The Menswear Style Podcast

Claudio D'Amore, Founder of CODE41

January 21, 2021 Menswear Style Episode 109
The Menswear Style Podcast
Claudio D'Amore, Founder of CODE41
Chapters
The Menswear Style Podcast
Claudio D'Amore, Founder of CODE41
Jan 21, 2021 Episode 109
Menswear Style

CODE41 is not a brand in the traditional sense of the term; it’s more of a community project. The aim is to gather enthusiasts around a watchmaking project, to help it to become a reality. In the process, members become project Creators. The brand was founded by luxury timepiece designer Claudio D’Amore in 2016. Having designed watches for the biggest Swiss brands such as Tag Heuer and Montblanc for 10 years, he set his sights on a new venture that would create watches of the highest quality with the help of an engaged community who play an active role in the design process. The company is based in the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry, its spiritual home. The project has been built with a policy of total transparency of origin, price and production – meaning that their community are safe in the knowledge that they are investing in an excellent watch at a fair price.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Claudio D'Amore, Founder of CODE41 about his watch design background and how he first launched his brand via Kickstarter.  The Swiss watchmaker offers complete costing transparency and invites their community to participate in the design process. Our host Peter Brooker and Claudio also talk about offering a fair price by cutting out middlemen, the collaborative design process, the power of storytelling, and the magic of viewable movements.

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Show Notes Transcript

CODE41 is not a brand in the traditional sense of the term; it’s more of a community project. The aim is to gather enthusiasts around a watchmaking project, to help it to become a reality. In the process, members become project Creators. The brand was founded by luxury timepiece designer Claudio D’Amore in 2016. Having designed watches for the biggest Swiss brands such as Tag Heuer and Montblanc for 10 years, he set his sights on a new venture that would create watches of the highest quality with the help of an engaged community who play an active role in the design process. The company is based in the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry, its spiritual home. The project has been built with a policy of total transparency of origin, price and production – meaning that their community are safe in the knowledge that they are investing in an excellent watch at a fair price.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Claudio D'Amore, Founder of CODE41 about his watch design background and how he first launched his brand via Kickstarter.  The Swiss watchmaker offers complete costing transparency and invites their community to participate in the design process. Our host Peter Brooker and Claudio also talk about offering a fair price by cutting out middlemen, the collaborative design process, the power of storytelling, and the magic of viewable movements.

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Unknown:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host, Peter Drucker. On this episode I'm going to talk to Claudio d'amore, the founder of code 41. Code 41 was created by a Swiss watch design workshop founded by Claudio d'amore. In a little over 12 years the workshop had the honour of working with around 40 watchmaking brands including tag Jolla, parmigiani, Mont Blanc Oris, Eberhard and Portland's and 2016 889 founding members join the adventure by financing the project for a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. They share everything the origin and costs of parts development and strategy, as well as the ups and downs of a start up. They address sensitive subjects like overseas production, inflated prices, and the grey market and distribution networks. And you can find out more about code 41 through their website code 41 watches COMM And here is Claudio d'amore to tell the story. I'm based in Switzerland, so we are a Swiss watch brand. Myself, I was I was trained as a designer, product designer. But quite quickly, I tend to design mostly watches. And then in 2016, I launch my own brand, which is called code 41. And code 41 is, is a bit different than the usual watch brand. Because we we work mainly on internet. But what makes it special is because we decided to go in total transparency. So meaning we we explain everything about the origin, about the cost. And also we share all the process so that the community we have can can participate to all the design process and the strategy also. So we share the steps for new project. And each monster is one new chapter until we get to the prototypes, and then the pre orders so people can really be in the journey with us to develop the watch. Fascinating. And can you just take us back to the beginning and talk a little bit about the Kickstarter campaign? Because I guess around about five years ago, it was quite a popular thing for for watch brands especially what was it that was different about your campaign that you think captured people's imagination. I think this is really this, this process of participating to the to the development of the watch and of the company, because we didn't just came to the to the campaign, the Kickstarter campaign with the product. But nine months before that, we we were already sharing all the story about what we wanted to do. And people basically they build everything with us until the campaign started. So this is where we are special is because they it's not just to watch the board. They it's a watch that they they participated creating. And this is what made the difference from the Kickstarter campaign, but also what is important because usually when you make a Kickstarter campaign, it's very difficult for brands to to continue on the years after that, to develop a real business. Right. And this is where we are successful because we did the campaign, but then the big challenge was to, to continue for five years after that. And we succeeded by still working on this communication story and sharing everything with the community and also of course developing project which are watchmaking but very focused on high quality products. We don't want just to create one more round watch, as you always see on this campaign, and I wanted to create something very special. So we developed our own movements, mechanical, it's Swiss made, but really Swiss made, you know, like we have a it's not the labral it's really made in Switzerland for the movement that we made for ourselves. And all these made that we we grow very well on this last years. Interesting. And so, you before launching this brand worked with many different watch companies designing different designs and kind of products with other brands. What were the cherries that you took from that life, that past existence into code 41? Yes, before from 2005 I launched a design studio and I was was working with the most of the Swiss brands for designing different types of watches. So, of course, it's, you can understand how it works usually. So it was interesting to see that most of the projects were made out of briefings, you know, briefing that was looking at the past, and that competitors, so it was always very conservative. And this, I think, is a problem for the Swiss watchmaking because they they don't take enough risk. So it was, it has always been a bit boring. And I think what, what was interesting when I launched my own brand was to say, Okay, if I need to, if I want to do watches, I just want to do something that is special. And that is not just looking backwards and saying, Okay, this worked for others, so I'm going to do the same. And this is I think, where there is space for creativity in watchmaking. And it's very important to do it, this is what I learned, most just go out of what is made by others, also. So you've launched a Kickstarter campaign. It's been it's been a terrific success. What were your goals for the campaign? And did it not just hit the market went above and beyond, right? Yes. I mean, of course, when you when you launch a Kickstarter campaign, when you have no, no background, you never know exactly where you go. But we were really happy to see that people that followed us for nine months on the development of the products in the brand followed us when it was the moment to, to pay for the watch. So this was a good surprise. And so it was a it was really a good kickstart, you know, has to start this business and then build on what we learned for not only the campaign, but the nine months that were before the campaign. Yeah. And you said that people can be involved with the journey in the design process, were they able to put any input into the design themselves? Yes, of course, that's the goal of every project. When we I mean, at the time, we really started with the, with the show one first design. And from there, then people say, Okay, I like this, I don't like that we made vote. Right. And slowly, we improve the design until the the hand when we got the prototypes, and this is still something we do. I mean, when we have a new project, we maybe have two or three different ideas of projects, like it could be, it could be a chronograph, it could be a Toby or whatever. First we asked, okay, what should we do next. And then when we have a good, good feedback from the community about what kind of project we start, first design, then feedbacks we modify, we make colours research. And each time people can vote and comment, right. And that's, that's pretty unique, isn't it? Because not only are you, like you say, involving people within the narrative of the watch and the journey, but you're also kind of designing for a customer that you know, is going to be there at the end. So you're not going to launch a product completely blank or it's bit like I guess making a film, not knowing what the audience are gonna think and just releasing it and hoping people are gonna like it versus having a lot of people involved in in the in the production and go, Well, where do you think this should go? And then when you release the film, you know, it's going to be, at least it's going to hit the audience in the right marks at the right times. Yes, but it's true. It's, it's, I think it's a big problem today of whatever brand produces products, it could be in every not only in watchmaking. Usually, you know, you need to you go blind you and also you think it's important just to keep everything secret. So you develop in your home studio, and then you make prototypes. And when you are ready, then you make a launch of the product and you you pray that what you produced will be will be sold. I think it's, we do everything the opposite, which is more logical. Of course, first, we share the story with people. So we know that when they are involved in the story, that we are quite correct in terms of what we are creating. And then even that when we when we are ready with product prototypes and products, we make steel now it's not true Kickstarter, but we made to our website, we make pre orders. So we don't produce watches before they are sold. So we make pre orders for 30 days. And then we see how many pieces they've been sold and we launched the production afterwards. So of course they need to wait a few months before receiving the watch. But overall, I think people are ready just to To wait and to know to be to get excited about waiting for their Delete to present. And plus we, we created something special because when you buy the watch and you need to wait, there is maybe six to nine months to wait. Then we here again share the production steps every month they get an update on with videos or photos or interviews of the watchmaker. So they are producing the watch with us is like they come with us to the suppliers to see the progress of the watch. Nice and people love this is not that they buy a product anymore they buy a journey, it's I think it's more journey than than a product. People just like to have the stories to tell about garments. I mean, I'm massively into films and kind of watches that appear in films and costumes, etc. And some costumes. I mean, if you were just to hold them up or wear them, then they're obviously just another bit of clothing or maybe just another watch. But to say that it's from a certain film, or, you know, a certain actor might have worn a watch somehow ameliorates whatever it is because there's a story behind it. And I think people just really like the stories behind the things that they were, as opposed to maybe just a label or a brand, if that makes sense. Yes, I agree. And I think it's it's worse for every other product that not only watches, but I think people I mean, of course it has to be. It's not going to do this with the with every day, I mean, little objects. But when you talk about watches something that has emotional attached to it, I think it's important that people can be part of the product and say to friends, you know, I participated to create the watch, I voted for these crowned these pushers. And it feels much more powerful than just selling a product. And I think that looking at the website, which and the watches on the website, people can find By the way, code 41 watches.com it's almost like The watch has a reflection of the brand's ethos because it's very transparent in the way that you can see the entire exoskeleton and the workings of the watch. Can you just talk a little bit about that please? And the some of the inspirations of the design from your part? Yes, I mean, I I've always loved the mechanical part of the watchmaking and I was a bit frustrated also with the projects I had as a designer, because most of the time you have a quite boring watches where you have a plane dial where whether the mechanical is hidden. And I wanted to be to create watches where you can see the mechanical because it's so magical to see these these wheels. Is this engineer pieces. And usually people love all these. Yeah, this magical part of the watch, which is all most of the time eating. So that's why on our watches, we have made movements where you have no dial, like the X 41 watch, for example. So it's skeleton, you can see everything inside. You can really sometimes stay five minutes, 10 minutes just looking at every components moving. And it's it's not about reading time. We don't need mechanical watches to read time. Yeah, yeah, we got we got the sun in the sky. And we got our iPhones and that's all we need. Yeah, of course. I mean mechanical watches. They are not. They are not here to show time. That's for sure. Yeah, they don't because they are. Yeah, a microwave would be much more precise than a mechanical watch. Crazy. It's not it just it just an excuse to say okay, I buy a product. But it's more like a jewellery. It's a bit it's the only jewellery for men. I think that really you can people get passionate about it. Yeah. So and and build a collection as well. Do you have a collection brewing yourself? I have a few a few watches Of course. Yeah. And the thing is, I'm not collection. But I like I like nice product. So it's also part of the game to get some some nice watches and to Yeah, I've got a collection of very cheap watches. But let's I mean, my caveat is that I'm passionate about watches but I don't have the budget as I'd like to have the aspirational watches, I should say yeah, it gets very quickly very high. But this is also another aspect of what we are trying to do. Of course we cut the middleman. But we mean what we propose like we are launching in In a few days now, the chronograph that we made. And it's very, again, a movement that we created from not from scratch, because of course, there is a base base that we modified. But it's now a whole movement that we nobody else can do the same. We have a rotating Peri, Peri Peri physical weight that is on on the dial, which is very rare. And, of course, we are going to propose it around 3000 euro, which usually it's something more like 20 25,000, you know, usually gets very high. So the goal is also just to be transparent, to explain what it costs to explain how much we will need to make it worse doing for us. I mean, that is how do you say how tablin French you say, but that you can say, okay, we need this margin to Yeah, to make it work. Yeah, exactly. And that's it. So there is no like, marketing positioning, where we say, Okay, this is a chronograph, we can sell it 20,000. So we sell it there. No, we are really close to our community and say, we are fighting to get the best price, and then we explain the price to you. And you can get it very affordable. And it's I mean, it's of course, it's not the goal to do affordable watches, but just a bit one. Right? Yeah, yeah, accessible, but just it's not the goal to just make margins because we could sell it higher. We just want to say, okay, we fight together to get the best watch. We fight for the good prices, because also we try to make bigger volumes. And then we propose very high high hand watches, where people could not usually, you know, they dream about these watches for other brands, but they can get them with our concept. And it's really interesting as well, people can go to the website, like I did earlier to have a look at the weight that you were talking about. So this weight, where it kind of goes up and down on the periphery of the dial case. whereas previously, it would be like a complete halfmoon, wouldn't it across the watch that you'd need? Yes, something like that. So it would be it would kind of defeat the point, or block out all of what you wanted to see. But now that it's entirely exposed, because that's just now going round, like the rim of the rim of the watch, which is quite fascinating. I got that right, is this the X 41 that's coming out, or is no x 41. So this was the various Culloden watch that we that came out two years ago. And the new ones coming out, sorry, it's an n, b, 24, and 24. And it's going to be a chronograph. But as also, x 41 has also this very, very cold weight. But this time on the chronograph, we made very, very, very little weight, but on on the dial side, right. Okay, which you can see, it's good, because it's nice, because you don't need to turn around your watch to see this. You can see it from from the front view. Yes, yeah. And then you can just throw you rest and just show it to people. You don't have to take Exactly. Exactly for that. And so can you just talk us through what the origin of the of the costs are the development strategy and kind of the markups I know people would be interested in how much it costs versus how much it costs them to buy as well. So usually, when you have a standard distribution with the with the distributor and retailers, the the markups will be about six times the production cost. from our side, since we cut the middleman and everything we on the chronograph that will be launched on the 27th it's going to be a markup of 2.3. So the now I don't have numbers exactly, but I think it's around 1500 euro production cost where the movement actually is the big biggest part of course, which is manufacturing movement, and it's it's going to be around 1000 euro and when you apply a 2.3 multiplicator then it gets to around 3000 euro 3000 3500 euro, okay, and there's a waiting list for this one as well but zoom on this one, it's going to be the first lounge so we didn't open a waiting list. Basically, we open waiting lists for second edition third edition after the first project has been launched on this one is really the first, we call it the creator edition, right? Because basically people that will buy a watch on this campaign, they will be creators of the project. So it's a creator edition. And they get, they get a number what with the creator edition written on it, you can create creators of the watch, and they get some privilege for next project. So it's very important to launch this. The first, the first campaign is always launching the project, it could be also that we don't have enough orders, and then the project doesn't go into production. That's the old principle of the concept. If there is enough, then we produce If not, we don't produce it. So basically, for this one, we should have at least 300 pieces to, to decide to produce it. Right? Well, I'm very excited to learn about the new launch can't wait for it to come out. And it's on the 27th of this month. So potentially, by the time people hear this, you don't have to go and rush over to the website, which is code 41 watches.com. And also, don't have a look at the journey. Don't forget to pop over to Instagram, it's code 41 watches over on the Instagram channel. They're just saying also that the campaign's get, it's on 30 days. So of course there is usually the first hours are very active because the people there get crazy about really going on in the first watch is because there is also a delivery deadline that will be shorter. There is a there is batches. We cannot produce every watch is in one goal. So that's why people they get crazy on the first hour. See, right? Yeah, it's sometimes it makes the service crap, crutch crushing sorry. We had some problems with servers that crushing in the few hours because too many people were connected together. So now we try to increase the server that we can avoid these kind of problems. But when we add some photos in the last video, I'm really excited for him and congratulations on getting the brand to where it is today. I think the watches look terrific. Thank you very much. Thank you kloudio and thank you for tuning into this episode of The menswear style podcast. If you like what you hear, why not leave a review it does help our egos. Don't forget to check out the show notes for this episode and all content pertaining to fashion watches, travel and lifestyle over at WWW dot menswear style.co.uk and we're on the social app men's wear style. If you want to be a guest on the show and tell us about your brand and your journey. You can email us here at info at menswear style.co Uk