Turning Two Years Old

Just over two years ago, we hit “publish,” and our website went live. For the first time in both our lives, Cullen and I were a part of building something bigger than ourselves. Being the two young and naïve entrepreneurs that we were (and still are), we could not have predicted the tumultuous journey that we’ve been on 730 days later. I won’t belabor on the challenges of starting a company as someone in his mid-twenties, because I predict that the challenges moving forward will only get tougher and more exciting. Instead, I’d rather reflect on the experiences that make this whole thing worth it and the things we’ve done that got us to where we are.

Nodus Tours / Face Time

In a world that is becoming increasingly more connected, we unfortunately have never felt more disconnected from each other. The Internet has made it possible for businesses like us to thrive and for products like ours to exist. The age of information has brought many great things, but the one thing that it has taken away is the one thing we naturally crave as humans: face time.

Early on in the process, I realized how tightly knit the watch community is, and unlike my time in high school, being accepted into the community was incredibly easy. It became clear that watches are just one of a few common passions shared by people from all over the world. After communicating with people over Instagram, we decided to hit the road and start putting faces to names (or should I say Instagram handles).

The Nodus Tours have easily been the most rewarding part of this whole journey. Sending watches on tour is nothing new, as almost all brands under the sun do it. However, going out into the world to meet these people and hang out with them as if we are old friends catching up over a couple of beers is something much more special. To date, we’ve toured through Toronto, Ottawa, New York, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Seattle, and San Diego. This summer we are going to embark on our third tour, this time through Vancouver, Buffalo, Toronto, and Ottawa, and we have our eyes set on our first ever Nodus Tour Asia. More on that later though.

 
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Meeting Our Heroes

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Those who have been following us for a while know that there are a few brands that we look up to and hold in high regard as the golden standard for what a young independent watch company should be. Because we are watch enthusiasts before we are entrepreneurs, the watch bug that we got bit with years ago never went away. The notion that once we start a watch company, it would curb our buying habits has been proven untrue long ago. As fans, we’ve always wanted to meet the masterminds behind many of the watches that we love - but as entrepreneurs, we did not know what to expect in meeting our “competitors”.

In this segment of the market, it is hard to really see any other brand as “competition,” and I think this sentiment is shared amongst other brand owners too. When we got a chance to finally meet many of the people we looked up to years ago, they welcomed us with open arms, not as the “new kids on the block” but as equals (despite the fact that we have a long way to go before we can even come close).

What these experiences taught us was that a raising tide raises all ships, and that for any of us to “win” in this line of work, our segment of the market needs to be seen with some legitimacy, and the only way we can do achieve that is to work together and help each other grow. This industry has had enough of the snobbery and the pretentiousness, with all the invite-only events and closed-door meet-ups. I think we can all agree that this industry is made more interesting by the smaller independent brands, run by people who love beer, BBQ, music, cars, watches, and everything in between.

Manufacturing

Before Nodus, neither of us had any experience with manufacturing watches. At first we saw this as a disadvantage - we knew we had to work twice as hard and ask more of our manufacturing partners because it was and still is very much an uphill battle for us. The most common reply we would get to the questions we’d ask is “no one has ever asked us to do that before,” whether it is in regards to the Contrail’s bi-directional bezel, the Avalon’s ceramic treatment, or a slew of other seemingly mundane features. These details matter, but only to true enthusiasts.

 
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Looking back at the past two years, I now see our lack of knowledge and experience more as an advantage. In our segment of the market, things are done to a “status quo” and asking for any deviation is usually met with push back. It takes a new and disruptive mindset to challenge the conventional approach to design and manufacturing. Our business-mind tells us to move forward with the best business decision, balancing costs with features and benefits even if that means sacrificing the integrity of the product; but the enthusiast in us - the one that knows nothing about manufacturing or engineering - keeps us on the right path. After all, if we wouldn’t buy it, how can we expect our customers to?

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Steering this Nodus ship with Cullen over the past two years has been a real adventure. It has taken us places we never would have gone to otherwise and has taught us a ton about things we always wondered about as enthusiasts. As much as it seems like we have accomplished, we both feel like this is only the start and we have plans roughly laid out for the next few years. It will continue to be an uphill battle for us, probably until the day we hand the reins over to a worthy operator decades from now. But having the community and the market, as well as the entrepreneurs we’ve looked up to for years stand behind us makes it all worth it.

In my opinion, watches are the only material item that can add value and improve someone’s life. Some people get it, most people don’t. And that is fine. If there is one takeaway from this reflection, it is that the depth of our impact is much more meaningful than the scale. Our goal isn’t and never will be pushing the volume of our business, but rather, increasing our impact. In another two years, hopefully I can proudly say that we’ve stayed on the right path in bringing value-driven and purpose-built watches to the market. We owe it to ourselves, the industry, and most importantly the Nodus Fam.



Wesley KwokComment