“I thought there was something missing in watch design”
Interview: a chance meeting with an Englishman wearing a customised Rolex led Filip Tysander to launch Daniel Wellington, which is now one of our most popular watch brands (+ interview).
We caught up with Tysander at the Baselworld watch fair in Switzerland earlier this week, where he was showing off the new Grace range of watches, which will be launched in September.
We spoke to the Swedish entrepreneur about how he combined minimalist Scandinavian style with English eccentricity to create the Daniel Wellington Brand.
Here is an edited transcript of the interview Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs conducted with Filip Tysander.
Tell us who you are and what you do.
My name is Filip Tysander and I run a company called Daniel Wellington. It’s a watch company that I started about 3 years ago and our head office is located north of Stockholm in Sweden. We’re being distributed in approximately 25 or 30 countries and we’re looking at around 700,000 watches this year.
How you came up with the idea of launching a watch brand called Daniel Wellington?
It was 2006 I believe, I was travelling in Australia. I was backpacking with a group of people, it was about 30 people and one of them was my friend that I met during this travel called Daniel Wellington and I was very inspired by this watch that he was wearing. It was a Rolex Submariner together with a dark NATO strap [a woven nylon strap based on a British military design].
I really liked the NATO strap, I hadn’t seen it before and I really liked it but I thought that the casing was a little too thick. So I decided to design a thinner casing that would fit better together with a thin NATO strap. Then since preppy fashion is so big in clothing, I decided also to add some colour to the NATO strap to match it up with the preppy fashion, like Ralph Lauren clothes.
What was your career before that? Were you a designer, were you in manufacturing? How did you start this all off?
I started my first business like 8 years ago, so have been in business five years before I started Daniel Wellington but I don’t have a designer background. However, I started a watch company before Daniel Wellington called Neptune Design, which was inspired by that plastic trend a few years back, quite similar to what Ice-Watch are doing today. So that’s how I came into the watch industry but then I started Daniel Wellington.
The name sounds very English but the watches have a sort of Scandinavian minimalist, thin, graphic feel to them.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m trying to keep it very clean and minimalistic and focus to mix it up with the strap that is more colourful. And I tried to keep it simple and don’t use too many details in the dial, etceteras. And I thought there was also something missing in watch design, when it comes to a watch that is slim, thin and minimalistic, that you can wear together with a suit, that is not that expensive. Like for example, Longines which costs ten times more than a Daniel Wellington watch. I think we have a pretty big target group there.
You mentioned before about the plastic watch trend and now the preppy thing, so what might be next?
It’s always difficult to say and our latest collection Grace is a combination between a more playful NATO strap and perhaps the more conservative leather collection. It’s a fabric strap with some leather details and a sandblasted rose gold casing; still very thin and hopefully that will become the next trend in the watch world and after that we will see what the next step will be.
But we’re putting a lot of energy and time to think about this of course and how we can try to develop the next trends. But it’s a tough job and it’s always difficult to try and predict what’s going to be next, but we’re doing our best.
Looking around Baselworld this year, have you seen anything that sort of hints at new directions in the watch world? Anything exciting?
Not really to be honest. I don’t see any real clear trends but also to be honest I’m not looking that much at other brands. I’m trying to create it myself and trying not to be too influenced by other brands, because the really big success is when you can come up with something unique yourself.
I’m trying to avoid looking too much at other brands, rather than focusing on our identity and do what we think is nice and try to develop that.