I rarely through life have given much thought to watches, especially the tradition analogue variety. I’ve owned a few, nothing of any note. In fact, Jag and Casio have probably been my go to brands. Recently I turned into a smartwatch fan, the Fitbit Ionic the first to get my attention. Telling the time is almost an afterthought for such devices, in fact the constant vibrating and various alerts started to give me the proverbial. When I was given the chance to sample a fully Australian-made watch, my eyebrows were raised. The brand is Adina, the model I have been using is the Amphibian Dive Watch.
As a watch, I really like it. The orange band initially put me off but based on the number of platitudes I’ve received, it must look ok on me. It certainly feels robust, even a tad heavy. Constructed from a nickel-free stainless-steel case it seems to cope well with my odd bit of clumsiness. The orange PU strap is very comfortable and breathable enough to leave on after a shower. Which is a good thing because I shan’t be going diving anytime soon to test its 20ATM water resistance. The Adina Amphibian Dive Watch NK167 has a RRP of $369. For more information click here.
But, it’s the background to the Adina story that captured my attention, so I thought I’d ask Grant Menzies the General Manager of this family company a few probing questions.
Do you feel the rise of smartwatches is having any impact on the traditional handcrafted watch?
There’s always been a tech offering. I remember when I first started school the kid next to me was wearing a Casio watch with a calculator, I was still wearing a watch that you wound up every day. Mine was red, so it did go faster – but what I’m trying to say is there’s always been a tech offering, and here in 2018 it’s absolutely no different. The smart watches have got a role within the sports – counting your steps, measuring heart rate and all the rest of it. But for us, the traditional watchmaker, it’s not really having too much effect. We’re finding people still want to buy watches that really mean something to them.
How have you managed to remain Australia’s only watchmaker? Considering the cheaper watches produced in China in particular.
People are still really wanting something that’s going to last, they want something that’s going to look good, be functional and relevant to their lifestyle. So, our pedigree is making waterproof watches. We became famous for it in the 70s when the digital revolution started, my father Bob, who started this company, wanted to stick to his guns, and what he was good at was making water resistant watches, and he came up with this niche of water resistance watches. We’ve been able to extrapolate that sort of niche from there and now basically across our collection, we’re making everything with almost a minimum of 100m water resistance.
Tell us a little about the Australian Watch Making School at Ultimo TAFE. I can’t imagine this craft is overly studied these days. Is it hard to secure the required talent?
The future of our brand is to have talented watchmakers working with us here at Adina. So, we’ve got two very distinct departments – we’ve got our repair division, and we’ve also got our production with all the watchmakers. So, it’s in our best interest to encourage the school down in Ultimo and give it as much support as we can. Currently I think there’re 6 first years, 7 second years and 3 fourth years. So, there’s not a lot out there, but it’s not that the young people aren’t interested in learning the art of watchmaking – it’s having enough people to teach them. Currently we have 2 apprentices, so we’re doing as much as we can. But the ability for us to train enough watchmakers into teachers, to then train these young people, that’s the scary thing moving forward.
Where is the Australian steel used in your watches sourced from?
We would combine up to 10 factories for every single watch, and when you think about it, that could be a glass, sapphire or mineral. We only make cold stamped stainless steel cases using 316L stainless steel – which is a very (I know it sounds funny to say it) soft stainless steel – it’s stamped and then annealed to harden it up, make sure if you ever were to wear your watch in the shower, you know you’re not going to get that expansion and contraction. You’ve got bracelets, clips, the spring lugs – they’re also made from steel. The dials, which are made from Swiss brass, then have the indexes applied before being lacquered. So, the raw materials used across the board are sourced globally, but then combined at our factory here in Brisbane to come up with our finished watch.
We’re using 100% Swiss made movements, and we’re using the fully repatriable Swiss made. So, what that means for our consumers – if you were to buy an Adina and down the track it was to breakdown or get damaged in some way, we’ve got the ability to fix it. Think of the car analogy – if your fan belt breaks you can replace it, it’s the same idea with your watch movement.
Can you talk about market share? I had not heard of Adina before, plenty have asked me about the popularity of the brand. I understand it would fall into a niche area, but there must be some key to staying alive for 45 years.
This is our 47th year this year, so we’ve been around for the thick end of 50 years and we’ve fallen into a niche. We don’t have a Formula One racing team, if that’s what you’re sort of getting at, but what we do have is we’ve got a very strong army of what we call Adina adorers. Once you start wearing Adina, you don’t ever seem to go away from it. So, in the early days when Dad started the business, he didn’t have any money for marketing. His goal was always to convince the watchmakers (who often owned the shops) to put our products on the shelves and then, using the watchmaker’s knowledge of what we had done to the watch, they could then sell that on to the consumer. Fast-forward us 47 years, we still have a strong watchmaker following for our brand, but now with a very educated public, we’re finding that people are seeking us out to try since our watches are stylish, but also very reliable with our repairability aspect.
Tell us a little about the Brisbane factory, 20 staff producing over 600 watches. Aside from being a family company, do you have any loyal and proud long term staff member stories?
Everyone that ever seems to start at Adina seems to stay for a hell of a long time. I’ve been with Dad now for 22 years, and I’m kind of middle of the road. Probably our longest serving employee, a watchmaker – he’s been with us well over 30 years. He joined the business as a watchmaker, turned into a rep, and now he handles the logistics for all of our ordering and production. So he’s been with us for a hell of a long time – he has a wealth of knowledge and is arguably Dad’s right hand guy. As I touched on earlier, we’ve got 2 very distinct parts of our organisation – your repairs, and also your production. With that, each side has to support one another, so the production guys, if they’re really up against it – like at Christmas time, or Father’s Day – in those high volume areas, we’ll draw people from our repairs department into production, and likewise after Christmas or after daylight savings, we find there’s always an influx for repairs, so we can also then draw on our production guys to move across into our repair department. Adina is a very fluid organisation; we are a smaller family business with just under 20 staff members. In saying that, they are all highly skilled and have that ability to sort of move around our organisation as we see fit.
In terms of marketing, how do Adina target potential customers? Online?
So we’ve taken a very, I guess not unique approach, but it’s one we feel very comfortable with. We have an online presence, which initially was nerve racking for us to get out there and sell our watches directly to the consumer. Traditionally, we’ve always been a bricks and mortar supporter. We have over 300 retailers nationally, independently selling our products and we didn’t want to undermine them, but what we did want to do was to give ourselves the ability to have some extra marketing dollars to push out into the social media space. We’ve got a lot of energy around Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn – connecting with our #AdinaAdorers and introducing ourselves to new potential clients. Now I know what we do to make our watches, and I know how great they are, but what my job is now, is to introduce that spirit to potentially new people, and I know I can’t be everything to everybody, but what I would like to think is that when someone hears about us as an Australian company, that at least we get a hearing. If we’re not quite the right fit, I get that, but overall I would like to think that there’s something in our collection for most people.
What is the future of Adina, you have experienced good growth. Does the future bode well for this type of craft?
We’ve been lucky to enjoy pretty much 47 years of steady growth. There’s been a couple of flat years around the GFC and the like, but overall, we’ve been able to keep reinventing ourselves to keep relevant to the changing market. Although in the conservative end, where we’re based is still very style focused. So, people want something that is fashionable yet functional – they want it to look good in a host of different situations. So, I think that’s been part of the secret of our success. And when designing, we always take in what’s going trending in Europe, but then give it an Aussie touch to make it relevant to our market and consumer’s lifestyles. But overall, it’s an enjoyable journey and you know, we love the watches and we’re so proud of the watches that we sell here in Australia, and we endeavour that anybody who buys an Adina watch has a great experience with it.