5′ with Naoki Tsukumo – Creator of Gruppo Gamma and Venturo
Getting to know a new watch is something we love, but what if you could discover a bit more about the history of that watch’s brand? Today we’ve spent 5 minutes with Naoki Tsukumo, creator of Gruppo Gamma and Venturo Watches.
What triggered the creation of your own brand ?
No, I didn’t meet a gentleman whose name was Gruppo Gamma while on a trip halfway around the world.
And no, I didn’t decide to make my own watches because I couldn’t find what I wanted in the open market.
Back in the 2000s I was hooked on big watches (Panerai, specifically) but after several purchases, I realized I couldn’t continue with such an expensive hobby. Looking for alternatives, I started a learning journey on building my own watches and sourcing for watch parts and after completing several personal projects, it dawned on me that I can create timepieces that are affordable and have decent quality. I was faced with the choice of taking a stab at it or living with regrets. The engineer in me chose the path of no regret.
What are the most significant difficulties you encountered ?
We encountered different challenges at different stages of our business. During our founding years a major difficulty was sourcing for good suppliers ; as a new startup with no track record, the better suppliers weren’t too interested in our business.
Perhaps a more « evergreen » challenge would be customer acquisition, although the nature of this problem has changed over the years. It’s a complex problem to explain but essentially, in the past we needed to find customers whereas now we need to find more customers and the right customers.
Where do you find your inspiration ?
The name of our brand, Gruppo Gamma, is the same as the code name used by the Italian navy to refer to its frogmen unit during WW2. Our creations are inspired heavily by diving instruments used during that period. We also referenced design cues of tool watches from the 1930s to 1960s.
How do you see the future of the brand ? Is there any confidential(ish) information you could disclose to us ?
We’re taking one small step at a time, but we’d like to do what other microbrands have not done or chosen not to do. In 2018 we set up Venturo, because we wanted to do more and felt that we could. With Venturo we hope to continue pushing the envelope on affordability, while allowing Gruppo Gamma to focus on greater sophistication.
Which advice you would like to give to someone willing to follow your path ?
I wouldn’t qualify my views as advice, because like almost everyone else I’m still learning. I’ll also skip all the cliche (about not doing it just for the money but also having the passion etc.) and jump straight to my personal beliefs.
Don’t design a watch that you wouldn’t wear. Look for customers whom you’d like having as friends. Take care of your brand like it’s your baby.
Dear newbies, please listen to customers and seek their views, but don’t ask about every little detail and don’t survey people to death. You’re the one designing the watch, not them.
Dear veterans, please help the newbies, but be humble because some of them will surpass you someday. Don’t gloat – talk about your ideas and what you can offer, not about how successful you are. Treat haters and undesirables professionally, because shaming or disparaging them, especially publicly, won’t make you any better.
Anything else you would like to share with AWDO ?
I hope AWDO will continue to grow and be a viable alternative to the bigger watch blogs out there. When that happens, I hope AWDO can continue to stick up for the newer and smaller brands. Not many of the « big guys » do that.
Many thanks Naoki for your time !