How Filip Tysander Built a Watch Empire Now Worth $180 Million
Filip Tysander is the 31-year-old Swedish founder of Daniel Wellington, one of today’s most popular international watch brands.
Tysander was fresh out of high school in 2006 when he chanced upon a stylish British gentleman named Daniel Wellington during a backpacking trip in Australia. The fashionable stranger was wearing a custom Rolex watch with a unique strap that caught Tysander’s attention.
In particular, it was the NATO strap, a woven nylon bracelet based on a classic British military design, that gave him the inspiration to build the familiar design we know today.
“I really liked the NATO strap. I hadn’t seen it before and I really liked it,” Tysander told Dezeen.
He brought his fascination with the colorful bracelet back to his hometown in Uppsala, Sweden. He would later develop his company not just around the watch and bracelet but also the name of the stranger he met on vacation.
However, Tysander had to focus on his education after his first two business ventures — selling neckties and plastic watches online — did not work out as expected.
After graduating from from his business studies program in 2011, the young entrepreneur used $24,000 of his savings to create Daniel Wellington, a watch brand with a minimalistic look that he designed to highlight the NATO straps. He also made the dials all-white, matched with very thin hands and lines that marked each hour.
To save production costs, the watches are manufactured in China. The quartz movement, however, is made by Miyota, a Japanese company. All the other components are made and assembled in the Chinese manufacturing district of Shenzhen.
“I’m trying to keep it very clean and minimalistic and focus to mix it up with the strap that is more colorful. And I tried to keep it simple and don’t use too many details in the dial, etcetera,” Tysander said.
Reasonably priced from $149 to $299, the watches are available in either polished-steel or rose-gold color cases. While they come in various sizes that range from 26-millimeter faces to 40mm, the designs of the faces are kept generic with only the straps that set each DW watch apart.
“Since preppy fashion is so big in clothing, I decided also to add some color to the NATO strap to match it up with the preppy fashion, like Ralph Lauren clothes,” Tysander explained.
With the aid of social media, his preppy watches found a niche market and became a huge success. Tapping thousands of bloggers, celebrities, and international social media influencers with lots of followers, the company was among the first watch brands to use the non-traditional marketing strategy just a few years back.
Now, the brand’s Instagram account boasts more than 2.2 million followers, beating established brands such as Rolex (1.1 million followers), MVMT (497,000) and Fossil (544,000).
Selling more than a million units in 2014, the company earned $70 million in only its third year. The figure significantly grew the following year with revenue hitting $170 million.
Today, Daniel Wellington distributes in approximately 30 countries and is projected to earn $220 million from its global sales this year.
In an interview with MenStyle in 2014, Filip Tysander shared a valuable lesson he learned early on that helped him propel his company’s success:
“The business industry is really tough and I have struggled with many different things along the way. […] I learned quickly that if you want to be successful you need to welcome challenges and learn by mistakes. Without the mistakes and the lessons I have learned from them I would not be where I am today with Daniel Wellington.”
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