I’ve been selling watches online for nearly twenty years at this point. That’s twenty years of selling OTHER people’s watches. How did I come to launch my own successful brand, Islander, in 2019 - and what took so long?
Well, it turns out that waiting those twenty years was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. During all those years of selling watches, I heard every gripe imaginable, ranging from “this watch doesn’t hack” to “why did they not use a screwdown crown”? Little did I know it, but my brain was storing all these little nuggets of information. Slowly, my subconscious was building a watch that would appeal to the mass majority of my customers. Sort of like a brick building goes up, just brick by brick, eventually you have something substantial.
The turning point came about when it seemed to be the darkest for my online business, LongIslandWatch.com. One of the most popular pieces I sold, the iconic Seiko SKX diver, was slated to be retired. This was a rumor that was kicked around online for a few years, but thankfully I always seemed to get a reprieve when another year of production hit the order sheets. Then, during one fateful meeting with Seiko in Basel 2019, I was dealt the death blow. I was notified that the iconic SKX, that had enjoyed production from mid-90’s, was really being retired. It hit me like a hammer! My store was moving a couple thousand units a year. It was my best-selling product, and without it, my business would surely suffer.
On that train ride from Basel back to Zurich, as I stared out the window, it hit me in a flash. I knew what my customer’s griped about with the SKX. Lack of hand-winding, no sapphire crystal, poor bracelet, aluminum bezel insert, the list went on. People were purchasing the SKX for years, and it had become the mod child of watch fanatics. Much like the Honda Civic of my day, the SKX had an entire eco-system of aftermarket parts sprout up around it. Not just better-looking parts, but better materials like sapphire, ceramic and solid steel bracelets.
My idea was, why not offer an SKX replacement, complete with all the modifications that people want. Not a modded SKX, but rather something built from the ground up to keep costs down. Well, that became the Islander, model ISL-02, which is still in production today.
We’ve developed more than 150 different models at this point, with no sign of slowing. Every design we make has all the elements that my customers demand in their wristwatch. It’s very cliché, but because we are direct to consumer and we are one step from the manufacturer, we can offer amazing prices that the larger brands cannot, since there is not a heavy worldwide
infrastructure to support. This past year I was happy to release my first ‘Assembled in the USA’ watches, built at the FTS facility in Fountain Hills, Arizona. This year will see more styles from them as well.
All of this would never have been possible if I hadn’t been listening to my customers for all those years. And not just listening, but acting on it and giving them what they want. Imagine that, a company that listens to its customers and delivers. What a novel idea!