On Starting An Affordable Men's Swiss Watches Brand

Published: March 25th, 2020
Esti Chazanow
Founder, LIV Watches
LIV Watches
from Miami, Florida, USA
started September 2014
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I’m Esti Chazanow, co-founder and brand manager for LIV Watches. We are a direct-to-consumer microbrand crafting precision, durable, high-quality, accessibly-priced Swiss-made limited edition watches capable of keeping up with an adventurous, bold lifestyle.

Our customers are passionate about watches, obsessed with good design and Swiss craftsmanship--and us. To date, we’ve run 4 successful Kickstarter campaigns, generating nearly $8.5 million from 7300 backers.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

I grew up in Melbourne, Australia. I studied education in college and received a degree in business and commerce as well. Eventually, my focus became management, marketing, and organizational structure and curriculum development which I worked on in the nonprofit and education worlds.

Surround yourself with incredible people--people that are as passionate about what you’re doing as you are.

In 2009, I met Chaz, my husband. He was already an entrepreneur in the watch world, operating e-commerce watch stores since the early 2000s. In our first years of marriage, Chaz was starting to realize that he wanted to make a shift. The goal was to create a brand that would produce high quality, unique watches at an accessible price point, direct to consumer and build relationships.

Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?

At the end of 2014, LIV launched with the LIV GX1 Swiss Quartz Chronographon Kickstarter. We chose to crowdfund because it reflected our independent mindset, our microbrand philosophy of dealing directly with our fans. You cannot get more direct than having the people themselves fund the watch itself in exchange for the finished product.

The project was fully funded within the first 11 hours with the most backers for a Swiss watch project on Kickstarter to date at the time.

At the beginning of 2016, we launched the LIV GX1-A Swiss Automatic watch on Kickstarter, and received over 1.1 million dollars in funding! When you look at the movement we use, you can begin to understand why these marvelous works of mechanical engineering are so appealing to many of our fans.

In mid-2016, we launched a small production run of the LIV GX Base Swiss Watch on our website. It was our most basic model to that point, three-hand quartz with a date window at the 3 o’clock position and remains one of our best sellers to this day.

In March 2017, we launched the Rebel watch on Kickstarter. Receiving over 1.7 million US dollars from over 2,900 customers all over the world who had never even heard of our microbrand. It remains the most crowdfunded Swiss watch to date.

Its rebellious design has garnered legions of loyal fans, just like every other LIV Watch. It is available on our website here.

Rebels like to keep moving, and we launched our fourth, and most ambitious, Kickstarter campaign in 2018 offering, not one model and a series of variations, but four different models, each with a different Swiss movement. We offered our first dive watch and a pilot-themed watch for aviation buffs. We also introduced ceramic bezels and our first titanium case.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

LIV is doing great today! We continue to launch new watches through Kickstarter and our own launch platform (including our current campaign, the P-51 Pilot’s Watch).

We also plan on expanding our offerings to include other men's lifestyle products and accessories like sunglasses, wallets, and so on.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The reason we went to Kickstarter to launch our brand was that we felt that it would be the best way to reach people and build relationships with them. People would be involved in the formation of the brand, in the creation of our first watch.

They’d be able to communicate with us in a community-like environment, through the comments on the Kickstarter wall, and work towards a goal with us. Finding that group of people is huge--both in terms of your audience, and in the team you build. Surround yourself with incredible people--people that are as passionate about what you’re doing as you are.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We use Shopify Plus, Klaviyo (email marketing), Twilio (SMS marketing), FrontApp (a central place for all your communications so you can work as a team), Wicked Reports (accurate attribution data for paid ads, email marketing, social media activity), AgoraPulse (social media management and mapping)

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Book by Greg McKeown Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

  • Map out the customer journey, starting from the top of your customer acquisition funnel
  • Build relationships, you’re not selling products
  • Tailor and personalize messaging
  • Test, test, test ALL your initiatives
  • Listen, listen, listen

Where can we go to learn more?