visits) or they're not converting. I prefer doing my own tracking after many years in the field taught me that Google's numbers are, ahem, interesting aggregations (and statistically sampled, sometimes off 3% of the total visits, with the raw data discarded unless you pony up for Premium). Can't argue with web logs...
Thanks for the tips and advice! Kickstarter does offer such data, but lots of the sales are marked as coming from inside the platform, hence sometimes it is arduous to measure the brand awareness generation effect that some of the articles can have. Oddly enough, Monochrome is the publication that generated the most "direct" sales; more than 10 of them came from the link they put at the bottom of their article. Kickstarter also offers info on the location of the backers, and that's how we came to realise that our sales in France were less important than the ones coming from the US. Fortunately, "despite" the good media coverage in my home country, the total spend for this was quite constrained. But still, it leads to a few interrogations:

-Maybe the outlets we settled on were not the most appropriate ones?
-Maybe we simply witness a "population effect": there are less people in France than in the US, and thus, consequentially, despite a potentially good conversion rate, we see less sales?
-Maybe our product suits American tastes better?
-Maybe Kickstarter has a stronger market penetration in the US than in France (it does), and, as such, people there will be more likely to use the platform?
-Maybe it has to do with attitudes towards online sales (French people being more reluctant to shop using a computer when the price-tag is above $XXX)?

I think that if we try to explore the more society-related factors (i.e. not the ones linked to the actual coverage), it could generate some very interesting results, but that would take almost an eternity to put up.

Using our website traffic would be quite flawed because many Chinese people are visiting it (we're active on Weibo and Wilfried has 60K+ followers), yet most of them can't purchase yet as Kickstarter does not accept Union Pay (and a few of them, too, don't really speak English).

Anyway, this stronger popularity in the US has made me look for watch-focused websites with an audience predominantly there!

Here is, by the way, a review that Worn and Wound has produced of our Hao model: https://wornandwound.com/review/review-atelier-wen-porcelain-odyssey-ji/

And here are a few pictures (I found them really good):









"We've been talking with our suppliers for a few weeks about upgrading our sapphire crystal and that's it, we've taken the step - double-domed sapphire crystals!

What does that mean?

Well, up until now we'd been using a single-domed crystal, which is flat on the inside and curved on the outside. It looks great from on straight, but unfortunately causes reflections at angles. No longer! Indeed, we've decided to upgrade to a double-domed crystal, which is curved both on the inner and the outer face ensuring that the dial is perfectly visible at all angles."

Nice! Basically you got a watch that's usually $4k msrp for only 10% the cost with the super early bird price. Contemplating if I should get more...
Thanks for the super kind words! :) And we haven't unveiled our stretch goals yet! ;)

Ahem... First page of Google results, and I've done this on clean machines:
View attachment 1060261
And a lot of bloggers lurk or are members here, so the effect is magnified beyond direct visits.
Styleforum definitely helped a lot, that's for sure! Thank you Fok (and team) for all the support!

As an aside, I'm inundated daily with spamish emails from dubious marketing companies... The last one today (arrived literally 10 minutes ago) was from "Celebrity Connected"... :rotflmao:

Have a nice day guys!

Robin.
 

LA Guy

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They may put me in jail for that hahah! :D



Thanks for the tips and advice! Kickstarter does offer such data, but lots of the sales are marked as coming from inside the platform, hence sometimes it is arduous to measure the brand awareness generation effect that some of the articles can have. Oddly enough, Monochrome is the publication that generated the most "direct" sales; more than 10 of them came from the link they put at the bottom of their article. Kickstarter also offers info on the location of the backers, and that's how we came to realise that our sales in France were less important than the ones coming from the US. Fortunately, "despite" the good media coverage in my home country, the total spend for this was quite constrained. But still, it leads to a few interrogations:

-Maybe the outlets we settled on were not the most appropriate ones?
-Maybe we simply witness a "population effect": there are less people in France than in the US, and thus, consequentially, despite a potentially good conversion rate, we see less sales?
-Maybe our product suits American tastes better?
-Maybe Kickstarter has a stronger market penetration in the US than in France (it does), and, as such, people there will be more likely to use the platform?
-Maybe it has to do with attitudes towards online sales (French people being more reluctant to shop using a computer when the price-tag is above $XXX)?

I think that if we try to explore the more society-related factors (i.e. not the ones linked to the actual coverage), it could generate some very interesting results, but that would take almost an eternity to put up.

Using our website traffic would be quite flawed because many Chinese people are visiting it (we're active on Weibo and Wilfried has 60K+ followers), yet most of them can't purchase yet as Kickstarter does not accept Union Pay (and a few of them, too, don't really speak English).

Anyway, this stronger popularity in the US has made me look for watch-focused websites with an audience predominantly there!

Here is, by the way, a review that Worn and Wound has produced of our Hao model: https://wornandwound.com/review/review-atelier-wen-porcelain-odyssey-ji/

And here are a few pictures (I found them really good):











Thanks for the super kind words! :) And we haven't unveiled our stretch goals yet! ;)



Styleforum definitely helped a lot, that's for sure! Thank you Fok (and team) for all the support!

As an aside, I'm inundated daily with spamish emails from dubious marketing companies... The last one today (arrived literally 10 minutes ago) was from "Celebrity Connected"... :rotflmao:

Have a nice day guys!

Robin.
The US luxury market is simply much larger than that of France, and US customers have a lot more spending power. Combine that with lower interest rates and a strong economy and until the last month or so, a surging stock market, and affluent people are feeling flush. If you have data about the geographic concentration of sales regionally, you will probably have an even better idea of what is going on. The EU does not have particularly strong consumer spending right now, and it's very likely to get worse, though the outlook in South America has everyone trumped on that. The Chinese market is not really mature enough for independents yet, and definitely not for domestic luxury products (if you are selling Rolex, Omega, Cartier, or some other highly recognizable, highly prestigious brand, you are in luck!) though if you get lucky, then you would be very lucky indeed.

Sorry to bore with this type of discussion. The watches look fantastic. I know that our reviewer was very impressed.
 

am55

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To not derail too much further, keeping it brief: don't discount simpler, stupider explanations. E.g. Kickstarter might set unknown locations to the statistical default: the US; and since a third of US users use ad blockers, and maybe the demographic who are likely to be your customers are even more likely to run ad blockers, you'll see a ton more "Americans". You'll know for sure only when you get the shipping addresses with the actual orders.

Another possible explanation: VPNs.

My point is, you should get some unbiased data before making decisions based on someone else's aggregates. I noticed just now that you don't have a website, or that if you do, it is well hidden (even your Instagram refers to Kickstarter). A little static page, drawing visitors with information you can't find elsewhere, logging them and their activity (esp. time on page, number of pages) would do wonders to clarify this for you...
 

WhyUEarly

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To not derail too much further, keeping it brief: don't discount simpler, stupider explanations. E.g. Kickstarter might set unknown locations to the statistical default: the US; and since a third of US users use ad blockers, and maybe the demographic who are likely to be your customers are even more likely to run ad blockers, you'll see a ton more "Americans". You'll know for sure only when you get the shipping addresses with the actual orders.

Another possible explanation: VPNs.

My point is, you should get some unbiased data before making decisions based on someone else's aggregates. I noticed just now that you don't have a website, or that if you do, it is well hidden (even your Instagram refers to Kickstarter). A little static page, drawing visitors with information you can't find elsewhere, logging them and their activity (esp. time on page, number of pages) would do wonders to clarify this for you...
They do have a website and it's pretty damn cool. I think Robin and friends are not linking it until after the Kickstarter
 

Riva

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If in the future you guys make a 36-38 mm offering, I will buy one without hesitation!
That would work if the bezel is thin. I'm more concerned about reducing height than the diameter which is already acceptable.
 

pasadena man

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On the general topic of Chinese chic/Chinese design, I went to the Art Center Vehicle Design Program’s 70th Anniversary program last Sunday (Iconic Design, 70 years of Art Center Influence). Art Center’s Vehicle Design Program is often considered the best in the world, and many of the top car designers and OEM design chiefs hail from Art Center. A lot of those alums were back for last weekend’s event.

What really surprised me was the percentage of Design program students there who were Asian, particularly ethnic Chinese, and how important the generally recently established China based design studios are to the large global car companies.

I drive by Caltech every day, and we’ve had a longtime, large, and growing, Asian and Asian American presence in STEM educational programs, but I was somewhat surprised that that extended to an art school design program (In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t have been). No doubt a lot of these students will be going back to work in China, and will be producing some interesting cars in the coming years, likely reflecting a currently inchoate national style.
 

Fandegrue

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Sorry guys for the insanely late response... It has been quite busy lately on both the personal and professional fronts.

The US luxury market is simply much larger than that of France, and US customers have a lot more spending power. Combine that with lower interest rates and a strong economy and until the last month or so, a surging stock market, and affluent people are feeling flush. If you have data about the geographic concentration of sales regionally, you will probably have an even better idea of what is going on. The EU does not have particularly strong consumer spending right now, and it's very likely to get worse, though the outlook in South America has everyone trumped on that. The Chinese market is not really mature enough for independents yet, and definitely not for domestic luxury products (if you are selling Rolex, Omega, Cartier, or some other highly recognizable, highly prestigious brand, you are in luck!) though if you get lucky, then you would be very lucky indeed.

Sorry to bore with this type of discussion. The watches look fantastic. I know that our reviewer was very impressed.
On the general topic of Chinese chic/Chinese design, I went to the Art Center Vehicle Design Program’s 70th Anniversary program last Sunday (Iconic Design, 70 years of Art Center Influence). Art Center’s Vehicle Design Program is often considered the best in the world, and many of the top car designers and OEM design chiefs hail from Art Center. A lot of those alums were back for last weekend’s event.

What really surprised me was the percentage of Design program students there who were Asian, particularly ethnic Chinese, and how important the generally recently established China based design studios are to the large global car companies.

I drive by Caltech every day, and we’ve had a longtime, large, and growing, Asian and Asian American presence in STEM educational programs, but I was somewhat surprised that that extended to an art school design program (In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t have been). No doubt a lot of these students will be going back to work in China, and will be producing some interesting cars in the coming years, likely reflecting a currently inchoate national style.
Numbers are still confirming that trend! Oddly enough though, with our Facebook and Instagram ads, we have had a much higher CTR with the French audiences than with the US ones... This could also be linked to how we built these audiences, of course.

Regarding China and its potential appreciation of domestic premium products, even though, these days, local luxury goods are not yet all the rage of foreign ones, I still feel that there is a trend evolving towards this. The "China Day" at the New-York Fashion week, the introduction of products displaying Chinese character at NYC store Opening Ceremony, the movie Crazy Rich Asians, the multiplication of Chinese culture-focused TV shows on local channels are all, somehow, proofs of that evolution. Simply said, I believe that, for Chinese millennials, heritage is becoming more and more "hype". This is being fostered by government policies that tend to reinforce jingoistic messages (Xi Jinping's overall tone being more and more nationalistic, Made in China 2020, the whole One Belt One Road initiative that emphasises China's dominant position within the area) that resonates well with the younger stratums of the society. Even when Balenciaga admitted that their $1000 sneakers were actually made in China, lots of locals responded with a sentiment of national pride.

The good thing though is that there isn't yet any national aspirational band. One could argue that Shanghai Tang has the potential to fill that void, yet that will depend on how Bastagli take care of its development (and personally, I don't think think that moving to "Made in Italy" was a coherent idea)... Of course, given our tiny scale, we can't fill that gap ourselves, but, who knows, in the world of watches, maybe, we could get a share of it.

We should be launching in China in March; we will see then if some of our assumptions were correct or not!

To not derail too much further, keeping it brief: don't discount simpler, stupider explanations. E.g. Kickstarter might set unknown locations to the statistical default: the US; and since a third of US users use ad blockers, and maybe the demographic who are likely to be your customers are even more likely to run ad blockers, you'll see a ton more "Americans". You'll know for sure only when you get the shipping addresses with the actual orders.

Another possible explanation: VPNs.

My point is, you should get some unbiased data before making decisions based on someone else's aggregates. I noticed just now that you don't have a website, or that if you do, it is well hidden (even your Instagram refers to Kickstarter). A little static page, drawing visitors with information you can't find elsewhere, logging them and their activity (esp. time on page, number of pages) would do wonders to clarify this for you...
They do have a website and it's pretty damn cool. I think Robin and friends are not linking it until after the Kickstarter
Thank you for your messages!

Yep; I got these geographic data from the shipping locations :) And we do have a website, but we chose to try to redirect most of our traffic to our Kickstarter page for the duration of the campaign. You still may check the website here: http://atelierwen.com/ Right now, it is only a landing page, but post-campaign we will gradually put online some other pages.

If in the future you guys make a 36-38 mm offering, I will buy one without hesitation!
Maybe in the future! We have so much plans haha :)

That would work if the bezel is thin. I'm more concerned about reducing height than the diameter which is already acceptable.
We are right now exploring one avenue that could potentially lead to a reduction in the "feeling" of thickness (though, when on the wrist, it does not feel that much thick)... I'll post updates when I have some news :)

In other news, Wilfried will soon go to Shenzhen to visit our suppliers and check how they are faring with all the small improvements to implement we communicated them. Hopefully I will have some good news, and some nice pictures to share with you!

Here are some pictures that I took recently (I went to visit my sister in Nice):









Have a nice rest of the day!

Robin.
 

WilYa

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My suggestion will be focusing on other markets than China itself. There are just too many options for a small crowd of audiences for non-swiss mechanical watches in China at the moment.
 

Fandegrue

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Warning: This post is going to be very long!

Hello everyone,

First and foremost, allow me to wish you a happy new year! I hope that 2019 will be, at least from a horological point of view, a successful one :) On our side, lots of exciting things are currently under development… I will give some more details about this point at the end of my message.

These past few weeks have been extremely busy – much more than what I had expected beforehand. I had conceived the production launch as just a set of courtesy visits to our different suppliers, but, alas, this wasn’t truly so the case. All along our journey across Mainland China the pace was “robust” to say the least; there was a lot to be done, and little time to properly accomplish all these tasks. But now, all is well; production is finally underway and you will be pleased to hear that we managed to increase the quality of some of the components (and, trust me, it was already very high).

Let me give you a little bit of context. Straight after the Kickstarter campaign was over, I flew to Hong Kong to “reunite” with Wilfried (sounds almost like a romantic relationship haha). The plan was to stay there for two weeks or so, and to then spend an additional 12 days scouring the Mainland to start production. This meant going from one supplier to the other, and formally putting down our orders.

I will structure my account of the past month chronologically instead of thematically; this will make the narration simpler and the reading more agreeable.

Let me start with when I visited my strap supplier in HK. I needed to see him because, with the help of a friend, I had located an awesome tannery specialising in fish leather in France, and I wanted to have the samples they provided me tested. This meant making a very small batch of strap prototypes (5 or 6) to then assess the quality of the leather. A few words about this tannery in France: they were amongst the very first in the world to experiment with tanning fish skins, and they usually tend to work only with very upscale brands. The skins they had sent me felt very solid and smooth; nothing compared to what the previous salmon straps were made of. It was necessary to determine all the details for this new, small batch of prototypes: lining, stitching, hot stamping inside… I felt like a kid designing my own toy! This visit to our supplier also proved the opportunity to discuss a few points of concerns stemming from feedbacks we had collected online: adding one more hole to the straps, improving their overall quality, making the hot stamping neater, agreeing on a delivery timeline, etc.…



The next day, we went to visit our packaging supplier. The watch will be housed in a navy blue top grain leather travel pouch, and the latter will come in a qualitative cardboard box. I had shown you beforehand the designs that Liu Yuguan had sketched to decorate it, but there were still lots of important details to determine for this box. We thus spent the whole morning discussing its exact dimensions, the way it should open, the kind of foam that will be present inside, etc. The company with which we are working supplies a fair share of high-end brands (Ch*n*l, Her*m*s, Bal**ciag*, well, you get my point) so you should rest assured that the quality will be top notch.



One Saturday afternoon, I went to the Mandarin Oriental with a friend to catch a glimpse of the watches that were to be auctioned by Phillips during their Hong Kong Watch Auction: Seven. There were quite a few eye-candies, such as an FP Journe Résonance and a Rolex COMEX (which has some special significance for me, as COMEX was in Marseille, the city in France from which I am from).





My friend is a fan of “UFO” watches, thus we dedicated a non-negligible amount of time to admiring the MB&F, De Bethune and Urwerk on display. After having spent a few minutes scrutinising a RJ Spacecraft, someone from behind the counters calls out to me and asks the following: “Excuse me sir, but isn’t your watch an Atelier Wen?”. To say that my surprise was substantial would be an understatement; I was literally astounded. I say yes, and immediately follow-up enquiring about how on earth he knew about the brand. Turns out that he has been reading about the latter online, and that he even contributed to our Kickstarter campaign! What a coincidence!

The following days were mainly dedicated to setting-up our upcoming manufacturers tour in Mainland China. Lots of small tasks needed to be carried out: setting up meetings with each individual company, summing-up the different points of feedback we have for each of them, sorting out a few administrative issues, and so on.


Admiralty MTR Station


Near Wanchai Market


A not-so-good idea: drinking while working


Some random street


We started with Shenzhen and its sister Dongguan. To go there, we took the new high-speed line departing from Kowloon West. Before its existence, taking the MTR up until the Lo Wu terminus, crossing the border by feet and eventually taking the Shenzhen subway from the Luo Hu station was needed… All in all, from end to end, this could take up to three hours. Now, with this new high-speed rail track, it is possible to reach Futian (another checkpoint to enter Shenzhen) in just 15 minutes (add 30 minutes to cross the border at Kowloon West Station)! What’s impressive too is the fact that the track is fully underground!


Last view of HK before going in the station

Once there, we needed to rush as we had a meeting with our case supplier scheduled for 11AM. He is located in Dongguan suburbs; nearly one hour away from Futian. A good surprise though was awaiting us: the new case prototype was ready! Lots of small improvements have been put in place: some angles are less salient, the lines are on overall cleaner and more neat, the lug surface has been flattened a tiny bit so as to improve the vertical brushing, the glass has been upgraded from single-dome to double-dome sapphire, the mirror polish is “cleaner”…


Everything starts with tea...





We had also received from our crown supplier some new prototypes; these ones are not right shape-wise, but the diameter has been increased by 0.5mm as requested, so we were still keen to put one on the new case, just to check how it feels like, and therefore to assess the righteousness of this new size. It more comfortable and studier too. As I am writing these lines, some new prototypes are being made, this time with the right shape.



To go back to the case, while this new prototype, for sure, presented some genuine and tangible improvements over the previous cases, we couldn’t help but believe that there were still points where the standard could be elevated. What did we thus do? We requested a new set of prototypes! I honestly think that we are one of our supplier’s most demanding clients; if it wasn’t for our friendship, I don’t know if he would still be collaborating with us…

Next on our agenda was a meeting with our buckle supplier, whose factory is located on the other end of Dongguan. It is funny to witness how contrasted the city looks like; you have neighbourhoods consisting exclusively of factories, and which, to be fair, don’t look too pleasant, but from times to times, this monotony is being broken by the American-style campus of Chinese tech giants. There, it’s radically different: green spaces everywhere, glass skyscrapers, international schools…







The meeting with our buckle supplier was rapid and straightforward. We formulated the different improvements (mainly ameliorating the vertical brushing on the top surface and making the engraving on the inside neater) to be implemented to the director, and after a few minutes of discussion, he agreed. What I nevertheless find quite interesting in China is that if a person is not used to carrying out a task in a certain way he/she can ask you a good dozen times if we are "fully sure that we want to proceed this way? Absolutely sure? You won't regret it? Because, you know, things are usually not done this way... So you are really sure? Truly so? You don't want to wait a bit, and think it all over again? Look, brand XYZ is doing it that way!" But, well, this well-intentioned, so it is not unpleasant. I even find that it makes some of our interlocutors "attaching".



We afterwards went back to Shenzhen. For a reason that I still can’t grasp, we had elicited to stay in a northern neighbourhood of the city, which was as far away as it is possible to be from the city centre… To cheer us up, we went to have some sort of small fish hotpot for dinner!



We had our flight to Beijing the next day, but as it was scheduled for the early evening, we decided to use the free time ahead of it to go about our respective daily activities. I decided to go explore the Nanhai neighbourhood, which I found to be extremely modern. It was afterwards time to head to the airport.




Nanhai

The disembarkation was done by paxbus, and we were greeted by a 4°C temperature and some heavy fog. We were nevertheless very excited and genuinely happy to be there! Beijing has some strong significance for the two of us; we are both very attached to the city. To a certain extent, these less-than-ideal weather conditions contributed to reinforcing that feeling. There is in Beijing a very particular, very distinctive kind of atmosphere that I would have a hard time describing, but which, every time, makes me fall under the spell of the Chinese capital.



We head towards the hotel. This latter was one of the very first foreign establishments built when the country opened up in the 1980s. Because it was set to close on December 31st to undergo a three-year-long general renovation, the room rates were very attractive. I couldn’t help but take a few pictures of the lobby; it has a kind of outmoded charm.





In Beijing, there were no suppliers to visit but a few potential investors to meet. We have some really ambitious plans for Atelier Wen, and obtaining some funding would help us greatly with speeding up its execution and implementation. The path during these few days was “sustained”; there were rendez-vous all the time, and nights were short to allow us to act on the feedbacks received and improve our presentation. It was nevertheless quite thrilling, so all in all these are some pleasant few days.



Doesn't look bad on a women wrist!

After a morning full of presentations, it was now time for our caffeine-full bodies to head to Dandong. The local airport is currently undergoing some refurbishment work; as such, the only viable option to get there was to board a night train.




The ceiling is wonderful...

And we are off for a 14-hour-long journey! The compartment is overheated, but, at this moment in time, it doesn’t matter; we are both ecstatic to be finally resting on a bed. The voyage is smooth and seamless, and, in the early morning, we finally reach Dandong Station. I discovered that the latter was actually not our train terminus… The K27 actually goes all the way to… Pyongyang!




Getting closer to Dandong...


Straight out of the station

It is now time to go to the Dandong Watch Factory!

TO BE CONTINUED! Part Two will be posted in the next coming days!

Thank you!

Robin.
 

LA Guy

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Warning: This post is going to be very long!

Hello everyone,

First and foremost, allow me to wish you a happy new year! I hope that 2019 will be, at least from a horological point of view, a successful one :) On our side, lots of exciting things are currently under development… I will give some more details about this point at the end of my message.

These past few weeks have been extremely busy – much more than what I had expected beforehand. I had conceived the production launch as just a set of courtesy visits to our different suppliers, but, alas, this wasn’t truly so the case. All along our journey across Mainland China the pace was “robust” to say the least; there was a lot to be done, and little time to properly accomplish all these tasks. But now, all is well; production is finally underway and you will be pleased to hear that we managed to increase the quality of some of the components (and, trust me, it was already very high).

Let me give you a little bit of context. Straight after the Kickstarter campaign was over, I flew to Hong Kong to “reunite” with Wilfried (sounds almost like a romantic relationship haha). The plan was to stay there for two weeks or so, and to then spend an additional 12 days scouring the Mainland to start production. This meant going from one supplier to the other, and formally putting down our orders.

I will structure my account of the past month chronologically instead of thematically; this will make the narration simpler and the reading more agreeable.

Let me start with when I visited my strap supplier in HK. I needed to see him because, with the help of a friend, I had located an awesome tannery specialising in fish leather in France, and I wanted to have the samples they provided me tested. This meant making a very small batch of strap prototypes (5 or 6) to then assess the quality of the leather. A few words about this tannery in France: they were amongst the very first in the world to experiment with tanning fish skins, and they usually tend to work only with very upscale brands. The skins they had sent me felt very solid and smooth; nothing compared to what the previous salmon straps were made of. It was necessary to determine all the details for this new, small batch of prototypes: lining, stitching, hot stamping inside… I felt like a kid designing my own toy! This visit to our supplier also proved the opportunity to discuss a few points of concerns stemming from feedbacks we had collected online: adding one more hole to the straps, improving their overall quality, making the hot stamping neater, agreeing on a delivery timeline, etc.…



The next day, we went to visit our packaging supplier. The watch will be housed in a navy blue top grain leather travel pouch, and the latter will come in a qualitative cardboard box. I had shown you beforehand the designs that Liu Yuguan had sketched to decorate it, but there were still lots of important details to determine for this box. We thus spent the whole morning discussing its exact dimensions, the way it should open, the kind of foam that will be present inside, etc. The company with which we are working supplies a fair share of high-end brands (Ch*n*l, Her*m*s, Bal**ciag*, well, you get my point) so you should rest assured that the quality will be top notch.



One Saturday afternoon, I went to the Mandarin Oriental with a friend to catch a glimpse of the watches that were to be auctioned by Phillips during their Hong Kong Watch Auction: Seven. There were quite a few eye-candies, such as an FP Journe Résonance and a Rolex COMEX (which has some special significance for me, as COMEX was in Marseille, the city in France from which I am from).





My friend is a fan of “UFO” watches, thus we dedicated a non-negligible amount of time to admiring the MB&F, De Bethune and Urwerk on display. After having spent a few minutes scrutinising a RJ Spacecraft, someone from behind the counters calls out to me and asks the following: “Excuse me sir, but isn’t your watch an Atelier Wen?”. To say that my surprise was substantial would be an understatement; I was literally astounded. I say yes, and immediately follow-up enquiring about how on earth he knew about the brand. Turns out that he has been reading about the latter online, and that he even contributed to our Kickstarter campaign! What a coincidence!

The following days were mainly dedicated to setting-up our upcoming manufacturers tour in Mainland China. Lots of small tasks needed to be carried out: setting up meetings with each individual company, summing-up the different points of feedback we have for each of them, sorting out a few administrative issues, and so on.


Admiralty MTR Station


Near Wanchai Market


A not-so-good idea: drinking while working


Some random street


We started with Shenzhen and its sister Dongguan. To go there, we took the new high-speed line departing from Kowloon West. Before its existence, taking the MTR up until the Lo Wu terminus, crossing the border by feet and eventually taking the Shenzhen subway from the Luo Hu station was needed… All in all, from end to end, this could take up to three hours. Now, with this new high-speed rail track, it is possible to reach Futian (another checkpoint to enter Shenzhen) in just 15 minutes (add 30 minutes to cross the border at Kowloon West Station)! What’s impressive too is the fact that the track is fully underground!


Last view of HK before going in the station

Once there, we needed to rush as we had a meeting with our case supplier scheduled for 11AM. He is located in Dongguan suburbs; nearly one hour away from Futian. A good surprise though was awaiting us: the new case prototype was ready! Lots of small improvements have been put in place: some angles are less salient, the lines are on overall cleaner and more neat, the lug surface has been flattened a tiny bit so as to improve the vertical brushing, the glass has been upgraded from single-dome to double-dome sapphire, the mirror polish is “cleaner”…


Everything starts with tea...





We had also received from our crown supplier some new prototypes; these ones are not right shape-wise, but the diameter has been increased by 0.5mm as requested, so we were still keen to put one on the new case, just to check how it feels like, and therefore to assess the righteousness of this new size. It more comfortable and studier too. As I am writing these lines, some new prototypes are being made, this time with the right shape.



To go back to the case, while this new prototype, for sure, presented some genuine and tangible improvements over the previous cases, we couldn’t help but believe that there were still points where the standard could be elevated. What did we thus do? We requested a new set of prototypes! I honestly think that we are one of our supplier’s most demanding clients; if it wasn’t for our friendship, I don’t know if he would still be collaborating with us…

Next on our agenda was a meeting with our buckle supplier, whose factory is located on the other end of Dongguan. It is funny to witness how contrasted the city looks like; you have neighbourhoods consisting exclusively of factories, and which, to be fair, don’t look too pleasant, but from times to times, this monotony is being broken by the American-style campus of Chinese tech giants. There, it’s radically different: green spaces everywhere, glass skyscrapers, international schools…







The meeting with our buckle supplier was rapid and straightforward. We formulated the different improvements (mainly ameliorating the vertical brushing on the top surface and making the engraving on the inside neater) to be implemented to the director, and after a few minutes of discussion, he agreed. What I nevertheless find quite interesting in China is that if a person is not used to carrying out a task in a certain way he/she can ask you a good dozen times if we are "fully sure that we want to proceed this way? Absolutely sure? You won't regret it? Because, you know, things are usually not done this way... So you are really sure? Truly so? You don't want to wait a bit, and think it all over again? Look, brand XYZ is doing it that way!" But, well, this well-intentioned, so it is not unpleasant. I even find that it makes some of our interlocutors "attaching".



We afterwards went back to Shenzhen. For a reason that I still can’t grasp, we had elicited to stay in a northern neighbourhood of the city, which was as far away as it is possible to be from the city centre… To cheer us up, we went to have some sort of small fish hotpot for dinner!



We had our flight to Beijing the next day, but as it was scheduled for the early evening, we decided to use the free time ahead of it to go about our respective daily activities. I decided to go explore the Nanhai neighbourhood, which I found to be extremely modern. It was afterwards time to head to the airport.




Nanhai

The disembarkation was done by paxbus, and we were greeted by a 4°C temperature and some heavy fog. We were nevertheless very excited and genuinely happy to be there! Beijing has some strong significance for the two of us; we are both very attached to the city. To a certain extent, these less-than-ideal weather conditions contributed to reinforcing that feeling. There is in Beijing a very particular, very distinctive kind of atmosphere that I would have a hard time describing, but which, every time, makes me fall under the spell of the Chinese capital.



We head towards the hotel. This latter was one of the very first foreign establishments built when the country opened up in the 1980s. Because it was set to close on December 31st to undergo a three-year-long general renovation, the room rates were very attractive. I couldn’t help but take a few pictures of the lobby; it has a kind of outmoded charm.





In Beijing, there were no suppliers to visit but a few potential investors to meet. We have some really ambitious plans for Atelier Wen, and obtaining some funding would help us greatly with speeding up its execution and implementation. The path during these few days was “sustained”; there were rendez-vous all the time, and nights were short to allow us to act on the feedbacks received and improve our presentation. It was nevertheless quite thrilling, so all in all these are some pleasant few days.



Doesn't look bad on a women wrist!

After a morning full of presentations, it was now time for our caffeine-full bodies to head to Dandong. The local airport is currently undergoing some refurbishment work; as such, the only viable option to get there was to board a night train.




The ceiling is wonderful...

And we are off for a 14-hour-long journey! The compartment is overheated, but, at this moment in time, it doesn’t matter; we are both ecstatic to be finally resting on a bed. The voyage is smooth and seamless, and, in the early morning, we finally reach Dandong Station. I discovered that the latter was actually not our train terminus… The K27 actually goes all the way to… Pyongyang!




Getting closer to Dandong...


Straight out of the station

It is now time to go to the Dandong Watch Factory!

TO BE CONTINUED! Part Two will be posted in the next coming days!

Thank you!

Robin.
It's always cool to have your own product recognized - probably one of the best feelings ever.

my brother, who is somewhat interested in watches, read first about you here, and then looked you up in other online publications/platforms. He is rarely interested in anything else concerning my online work, so your name is definitely getting out there.
 

Fandegrue

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Hello everyone!

It has been a long time since I haven’t posted anything – I was meant to post the second part of the Mainland China trip, but I good caught up in work and hardly had any time to finish drafting this “travelogue”.

Launching in Mainland China is definitely tougher than expected; things are nevertheless progressing well, but that is not a breezy path to say the least.

At the onset, I believed it would be easier because I was under the impression that the product would fit the domestic Chinese market better than the international ones (it somehow makes sense: a proudly Chinese identity being more appealing to local Chinese individuals). I can’t yet comment on the validity of this hypothesis, however, the difficulty stems from something completely different: execution.

At first, we believed that simply being featured in horological and lifestyle press as well as in a few large national newspapers would be enough to ensure sales, but we realised that, unlike in Europe, it is actually super tough to convert with these outlets. These are good for “presence”, i.e. when customers will Baidu-search the brand, but these articles alone won’t generate revenue.

And anyway, Chinese customers have a very different approach to online shopping, that is simply not comparable with what is done in the West…

To cut a long story short, the strategy is now to extensively use social media (WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Zhihu and potentially Douyin) and to couple that with a mix of traditional PR and KOL exposure. There is still some fine-tuning going on, and the workload is abysmally high.

I will keep you updated about how it evolves and moves forward; thus far, the launch is scheduled for either 12th or 26th of April.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the trip back in December:


The Dandong Watch Factory

A prototype


It actually works!




With the directors of the Dandong Watch Factory


Shenyang



Shanghai




Fiyta's HQ in Shenzhen


New case prototypes


Finishing has been much improved! I am quite excited!


KTV on the last night before heading back to HK


A little surprise awaiting us - new salmon leather straps!


And some improved buckles!



It's always cool to have your own product recognized - probably one of the best feelings ever.

my brother, who is somewhat interested in watches, read first about you here, and then looked you up in other online publications/platforms. He is rarely interested in anything else concerning my online work, so your name is definitely getting out there.

Thank you, Fok! Really heartwarming to hear these words, especially these days when the workload is driving us insane :)
 

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