KAMINSKY BLOG Wrist Watch Reviews - Interview with Mia-Phyllis and Wilfried Liefer
Mia-Phyllis and Wilfried at there studio
Mia-Phyllis Liefer, 32, and Wilfried Liefer, 62, daughter and father. Mia-Phyllis is a marketing and communications specialist and musician. She is curious and open-minded. Wilfried is a businessman always interested in trying something new. He is planning-focussed and visionary. The two have been business partners since 2018.
When and how did you become fascinated with watches?
Wilfried: The first watch that I can consciously remember was my father’s, a hand-wound watch with a black leather strap and a silver dial. That was in the early 1960s. My real fascination with watches started when I became a jeweller. My professional occupation quickly turned into a personal passion. At the time, I was particularly interested in the young, bold, and less-established small brands.
In the 1990s, new brands such as Nomos, Jörg Schauer, Chronoswiss, Alain Silberstein, Jacques Etoulie and many other newcomers tried to find their place in the market. I was particularly impressed by their boldness, creativity, innovation and enthusiasm. We were one of the first places in Berlin to stock almost all of these brands. It was through my contact with these courageous watchmakers that I first came upon the idea of designing my own watch. However, it never made it past the drawing board.
Mia-Phyllis: I pretty much grew up with watches. My bedroom was directly above the jewellery shop, there was a wonderful small cuckoo clock hung on the wall… What do you expect?
What makes a good watch?
M-P: It’s hard to say. What makes a poignant novel, a delicious meal, a moving film, or an aromatic cup of coffee? So many details must come together and harmonise with each other to become a distinct and special entity.
W: But what is most important is that a watch is not boring, unimaginative or run-of-the-mill. It should grab my attention through lovingly-crafted details and a recognizable key concept. Its appearance should be completely cohesive and it must have an independent identity. For me, just as in art, music and architecture, there isn’t simply one good style when it comes to watches.
A baroque painting can impress me as much as a Kandinsky, and a harmonious piece of traditional music can move me just as deeply as a Leonard Cohen ballad… just as a Jörg Schauer Quarada sits next to a Minerva Cal 48 and an Omega Art in my watch collection.
M-P: What I really don’t appreciate are these unimaginative mimics of Rolex Divers, Max Bills, Nomos, and the like. Design is not merely a matter of copy and paste.Nothing could be more dull.
Of course, the materials and components must be high quality. Haptics are also important to me: to be able to feel the harmony between weight and build quality in my hand.
W: Exactly. When I hold it in my hand and look at it, this feeling of warmth, joy and satisfaction should be noticeable – a feeling of “Yes, I still like this!” The subtleties of the watch, including its feeling and the interaction of its components, should interest and please me even after I’ve become accustomed to looking at it.
Which watches do you own privately? Could you tell an interesting story about one of these watches?
W: There’s quite a few… from a small collection of old hand-wound watches from the 1950s and 1960s, to a couple of the first electromechanic models predating the quartz mechanism, to modern automatic watches like those by Jörg Schauer, Minerva, Jacques Etoile, Nomos, Alain Silberstein, Tag Heuer, Omega, to a beautiful old Rolex. I also have some from Bruno Söhnle and even a Dugena, as well as a box full of Swatches of all kinds, of course…
A look at Wilfried watch collection
M-P: Well, there’s the confirmation watch made of precious metals from my grandparents and a couple of Swatches from my youth. I currently like to wear my Sinn Automatik or one of the FineWatchesBerlin prototypes, which are real examples of craftsmanship and are truly unique.
W: My first Chronoswiss comes to mind – a Christmas gift in the late 1980s. A tiny watch by today’s standards, 34mm in diameter, with a manual winding movement and complete calendar, although back then that was very much a common size for a men’s watch. At the time, Chronoswiss still used old refurbished mechanisms. Apart from the onion crown, it in no way resembles the Regulateur Series that would go on to be so successful. A certain Mr Miller was responsible for distribution, and the whole collection fit into a small briefcase. His main source of income was the sale of wonderful Sattler wall clocks. A very nice reminder of an exciting time.
Who is your ideal customer?
W: I think our customers have broad interests, a good, steady income, are reasonably well-educated and predominantly male. Our customers have well-structured lives and love clarity of form but also appreciate precise details. They don’t feel like they have to distinguish themselves through swanky appearances or brands. They appreciate good quality and clean workmanship; they love functionality. They are very interested in the new and very open to innovative ideas. When they are passionate about something, they can become almost evangelical about it. They stick to what is tried and true. They are very loyal, and interested in technology as well as art, music and culture. They don’t feel the need to prove themselves, instead preferring understatement. They are perhaps somewhat elitist. They stay within their limits, but exist outside the mainstream. They are less interested in the opinion of the majority, instead seeking the approval and recognition of their peers. Our customers have a high level of self-awareness and self-confidence, are goal-oriented and focused.
M-P: Our customers are of all ages. Our first customers were in their mid-twenties, late fifties, and early sixties. Our graphic designer’s son is 13 and he is totally fascinated by our watches, even wearing one himself, while my father’s godson is 16 and posts photos of our watches together with his newest sneakers on Facebook and Instagram.
What are you interested in besides the watch business?
W: That is a broad field… I am very sporty, and enjoy running, cycling, and weight training. I’m passionate about music, no matter the genre, as long as it grabs me. I like to read, and recently I’ve also got into gardening. I spend a lot of time with my wife, and together we also give couples workshops. Both of my granddaughters open my heart… and once a week I teach a yoga class for men. I’ve been practicing yoga myself for years. I don’t experience strict separation between my working life and other interests- they merge with and inform
M-P: It’s the same for me as well – there’s a fluidity between my work and my private interests. I also teach yoga once a week, and have been practicing it for a while too. A couple of years ago, I set up a cultural association with some friends, which I am very active in, both musically and with my sewing machine, as well as in all organizational matters.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
M-P: Stimulation and ideas can be found almost anywhere, as long as you remain open and interested. ‘Through my various artistic activities, I am in contact with many exceptionally creative people.’In the rooms of KreativMolkereiSpandau I am surrounded by all sorts of musicians, illustrators, painters, sculptors and fashion designers every day. Through my work in a large jewellery business, I am in contact with consumers as well as with many watch and jewellery manufacturers.
W: I have long been active in the watch and jewellery industries, including as a goldsmith designing and crafting my own jewellery line, and this connection has never been broken. I am very active online and observe what the newcomers, microbrands, and design-oriented brands are doing. This means I’m very up to date. I am also always inspired by my engagement with the Bauhaus and their products. In general, I am fascinated by all kinds of form and design. A well-designed motorbike or bicycle excites me just as much as a beautiful lamp or “tiny house”. My eyes are always attracted to high quality design.
M-P: Exactly – whether in the cinema, on Netflix, in nature or in museums, inspiration exists everywhere.
Wilfried and Mia-Phyllis in front of there studio
Where do you see your brand in future?
W: In the first couple of years it is important to establish ourselves in the marketplace. We will continue to take care of our key customers and then see what other areas we would like to expand into.
M-P: We will not and do not want to become a big player or mass brand. Our focus is to create beautiful watches for design lovers, and it will stay that way.
W: My feeling is that the brand will grow organically from within. What I mean by that is that our “ideal customer” will slowly but surely help promote brand awareness in their personal, professional and cultural lives. From the beginning, we have noticed that people who like our concept and products are very willing to independently engage themselves on the brand’s behalf.
Do you have new watch designs in the pipeline?
W: The planning process for a number of new models is actually complete. Our next move will be to produce one or two new dial variants for the TEUFELSBERG range, and perhaps also a more exclusive version, depending on how sales progress.
M-P: Our basic idea is to expand on the TEUFELSBERG line as our main collection and create additional independent product lines. We would like to develop a watch with a slightly smaller diameter and perhaps also a small women’s or unisex watch.
W: We are also toying with the idea of special models with limited or numbered editions. But our initial focus is on establishing FWB on the market.
What was most difficult thing for you when first building your watch brand?
W: Personally, the challenge began with making our product known in the marketplace. Prior to that – although there were still a lot of challenges – almost everything was more fluid, with one thing following on from another… But the moment our watches arrived at our distribution center – it became suddenly clear that there was no going back! The watches had become a reality.
M-P: Yeah, you’re right – it is a real challenge to position a new brand on the market. Although it is also obviously the dream of everyone in marketing to be there from the beginning, when a new brand emerges – especially if you were involved in the development of the product. It’s also important not to forget that it really is my own baby. I also think that we did a lot of good preparation work, and the response from customers, the press and industry experts has been very encouraging.
What would you suggest to someone thinking of bringing their own watch brand onto the market?
W: It always depends on what your intentions are with the brand. It is essential to take your time to develop the overall concept, and to establish a financial and temporal buffer to make this possible. You also have to be prepared to throw everything out and start again.
M-P: My view is that it is essential to secure support and assistance from experts for every step along the way. Sometimes you can get a bit carried away in your own head, and so feedback from industry experts is really important. At the same time, you also have to be careful who you consult with, because experts also pursue their own interests.
W: Along with good planning, I also think that it is essential to listen to your gut. Your plans and ideas can only be so good on their own – if it doesn’t feel good, it will be tough.
Thank's and all the best.