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In Conversation: Sherrie Han, Founder of Eliana Timekeeper

by Sharon Tan on February 20, 2020
Watches

Editor’s note: A new brand – the Eliana Timekeeper. A Singapore brand, designed in Singapore. And targeted for the ladies. We speak to the founder, Sherrie Han and talk about the inspiration, the watches, and the future plans.

I loaned the Rosegold Twilight Glint for about a week.

Eliana Tikmekeeper Rosegold Twilight Glint

And now here we are at Watch Wonderland, with Sherrie Han, the founder of Eliana Timekeeper, to chat about Eliana Timekeeper’s beginnings, ladies fashion and the harsh truth of most ladies not knowing the difference between quartz and mechanical watches (gasp!).

Sherrie Han

Sherrie Han, photographed February 2020.

Proud to say that Sherrie is a fellow Singaporean, and a very bold and daring one at that. She’s a mother of one and expecting a second one just a few months later. She quitted her full-time job as a lawyer to focus on Eliana Timekeeper. 

More about Eliana Timekeeper and the debut collection, Twilight Glint, can be found on their website, Kickstarter and Indiegogo

What got her to start her own brand?

As I chatted with her, I would distill it down to #smallwristproblem that kicked off her journey. She said “ The impetus was that I couldn’t find a suitable mechanical watch that I liked and could afford. The ones that I liked and could afford, such as Seikos, were simply too big.” Well, this resonated strongly with me and my equally small wrist. I chimed in that I would simply put them on extra short leather straps, or on a nato. But that was just not her way of compromising. Sherrie looked at microbrands for options and inspiration, but says that there are many male-dominated microbrands which are all huge and too big. We looked around us in Watch Wonderland and promptly agreed that all brands available except Eliana Timekeeper were catered to men. Since she couldn’t find a brand that suited her taste, she decided to rely on herself and to make her own watch. But that quickly evolved when she noticed how lacking most women’s knowledge of mechanical watches was. “Many of my female friends don’t even know the difference between a quartz and mechanical movement.There’s a perception that mechanical movement watches are great, but they are all so bulky and difficult for women to wear. I wanted to change this.”

The 28mm case sits very comfortably on my small wrist. The bracelet was also sized so that the butterfly clasp sits squarely on the underside.

Lessons learnt from her first project?

Sherrie shares with us the lessons learnt retrospectively. “Kickstarter was difficult for us because it’s a male dominated platform. We thought it’s the right approach since many micro brands also started out there. However, our target audience of Singaporean and American women weren’t big on Kickstarter.” Apart from picking a channel that wasn’t geared at her target audience, she also learnt that advertising and marketing prior to a launch was more important that the launch itself. “Unfortunately, we didn’t spend any money on marketing and collecting emails. We didn’t do any Facebook advertisement. We should have done more.”

The Rosegold Twilight glint, Sherrie and my personal favourite from the collection.

Besides learning about business strategies she should have used, she also came to meet unexpected events which were out of her control. “There were setbacks and shocks when some of my suppliers made shocking announcements. The biggest impact was when Miyota said that they were discontinuing this movement, and did not mention any replacement movement of this size. So we had to buy all the existing stock at about 3 times the price. Our dial paint supplier also informed us that they have entered an exclusivity agreement with a big client and could no longer supply us paint after this order.” It’s a pity we won’t be able to see more Void Black dials in future Eliana Timekeeper projects. She also shared with us some complications that arise from global events such as the trade war between the USA and China, as well as plant shutdowns because of COVID-19.

Response on the Twilight Glint

Sherrie said the response to Twilight Glint has been divisive, to which I agreed. “Those who already know their watches don’t want to see the open heart. Whereas those who are not familiar with mechanical watches are instantly attracted to the open heart.” I then told her that in the week that I had the watch, I did ask some of my friends, watch enthusiast and the not-so, what was their first impressions. I told her honestly that watch lovers and myself didn’t like the open heart design, we also thought the Miyota movement’s finishing could have been better since a clear caseback was used. However, others such as my own sister, were immediately drawn to the open heart. Sherrie also shared a photo of an early prototype which did not have an open heart. I personally like it much better. She then said that it was her husband who suggested the open heart design, to stay close to her objective of introducing mechanical watches to lesser informed women.

Clear case back revealing gold (or silver) Miyota 6T28 movement.

She also spoke about the lack of support from existing market, “We were turned down by a lot of watch blogs because their audience were male watch enthusiasts so they cannot feature us.” That was probably why she approached Deployant after seeing that we had a section for ladies. Many reviewers and friends from within the industry that she spoke to asked her if she would be starting a line for men. She firmly rejected them.

An early prototype without the open heart, and on a customized braided strap. Photo from Sherrie.

Her current backers from Kickstarter are either men who are giving their partners their first mechanical watch, or ladies who did not know much about mechanical watches. In a strange way, the divided response to her project does seem to show that she is headed in the right direction with her intended target audience.

Plans moving forward?

With all the lessons learnt from the first project, Sherrie told us that she would need to try different ways of reaching out to her intended target audience. “Departmental stores are definitely being considered. Another plan would be to have it in a local clothing brand to help us retail the watches as they are already selling to the demographic we want. We haven’t done anything on that front but we commence negotiations once the product comes in.” We then talked about popular local fashion brands and where their stores are. Sherrie then says she hasn’t been shopping because of the baby bump, so perhaps more in-depth market research after both the product and second baby arrives.

The Linen Eliana Timekeeper.

As for plans on the next project, Sherrie wants to be more conservative and check market responses when Twilight Glint hits the shelves. I asked if she would move beyond just watch designing, and be more hands-on in the watch making process. “Financially it’s difficult to be personally hands-on. Ideally I could, then maybe it would harken back to those times when I would just work with my hands and not talk to anyone. The part that I would want to be most involved in would be the dial for sure. And I would want to personally service every watch that comes back.”

Parting thoughts

We wrapped up our chat with some photos of her and Twilight Glint. I truly admire her courage. It takes a lot to put aside a well-paying full-time job while being a new mother, to create a new watch because there isn’t a suitable one out there.

Sherrie Han

I suspect most of our knowledgeable readers would probably find Eliana Timekeeper unrelatable, but I do await the day that her brand reaches out to more women and gets them started on mechanical watches. Hopefully it creates a market and shapes the way watchmakers view their market audience as being a gender-specific one.

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