Picture: Co-founders of Colton James, Vincenzo Marchesini and Christopher Lowndes. (Supplied).
Picture: Co-founders of Colton James, Vincenzo Marchesini and Christopher Lowndes. (Supplied).
Picture: Christopher Lowndes. (Supplied).
Picture: Christopher Lowndes. (Supplied).
Picture: Vincenzo Marchesini. (Supplied).
Picture: Vincenzo Marchesini. (Supplied).

CAPE TOWN - Recognising a gap in the local market for designer yet affordable watches, two 23-year old entrepreneurs created their own start-up, Colton James Timepieces. 

Cape Town-born entrepreneurs, Vincenzo Marchesini and Christopher Lowndes founded Colton James Timepieces in 2016 which has made its international footprint.

"We struggled to find a watch that really excited us in a simple, classic style yet decent, quality product", says co-founder, Vincenzo.  

Their venture has been prompted by their personal journey and cultivating their passion into an accessible product. 

The duo met whilst still at varsity in 2014, both studying toward Engineering degrees. 

At the time, Lowndes was creating inexpensive timepieces and asked Marchesini to review some of his samples. 

Their company was then started with their mutual appreciation for watches. 

“I made the decision to partner with Christopher because of his drive for and seriousness about the business, even at the age of 20, which had seen him already sourcing and engaging with international suppliers and having samples shipped to South Africa”, says Marchesini. 

Lowndes then coupled his marketing skills with Marchesini’s graphic design skills and founded their brand. 

Since the designer timepiece company's inception in 2010, they enjoyed international sales growth by over 400% and local sales expanded by 900%. 

They marketed their brand on social media platforms to the likes of Instagram and Facebook. 

Their follow-ship grew to 87 000 on Instagram and 278 000 on Facebook and they boast customers from all over the world, like Australia, the United States, Germany, India and Taiwan. 

Notably, their timepieces also contain materials from all over the world. 

“We sourced each component from different countries who are famous for manufacturing specific components or their use of high quality materials. Eg, Italy for their fine Italian leather, Taiwan for their ultra-high precision in dial manufacturing and Japan for the most accurate quartz movements with Seiko Epson Corp”, says the duo. 

Although the materials are internationally sourced, Marchesini and Lowndes says that they work directly with manufacturers to ensure that they source affordable material and they also utilise their professional skills. 

“All design and engineering was done internally as we are qualified engineers ourselves. By visiting trade shows around the world we developed a long list of top manufacturers who provide better quality components than the rest”, says Marchesini and Lowndes. 

Although Marchesini describes Colton James as a moderate to expensive timepiece to manufacture, they still maintain a low cost for the timepiece. 

"We cut out all the middle-men. I am a designer and engineer. I don't have to employ a design company to build the technical drawings", says Marchesini. 

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“Our key to success which almost everyone notices is our close attention to detail. Most brands in our price range offer mediocre quality and standard items. We have gone the extra length to have each component custom tooled for to fit our design ethos and inspiration of the PZL P11 and WW1 trench watches. Marrying the uniqueness with high quality materials creates a timeless and durable timepiece which customers can easily update their watch with the newest trends in our ever evolving interchangeable strap range”, says Marchesini and Lowndes. 

Their watches are also available in local stores such as the Foschini Group (TFG) by which they hold a contract on an exclusive basis. 

The prices range from R2 000 - R2 450, dependent on the size and strap of choice which are available in mesh, leather or nylon. 

“We are also working with distributors in Mauritius, and also negotiating deals in Canada, Italy and Australia”. 

“One of the biggest business lessons we have learnt so far is that if you are persistent, passionate, work hard and have a good product, you will succeed,” says Marchesini.

They advise prospect entrepreneurs who are seeking a business partner to find someone who shares the same passion about the product and business as them. 

“Choose your affiliates, from partners to suppliers, very carefully as they can make or break your business", adds Marchesini.

Lowndes adds that the key to forming a successful business is sheer passion. Passion influences the quality of the work that you do and others can see that, says Lowndes. 

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"It took lots of sleepless nights and sacrifices but we were passionate about the company. That's what drove us to our success", says Lowndes. 

Marchesini tells of how he had to push in time to work on the company while he was in his final year at varsity, preparing his thesis. 

"It was hard work", admits Marchesini but he says that anything is possible if you are motivated and committed to the cause. 

On their immediate plans, Colton James Timepieces is looking to expand their watch range by introducing other segments and tastes. 

“We are also in the works of launching our own strap brand which will offer a variety of strap types and quality to best suit the need of the customers who may not be in the market to buy a new watch, but is looking to replace their worn strap or refresh their style with the latest colour trends”, 

“One of the biggest business lessons we have learned so far is that if you are persistent, passionate, work hard and have a good product, you will succeed,” Marchesini said. 

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