In providing watch fans with the return of an icon in the Dirty Dozen, Vaer Watches has catapulted itself to centre stage of west coast watchmaking in the states.
Founded in 2016 by the duo Ryan Torres and Regan Cook, the pair’s goal was to build an affordable, everyday wristwatch while blending design, durability and functionality.
Investing their combined life savings to kickstart the brand, the pair are proud of the heritage built so far in terms of organic growth, explaining how it all has been made possible by the support from the community of owners build around the brand which has helped with crowdfunding new products while advocating for the quality and value on offer.
On this, Torres and Cook were keen to point out that launching a brand in this way, in this era, was never going to be easy and knowing that while fast-fashion and luxury status dominated a lot of the market, staying true to their goals and building from the ground up has only been a positive for them as they look back five years on from the launch.
Discussing processes and procedures, the duo discussed how early designer were exposed to a range of trials, and given Torres’ surfing background, this as well as free diving, boiling water submersion, drop tests and high-altitude exposure was one of the key testing elements.
Torres explains: “Before we launched, I used to surf before work every day but could never find a watch that was affordable and that I liked to surf with, ensuring I wouldn’t be late for work each day. This was more or less where the idea for the brand was born.
“I think teaming up with Reagan and putting our passion, knowledge and expertise together, Vaer Watches was born and has since grown to where it is today.”
Cook adds: “We founded Vaer in Venice, California in 2016 with the goal of building affordable, USA assembled watches that could be taken from the office to the ocean. Today, we’re the largest independent watch assembler in the United States, and offer a range of models and price points from $159 to $1199.
“Every watch we sell is designed to outperform and outshine competitors 2-5x the price point, and include standard features such as a guaranteed waterproof warranty, USA made leather, scratchproof sapphire crystal, and two easy-change straps.”
When sales opened for the business in 2017, the duo relied on early support from family and friends to get things moving. Since then, as the Vaer website details, the brand has slowly but surely gained traction with watch enthusiasts and those who love outdoor activity alike.
This has led to an increase in sales and thus, revenue too. Customer loyalty has grown and additional crowdfunding has therefore enabled expansion to happen organically.
Cook explains: “We’re committed to a sustainable-growth business model that prioritizes product value over profit margins – and have relied on pre-orders and crowdfunding to release new product lines.”
With Torres adding: “After surviving our first-year in business we made the consequential decision to move our watch assembly operation to the United States. While it represented an increase in cost and presented major logistical challenges (since a US watch manufacturing network was non-existent) we felt that as a young, independently owned company, it was a challenge worth taking.
“In the spring of 2018, we successfully released our first batch of American assembled watches – providing customers, by far, the most affordable USA-assembled watch on the market.”
The team describe the transition to American assembly as not an easy one, but once they made a success of it, it was only aided by the release of the popular field watches, which helped stabilize business.
Torres continues: “By early 2019, we were confident enough with our core product (the sub-$200, USA Assembled C5 Quartz) that we started to explore opportunities to further solidify our reputation among watch enthusiasts and editorials.
“While we loved the affordability and simplicity of quartz watches, we knew that releasing a mechanical timepiece would be essential to proving that Vaer was a true American watch company. As first-time entrepreneurs we didn’t have access to a traditional bank loan and were extremely wary of giving up equity to outside influence.”
Explaining: “We decided to trust in our existing customers and launch our automatic lineup through a crowdfunding campaign. Leaning into the rich history of military timekeeping, we launched our Kickstarter campaign in early July, and were able to raise $222k in 30 days from over 500 supporters.”
Now, after 5 years of successful growth, Vaer Watches is bringing a watchmaking icon back with the launch of “The Dirty Dozen.” It pays homage to the twelve military field watches commissioned at the onset of WW2.
As part of a release, the brand explained that in 2019, it brought the iconic design back to life in a limited release, and funded the campaign in less than a week. Two years on, the return sees a true-to-form 36mm, hand-wound, Swiss Made field watch, powered by the decorated ETA 7001 movement inside.
Every Vaer A12 Dirty Dozen is hand-assembled and tested in Switzerland and retail from $899. With pre-orders available from April 6, the launch is set to build on the success of the original A12 Dirty Dozen release, matching the brand’s plans for growth and success.