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Make-at-home watch kit company looks to expand distribution network

Rotate Watches

Rotate Watches burst into life last year following a Kickstarter campaign that raised $92,000 in micro-investments and advanced orders for its DIY watchmaking kits.

It is the brainchild of Jennifer Zhang, a 2019 University of Southern California graduate, who is tapping into a rising interest in home crafting linked to enthusiasm for the historic art of watchmaking.

Rotate’s $195 kits include everything needed to assemble a mechanical watch including case, an ETA 6497-1 hand-wound movement, straps, sapphire glass, tools and a detailed manual.

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Ms Zhang describes the company as a “woman-owned, minority-owned business based in Los Angeles, California”, and last month demonstrated its social responsibility values by donating a portion of profits to NAACP’s (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) campaign for policy reform pertaining to the death penalty.

Jennifer Zhang.

“As a minority-owned business, it’s always been our duty to support other minorities. As our platform has grown, it was a no-brainer to join the Black Lives Matter movement and contribute in the best way we could. Many of us at Rotate support the movement on a personal level, and we realized that by supporting it as a company, we’d be able to contribute more than by supporting it as individuals,” Ms Zhang says.

This month Rotate is continued its support of the NAACP and its new movement #stophateforprofit, which puts pressure on Facebook to regulate fake news and hate speech on their platform.

Withdrawing from Facebook is a significant issue for Rotate, which relies on social media for its marketing.

“We primarily rely on Facebook/Instagram to spread the word on Rotate, but we’ve recognized we’re too dependant on them. So instead we’re using the month of July to branch out in other social media platforms, publications, and retail locations. #stophateforprofit allowed us to both support a valuable movement, and to bring us out of our comfort zone as a company,” Ms Zhang describes.

Most sales so far — of around 2000 units to date — are made directly to consumers via Rotate’s ecommerce site, but the business is looking to grow its wholesale network in the United States and abroad.

“Currently, we’re in all Fry’s Electronics 32 retail locations nationwide and are spending the rest of 2020 making an effort to get into more retail partners. The ultimate goal is to be sold in large national chains and department stores. We also have recurrent partnerships with Touch of Modern, and e-commerce based retail partner. In other countries, we’ve set up distribution in South Korea and Japan, and are looking to recruit more distributors in other countries,” Ms Zhang tells WatchPro.

It is also working on expanding its range of products with additional sizes, more color choices, the option of quartz and automatic movements and possibly even pocket watches.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder