It's been a while since we last checked in with everyone on where things are at with Delugs, and needless to say a lot has happened, so let's dive right in!
New Office and Showroom
At the start of the year, we knew that we had outgrown our previous space (read: bedroom). There were boxes of straps all around, packaging material, watch boxes and accessories, and barely any walking space! Delugs started off as a side hustle / home-based business, and while our crafters had a large space to focus on their craft, our HQ team did not have such luxury. But now we were growing to the point where we knew we needed a dedicated space to allow us to work, and expand our team.
So in February, after recovering from the end of year sales season, we started hunting for our new home. We wanted a space that was large enough for us to grow into in the next few years. A space where we could fulfil orders, store all of our stock and materials, do our daily work, and even entertain walk-in customers and host events. The space had to be sufficiently large to allow for us to do all of this without breaking the bank, so we looked at industrial locations away from the city center, instead of prime commercial space that most luxury brands would opt for. In the end, we found a space of around 2400 sqft in the Ubi area in Singapore, that we now call home!
After designing the empty space to suit our requirements, and finishing up the renovation works, we moved in on 2 May. Since then, we have been fulfilling all orders from this new space, and it's been amazing to finally have a large and dedicated space, which allows us to think of new possibilities on what is possible:
- We could now expand the Delugs team, since we have a proper office space for everyone to come in and work together. Having a larger team would allow us to better serve all of our customers, and explore new ideas and initiatives.
- We could expand our product lines! We've been working with leather straps and leather accessories for the longest time, and part of the hesitation to grow that collection into other materials was simply because we were running out of space to keep all of our goods. Now that we are no longer shackled by that concern, we can imagine all the possible new products that we could introduce to the watch community (more on this later!)
- We could keep all of our products stocked up in larger quantities, minimising the out of stock issues that have been plaguing us for the past year. We hope to keep all of our straps and accessories in stock, so you never have to wonder if the strap you saw on Instagram is available for purchase (Yes, it will be!)
- We could entertain walk-in retail customers, both from Singapore and abroad. While we start off as an e-commerce based business, we have plans to move into an omni-channel brand with both a strong online and offline presence, and this is the first step. We can now imagine an ideal retail experience to enhance the strap buying process, and design our space to accommodate that.
- We could host watch meet-ups and events for new launches. A large part of the fun in watch collecting is the watch community, and we want to play a bigger role in that community, both in Singapore and abroad. We could now organise larger gatherings in Singapore, and in the comforts of a safe and private space.
As much as the world is moving away from offices, and work from home is all the rage now, having a physical space is still a necessity for us, and we are extremely excited by the possibilities that it has opened up. While it was daunting to invest so much into a permanent feature, and with higher fixed costs now, we know that with the continued support from the watch community, it would definitely be the right move for our long-term growth.
For now, we are still developing the retail section of our new space, and once that is done, we will have more photos to share with everyone in a separate blog post. Stay tuned!
Expanding Product Lines
While our product line grew quite a bit in 2020 and 2021, things have been a little slower in 2022. While part of the reason was due to the lack of space, another reason was because we already had many of the products that we had wanted to bring to the watch community when we first started! Our range of leather and colours for watch straps is probably the most expansive and diverse, and we had a few different forms of watch storage accessories that suited the needs of most collectors out there. So we've been thinking hard about what else we could do, to continue bringing value to the community.
A big part of the next phase in our product development roadmap is what we call "watch-specific straps", or straps that are not universal to most watches out there. These are watches that require straps that are specifically made to fit that model / case, for example the Vacheron Constantin Overseas, Cartier Santos and Santos-Dumont, Tissot PRX. For most strap suppliers out there, it just doesn't make sense to develop a new line of straps just for one model of watch, simply because of how small the market size would be. These straps are also more difficult to develop and craft, especially for those that require the use of a special adapter to fit. As a result, we realised that folks owning these watches were under-served, with limited options to accessorise their watches.
In the past year, we have been working hard to R&D and introduce straps for different models of watches in this category, prioritising those watches with a large number of collectors, and also whichever is easier to develop. We have since introduced straps for VCO, Santos de Cartier, Santos-Dumont, and Tissot PRX. While we started off with only offering these straps made-to-order, with a lead time of around 8 weeks or more, we are now planning to introduce them in stock in the coming months.
In addition to the above straps, we are working on watch-specific leather straps for the following models:
- Tissot PRX with Metal Insert - While we have Tissot PRX straps, they were made without the metal insert. We are trying to develop the same metal insert that Tissot uses. We are also working on the 35mm variant.
- A. Lange & Soehne Odysseus - Requires a specific cut-out shape around the lugs, no need for metal inserts
- MB&F MAD1 - Requires 24mm curved lugs
- Cartier Tank S and XL - Requires 16mm width straps and 23mm width straps respectively
Expanding Range of Materials
We are starting to venture beyond just leather straps, and looking to pair our straps with materials that the watch community love.
We've been selling our Elastic Loops for quite a while now, offering a total of 24 different colours. They have been very well-received by the community, as it is a novel idea that no other retailer offers. The lack of hardware makes them very comfortable to wear on the wrist. In addition to 20mm lug width, we are working to get them in 18mm, 19mm, 21mm and 22mm. We will also look into whether an adjustable version with minimal hardware can be made, but still offering the same level of comfort.
We've introduced waxed canvas to the community last year, and folks loved the rugged look and vibes of the waxed canvas straps. We just added a full collection of Alcantara straps, a total of 10 different colours. We know that Sailcloth is a very popular option, especially for the hot summer months, and we are testing it out before releasing our own range of Sailcloth straps, hopefully in the coming months.
Rubber - A New Frontier?
But the one material that has us most excited is Rubber. If leather is for dress watches, then rubber is for sports watches. We are working to develop our own line of rubber straps, because we know how popular these are for people who own sports watches, or if you live in a hot and humid country like Singapore. Much like a good leather strap, putting on a good rubber strap can really change the look and feel of a watch.
The challenge with developing rubber straps, however, is that it is an entirely new area of expertise for us, both in terms of the material and in the production process. Unlike leather, which is crafted layer by layer, rubber straps are almost always made via injection moulding, which can be very costly. We are taking the time to make sure we understand enough about how it is done.
And because rubber straps are made via injection moulding, assuming the same rubber material is used, there can be very minimal differences in quality from one brand to the next, and often it is just a matter of aesthetic design differences. This is something that we have struggled with for a long time - can we develop a new product that is sufficiently different from what is already on the market, and bring value to the watch community beyond being just another rubber strap supplier? It is a question that we are still considering and thinking about - how can we design our rubber straps so that they are better than anything on the market today?
One answer that we have to that question, is to develop rubber straps for specific watches. Watches where even brands don't develop rubber straps for. Watches that perfectly suit having a rubber strap, and would make the watch that much more desirable. Yes, we are developing rubber straps first for the Tissot PRX, and subsequently for the Cartier Santos.
That's all the photos we will release for now, because the straps are still in development phase and a few more improvements will be made, and we don't want folks to get too excited since it will still be a while more before these go on sale. We hope to launch the rubber straps for Tissot PRX in a few months time, just to make sure that we get everything done correctly. For the Cartier Santos, the development is a little more complex given the difficulties with the attachment hardware, so we do not yet have a firm date for the Santos, but rest assured that we are working on it.
Other products that are in development / recently introduced include:
- New Quick Release Spring Bars - the best spring bars that you never knew you needed
- Clasp and Buckles with micro-adjustment - we think that this will be a game-changer in how you wear straps
- Acrylic Watch Cases and Displays
Being a Part of the Watch Community
Beyond being a brand that sells watch accessories, we also want to be a part of the larger watch community, and to bring value in our area of expertise. One big initiative that we have been working on, is the Strap Guide series.
Our mission is to enhance the journey of owning a watch through providing best-in-class watch accessories. Part of that means being able to guide our customers through the process of purchasing the right straps and accessories for their watches. And the process of pairing a watch with straps has been a challenge that we have tried to tackle since Day 1. From providing real-life photos of our own watches with different straps, to developing the Strap Finder, and now building up our repository of Strap Guides to demonstrate how different watches look with different straps.
In addition to helping people imagine how their watches could look with just a change of strap, the process of working with different members of our watch community to produce these Strap Guides has also been incredibly fun. We've got to witness different styles of photography, different write-ups, and see the different straps that people would pick. We now have a total of 19 strap guides and counting, with a new strap guide released on a weekly basis!
What is our vision for the Strap Guide? First, we hope to have a full range of guides for classic watches from the different brands, and to continually keep it updated with new models that get released. Second, we hope to eventually publish these Strap Guides into a printed form, and to have different editions available (a Grand Seiko Strap Guide edition, for example). It would take us a long time before we get to this stage, but we hope to stay the course and create the most comprehensive database of guides available.
Supporting Watch Meet-Ups and GTGs
With COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, and now that we have our own dedicated space, we hope to support and organise more events and meet-ups, both in Singapore and also around the world. Meeting up with different watch collectors, trying on different straps on your watches, is an incredibly fun activity and a great way to spend your Friday nights. We are looking forward to putting more events on the calendar, both in-person physical events for our fellow collectors based in Singapore, and virtual events for the rest of our community around the world.
You can probably tell, that we have a ton of ideas floating around, and a lot of different projects that we are managing simultaneously. Our entire team is doing our best to move these projects forward, but also not forgetting the core of what we do - providing high quality watch straps and accessories to the community, and delivering excellent customer service. Thank you for joining us on this very exciting journey, and we cannot wait to see what the rest of the year (and years) will bring!