In an era of fast fashion, the wristwatch continues to be a symbol that defines the wearer. Not only does it accurately tell time and communicates a personal sense of style, but also contributes to one's overall ethos. Whether it's for a busy day of work or a weekend of leisure, the timepiece is the ultimate style statement that has stood the test of time for over a century. With luxury brands being the last word on sophistication, finding a watch that's simple, affordable and makes a statement can be hard.
In recent years, the nostalgic affinity for analog watches among millennials has created a spate of European brands, all aiming to offer higher quality watches than their peers, but at lower price points. However, most of these new brands manufacture their watches in China using inexpensive parts, rather than in Switzerland.
One company that strikes a balance between affordability, quality and tradition of Swiss watchmaking is MQT. It offers a line of expensive-looking, minimalistic watches inspired by Rolex and Piaget, but priced under $300. The main thing that distinguishes it from other watch brands is the design, quality, and price ratio. The brand focuses on creating products using the best possible materials, but charges fair prices thanks to a direct-to-consumer approach that avoids middleman markups. Based in Bern, the Swiss city of fountains, it was established in March 2017 by three young entrepreneurs: Diego Javier Glauser, Thomas Heer and Hanna Sterchi.
The name 'MQT' is an acronym for the French word 'Mousquetaire' which plays upon the idea of the company's founders being 'The Three Musketeers'. The logo also matches the acronym as there are 3 crossed swords, each representing a central pillar of the brand's corporate philosophy: best quality, unique design and unbeatable price.
The story of MQT and how it came to be can be best explained by the phrase 'Einer fur alle, alle fur einen' or 'All for one, and one for all'. Traditionally associated with the motto of Switzerland, it is popularly synonymous with 'The Three Musketeers' who stayed loyal to each other through thick and thin. It is this motto which best captures the philosophy and essence of the company: the effort to 'create an alternative to the ubiquity of over-embellished statement watches'.
MQT began with a burning passion to put an end to having to choose between affordability and quality. The idea was conceived around 2 years ago during a joint lunch of its founders who decided to start the business after recognizing that the market was flooded with inferior quality low-priced watches from China. After connecting the dots, they chose to build watches that delivered high quality at a fair price. 'MQT was born from the desire to offer something new and different in the vast market of luxury watches, which is often either very pricey, or a compromise on quality. We've created a brand that offers high-end watches while remaining at a reasonable price,'
explains Co-Founder & Managing Director, Diego Javier Glauser.
Interestingly, all three of the company's founders hail from vastly diverse backgrounds and contribute their expertise in many ways. Glauser has several years of experience in high-level public administration institutions. Heer worked at the largest Swiss bank, UBS as a business manager, while Sterchi brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in marketing and design. Together, they uphold a shared vision to make MQT an affordable yet stylish brand that everyone will come to love.
The team behind 'MQT' - Diego Javier Glauser, Thomas Heer and Hanna Sterchi. The young enterpreneurs speak in positive phrases that evoke an intense feeling of being at the brink of an epiphany.
Watchmaking is a niche craft and the founders of MQT were each drawn to this industry in a unique way. Glauser, was fascinated by watches after receiving one from his father for his 14th birthday. Seeing how watches have become a fashion statement to millennials he decided to refuel his passion and curiosity. While for Heer, the family heirloom of a 40-year-old clock has been his inspiration. It has shown him that a watch is timeless and - if the quality is right - it can be passed on for generations. It is for this very reason that quality is so important to him. 'We chose upon designing watches because a watch is the only piece of jewelry that one can wear at any time. A watch can cost more than a luxury car but still be simple and unobtrusive,'
they tell us.
With determination fueled by passion and a tad of impetus, 'The Three Musketeers' decided to strike on their own with a sharp vision. Of course, deciding to start a business and actually doing it are two very different things. The Founders had to find funding for the project - no easy task for someone new to an already competitive industry. However, they were determined to not let this stop them and finally managed to obtain investment from a very prestigious source.
The company also hired Esty Horlacher - a well-known legal & compliance specialist as their Director of Legal Affairs. Furthermore, their producer has been in the watch business for over 25 years and their watchmaker has already worked for brands like Omega, Zenith and Swarovski. Together with a good network of connections in the watch industry and the former CEO of a well-known Swiss watch company as a mentor, MQT is well on its way to become the next poster child of the online watch brand movement.
Dubbed as an 'honest and attainable alternative to high-end luxury timepieces' by its founders, MQT aims to shake things up in a subtle, but significant way by tapping into the mindset of young consumers who are increasingly rejecting consumerism and megabrands in favor of quality. These days, when buying self-proclaimed luxury watches, one automatically assumes that they're of high quality due to its expensive pricing. But quite often such is not the case and if you look closely, you can see that the materials and clockwork they use are of low quality. Which is where MQT comes into play, by single-mindedly focusing on offering a diffusion range of watches that fulfills the unmet demand for high quality Swiss-made timepieces.
The ethos of MQT watches is simple: to offer a wide range of well-designed high-quality watches, so that as many people as possible will be able to afford them. In comparison to other brands who sell Chinese import goods, MQT offers Swiss watch handcraft thanks to a transparent, direct-to-consumer approach. The company promises to keep prices low by eliminating the vendor/distributor, and traditional marketing techniques, thereby allowing it to offer the customer a high-quality product at an unbeatable price. 'We have found a new business model for the modern times that fills the gap between "cheap and tacky" and "super high-end",'
says Co-founder and Managing Director, Thomas Heer.
Another attribute that distinguishes the makers from other watch brands of today is 'modesty' which they reproduce in their designs. When choosing materials and elements for their designs, quality is an absolute priority for MQT. For this reason, they use leather from Italy, unbreakable sapphire glass, genuine marble stone and watch movements from the best Swiss movement manufacturer ETA SA.
Every MQT watch is developed entirely in the company's Swiss studio and workshop, from initial sketch to prototype and final design. MQT's dedicated and experienced design team led by Hanna Sterchi, work closely together to ensure that everything is perfectly matched. The process of creating a timepiece starts with an idea, following which a basic design is developed to be used for visualization. Afterwards this is discussed within the team and is adjusted until a coherent design is created. Once the design has been finalized, materials which fit visually and logically are chosen. There is also the process of selecting a suitable clockwork, after which the technical drawing takes place.
Ideal for more mature watch lovers, 'The Marble Collection' is an innovative range which espouses classic elegance and contemporary design, recognized by a clock face made of marble.
The previous steps are iteratively passed until everything is perfect and the first prototype is made. The product is inspected and adjustments are made, generally concerning the details. Then, another prototype follows, and again the step is repeated until a flawless product is available. After the prototype satisfies the needs, it goes to production. For this purpose, the watches are assembled in Switzerland and pass through various quality controls.
Inspiration for the team comes from many different things but, nature, lifestyle, and texture are just some examples. As a result, they are able to create modern designs that are fresh and innovative. The founders are proud of all their designs especially their housings, dials and pointers which are "tailormade" and do not exist a second time in the world. The simple look combined with materials of the best quality gives each watch its identity.
In the end, the designs are not necessarily striking, but noble with each watch having its own character and uniqueness. 'Our watches are designed to appeal to our core target consumer. He/She is a 25-35-year-old millennial who is savvy and confident but values quality, craftsmanship and an outspoken design. Our customers are looking to find something unique, midway between luxury and quality, which is our specialty,'
Sterchi tells us.
With so many well-known Swiss luxury watch brands in existence today, for a lesser-known label to make its way up the ranks, its timepieces need to be exceptional. However, MQT does not see Swiss watch companies as its main competition as it considers itself different from other watch brands when it comes to the Swiss watch market in particular. Strategically, what sets them apart, is that they are clearly targeting a different consumer than their contemporaries with a bigger focus on storytelling. While other brands focus solely on one story, they intend to create new stories around the brand, which is central to their success.
Marketing on the basis of quality and affordability will also help stave off competition from a growing tribe of high luxury timepieces, such as MVMT and Daniel Wellington. The brand intends to use its own e-commerce as it main sales channel selling directly to their customers via its website. 'As a marketing strategy, we will be very focused on storytelling. We want to demystify MQT for our consumers by building trust and connection. The possibilities are given up to global markets through the Internet, how exactly we will process that remains our secret at this point,'
Besides its design and online marketing strategy, MQT differs in price-performance ratio to other Swiss watches, thereby offering itself as an alternative to fans of Daniel Wellington and MVMT without having to spend half a fortune. At present MQT remains small with less than 20 members - but it's only been in operation since March and is likely to grow based largely on word of mouth within the watch-loving communities. The company has just gone online, ahead of the key festive period, with overall prices not more than $300. 'At MQT we take a different approach. We truly believe in our products and we know that nobody offers such high-quality timepieces for the prices that we do. Our offer is the best in the market right now and we intend to keep it that way. By marketing our product directly to consumers through social channels, we are confident of garnering a substantial following,'
MQT's first collection is inspired by nature and the founders hometown of Bern. There are currently two collections: 'The Marble Collection' - an innovative range which espouses classic elegance and contemporary design, recognized by a clock face made of marble and 'The Essential Line' - a more colorful collection that comes with a mirrored clock face. Inspired by nature, 'The Marble Collection' is ideal for more mature watch lovers while 'The Essential Line' is an exercise in modernism, spontaneously inspired from the Swiss Lifestyle and is well suited for the age of 25 -30.
Inspired from the Swiss Lifestyle, 'The Essential Line' is a more colorful collection with a mirrored clock face and is well suited for the age of 25 -30.
Both collections retail for $225-$280 depending on watch selection. They feature simple-yet-sophisticated designs that have bold, unique looks for surprisingly affordable prices. The range of options customers have through MQT also means one can find something that goes with their style, whether they're looking for something appropriate for the weekend or an important business meeting. The watches are a fantastic middle ground of quality and affordability, and are relative steals compared to those of other watchmakers.
In anticipation of its launch, the brand shot its first lookbook. The images make its direction abundantly clear. Shot in Zurich and Lucerne, the images are one foot in the past and another in the present. Embodying the dynamic, eclectic, and challenging ideal of the brand, they're bold and every bit a match made in sartorial heaven. 'As a brand, we set out to create an unforgettable brand experience. An obsession with detail was key and is depicted through our visual storytelling,'
says Glauser of the shoot.
If a single word were to describe the MQT's manifesto, that word would surely be 'Dignity'. The company would rather not put anything on the market than to put something that does not live up to its own standards. And the brand does not plan to stop there. While they may not wish to own the biggest business, it seems they do want to be the best, and not just for reasons of personal ego.
The founders seem bullish about the future with Glauser having big plans ahead. 'Our primary concern is to create high-quality products that are a result of our passion, consideration and care. We look forward to spreading our wings and introducing the collection to the world. Over the next few years, the brand will definitely grow and we expect to branch out with more lines,'
When they talk about MQT, Glauser, Heer and Sterchi speak in positive phrases that evoke an intense feeling of being at the brink of an epiphany. Sensibility is indeed a distinct part of the brands DNA and its watches are bolder than some of its counterparts, striving for minimalist elegance. With their uniqueness, the timepieces draw one's attention without demanding it, in the best conceivable way and the results of their efforts look exquisite on a wrist.
For those millennials who are not impressed by status symbols, and seek a Swiss handcrafted watch built to last and love: look no further than MQT. After all, luxury is a very personal perception and for the makers of MQT, it is a promise. A promise that the product you buy from them is of the highest esteem, based on its elegant design and high quality, derived from the excellence of swiss craftsmanship.
The debut collection from MQT is now available online at https://mqtsuisse.com/chd/home-2/
This article will be published in the forthcoming Spring/Summer 2018 issue of LoveFMD.
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