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Meet Wesley Kwok of Nodus Watches in Long Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wesley Kwok.

Wesley, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Cullen and I met back in middle school when we were 13 or 14 years old. We actually initially bonded over music, when I was the new kid in school – we were introduced by a mutual friend and we immediately hit it off, forming a band within a week of meeting. That’s probably when we started developing our creative synergy, which ended up translating really well to designing, manufacturing, and building watches years later. We parted ways after high school but reconvened after college, when I moved from Boston to Los Angeles in 2016, where Cullen had been living for a few years. We were both really into watches at that point – scouring forums, looking at watch-related accounts on Instagram, reading magazines and reviews – we spent way too many hours looking at watches. It had become an obsession. Within a week of arriving in LA, one of us had the crazy idea of designing and making a watch – the perfect watch – for ourselves; the one that would end the obsession and tick every box for us – a goal that we have since realized is impossible to achieve.

We pulled out our savings and put it all into this and three years later, here we are, still around and kicking. In the early days, we focused most of our attention on Instagram, integrating ourselves into the community as an affordable alternative to many brands in our space from large Swiss and Japanese manufacturers. The watch enthusiast community is interesting because not only is it growing steadily, but the market share is shifting away from larger established brands and more towards independents, many of which are based here in the US. Consumers are getting smarter and asking more from brands, and we aim to capitalize on this shift by continuing to maintain a high level of quality in our products and design as well as maintaining a constant and open dialogue with our clients. In order to capture that shifting market share, we have been focusing more on press and media in addition to maintaining a strong relationship with the community on social media that has been largely ignored by larger companies.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
To be honest, nothing entrepreneurial is ever smooth, but it is certainly exciting. The hardest part about our business – and probably all startups – is entering the market for the first time. Bringing a product to market is always an uphill battle, either because you have to create the market, such as in the case of many technology startups, or because the market is already flooded with options and competition.

For us, it was the latter. Standing out amongst the competition required that we did everything at least an order of magnitude better than everyone else, from the quality of the product to the after-sales support to how we handled the marketing and promotion. We needed a way to get the consumer to trust us – to trust that we make a good product and that we’d be around for many years to come to offer aftermarket support should anything go wrong with the watch. Some things we did to cultivate that trust was something called the Nodus Tour, where we travel to a part of the country, pack a car full of watches and tell everyone to meet us at X place at X time. It gave people a chance to get to know us as people and really understand the “why” behind the brand.

Nodus Watches – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We design and manufacture wristwatches. Our function-first approach ensures longevity and utility far beyond fashion-focused brands, but our online-first approach allows us to pass savings on to our customers. We are known for our artisanal approach to building automatic sports watches, all of which are rated to at least 200m of water resistance and are regulated in four positions right here in LA. When most people think of an automatic watch, most people think of Rolex, Omega, Hamilton, or even newer brands such as Shinola. We offer a more affordable alternative to them, packing more bang into each buck. Each watch is individually inspected, assembled, and regulated here in Los Angeles.

Surprisingly, it isn’t even the watches themselves that we are proud of. Obviously, we put a huge amount of time and capital into constantly improving the quality of our product, but we’re really more proud of the community that we’ve built around the brand. When you purchase a Nodus, we make sure we stay in touch with you regularly. If we bring the tour to another part of the country (and eventually, world), you’ll receive a personal email from us inviting you out to meet up and hang out. We want to see our customers as friends – more than just a number on an invoice. The best part about this hobby and industry is the community. We often see collectors come together for causes greater than themselves and it is a really special feeling to be contributing to this community.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Recently, we did a showcase in DC, where we showed off our new releases. As it was our first time in DC, we got a chance to finally meet many of our long-time customers, some of which had been supporting us since day one but we just never had a chance to meet. One customer in particular, probably in his mid-40s, had drove a few hours just to come meet us and take a photo with us.

Without giving too many personal details away, he explained to us that he is going through a transitional phase in his life, dealing with both an involuntary career change as well as a pretty severe medical issue, and as a result has some anxiety about the next stage of life. He called us his “entrepreneurial heroes” and looks to us as an example of not only how to approach building a business but WHY to build a business. Being able to serve as an inspiration for him and people like him is way more important to us that selling watches. Of course, this company has to be sustainable, but at that moment, I knew that this thing we are building is way more than just a watch business, and that makes all the tough moments worth it.

Pricing:

  • Retrospect – Starts at $425
  • Avalon – Starts at $625
  • Duality – $700
  • Sector Series – Starts at $400

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Image Credit:

Photo credit: Nodus Watches

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