On Starting A Swiss-Made Watch Bands Company

Published: April 10th, 2020
Michael DiMartini
Everest Horology ...
from Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
started February 2012
market size
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
growth channels
Direct sales
business model
best tools
Google Drive, Bing Ads, Google Adwords
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
1 Tips
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Everest Horology Products, or Everest Bands, produces curved end watch bands for Rolex, Tudor or Panerai owners that connect the watch band directly to the case - closing the gap between watch band and watch case. At Everest, we want to help Rolex, Tudor, and Panerai owners customize the look of their Rolex, Tudor or Panerai with different strap options while preserving the bracelet. Our Swiss-Made aftermarket leather and rubber watch bands and line of watch accessories are customs created for our customers to take their Rolex, Tudor or Panerai anywhere.

With innovative designs and materials, we follow three cornerstones when developing the products. The watch bands complement the watch but more importantly, remove the unsightly gap between watch case and watch band. This unsightly gap between the watch band and the watch has been a problem for 50+ years for Rolex owners. Second, we choose only the best materials and manufacturers for the products. And of course, comfort is key.

When purchasing a Rolex, the only bracelet you receive is the one that the watch comes on. There is no option to change out your bracelet. If you want a different bracelet, you have to buy the entire watch it's sitting on. Rolex doesn’t sell replacement bracelets or watch bands. Prior to Everest Bands, the only watch band you could purchase was a straight end strap which leaves the expensive watch looking cheap on a strap that doesn’t belong on it (the gap speaks loudly). You can read more about removing the gap here.

Since beginning on this journey, we have grown each year by a significant percentage. We have run into obstacles. But, with wise decisions made by a team and a strong leader, we have persevered. 2017 is the first year we did not double sales. Since then, we have experienced at least 20% growth or better. And, our team today has been hand-picked based on strengths and communication to create a stronger future for Everest Bands.


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

Every journey has a beginning, and our story began with two passionate watch guys, Michael and Dave. With all of the custom options on the market for other watches, such as Panerai, IWC, etc., no one was making custom strap solutions for Rolex watch owners. The idea was born literally hours after Michael’s first son was born. He had actually sold his Rolex after the 2008 housing crisis and was working two jobs just to support his family. But, he wanted to invest in his passion, and his wife supported him despite others doubting it would be a success. With his partner Dave, he turned it into a business adventure - watch guys making something for fellow watch guys. After releasing the first rubber watch bands for Rolex, Rolex itself released its version just three years after Everest with its Oyster-flex bracelet. This was a pretty big validation for the idea.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the experts.

Funded by Kickstarter with two successful campaigns, Everest has grown to where it is today thanks to the support of the watch community and fellow watch guys. We first released watch bands for Rolex models, then for Rolex’s sister company - Tudor. Just recently, we have released watch bands for Panerai models. We took this step because, in the watch community, Panerai owners are known to be huge watch band, guys. Since our business is watch bands, the sensible market opportunity was too hard to overlook. Beginning first with vulcanized rubber watch bands, we have since expanded into Italian vegetable tanned leather, perforated racing leather (that uses the same material as German and Italian sports cars), and nylon.

Everest Bands are made in Switzerland by top watch industry experts. The Swiss make the finest watches in the world. Why? You can check out their journey to becoming the world-leading watch manufacturers here. They also happen to manufacture the finest watch straps to go on those watches. Thus, making Everest Bands in Switzerland was the only option - the best for the best. You can read more about the importance of Swiss-Made here.

The name, Everest, was chosen to honor Rolex’s long history with innovative solutions. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay were the first to conquer the highest peak in the world - Mount Everest. These explorers reached their destination with the help of a Rolex designed to withstand the highest of heights. We encourage our customers to climb higher with Everest.

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

After launching the first rubber product - a single strap in black, it was a struggle to sell Rolex owners (who loved their bracelet) on this modern idea. What sold them was the fact that this product would protect their bracelets and preserve them (a $1500 - $20,000 item), but most of all, they could customize their Rolex. As more rubber colors were added on, watch enthusiasts could create their own custom look. Once rubber was taken care of in tang style (belt buckle like straps) and deployant style (that used the Rolex bracelet deployant buckles), Everest expanded into leather.

Expanding into leather was a challenge because Everest strives to seek out the best material. The designers spent months visiting different material vendors to find the best leather. Finally, Everest discovered an Italian vegetable tanned leather that was a beautiful, natural, old-world tannery style product. You can see more about this material here. Once again, our Swiss manufacturers were able to use this material to create the perfect curved end watch band.

After expanding into leather, we decided to look at different, more unique materials like perforated leather (similar to Italian and German sports car leather) and nylon material. Once we covered the most popular Rolex models, we decided to focus on expanding to Tudor and then, Panerai. I explain this because of over 8 years, this was a process. We listened to our watch community and what they asked for. We worked with our manufacturers to continue to expand into new realms in creating different types of straps. But most of all, we worked with and continue to work with our manufacturers to make sure they are successful because we are successful. In expanding to watch accessories, we worked with many manufacturers to sample and compare the best material and best quality for the most reasonable price.

Our journey has been a slow and strategic one. Maintaining positive relationships and listening to the market community has been key. Our focus on marketing is cultural development - organic development through the community. We let our products speak for themselves through our beloved and supportive customers.

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

Since our inception in 2012, 2017 is the first year we did not double sales. Since then, we have experienced at least 20% growth or better. Our social media following is all organic. We have 134K followers and grow by 600+ on average a week. We strive to acquire the market optimal return on ad spend. Customer lifetime value is incredibly important to us - we actually send Holiday gifts starting around Black Friday to our customers every year. With our new approach to focusing on raising our SEO, our monthly traffic has skyrocketed. We use our blog to post relevant market news and blast those articles through email which has raised our email subscribers. We have an internal marketing team that meets to strategically plan out the marketing approaches and tactics.

One of our challenges is in production. Managing products that are made in different countries can be difficult, but we understand the importance of Swiss-Made for our customers. Delays can occur due to international holidays (Switzerland takes six weeks off in the summer), as well as in shipping or importing of goods. With working with Swiss companies, we have to make sure we understand their production timelines as well as any new product sampling timelines. Sometimes we run into fitment issues with new productions. We do our best to check-in via email and through phone calls. But, our CEO still travels to Switzerland quite often to meet with the teams in person.

A part of our business is B2B. We sell watch bands to jewelers worldwide. After eight years, we now have 270 jewelers worldwide. This can be challenging for our teams to find ways to support and assist those jewelers in marketing the product worldwide, so they will reorder. Communication with these jewelers occurs at all hours of the day and night. And, they have to understand our SKUs and straps because not all straps fit on all Rolex, Tudor or Panerai models. These companies change the dimensions of the watch case as well as where the holes used to attach the bracelet. Since our strap is a curved end, the dimensions have to be exact or the straps won't properly install. Since our product is so unique, this can be a difficult concept to understand. Most watch bands fit based on something called lug width or the width of the bracelet because they are a straight end. Ours are dependent on case height, lug width, the corner of the lug, the placement and size of the spring bar holes, etc. Helping our sales individuals understand that is one area we run into challenges.

The project we are focusing on this year is to expand internationally both in retail and wholesale. Rolex has a huge international presence worldwide. It can be daunting to purchase a product internationally, so to build credibility with our customers, we are developing our website into five different languages - German, French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. Our process is to use a native speaker to translate our website, so there is no confusion by using Google Translate. We have launched our German website here already. The steps we are taking to increase our global footprint are all designed to increase sales and our profitability.

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

Everest has definitely experienced learning curves. Some of our advice would be to be careful when choosing a marketing company or development company - making sure it's the right fit. Be careful when experimenting with different materials, make sure to thoroughly test your material as your consumer would use it. Daily struggles can be actively dealt with, but long term decisions are made as a team with reports to support the decision. Look to the experts and treat your customers with care. But also, treat your product with care and respect. Treat your employees with respect. Clear communication in the workplace is key.

One important practice we have put into place that has led to incredible success within our company is team meetings that have bullet points. Don’t walk into a meeting with no clear end goal. And, reviewing everyone’s responsibilities at the end of the meeting with a follow-up email is key to make sure everyone walks away with the same expectations.

We have also found that giving back to the community is key. We support a local school as well as other projects dependent on the times and struggles. As with any small business, giving back to the community supports the community who then, in turn, supports you. We do our best to give back to the watch community as much as possible as well. They supported us in beginning this endeavor.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Everest’s primary platform is Shopify, but we use Shipstation for shipping all orders. Because we have multiple storefronts - both retail online and wholesale for jewelers, Finale helps us monitor inventory and purchasing. In terms of social media, we are everywhere. We live in a very socially driven environment nowadays, so you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Instagram (surprisingly) has a huge watch community. Many watch enthusiasts have pages solely dedicated to watches. We used to work with Instagram influencers but have found that our organic responses are more beneficial. To immerse ourselves successfully in Instagram all over the world, we use different social media management programs.

Everest also heavily uses Google - Google Shopping, Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Google Merchant Center. To optimize the feed for Google Merchant Center, DataFeedWatch is our go-to. Everest also uses Google Drive, Docs & Sheets to easily share and communicate projects and ideas. Managing different teams can be difficult, but Monday.com helps us set goals and steps to complete projects or achieve results.

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

Everest team leaders strongly believe in creating a strong and dynamic team. We recently finished the Clifton Strengths Assessment as a team to understand each other’s strengths better. This has led to a better understanding of the motivation behind actions and words in the workplace, but this has also helped teams in choosing the best individual to complete the job.

While we work with an AdWords expert, we feel it's important to keep most marketing in house. After some painful learning experiences of trying to work with companies who would market for you, we have discovered the best marketer of your product is you. You know the product and the benefits like the back of your hand. Don’t blindly fall into the sales pitches of what marketing companies can offer you. But, if you do find a marketing opportunity, research it fully and make sure to ask for examples of clients who found success with them.

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

The best advice we can give is to use your resources. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the experts. It's easy to think reading through manuals of how-tos or watching YouTube videos would be easier, but it's really not. Use the chat or pick up the phone to reach the experts with the different applications and services you use.

That being said, also make sure to use your resources online. Google offers a lot of tutorials on how to use the tools they offer. Read blogs about marketing your product. Use the tools at your fingertips, but don’t be afraid to ask the experts.

Where can we go to learn more?

Here are our links to social media

Want to start a watch accessories business? Learn more ➜