Kickstarter Microbrand Watches RIP?

Kickstarter microbrand watches - Moulin

Kickstarter microbrand watches. An aspiring watchmaker comes up with a new design, prices production, gins-up a photoshop image or prototype, raises money via Kickstarter campaign, uses the up-front cash to make it happen, sends out watches. Wash, rinse, repeat. Only sometimes it doesn’t happen. Or it does happen but it takes a LOT longer than promised. Or the watch is a POS. Let’s check the stats . . .

Kickstarter microbrand watches stats

Clearly, Kickstarter microbrand watches are losing momentum – despite being home to a staggering 5,066 aspiring microbrand watch campaigns.

Also worth noting: this is a chart of successful Kickstarter microbrand watches: projects that reached their fundraising goal. Not that they created or indeed delivered awesome timepieces beloved by their backers.

Moulin watch logo

The Moulin watch at the top of this post is a typical example of why this online market is a horological Venus flytrap. Here’s German founder Paul Gatter’s online pitch:

I’m a 21-Year-old business student with a great passion for watches. Starting at the age of 15, I got into watches and learned to love everything about them. Unfortunately, watch collecting is a crazy expensive hobby, especially if you’re a student. That was the reason that made me think of starting my own watch brand from scratch, in order to make contemporary designed luxury watches affordable to everyone.

Kickstarter microbrand watches - blue Moulin

As of yesterday, Mr. Gatter raised $7776 from 24 backers (average $324 each). That puts him less than a third of the way to his $25,703 goal, with 21 days before Moulin watches is officially stillborn.

I reckon Mr. Gatter would have be better advised to work in the watch industry for 20 years before attempting to launch his own watch brand. Or at least offered a red dial Moulin to capitalize on the Moulin Rouge, birthplace of the can-can. Meanwhile, I can predict with considerable certainty Moulin will sink without a trace.

Along with his backers’ $7776? “If a project is still live,” Kickstarter warns, “you can cancel your pledge before it ends. However, once a successful project has ended, and collection has started, it is no longer possible to cancel your pledge.” In other words, your SOL.

Moulin timeline

Back up a second. watchpro.com reports the actual number of successful Kickstarter microbrand watches. That would be 93 projects in 2017, falling to 38 projects in 2020. Applying the 2020 stat to the number of Kickstarter microbrand watches currently seeking funding, a Kickstarter watch brand has less than a one percent chance of success.

Does that make Kickstarter microbrand watches a scam? I’m sure Mr. Gatter is delusional, rather than criminal. But yes. Yes it does. As the years roll by, leaving more and more disgruntled “investors” in their wake, Kickstarter microbrand watches’ astounding failure rate has become harder and harder to ignore. Hence those blue blocks on Mercury’s chart getting smaller and smaller.

Microbrand watches - Aerotech

As watchpro reported, there are successes in this arena. Again, 38 of them in 2020. AEROTEC WATCHES is a this-year example. Offering . . .

A retro diver inspired dive watch with the concept of heritage and modernity, design with functionality by giving you the best of both worlds.​ Our mission is to make premium watches accessible, affordable and wearable every day.

AEROTECH & Bezel

AEROTECH is making the same pitch as young master Gatter: a new watch with big brand quality at a bargain price. The Malaysian-based watchmaker has raised $81,944.49 to date, achieving 709 percent of their fundraising goal, with 14 days to go. What could possibly go wrong already has.

“Having completed production runs of the Aerotec Sea Hunt watches on our previous campaign,” AEROTECH writes, “we have learnt a lot and have plans to prevent any problems that we can foresee. Quality issues have also been solved.”

MING 27.02 - new watch alert

There are dozen of microbrands who didn’t and don’t use Kickstarter. Yesterday’s New Watch Alert highlighted MING, one of the rising stars of the microbrand watches universe that’s quickly becoming an established player. That’s the type of “bargain microbrand” a smart watch collector should pursue.

The bottom line remains the same: established watch brands are a safe bet. Microbrands are not. If you hanker after a timepiece from a small watch brand off-the-beaten path, do your homework and don’t spend more money than you’re willing to lose. ‘Nuff said?

6 comments

  1. I doubt it is a coincidence that the most uninspiring and derivative model shown is the one that isn’t backed. The market for knockoff watches is truly not in need of new entrants.

    1. ^This. I love what Undone does. But I’m not going to pay $300 for an Undone watch when I can get the same Omega or Rolex “homage” with a sterile dial and an NH35 automatic movement for $80 from what is probably Undone’s OEM in China.

  2. Ah, MING. The latest edition was launched on their website some days ago at around 5K USD. The 200 Schwarz Etienne-made pieces were burned in just 15 minutes.

  3. I have one microbrand watch, a “Caspian C-01” from Ventus Watches out of Singapore. I think they began with a Kickstarter campaign, but I ordered it after they’d begun production, meaning I paid a princely fifty bucks more for mine than did the early backers.

    Amusingly, aside from brass-versus-bronze, it’s nearly identical in concept to the AEROTEC offering above, right down to the “…develops a patina unique to you” spiel. I imagine there are a great many microbrands out there plowing the same furrow.

    https://ventuswatches.com/collections/caspian

    1. The minor upcharge that comes after they have actually proven they can deliver something is well worth it. I’m not a risk taker.
      Overwhelmingly they seem to just be checking different boxes on the same outsource made-to-order menu, so it’s no surprise that the supply of satisfactory outcomes is drying up.

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