No need to borrow from the boys anymore

This month starting Mar 8, in celebration of International Women’s Day, we talk to women entrepreneurs and go-getters about what drives them to be successful in their lives.

 

It’s hard enough to create your own brand and product. It’s even harder when it’s in a well-established industry dominated by men. 

So when Sherrie Han launched The Eliana Timekeeper, it was more than just creating her own line of women’s mechanical watches.

It was about overcoming common assumptions about mechanical watches (“old, ugly, expensive”) and proving that such watches for women can be beautiful and elegant while remaining functional and affordable.


 

“The Eliana Timekeeper was born out of a passion project to make mechanical watches specially for the women and a defiant desire to show that women can appreciate mechanical watches,” says Han, who named the startup after her daughter. 

Its first collection is called the Twilight Glint, comprising three limited edition designs that take inspiration from vintage men’s watches in the 1970s and 80s.

Design elements such coin-edge grooves around the bezel and a linen dial are combined with modern touches like sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, a clear caseback, and cut-out on the watch face that shows off the heart and soul of the watch. Each 28mm stainless steel case houses a Japanese Miyota 6T28 self-winding movement with a power reserve of 40 hours. 

SG Magazine asked the 29-year-old Singaporean lawyer, mum and now entrepreneur about making her dream a reality, juggling multiple roles and why women deserve sophisticated and classic watches that can stand the test of time.
 


 

When did you start having an interest in mechanical watches?
Being a millennial, I didn’t know there was such a thing as mechanical watches until I was much older when I took apart a mechanical watch and fell in love with the many intricate gears moving together as one. It seemed almost anachronistic in this digital age.

What are your thoughts about women’s mechanical watches in the market today? Are they the reasons why you chose to create your own brand?
There is a huge dissonance between women’s and mens’ mechanical watch offerings. Ladies typically have to choose between unisex watches—half of which were probably targeted to the men anyway—or really expensive brand-name watches that may be overly decorated or just function as status symbols.

Most mechanical watch brands cater to men as they have a much larger customer base.

Personally, I couldn’t find a mechanical watch that I liked or could afford as a young professional. The fact that I have a small wrist also made it harder for me to find a mechanical watch as they are usually larger sized than their quartz counterparts.
 


 

You chose to crowdfund Eliana on Kickstarter. What was the response like?
We launched our Kickstarter campaign in Jan 2020 and exceeded our funding target within two weeks. Initially, I was nervous about it but it allowed us to connect with people from all over the world which was the most fulfilling part. 

In hindsight, Kickstarter was not the right platform for our initial launch in spite of how we exceeded our funding goal. This is because Kickstarter has a largely male audience and generally, these people are looking for novel products. A lot of people who funded us on Kickstarter were men buying our watches as gifts for their partners whereas we would have wanted to reach out to women directly.

Who or what is the inspiration behind the designs? 
My fondness for classic, elegant designs inspires The Eliana Timekeeper’s design philosophy. We want to make watches that exude understated elegance.

When I design, I first contemplate various textures, lines and colours and imagine how they might come together. I draw inspiration from my love of vintage jewellery and understated elegance which influence our design philosophy. 
 


 

What were some of the challenges you encountered, and how did you overcome them?
Besides the nagging self-doubts I initially had, managing things beyond our control was challenging. For instance, our Japanese supplier was unable to fulfil our order citing manufacturing difficulties, forcing us to scramble to find alternatives. 

Covid-19 also delayed some of our pre-order and launch logistics. But with some grace and resourcefulness, we were able to put these challenges behind us.

Why did you choose 28mm for your first collection? It is common for ladies to wear large/oversized watches these days.
We’re proud to make one of the smallest automatic watches on the market and paid a high price for that—the cost of producing a small automatic is much higher due to the intricate parts. 

Oversized mechanical watches are a dime a dozen on the market and demand for such watches are easily met by simply buying a mens’ watch. We wanted to purposefully build a versatile watch for women and offer a rare watch that would fit comfortably fit smaller wrists. 

Having a small wrist myself, I prefer small watches as I find larger ones heavy and cumbersome when I carry my kids or start typing on the laptop even though they look great as an accessory. I wanted to design a watch that would be versatile enough for daily living yet fancy enough for the boardroom or party.

Right now there are 3 limited edition designs. Can we expect more in the pipeline, perhaps with complications or bolder designs?
Definitely! Our debut collection, The Twilight Glint, is just the beginning for The Eliana Timekeeper. We are delighted by the reception and have a second collection in the works.

We are keeping the watch details a secret for now, safe to say that we are dedicated to pushing the boundaries of ladies’ watches both in terms of design and quality and can’t wait to reveal them in time to come. 

How do you balance your work and home life?
I don’t know, really. It’s hard sometimes and I’m constantly figuring things out along the way. It does help that I have a supportive husband, family and friends. I am grateful to be able to do what I love and find fulfilment in that; that keeps me going each day.

Can you give some tips for women who want to do their own startup but are not sure about taking the plunge?
Enjoy the journey and don’t belittle the courage to start or work on seemingly insignificant things. Singaporeans are generally very goal-oriented, but as an entrepreneur, sometimes the willingness to take a risk and learn along the way counts for a lot more than immediate, tangible results.

After all, the fruit is the last thing that grows on a tree.


The Eliana Timekeeper’s limited edition Twilight Glint watches (prices start from $580) are available at Watch Wonderland in Suntec City and The Gallery Store at National Gallery Singapore. They are also available on its website here.