When you first hear about an innovative watch two possibilities spring to mind. The first is that the watch is “smart”. A device that will keep you “connected” and collect data on everything from the doughnut you ate this morning to the run you didn’t take—like a nagging spouse. The second is that the watch has fancy (and pricey) features that mark status. Analog Watch Co. designer and founder Lorenzo Buffa offers a third (fresh) take on watch innovation by using wood and marble to create bold timepieces unlike any of its predecessors.
Buffa studied industrial design in Philadelphia, and Analog Watch Co. grew out of a school project. “I was doing a lot of woodworking at the time, and I saw that there was this emerging trend for wooden accessories,” Buffa said. “More specifically I saw that there was a category of wooden watches, and everything on the market was really chunky, and it had a big logo and wooden links that basically copied the visual style of the standard metal watch.”
Buffa felt like that sort of approach didn’t showcase the unique attributes of wood, and so he decided to take a different approach. “So I decided to try and develop a soft flexible strap and a minimal form that focused on the natural grain of the material as opposed to copying standard watches,” Buffa said. “It took time to design it after I graduated from school and then I had to find the right suppliers. The watch had to go through many iterations; I had to identify the right adhesive and the right backing.”
The next step for Buffa was to turn to Kickstarter to raise funds and identify the consumers that would be attracted to an unconventional watch. “Before the Kickstarter campaign people had expressed interest,” Buffa said. “But, I didn’t really know whether there would be a space that would make sense for us in the market. Kickstarter also gave me the flexibility to develop a product for the first time.”
The flexibility allowed Analog Watch Co. to troubleshoot and solve problems in production. Kickstarter also allowed Lorenzo to share his progress with his backers. “One of the nicest things about Kickstarter is that you have backer updates, so that you can share the trials and tribulations with that initial audience,” Buffa said. “You can celebrate the wins like ‘hey our packaging finally arrived’; you also celebrate the challenges like ‘oh-my-gosh we discovered a huge problem and it is going to take us a month to fix it’.”
Kickstarter was also the platform that Buffa used to raise money for his marble Mason Watch collection and his newest Classic Watch Collection. Kickstarter backers have found Buffa’s story and designs compelling enough that his three campaigns have raised over $200,000 on the platform.
Sharing stories is something that Buffa is passionate about and so the company’s website has a blog that highlights designers that the team admires as well as updates on the growing company. “We know that our customer base is interested in products that are well designed,” Buffa said. “They are interested in unique and natural materials. We produce content for the blog, so that whenever we are emailing people we aren’t constantly emailing sales. Instead, we are actually sharing relevant content that they would find interesting.” Buffa goes on to say that “ultimately what that does is to support and uplift the brands positioning.” It also gives fans of the brand access to the artists and tastemakers that are inspiring the team.
The story of Analog Watch Co. is incomplete without discussing the role of nature. Lorenzo links to the natural world by using marble and wood in innovative ways but he also focuses on partnering with environmentally minded nonprofit partners for each collection.
“For our Carpenter line, when you buy a watch we plant a tree with a partner organization,” Buffa said, “For our Mason collection, when you buy a watch funds go towards supporting environmental and mineral education and conservation. And with our newest Classic collection when you buy a watch, we donate a portion of the sales towards an environmental center in Philadelphia. Specifically, it will be offering support to families who are transitioning from homelessness by providing them trips so that they can get out and explore nature and take a break from shelter life.”
Buffa loves connecting with his audience who share a passion for nature and a love of well-designed and environmentally friendly objects. “For us, it is really special that in such a chaotic world —that is super digital— we can create things that are worn on the body. Things that actually have this natural human essence to them,” Buffa stated.
The digital world has played an important role in allowing Lorenzo Buffa to build his business. Analog Watch Co. watches are stocked in museum shops, galleries, and boutiques across the globe. But, the digital world (including Kickstarter funding, his blog, and online sales) has helped Buffa transition his business from a passion project to a viable business.
“I found myself in a really unhappy place in life, until this passion allowed me to turn that undesirable period in my life into something more powerful, and I began to build a business, Buffa said, “And when you really hyper-focus on something, especially if it is coming after an experience of suffering or negativity in your life, it becomes more meaningful to feel something. It’s 2016 and every single resource you need is available online, whether it is a cute video or third party software that helps you do invoicing. The tools are now at your disposal, and anybody who is a creative entrepreneur needs to relish that now is a great time to do it because there are more resources than ever. And you are way more capable than you think, if you are prepared to become a dedicated lifelong learner and you enjoy the process of learning there is really nothing that you can’t tackle.”
And if you tackle life’s challenges while wearing an Analog Watch Co. watch on your wrist it might add a little tranquility and beauty to your digital life.