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Norqain is the indie watch brand that should be on your radar

Words by Rob Chilton

Punching above their weight

Norqain CEO Ben Küffer is one of those people who just glows with health. “Running, cycling, hiking, tennis – I’m always doing something,” he grins. His hobbies were the starting point for Norqain, the independent watch brand that launched in 2018 in Bienne in the heart of Switzerland’s watch industry. “I saw so many challenges with positioning a new brand coming into a saturated market that I knew it had to be a true story,” explains Kuffer. “Norqain had to suit our real lifestyle and be a sporty brand.” The logo of two mountain peaks certainly ties in with that idea.

Norqain has three collections of mechanical watches – Adventure, Freedom and Independence – with prices starting at an attractive AED 8,800. Movements come from Kenissi who also supply Tudor.

“When we started Norqain we wanted to see mechanical watches on the wrists of the younger generation,” says Küffer. “The watches are sporty but you can also wear them with a shirt and jacket to a business meeting or a restaurant. You have to do that because if you can’t, you’re out. If it’s just about being sporty, there’s the Apple Watch.”

Ben Küffer (centre) has been advised by his father Marc

A rectangular plate on the left of the case can be engraved; wedding dates or children’s names are the most popular choices, says Küffer. “Although one guy loved cigars and he chose the message ‘Designated smoking area’,” he laughs. “We wanted to go against the traditional caseback engraving and thought personalisation would resonate with young people for an achievement or a special birthday. I think the plate gives the watch an emotional value.”

With 80 stores in 12 countries, Norqain is growing nicely and is being assisted in the Middle East by horology experts Seddiqi & Sons. “Speed is our biggest strength,” continues Küffer. “We make decisions quickly and I go with my gut feeling. It’s not forced because the shareholders aren’t here to make money in two years, which is a great situation. It’s a nice pressure and it’s huge fun, I love it.”

Norqain Freedom 60 GMT watch in forest green

New watches are being released this month that reflect the global Covid crisis. “The pandemic has seen watch companies using much more innovation,” says Küffer. “Distribution didn’t matter during the lockdown so brands focussed purely on the product. I’ve noticed there are a lot of colours and positivity in new watches – nobody wanted to make a dial that wasn’t joyful.”

Family ties have helped Norqain gain a foothold. Küffer’s father Marc is a Norqain director and was a board member of the Swiss Watch Industry Association for more than 25 years. “I really feel the encouragement from the leaders of the Swiss watch industry,” says Ben Küffer. “We came in with a long-term vision, we’re people from the watch industry, we have an honest story, we are privately financed, we didn’t have foreign money – we were respected, regardless of our size, because we had good intentions for the Swiss watch industry. I think it’s important for independent brands like us to play their role on a smaller level. We should be innovative and take risks. It’s a cool challenge.”

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