Singapore Microbrands: Insights From Vilhelm Founder, Nop Srinara
"It's an interesting time."
In our interview series with microbrand owners, we ask them to tell us about the challenges and misconceptions associated with running a watch microbrand. Here, Nop Srinara of Vilhelm shares his thoughts on the local microbrand market and his vision for the brand.
Accessibility to the brand owners is the main draw. Fans are able to directly influence and impact the direction of the brand and its subsequent releases. Of course, the affordability and no-frills approach to watchmaking also tick all the boxes that the microbrand customer wants.
The main challenge is building brand awareness. We also have to convert mainstream customers to consider microbrands like us who don’t have million-dollar marketing budgets. But it’s an interesting time to be a microbrand owner as we are seeing a growing interest and awareness in microbrands both locally and internationally.
Some people think microbrands are lower in quality. Although almost all microbrands manufacture in China to keep the selling price affordable, it’s definitely misguided to think that leads to lower quality. The future of microbrands here is actually very promising and healthy. The last I checked, there were about 60 registered microbrands in Singapore alone.
I want to focus on the design process. Typically, I make under 500 pieces a year. I don’t have high overheads, so I can concentrate on the design rather than make more pieces than necessary. There’s always been a huge debate about whether microbrands cease to become a microbrand if production gets too big but I guess it would take a very large production to grow the brand to a point where operational structure is irreversibly changed and direct communication to the brand owners is lost.
There are plans to evolve Vilhelm. My original intent was to make a watch that was unique, sporty and masculine, with innovative materials you would usually find in luxury watches, like titanium, forged carbon and ceramic, but sold at an affordable price. Moving forward, I hope to evolve the product line to include bracelet models, dressier watches and perhaps a ladies’ line at some point.
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