By Tom Kennett
"I have been interested in luxury fashion brands for several years and after some prototyping and planning I quit my full-time job in engineering sales at the end of 2011 to develop the Kennett brand. We started selling online and now export to more than 10 countries.
“Our range is built in China with Japanese movements, however the range will develop further in the next 12 months to offer a Swiss-made series. We are different from the competition because we design the products to be daring. We are not scared of using bright colours and in doing so we also offer greater choice than a lot of our competitors. In terms of quality we do not sacrifice on technical specifications to increase margins and we invest in the nice touches like the packaging.
“From music to fashion and our royalty, Britain has long been considered an iconic, eccentric, industrial country. With our industrial pedigree, it makes sense that we should have a British watchmaking industry. I think a lot of British watch companies have been created of late because of the turbulent economy – recessions can create some of the best products and businesses, purely because we are forced to get creative and courageous.
“Our brand is increasingly international, with interest from countries like Japan and America. As a result, we are increasingly pushing our Britishness to these markets. We recently commissioned a photo shoot for a new look-book and we used classic British cars throughout the shoot.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for new starts to manufacture Swiss-made watches. By choice, a number of brands have elected to move to UK for production and the Made in Britain tagline is definitely emerging. I think British watch brands do have strong potential, yet we face strong competition from Asia and Switzerland.
“Shows such as BaselWorld should invest in a Best of Britain zone and organise subsidised stands and marketing for British watch brands to give them a start.
“There should be standards for using the Made in Britain tagline. Perhaps a system like the Swiss have to ensure watches include a certain percentage of parts and assembly within Switzerland. We consider our brand British due to our history and the fact that our design, sales and financial operations are in Britain. Sadly we have been unable to find anyone in the UK that can compete with Asia or Switzerland for production. We do try and use UK suppliers and talent where possible, but it is not always possible.
“In the future we hope to build a solid British brand for a male and female audience and make sure we are available in every major country of the world. We would like to have flagship Kennett stores opened within this decade; London, New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo would definitely be our first openings. We also have had interest from a number of companies to develop other Kennett products like sunglasses and even a range of fragrances. Operationally, we are also pushing for further independence so I expect that we will bring a lot of functions in house to be sure we are in control of our own destiny. The future is very exciting.”
This column was taken from the September 2012 issue of WatchPro magazine. If you work in the watch industry and would like to write a guest column for WatchPro email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.