Mountain climbing group at the summit with Norqain banner
Interview with NORQAIN’s Ben Küffer Newcomer watch brand breaks new ground
NORQAIN is an independent, family-owned watch brand that is daring to go its own way. We are based in Nidau (Biel/Bienne), the very heart of Swiss watchmaking, and the thing that drives and motivates us is exploring new, uncharted territory. Founder & CEO of NORQAIN, Ben Küffer, explains exactly what the company means by that.
How did the watch brand NORQAIN come about?
It was at a barbecue with Mark Streit and Roman Josi when I first spoke about what had been on my mind for a long time already. Even though I made it really clear that this would be a mammoth task, the guys were actually really positive. A week later, Ted Schneider came on board as well (previously with Breitling). We are all proud Swiss people, we love watches and a good challenge too.
No-one was expecting another watch brand, so why did you still go in this direction?
The Swiss watchmaking industry does have many listed brands, but it hardly has any independent Swiss brands anymore. The majority of brands were sold off to big, international luxury companies. Watches are a Swiss cultural asset, and the industry remains a very traditional one. As representatives of the younger generation in the industry, we want to do new, contemporary things, and pass on our passion for mechanical watches. While there is definitely no need for another watch brand, there is for NORQAIN. Luckily for us, the leading retailers out there came to the same conclusion.
You have a very strong digital presence. What are the driving factors here?
We have to be very active and innovative digitally to make our marketing budget go as far as it can. Our competitors are some of the biggest brands and groups in the world, and so without innovation, it would be impossible to keep up with them.
An important part of your marketing is working together with the NORQAIN ambassadors. What is your strategy here?
The #norqainer community and our ambassadors have been quick to generate excellent brand recognition for us in Switzerland. Our NORQAINERS are really friendly role models for our motto of “my life, my way”, and, working with them, we have a fantastic mouthpiece as a brand.
Sustainability is one of NORQAIN’s core values. How did this come about?
In this day and age, I think this should be the norm for a modern brand. We’re talking about values here as well, and we want to do our bit. As it stands, we are carbon neutral, we no longer use animal products, we sell recycled straps, and 60% of our products are organic-based as well. The Butterfly Help Project in Nepal is especially close to my heart, where we give children access to education, and also help fund hostels for them.
Absolutely key to long-term success is innovation. Why is this important to you?
No innovation, no future. As a brand, we need to be able to stand out from the competition. Either through the brand or the product itself, though of course, the best approach is through both.
On 21 September 2022, your very own event in Zermatt saw the launch of the “Wild ONE” collection. How did this idea come about?
Jean-Claude Biver told me he sees NORQAIN as the challenger brand in the traditional Swiss watchmaking industry, and that now that we’ve laid solid foundations, it’s imperative we stand out with new innovations. Of course this requires major investments, and so I slept on it, then got straight to it! The Wild ONE is the ultimate sports watch made of ultra-robust NORTEQ material that we developed ourselves, and it fits perfectly with the sports brand. I am very proud of the fact that Jean-Claude has since been a real help as an advisor on the NORQAIN Board of Directors, and we are all proud of the results after two years of hard work.
You are lined up to speak at SCORE! on 24 May 2023. What can people attending look forward to?
I’m really looking forward to the Score event. People attending can look forward to some honest insights into the challenges, uncertainties and moments of joy NORQAIN has been through since it was founded, and to seeing what our vision for the future looks like.