Hartley Watches: The New Face Of Time.
They say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure but that is exactly what the three founders (and friends) of Hartley have done. Being sure enough that their friendships could negotiate and even thrive when put to the test in the business world, they set about taking on the perils of business world.
Having only officially launched the business in the 2nd quarter of this year, Hartley has already got off to a thrilling start and the young entrepreneurs behind it all are eager to build on their early success. XWHY caught up with one of the founders of an up and coming watch label from the UK to discuss their Eastern influences, the power of social media and their exciting plans for the brand.
How did the brand get started ?
I’d always be interested in design but weirdly never owned a watch. A couple of mates came round one evening and we were chatting about what we could do with some of our designs. Many different routes were discussed with T Shirts being the big hitter. But we decided that would have been such a giant task to cut through the noise of that industry. Then Bill, a fellow founder, mentioned that hardly any watch brands make use of the face of a watch as a small canvas for art. That was the point the penny dropped and it went from there.
How long have you been planning the launch of Hartley watches?
That discussion I’ve just talked about occurred on 12th September 2015 (I remember because we were watching Chelsea get battered 3-1 by Everton and I’m a human being, so naturally I don’t like Chelsea). We went on to design what would sit on the front of the watch, then attempted to design the watch itself. That took a fair while until we decided to get some basic samples made. Six came, they were okay, definitely not the finished article. More tweaks, then came sourcing the parts. We wanted to position the brand as sub-premium, but with elements of an expensive watch (sapphire crystal glass, reliable movement etc). So finding the elements of the watch was hard. Eventually we found them all and found ourselves sourcing parts from 4 different countries, logistical nightmare, but do-able! After we’d sorted the actual watch production the business went on fast track. All the standard business stuff had to be done and then we had to create a brand, that was the fun bit. We opened pre-orders in April and officially opened our online store in June. So around 10 months from idea-to-launch. Hardest yet the best 10 months of our lives.
Where do you take inspiration from?
All three of the founding directors are from Hartley – a small village about 15 miles south of London, hence our name. Its leafy, it’s got wildlife and generally pretty nice. On the village green sits a wooden sign probably around 100 years old. On the sign is the village emblem, a Stag. So we took that as inspiration and have taken something so historic, so classically British and something so local to us, and modernise it using our design skills to bring it up to date and reflect the other urban influences all three of us had experienced. Two of us spent some time in Japan and Korea in 2014 and the geometric style of the new-and-improved stag has been heavily influenced from there. If you ever get a chance, Tokyo and Seoul are probably the best two places in the world (except Hartley).
Is this the first venture the world of business or have there been other brands and ventures before Hartley?
It’s the first I personally have followed through with. I’ve always dreamt of opening a Chimaek restaurant in London. Chimeak is a Korean cuisine that literally comprises of chi (chicken) and maekju (beer). There’s hundreds all around Japan and Korea where people meet up to eat amazingly flavoured chicken and drink some of the world’s best beers. What more could you want, seriously? So I have business plans and strategies all laid out for that one day. I’m not sure Watches and Restaurants are two industries with many links, but I’ll find a way.
Is production in the UK now prohibitively expensive for a start up?
This was really the most difficult part of the whole process. Our third founder, Ross, upped shop and went to live just outside Hong Kong in Shenzhen. So he went to some watch manufactures and had a look what was out there. They were okay, but just not the ticket. So we ended manufacturing the alternative way, we sourced the bezel steel from Switzerland, the leather straps from Italy, the movements and sapphire glass from Japan. They are then flown to our watch manufacturers in Hong Kong who assemble them for us and fly them back to us. I would have loved to set up production in the UK and someday hopefully we can, but for a start-up and with money limited to three 23 year old men, it simply wasn’t feasible and mainly, the quality of materials were worse here than the other countries. Our packaging is produced by a couple of companies based out of Sheffield though and they’ve done a sterling job to make them stand out.
We are talking to some UK-based bespoke material houses who will hopefully produce a new range of tweed straps for us in the near future.
How important do you think social media is, when it comes to business growth?
It is without doubt the most important part of growing this business. 85% of our sales are coming from Instagram users that like the content we are putting up. Facebook has their new Shop feature where users can buy a watch directly from the Facebook page which helped a lot. But Instagram is the one for us. It hasn’t got the share-ability that Facebook and Twitter have but it’s the best to display the photos and videos of the watches. The sexier the photo the more interaction we get. As we all know, sex sells.
Have you seen sales in any countries that have come as a surprise to you?
It’s actually been crazy, we never thought we’d be selling outside of the UK really to start off with but we’ve had many sales to Europe and some to North America. But it’s getting big in Asia! Malaysia and Japan are the two biggest so far and that’s nice for us given our design is influenced by a trip to Japan, so to see sales come in from there means we’ve made something the native people of that great culture are fond of, so ありがとうございました to any Japanese reading this!
Is there anyone you would really love to see wearing your stuff?
Probably Idris Elba. Imagine the product placement when he becomes James Bond.
Other than your own, what’s your favourite brand at the moment?
Onisika Tiger, Asics’ little brother making powerful pairs of trainers.
Non-fashion – I’d have to say DJI, who are making the biggest movements in drone camera technology in the world.
“How would you sell ice to an Eskimo?”
Add a shot of rum, 4 mint leaves, soda water and a squeeze of lime, call it mojito and charge £8.50.
Not in a sexual way, but what are you wearing today?
I’m wearing just my Calvin Klein’s and a LeBron James Cavs jersey, in a sexual way.
What else have you got planned for Hartley in the next 12 months?
We’re launching a women’s range in the next month or so which should be a fun challenge. Then we want to go big at Christmas with a new range of products. Can’t really say too much about that now though!
Jennifer Lawrence or Megan Fox ?
Who should we follow on twitter?
@viki_odintcova (and on Insta) – Thank me later
Chicken Shop or Nandos?
Sticky toffee pudding or Cheesecake ?
If you could have any accent in the world what would you chose?
Vintage or brand new?
Next holiday destination?
Favourite Ninja Turtle?