Interview with the founders of boutique watch brand MYKU
A new watch brand is a case study in creating products that seem both of their time and blessed with age-old charm. The world of opulent timepieces is roughly divided into two separate realms. One is the Smart Watch, a multipurpose gadget straight out of a James Bond movie. The other stems from a more artisanal approach that harkens back to the device’s origins as a timekeeper.
MYKU is firmly in the latter camp. Look no further than its website to see that this bespoke watch company is cornering this niche market with one-off designs incorporating such precious stones as malachite, lapis lazuli, black onyx and white marble. Sporting race-car-sleek faces and golden numerals, the timepieces are for those who value subtlety over flashiness and natural beauty over technical pizzazz.
Co-founded by Singaporean entrepreneur Kuan Teo and French designer François Hurtaud in 2015, the two friends bring different skillsets and priorities to the operation.
As managing director Kuan wrote in an email, “François is the head designer, so his work spans from conceptualizing the watches, to overseeing the stone setting process, to delivering the experience we want to convey through our online platform at myku.co. My mind is set on all things business, from working with distributors to overseeing the brand’s expansion.”
What were the biggest obstacles they overcame to launch such a brand in a competitive talent pool of big fish and hungry sharks?
“Launching a brand isn’t really the difficult part,” Kuan writes, in a sentence that deserves a happy face emoticon with a tongue-in-cheek grin. “The challenge starts once you have launched it! As a small brand you have to find a way to build your audience, which takes time. For MYKU we have chosen to grow organically, through our own network, working with a range of retailers worldwide, like Corso Como in Milan and Concept Storeys in Berlin for example, who share our passion and people who believe in the brand. It may be the longer route, but it matters to us to keep MYKU authentic, grow sustainably and not lose sight of who we are.”
In other words, more akin to hip-hop slang, MYKU wants to keep it real. Yet part of the brand’s realism comes from a different source: the trend for authentic living that runs the gamut of everything from organic produce to craft beer and home-made décor, which is also a rebellion against the generic nature of mainstream, multinational mediocrity. Who wants to look as bland as a mannequin in a shop window when online commerce gives us access to a whole new realm of self-expression?
With MYKU, every watch is as unique as the stone it’s made from. In looking over the website you can see how the variety of different stones, watch sizes, cases and straps allows shoppers to customize their own timepieces.
At a time when environmental issues like climate change and renewable energy are gaining ground in the public eye, MYKU is also tapping into the primal energy of nature as a muse and healing agent. The company’s Instagram page makes note, for example, of how Roman soldiers wore tiger’s eye into battle to help protect them.
How and where do they source the materials used for their designs?
“Our sourcing process takes us around the world as we continuously aim to collaborate with the best craftsmen for each step. To begin with, our stones are responsibly sourced internationally, depending where they are found in nature. After careful quality controls, the stones are then cut by our craftsmen in Germany. After orientating each dial by hand to bring out its character best, the watches are assembled in Switzerland and Hong Kong,” writes Kuan.
It’s interesting to note that they have an instashop on their website where they encourage shoppers to model their purchases. How successful is this marketing strategy and how important is social media to the brand in general?
“We’re having a lot of fun with our followers and many of them share their take on our watch through their photos,” says Kuan. “It’s fascinating to us to see how they connect with it and interpret it in their posts. Our approach to marketing is really organic driven by connecting and growing with our community. Visual media like Instagram are crucial to this and have definitely helped us.”
The quiz on their website about how to find your own stone is also a lot of fun and contains a motherlode of quirky facts about precious stones, like how Cleopatra wore black onyx to protect her from danger.
As a miniature primer on starting a watch brand, MYKU has much to teach us. By mixing natural ingenuity with bespoke charm, some touches of history and spiritualism with doses of levity and savvy social-media marketing, this new brand is creating its own timely revolution.