Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of sitting down
with (read: frequently emailing) Mitch Feig, owner and founder of
Ocean7 Watch co. You might remember that I had the opportunity
to review two Ocean7 watches (the G2 and LM-2) earlier this year, and I
walked away impressed with the high quality, reasonable prices, great
customer service, and client interaction. After getting to know Mitch a
little better, I feel he is yet another reason to consider buying an
Ocean7. He is a successful entrepreneur who spends his time answering
questions on forums, and ensuring that customer feedback never falls on
a deaf ear.
JS: Have you always loved watches?
MF: Yes, I have always loved watches. I have a degree in computer
science, but I studied watch making for two years, in the early
1990’s. I am comfortable working on mechanical watches including
chronographs. I have a little experience with quartz movements.
JS: What was your first watch?
MF: The first watch two watches that I remember owning are a Bulova
Caravelle, and a Bulova Accutron Spaceview. I now have a very large
collection of Accutron tuning fork parts, probably one of the largest
in the world, including over 700 model 218 movements. I have
considered the possibility of creating a new watch based on some of
these movements, but I don’t want to be the only one who will be able
to service them in the future.
JS: What lead you to start Ocean7?
MF: I started the company because I followed several small watch
companies, and I knew I could do it better, especially where customer
service is concerned. When problems arise I can handle all the
necessary repairs. I doubt that any company in the industry can offer
a faster turnaround. I felt that there were possibilities for a small
watch company to produce specialized models in areas where the volumes
would not interest large manufacturers. Also, I saw an opening for
watches deigned in America, with a different approach than offered by
Asian and European designers. The Internet makes this possible.
JS: What are some of the most significant challenges that you faced in making Ocean7 successful?
MF: Cash. It is easy to order a watch from a contract manufacturer
and to do forum based marketing. I don’t believe this approach can
ever be more than a zero profit hobby. I think this is a good way to
start, but I don’t believe that enough profit can be generated to fund
an advertising program beyond Internet forums, which is necessary to
build a brand. We are well funded so we do not have this problem. I go
far beyond simple drawings and ordering complete watches. I am
involved with every aspect of production, from component factory
selection to final assembly and quality control. I have strong
relationships with everyone involved in this process.
JS: How have you found the competition in the dive watch market? What does it take to get repeat business?
MF: I don’t believe that we compete for business in the sense that
car manufacturers compete. If a customer likes two watches, they don’t
decide between them, they buy both. Our goal is to design watches that
customers like, then they will buy. I do not worry about what other
manufacturers do. It does not affect us in any way.
JS: I have read on the forums that Ocean7 is working with a charity. Can you fill us in on that?
MF: We designed a special watch for the American market called the OCEAN7 American. With
each sale, we donate $100 to the organization “Freedom Is Not Free”. We
have also auctioned several watches with 100% of the proceeds going to
them. “Freedom Is Not Free” is non-political organization. They help
to support those wounded in battle, and the families of those who were
killed. This is not a profitable project for us. It is a labor of love.
JS: Do you expect your prices to go up as the American dollar drops
in buying power and metals become more expensive? Bathys Hawaii has
raised their prices considerably in the past months; do you see Ocean7
doing the same?
MF: Our prices have gone up slightly, and I do expect future price
increases. We did buy a lot of movements over the last year when they
could be found at reasonable market prices, and we also contracted for
many of our new projects before the price increases took effect. Since
we sell direct, we don’t have to support a 50% + dealer margin, so price
increases will not be as large as with retail based brands.
JS: You have been working for some time on the LM-7 project and it
seems to be your most anticipated watch since the release of the LM-2.
How’s it coming along?
MF: The project is coming along very nicely, with delivery expected
this summer. As much as I don’t like to take deposits, we did on this
model because I didn’t think it would sell. I was wrong.
JS: What can you tell us about your venture with AirNautic Watch Company?
MF: AirNautic will specialize in 24-hour instrument/pilot watches,
although we may offer a dive watch and a chronograph based on the
24-hour theme next year. The plan is to go retail with the brand late
next year, but that is not firm. Rolland Keller, the original designer
of the Yantar watches, is designing the new pieces.
JS: Any special scoops for our readers?
MF: Our ceramic watch, the LM-4, is in production, after working on
the project for two years. This will be followed by more ceramic cased
projects including a chronograph. We do have some top-secret projects
in the works, including cases using different metals.
By James Stacey