NIALL watches are the new kid on the block for luxury timepieces, made entirely in Kansas City, America. Don’t be lured into thinking that because this brand doesn’t have 100 years of horology already in its back pocket it lacks enough experience to create luxury time pieces to take on the big names. NIALL watches may be new, but they have an ethos behind every single timepiece that cannot be ignored - innovation and dedication to relentless focus on quality. NIALL are proving that the luxury watch industry is not the closed shop it once was. With tenacity, willpower and beautifully engineered timepieces they have found success in the luxury watch arena.
We chatted to founder & CTO, Michael Wilson, to find out more about NIALL watches, the ethos, the journey, the manufacturing and how NIALL was so successfully brought to market. Oh, and how Kurt Russell became a such a fan of these timepieces.
How and where did your journey begin in the world of watches?
Five years ago, I had the belief that I could make a watch almost fully sourced in America. Not because of a ‘flag-waving’ American pride reason – more so out of strategic advantage for machine times and quality standard. Five years later, we continue to pave the way on just how much we can source in the United States.
How did you choose the name NIALL?
I took at DNA test and found that I'm from the O'Neil family lineage in Ireland. O'Neil meaning "of Niall." I believe it sounds a lot better than Michael Wilson on the dial of our watches.
Why did you choose luxury watches? Especially as launching anything within the luxury sector is difficult at best, never mind the watch sector.
It was not easy at all. In the beginning, we were rejected by the industry in a very abrupt and overt way. However, the irony of this business is time itself. Over time, we grew as a company and grew our product line. We earned the industry and consumers respect - one person at a time. From the beginning, we believed in striving towards being the best and I've personally sacrificed everything in my life to get Niall to where it is today. When you're an entrepreneur and you’re all in, there is no reason to aim for low-quality or low price. For us, being all in means respecting the ways of Swiss watchmaking and striving to produce the best timepieces possible right here in America.
NIALL luxury watches are designed and manufactured in Kansas - was creating your watches almost purely in America a deliberate choice to help future sales?
A wise man once told me, "waving the American flag is great up until your arms get tired." Quite honestly, we did not start this with what we call "waving the American flag." We began the company, producing in America, as a strategic advantage. While we are very proud of our pioneering work, if you look at our site today you're not going to see America all over the place. That's because, to us, being authentically American doesn't mean rubbing it in everyone’s face.
Once you had your model for NIALL watches - how did you bring it to market?
We are a very boutique brand. Nothing we do is produced in the tens of thousands. We really focus on creating outstanding designs that appeal to our core-customers through very limited releases. Whether it is the Fieldhouse Blue, Black Swan or some other colorway, we tend to focus on creating the appeal behind designs we believe to be appealing.
Many luxury watch brands are adding "smart watch technology for their brand - is this something you would consider too?
We have a lot of new technology that we will be rolling out over the next two years, but smart tech isn't a focus for us at the moment. Garmin is based out of Olathe, Kansas – just in our back yard. I believe they are doing a wonderful job in the smart-watch segment. However, the Garmin folks and the Niall team have definitely shared a few ideas together.
Many people buy luxury watches to create family heirlooms because they hold onto their value - is this something people can do with Niall watches?
Yes! It is our intent to create timepieces that are snapshots of the monumental moments in a man or woman’s life. Every watch tells a story and Niall often fits within the collection of other watches. I get text messages all the time of customers looking back and sharing their stories of why they bought their Niall. It's incredible to hear. We work every day to make sure our customers stay just as happy and just as excited about their watches in five years as they did the day they bought them.
Celebrity endorsements are good for any brand - how did Kurt Russell discover the brand?
I wouldn’t say we have any formal endorsements per say. We've never paid a dime for an actor, athlete or coach to wear a Niall. However, celebrity friends and customers are incredible for the brand. We've been blessed with some really kind people that have attached to our brand. Paul Rudd, Kurt Russell, Jack Sock, and Bill Self to name a few. Customers or friends - we have just been so lucky to have supporters of Niall looking to put us on at a moment’s notice.
NIALL is a really exciting brand - whose growth has been quite rapid, what do you think has been the main contributing factor in this?
Great question. I ask myself this question a great deal. I really think it's our focus on design, our commitment to quality, and our ethos. I really do have my life, blood, sweat, and tears in this company and I can only hope our customers see our passion and commitment when they check the time.
Do you have any advice for other people who are looking to create their own watch brand?
Three words. Belief. Patience. Fortitude.
Currently NIALL watches are designed for men, do you have a plan to produce watches for women too?
We recently launched our ladies GMT with diamond bezels that has sold really well. We also have a 36mm ultra thin timepiece in the works. It’s something I've designed, engineered, and modeled from the ground up. I'm very excited to announce it, when the time is right.
What's the future for Niall?
What you are going to see out of Niall is a lot more product. New designs, new materials, new colorways. After bringing on Mark Mazzarese as our CEO, it's allowed me to focus on what I love most - inventing the new. You can expect a lot of "new" coming out of Niall this year and throughout 2018.