FineWatchesBerlin is going from strength to strength since the idea for a Berlin-inspired brand came back to the forefront of the founders thoughts.
In conversation with WatchPro, Wilfried Liefer takes a deep dive into his brand, tells us more on life working alongside his daughter Mia-Phyllis, and how he hopes things will grow.
Here’s what he had to say:
Can you explain how the brand was created?
Long story short, I have been working as a goldsmith since I was in my 20s, and created some jewellery lines myself. With some friends and my partner, we ran a jewellery and art gallery in Hannover in the mid-80s.
In taking off and running one of the biggest and oldest watch and jewellery shops in Berlin/Spandau, I got very much interested in watches. At that time, I was particularly interested in small brands, and today you would say I was interested in microbrands/independent brands.
In the early 1990s, new brands such as Nomos, Jörg Schauer, Chronoswiss, Alain Silberstein, Jacques Etoile and many other newcomers tried to find their place on the market and I was really impressed by their courage, their creativity and the striking enthusiasm.
That was time the seed was planted, but it took another almost 25 years before my dream came true.
After some personal and business linked moves, in 2017 this old idea popped up again. I had just turned 60 and felt still vibrant and alive, thinking this might be the right time to try something new.
So I started drawing my first watch drafts, and the real work then started. A lot of research, talking to factories, examining many products at the mark and of course making some mistakes, I followed my old dream. After I got started it took until the end of 2018 before the first prototype showed up at my desk, and finally in December 2019, we were able to deliver our fist watches to our customers.
How does the relationship work between your input and your daughter’s when it comes to the business?
Good question, because usually you are running this kind of business with some of your watch enthusiastic friends but working together as a daughter/father team seemed to be incidental because we were sharing a lot of other interest anyway, and because we complement through the subjects we trained at.
We have organised the workflow so that each of us can contribute the best of our knowledge and deliver the best things we are good at while still being in very close contact about almost every detail of the daily work.
Certainly the general planning about marketing strategy, model politics and overall business planning is done as a team work.
Another good thing is the gap of age because it allows us to get the most out of two generations. There’s always a solid and trusted agreement that both of us are fully backing one another too.
What’s the thinking behind the name of FineWatchesBerlin?
First of all the brand name is an homage to our home town. Berlin is one of the most beautiful and diverse cities in the world.
The names of our watch series evoke the city’s special places, locations, personalities and events. We focus on those that have already started to disappear from the public eye and this is the reason behind the brand name and the engraving at the movement rotor : „ FROM BERLIN WITH LOVE “
In terms of product specifically, where does the inspiration come from?
Stimulation and ideas can be found almost anywhere, as long as you remain open and interested. Through her various artistic activities, me daughter Mia-Phyllis is in contact with many exceptionally creative people. In the rooms of „KreativMolkereiSpandau“ Mia-Phyllis is surrounded by all sorts of musicians, illustrators, painters, sculptors and fashion designers every day.
Through our work in a large jewellery business, we are in contact with consumers as well as with many watch and jewellery manufacturers.
We have also long been active in the watch and jewellery industries, including goldsmith designing and crafting some of our own jewellery lines. We are very active online and observe what the newcomers, microbrands, and design-oriented brands are doing. This means we are very up to date.
We are also always inspired by the engagement with the Bauhaus and their products. In general, we are fascinated by all kinds of form and design. A well-designed motorbike or bicycle excites us just as much as a beautiful lamp or “tiny house”. Our eyes are always attracted to high quality design.
Whether in the cinema, on Netflix, in nature or in museums, inspiration exists everywhere. Just keep your senses open.
What is in store in terms of product for the coming year?
Of course, there are many ideas about with what to come up next but this year our main focus is more on brand visibility. Reaching out for some more POS, looking forward to new business contacts, and getting back to normal in engaging customers in person.
Signing up for watch events, small fairs, meeting watch enthusiasts wherever possible because of all the restriction the last two years has been very difficult to stay close. I believe you have to hold our watches in your hands to explore the richness of all details.
But for certain we will offer at least one new item. We are working one some metal watch straps this year too. There are three or four variations in the pipeline.
All will fit to each our watch models and, as you may guess, they will be a little different, and yet classic.
Which markets work best for the brand?
Up to now we have been focused to the German market, inclusive of Austria and Switzerland. Some of our watches also landed very well in Canada, Norway, and the US.
But the bestselling market is still Germany. And surprisingly, around 50% of our sales come from female customers. In 2023 we started to explore the UK and Irish market as well.
We think that this could be a very interesting place to go, because Brits are very much open and curious about new and small brands.
Is there a certain demographic that you see is interested in the brand more than others?
Right now selling to female customers is increasing a lot. We think that’s because of our new colourful „HansaViertel“ line. Besides that, our customers are more looking to get something new and outstanding.
Age wise there is a wide spread too, given our youngest customer is about 15 and the eldest lady, I’m aware of wearing an FineWatchesBerlin, is in her mid 80s.
How do you see the brand progressing in terms of retail?
We are looking for retailers who are really in love with FineWatchesBerlin. Backing our ideas and passion about design, workmanship and being somehow a little different. We are not looking to be listed in every “normal” watch store and become one of the many other brands.
We are looking forward to being represented by what we describe as “watch lovers.”
Overall we would like to split retail and online 50/50.
What is the long term plan?
We would like FineWatchesBerlin to become a well-known watch-brand from Berlin with a small number of different mechanical watches, made out of passion. An ambassador for Berlin, German design and traditional entrepreneurship.
FWB will be a brand for design lovers and people who appreciate good quality and clean workmanship and who are very interested and open to innovative ideas.
Our aim is to create one or two new watches each year, maybe adding some extra dials to already existing models as well. FWB will stay a niche product for a very special crowd.