By Harlan Chapman-Green
We here at WristReview, one of the most popular watch devoted sites on the internet, have had the unique opportunity to speak with Michael Wilson, the co-founder and CEO of Niall Watches, an upcoming USA based watch company focused on the production and retail of high-end pieces at low costs.
Michael Wilson, the co-founder and CEO of Niall Watches
WristReview(WR): What caught your interest in the world of horology to begin with?
Michael Wilson: Watchmaking is magical. It’s insane the levels we, as an industry, go through in order to chase the last 1% of perfection. I’m not personally interested in lower price point, cheaply produced timepieces. I am interested in what it takes to manufacture some of the best timepieces in the world – at scale. I believe watchmaking is one of the highest manufacturing arts and sciences in the mechanical world – but making 100 timepieces is tough. Making 1,000 is really hard. Making more than 10,000 is insane. The level of complication that comes with manufacturing thousands of timepieces, at the same level of quality and consistency, has captured my attention for life.
WR: Do you yourself have a background in engineering or maybe any interests when you were younger?
Michael Wilson: My background is in both manufacturing and marketing. As a kid, my father owned a manufacturing facility that produced large equipment systems for the food industry. Which meant I was exposed to the process of manufacturing at an early age. Even after graduating from the University of Kansas and getting my MBA at the University of Missouri – Kansas City I worked in marketing for manufacturing companies. Which is simply a different world. Everyone from sales to marketing to the secretary has to have an understanding of the product line – which is often technically driven.
I was also inspired by my Dad’s knowledge of complex microwave systems. He’s mistaken for a Ph.D. often – but is really a self-made and self-taught man. I believe in the same things he does – if you’re going to own a company – stand behind your product and know more than anyone else on the planet about it. Self-teach and obsess. That’s what I have done and will continue to do at Niall.
WR: Without wishing to sound blunt, why did you start your own watch company in the first place?
Michael Wilson: Going down the path of watchmaking and building a luxury watch brand really stemmed from being at the right place in my life at the right time. Four years ago I had just sold my marketing agency, Wavelength, to Salva O’Renick. I was tired of chasing ventures so I really wanted to spend the time to find something I loved, I was passionate about, something I could work on until I was 90 years old. I started exploring what it would take to manufacture a great timepiece and looked at every option. From China to Switzerland to Germany. Nothing fit the business model I was looking for and nothing felt right. So I started contacting manufacturers in the Aerospace industry to help bring the Niall One to life. That process took me three years but it was worth every minute to acquire the knowledge our team now has regarding manufacturing processes in watchmaking.
WR: If you could only choose one watch in the current Niall collection to wear every day, which watch would it be and why?
Niall One KC Blue
Michael Wilson: That really changes by the month for me because we keep evolving as a company. The Niall One in KC blue will forever be in my heart and something I wear regularly. It is a 30 piece limited edition that some really amazing to own. It’s almost become a club, per say, and fellow KC Blue owners will stop each other at events to ask what serial number they have. The Deep Blue is another love of mine. That is Bill Self’s daily wear and it just feels right. It fits and matches with about anything – dressed up or dressed down. For the refined classic look, the GMT is spot on. We’re nearly 70% sold out of our initial production run of the GMT because I believe customers feel the same way. Sometimes classic and refined conquers all.
WR: Do you see Niall developing its own movements in-house in the near future?
Michael Wilson: That’s a very interesting question. Niall is by no means is chasing the term “in-house.” What we are chasing is American-based or American-made. Today we work with partners in KC, LA and FL to make everything except the movement – right here in America. While our movement is Swiss, we will slowly and patiently produce more and more components right here in America. We have chosen to start working with companies that have over decades of experience manufacturing complex microsystems. This means, for Niall, we have the ability to leverage decades of experience and millions of dollars in equipment. Which ultimately leads to a better timepiece.
Niall GMT Oxford Blue
We have chosen this path because our team has seen what it takes to not just manufacture movements in America but what it takes to do it at scale, without service issues, consistently for 100 years like the Swiss have done. We’re very deep into the manufacturing side of the business and I can tell you it requires not just a great deal of capital – but an entire distribution channel to compensate for the investment of manufacturing. Niall needs to build out its distribution before it can justify going full scale on movement production.
Niall One Reverse Two Tone
Eterna has been an amazing supply partner of ours. Talk to anyone that has worked with them and you’ll learn they are the White Knight of the movement business and, if you’re wanting to build a company that lasts generations, Eterna is the people you talk to first. They are not just suppliers, they are partners and sherpas for anyone that is open to collaboration.
WR: Do you have plans to make Niall watches a widely known company around the globe?
Michael Wilson: In my lifetime I would very much like to be able to stop somebody and ask them “name me two watch companies,” and their response be “Rolex and …. Niall.” We have plans in place that are allowing us to build a strong enough brand to do so – which is very exciting. We also have some really great people behind us, helping us, guiding us to make sure we do the right things, the right way at the right time. While All In is our tagline, and an anagram of Niall, we believe it’s a pretty universal part of who we are that is liked and accepted around the world.
WR: Nowadays a lot of watches get highly decorated versions (precious metals, diamonds etc), do you see Niall producing these kinds of watches in the future?
Michael Wilson: Not for the foreseeable future, no. At Niall, we really want to manufacture luxury timepieces that people love and want to buy. While we do some custom work for very select customers, everything has to pass the design approval of our team. We are very protective over our brand and our product – so it’s only right we are careful about what we produce.
WR: What would be the complication we are most likely to see in a Niall watch next?
Michael Wilson: The Eterna 3914a – GMT movement. Samir of Eterna convinced me that building a GMT watch was the smartest second move for Niall – and he was right. After that, you will most likely find us working on a chronograph powered by some of the really exciting Eterna movements.
WR: Since Niall pays a lot of attention to the craft and detail of its watches, do you see advanced manufacturing methods such as 3D printing being used by the company?
Niall One Cherry Red
Michael Wilson: Of course. We’re already testing a lot new technologies like SLA and DMLS for all sorts of components but the technology is not quite there from an ascetic perspective. In my personal opinion, the biggest leap to manufacturing technology is when quantum computing is commercialized. It will affect everything both additive and subtractive processes. That will truly be a revolution.
WR: Finally, where would you like to see the Niall Watch Company in ten years time?
Michael Wilson: I see Niall in ten years as a one of the top 50 watch companies in the world.
Thank you for your time today, Mr. Wilson.
Niall Watches is a recent startup company that aims to bring back the art of watchmaking to the USA. The watches made are based on Eterna movements which are then modified in the USA.
Niall claims its watches are close to 90% American made with the crystal being Corning Gorilla Glass which is made in the USA as well. Gorilla Glass is a trademark of the Corning corporation which manufactures it exclusively. Usually, Gorilla Glass is saved for mobile phones, notable Samsung phones among many others. Gorilla Glass is known for being extremely scratch resistant and long lasting, it’s also more resistant to shattering than normal glass. Although perhaps more resistant to shattering than sapphire crystal, the downside to this would be that it wouldn’t be as scratch resistant as sapphire crystal which is one of the hardest materials known to man.
Niall One.S – Deep Blue
The design of most timepieces takes heavy inspiration from classics, particularly the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. Niall watches are reasonably priced and made to very high standards, why not check out this company today!
For more info, please visit niallluxury.com
HARLAN CHAPMAN-GREEN – CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
A keen bass guitar player, Harlan enjoys all the perks modern watchmaking technologies the industry has to offer. Although you might catch him sampling Omegas or the odd Rolex, Harlan loves all things Haute Horology, with his three favourite brands being Breguet, A.Lange & Söhne and Vacheron Constantin. He hopes to study timekeeping more in depth someday and will never be able to thank his father enough for introducing him to the industry. You can follow him on Instagram Read his articles here