To grow big, first start small
TW Steel has grown from a four-piece collection to a brand that makes 500,000 watches yearlyBy Raoul J. Chee Kee |Philippine Daily Inquirer
To those who love watches, TW Steel is a brand known more for the size of its timepieces than anything else. Established in 2005 as a shared passion between the father-and-son tandem of Ton and Jordy Cobelens, it has grown from an initial four-model collection to a brand that manufactures 500,000 watches a year.
All of the pieces have faces measuring 44 mm and 48 mm that seem to swallow slimmer wrists. After all, the tagline of this family-owned Dutch brand reads: Big in oversized watches.
The younger Cobelens, the company’s CEO, was in the country recently for the opening of a new TW Steel store at Shangri-La Plaza and to introduce its latest collection and campaign. The Pilot collection is described as a dynamic, aeronautics-inspired line that reflects the brand’s image of ambition, success and boldness.
To complement the collection’s launch, the contest “Pilot Your Life” was opened to all buyers of any TW Steel watch. The brand will grant one grand prize winner the opportunity to realize his or ambition—whether it be to finish schooling, start up a business or take a trip around the world. Participants should log on the Pilot Your Life microsite (www.twsteel.com/pilotyourlife) and fill out a form.
Although there will be only one winner, the prize is one that can be likened to copping the golden ticket to enter Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The splashy cocktail launch was totally different, compared to the days when the brand was first starting out as Cobelens told this writer.
“I used to sell watches to my friends’ fathers and relatives. I would bring the watches to school and show them to my classmates, who would then show them to their fathers,” he recalled. The commission he earned from each sale was enough to keep him dressed in the latest fashion.
One time, a teacher confiscated the watches, thinking they were contraband but ended up returning them to the young entrepreneur.
Cobelens later became an accomplished DJ who put up his own label, JC Records, before he returned to the childhood passion he shared with his father Ton. With the elder Cobelens focusing on design for the watches, Jordy took charge of global brand expansion.
“Our bigger-sized watches really took off but we’ve noticed that the market is starting to go for the smaller ones in our range, those measuring 40 to 45 mm. In Asia, the Philippines is our biggest market but maybe not for long, because we are opening 50 stores in China,” Cobelens said.
With the opening of the branch at Shangri-La Plaza, TW Steel is now available at the Podium, Lucerne Shangri-La and Cebu, Chronos, Swiss Gear and Wrist Pod boutiques nationwide.
The key to the brand’s success is a combination of design, quality and value for money. “TW Steel watches are able to hold their own against more established and costly Swiss brands,” said brand manager Catherine Porlaje in a statement.