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How to start an SME from scratch

Business Matters

Investing Time in a Global Watch Business

Discover how Australian SME Erroyl came from nowhere to break into the fiercely competitive luxury watch market.



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ERROYL is an Australian SME that produces affordable luxury automatic watches. Since launch in 2014, the company now ships watches to 50 countries.


We talk to co-founder Wes Knight about setting up the company from scratch and building a brand strong enough to make an impact in the fiercely competitive watch market.

You and your co-founders started ERROYL from scratch.
What skills do you need to start a watch business? 

Actually, no particular skills are required, just lots of research and hard work. It does not matter what kind of business you start – you just have to be absolutely dedicated and have an end goal. Without that there is absolutely no point in starting. 

We were lucky in that all three of us co-founders shared a passion for watches and wanted to achieve something special. Whether it was design, logistics management or business acumen, we were able to bring different skills to the business. I would say these attributes are essential to any business.

Did you know anything about the watch business before starting out?
What was your background? 

My background was in administration, so the watch business is something different. I’ve always possessed a strong entrepreneurial streak and ERROYL provided me with an avenue to draw on this and combine it with my background to develop and implement our business model. 

My co-founders Michael Phanprachit and Brad Wilton each brought different qualities to the business. So essentially, we were able to combine our experience, interests and drive to create a business from scratch.

What about funding the start-up? Did you crowd fund, use venture capital, or self-fund? 

ERROYL was largely self-funded but we used the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform to leverage our brand marketing. The watch business is very capital intensive and despite us achieving 2.5 times our original goal we still had not fully funded our first collection of watches. To bring it to market we needed to add significantly more capital. The marketing leverage that Kickstarter provided helped us become more visible to an international audience. This proved priceless in getting ERROYL off the ground.

How hard was it to convince people, investors for instance, that a young start-up could crack the watch market?

We found Kickstarter provided a wonderful launch platform since it attracted people who were supportive of start-ups and were also looking for something new or affordable. 

With our first collection, the Heritage Collection, we managed to create a range of watches that were both affordable and a little different at the same time. This enabled us to carve out a small but viable segment in the market.

One thing we also did early on was to reach out to bloggers. Their reviews allowed us to engage with a focused audience that was interested in our product. And since they enjoy a lot of trust amongst their readerships, these bloggers also gave us access to a loyal and engaged audience that was keen to sample our watches.

So what inspires someone to buy an ERROYL watch? 

Our pitch at ERROYL from the start has been elegant and refined mechanical timepieces, and we still draw on elements of this today. We don't spend huge amounts of money on marketing or focus on building massive social media followings by giving away products. Instead, we’d rather create positive word of mouth by providing people with well-designed high-quality watches that do what they expect.  

We put a strict focus on keeping our watches as affordable as possible. That means our margins are quite small compared to many in the watch business. We do it because we want to give our customers quality watches at an affordable price. 

Elegance is important to us because we pitch at a predominately functional dress watch audience. We don't do funky designs or bright colors. Instead, we prefer to focus on timeless designs. Our watches offer good legibility and include subtle design elements such as fine texturing and highly detailed finishing.  

How does a small company like yours go about marketing a completely new brand?

Our marketing is very targeted, yet subtle. We don't want to be everywhere. Instead, we aimed to carve out a small niche comprising consumers who appreciate ERROYL’s ethos. In the beginning, we focused on engaging with watch bloggers and online magazines who would review our watches and help grow our brand visibility. We were very lucky to appear in some major publications both in Australia and abroad. This created quite a bit of interest in our brand.  

I think our subtle marketing has helped. We never said we were big or reinventing the industry, but simply that we were selling good quality watches with a few unique aspects at an affordable price. This drew people into the brand and encouraged them to take a closer look at us.  

As we have grown, we have continued to strategically target social media but not by doing giveaways or anything like that. Instead, we’ve worked with contacts to help broaden our brand’s visibility. Again, it’s been subtle and with a focus on keeping our overheads low.

Ultimately though, I would say that without the e-commerce and technology platforms that are available today, none of it would have been possible. Running a business is hard, starting is it even harder and maintaining it is the hardest of all. But the internet creates a playing field that allows small and large companies to compete on a more even platform, and for that I am thankful.  

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2018 © DHL. All rights reserved.

2018 © DHL. All rights reserved.