This is a text version of Jerome Pineau’s radio interview with Morten Linde & Jorn Werdelin.
Interview with Morten Linde & Jorn Werdelin
Morten Linde and Jorn Werdelin are two avid free-skiers from Denmark who have been skiing since they were six years old. In 2002, they left their corporate jobs to build their own business – Linde Werdelin was born. Instead of running a chalet or organising ski holidays, they came up with an unusual business idea that would lead them through the toughest industry challenges to create a new market space and break the mould.
Morten and Jorn created the ultimate Swiss-made luxury sports watch and digital Land Instrument for use in high-altitude mountain sports to provide guidance and protection for its owner and started building the now highly regarded Linde Werdelin brand
Jerome: I welcome you to the live show. This is still the only live horology live show, where you the listeners get to call in and talk to watch industry movers and shakers one on one. It is nice to be back today. I started off with a bit of a technical hurdle, as my Skype refused to work today. So I am actually speaking from a cell phone, so I hope the connection quality will be as good as being here in Switzerland. It is beautiful. We are finally in spring mode her so that’s a plus. And nice to back, we have not had a show for two weeks, because I was at the Basel World fair.
A lot of interesting stuff over there, had a really good time, and one of the brands I visited over at Basel was founded by two Danish gentleman, and they are online with us today. I want to talk a little bit about their brand, it is called Linde Werdelin.
I am still not able to pronounce that properly so I hope they will bare with me and correct me.
I want to talk you about this little brand a little bit. I always say horology is about blending form with function. It is a lot like software, it is the world I from. I am not from horology as you know.
Function in the watch and timepiece is about reading time.
These days now everyone has his mother has an iphone, or some kind of mobile device they can get the time from. The interesting thing about Linde Werdelin is they actually put the function back in the performance function duality. What they did is integrate some interesting really cool electronic instruments with their watch.
On one hand they have the awesome design part, and the beautiful technical pieces and then on the other hand they have this functional part which is kinda unique to them I think.
With the electronic parts we are going to talk about. Other brands do these things, Tissot and Brietling, and have these integrated additional features like compasses and stuff. I think they are a little bit gimmicky compared to what Linde Werdlin are really doing. They have two devices one of the is a device that allows you to go diving, and the other one is a device helps you to be into commando skiing.
These guys are into commando skiing, they will talk to you about that. Anyway guys welcome to the show. Good morning or afternoon guys how are you.
The motivation behing starting Linde Werdlin
Jerome: So I want to talk to you guys about the beginning of the brand, if you could take us to 2002 when you guys were friends for a long time. And you decided to come together, basically, and create this modern watch company.
What was the motivation behind that? How did you guys do it? What was the reason?
Morten Linde: We have been friends since we were six years old, and we shared common interests for mechanical watches, and Jorn is from a family of watchmakers, and so we have a common interest a since we were small.
Blending analogue with digital
The reason for making the Linde Werdelin we had the idea or the philosophy that time should be read analogue. I need to know the graphically what the time is, I don’t need to know it is accurate. As soon as I want to have to do sports, then I need precision and that’s why we do the digital instruments. In everyday use we have a beautiful analogue and mechanical Swiss watch, and soon as we do sports you attach the instruments. Then you have all the precision you can get digitally.
Jerome: Now how did take you to put this company together? How many years before your first piece came out?
Jorn Werdelin: It is an organic growth, when we started, people told us we couldn’t do it for many good reasons.
And when we started at the turn of 2002 and 2003, the first thing we did was try and see if we could combine the mechanical and put the digital on top. Every half year we sat down together, and said should we continue or should we stop?
All the time we had good reasons to continue, and it grew and grew. By 2004 we opened our London office, and in 2006 we launched the first watch, since then we have started developing the diary computer, which is just being finished now and being put into production.
You can say we have been under way for about eight years. The technology we have developed inhouse from scratch is a very hard, very tough challenge and then combining with it with what other people think are beautiful pieces.
Jerome: Where is the company located?
Morten Linde: For product development and design it is in Denmark. For sales and marketing it is in London. All the watches they are produced in Switzerland. But the instruments we do in Denmark.
Jerome: The movement, the engine in the watches are Swiss made right?
The Linde Werdelin Spidospeed
Jorn Werdelin: Yes. The quality we need, there are very few factories. You saw the new Spidospeed we launched at Basel this year, the cace is so complex, that very few people, case-makers can find out how to do it. Actually we spent the last two years developing the new construction of the Spidospeed.
Jerome: On the technical side, you guys you really focus on the case right? It is a skeleton case it is absolutely gorgeous, and this is where the time piece is. Obviously the movement very gorgeous, but the case is where it its at. Am I right?
Morten Linde: The cases are very important part of the watch, but what we wanted to do with the Spidospeed is the because the case of the Spidospeed is very three dimensional, because we have dug into the case a lot. I think it is very important in this watch that all the way around the watch you get this three dimensional effect. It is not only the case being interesting or three dimensional. It is also the back case, the movement, the dial, the hands and the strap as well. I think it is important to have a watch that is in harmony when you look at it from whatever angle. You cannot shortcut any parts of the watch. Especially in the price segment we operate. You have to make a watch that is 100 per cent.
Price segment for Linde Werdelin
Jerome: What is the price?
Jorn Werdelin: The series we have now ranges from 3000 to 4000 Euros to about 12,000 Euros. We have pieces of gold with other precious materials, then they go above that. In that range we feel we can put enough of our ideas and enough of our own DNA in to the pieces. If we have watches costing less than that, then we can spend less money making them. Obviously we have to compromise.
Linde Werdelin sales volume
Jerome: How many pieces a year do you produce?
Morten Linde: Last year in 2010 we sold about 400 pieces, we could have sold more. We had to make more, this year probably 700-800 pieces. The response we received at Basel was extremely positive. The market has changed over the last two years.
Linde Werdelin instruments
Jerome: The more the merrier right? Do people buy the watches with the instruments? Or do you have people who say I don’t care about the instrument I just want the watch?
Jorn Werdelin: It is very individual. So just like the watch, some only buy the instrument and some buy the combination. We sell the instruments to mountain climbers, who can click it on to their backpacks, and some only enjoy the watches. It is very individual.
Jerome: Were you producing and selling the instruments before the watches, or were you doing it together?
Morten Linde: The Linde Werdelin Rock instrument for skiing and watch were launched together in 2006.
The Linde Werdelin instruments
Jerome: You made two instruments one for skiing and one for underwater diving. I know you boys like skiing, do you go diving too?
Morten Linde: I have been skiing since I was not very old. It has been one thing I have passion for. Diving I started a couple a years ago. I think diving and skiing is very much the same because it is about an experience you have with yourself and other people, but there is not the competition. For diving you need something that just is really high quality and very well made.
Morten Linde: When you dive, we put peoples lives at risk, therefore it is incredibly important the quality is very, very high, and you don’t compromise on that.
Jerome: I am not a big skiing expert, I am not really into snow. I have done diving, and I remember going under water with those big computers that are really heavy. Your instruments are nice and light and just clip on and off, and very convenient. I wish I had that when I was diving.
The people who sell the watches, they also need to understand the computer technology behind that? Is that more challenging to sell? Or on the contrary is it an added value module that helps with sales?
Jorn Werdelin: What has been our intention from the start, and this was from our own experience. We wanted to the do the dive computer and ski computer, with the easiest user interface ever made.
Once we test dive computers. We use a lot of test divers. We send it out without a user manual, because it is so intuitive to use, that you don’t need a manual. That’s one of the very important points. Customers go diving once a year they should be able to take it out of the drawer, charge it, and not need to use a manual. If you can use a mobile phone you will be able use it, it is extremely easy.
Jerome: These modules there interchangeable. You can put them on any of your watches right?
Jorn Werdelin: Yes exactly.
Jerome: Is somebody loses a module, it will obviously work on any other watch. It does not get disabled, there is no code locking?
Morten Linde: No code locking. You need to put you in your personal details, if you lose it. If you find it you will be able to verify the name of the person who has lost it.
Writing and publishing
Jerome: You guys wrote a book about skiing right? Did you write one about diving, or just the skiing thing?
Morten Linde: We started out writing in 2007 writing a book about Switzerland. It was very well received by both customers and other partners. Then we started publishing it last year, we sold quite a few. This year we have partnered up with a specialist city guide publisher HD2, so now we do a ski guide with them We plan to do dive guides going forward.
Linde Werdelin as collector items
Jerome: Do you think some day your watches will become collective items? How do you see it panning out in the future, would you like that to happen or just having fun?
Jorn Werdelin: I don’t think you should plan for having collectors, that’s a fickle group. But if people who like watches, they like our pieces then we are delighted. In the scheme of things we are not the first watch people buy, generally people buy Rolex, then the more interest in watches the more particular watch pieces they buy.
We find the our customers that we communicate directly with. They like both watches in general and what we do.
Jerome: Are your products available in every market? What is the distribution worldwide?
Jorn Werdelin: Before Basel we were in fifteen countries, and in another couple months we will be in another ten countries. So from that point of view we are not exactly worldwide. It is right from Argentina to Singapore and everything in the middle.
Linde Werdelin at Baselworld
Jerome: It is safe to say you guys had a good Basel?
Jorn Werdelin: It was incredibly busy. You could question why we moved away from the independents. We didn’t move away from the independents. We had this opportunity to have this stand in hall one, and there was tremendous traffic. We deliberately made our stand very open to welcome people in to see what we do. We were extremely busy.
Jerome: I want to talk to you a little about your are obviously a modern watch company. There is no heritage, no 200 or 300 year history there. It is something you say with pride, and when you entered this industry with this kind of message do you get a lot of push back? Was it easy to penetrate into the industry, and get the relationships and build the product and build the acceptance that you have got in a short space of time. People really respect you guys. How did that pan out?
The value of (a lack of) heritage
Morten Linde: Its always been easy peasy. No problems. Yes, its had its problems. Launching into the toughest recession in 80 years being an independent is quiet tough. And not having that heritage and striking out is difficult when you start off. Most people like something they are comfortable with.
Having said that we don’t have a heritage means that we are much more free to do exactly what we please. Just by having a watch with instruments for skiing and diving is completely different. For the first couple of years people said it was stupid, its just a gadget it is not real. Luckily that has changed in the last two or three years. And the communications we use with the ski guide the way we operate the way we communicate directly with customers. We embrace online, we were amongst the first companies to embrace bloggers and you know its much easier for us to do it. We came from outside the industry, and with no heritage needed to respect.
The way Linde Werdelin communicates and marketing
Jerome: That was an advantage for you guys. One of the most fascinating things is that your brand and the way you communicate and market. You have an approach to marketing, it is not just look at my pretty product. More of an entertainment approach, you have something unique in the industry the comic book approach.
Can you tell us a little bit how you came up with that? I think you hooked up with the guy that draws these characters in France? How did you come up with that in the world of horology marketing?
Jorn Werdelin: I think first of all we hoped that our customers are intelligent people, we like to engage and entertain them, rather then patronise them. Rather than just show your piece and say how beautiful it is, and go on and buy it. And because we have a limited budget, so we needed to create a space for ourselves that the people look what at we do they will instantly recognise what it is. Other companies obviously do that too, we just wanted to find our own way. Its been very well received by everybody, there are always people that don’t like it but generally people love it.
Jerome: In most cultures they really like comics, in the U.S. Asia and Europe its huge. You hit a home-run everywhere right?
Morten Linde: Its quiet untraditional to combine it with something which is a high luxury goods which is steeped in tradition, and I guess it adds a fresh aspect to it. We get involved in the stories ourselves, we play around with the stories, we talk on how the story should develop. And the story itself is completely different from what we do.
We let them control the story. All we said at the beginning is we want some bad guys and beautiful women.
Growing market plans
Jerome: You are going to increase your market almost two fold it seems. People can find you in store do you have an online shop?
Morten Linde: We have got into six cities in the US, the US is a very important market for us. One of the biggest and then for other countries where we are not present we sell online.
Jerome: Why is the US so important for your brand?
Jorn Werdelin: Maybe its the Anglo Saxon attitude to it sort of functionality you can combine functionality and luxury. The shape of what we do or the US customer is interested in not only standard brands. It is hard for me to say.
Jerome: Any other types of instruments in the works?
Morten Linde: For now we stick to skiing and diving. There are lot of possibilities of expanding into this area. There are lot of things happening in diving these years. And the mobile phones to do with communicating with other instruments. I hope that is what we see in the future.
Three quick questions
Jerome: Some questions I ask every guest that comes on the show. Don’t think to hard. Don’t fight. Morten first and Jorn second. If you wee not in watch business what would you be doing?
Morten Linde: Well I am originally a furniture architect, and be in the furniture industry.
Jorn Werdelin: I would build a office at the top of the mountain and look out and enjoy the scenery.
Jerome: Who is the most important person to you guys?
Jerome: Who is the most important time of day ?
Morten Linde: I like the mornings.
Jorn Werdelin: I like the evenings, its quiet.
Jerome: Thanks for taking the time for educating on ion the brand. If people want more information what is your website and Facebook?
Morten Linde: You are always welcome to call Linde Werdelin number is on the website. We have people working with us who know everything about the company. That is special about us as you can call us direct and ask questions about the watches or instruments.
Jerome: You guys have great staff and great support. I really enjoyed meeting you in person and discovering the brand.