This year has been a big one for many brands, big and small. Each brand faces different challenges in expanding the business, launching new models or entire collections and attracting the attention of the public. For a couple of years, third-generation entrepreneur Cornelis Huber has been at the helm of Circula Watches, a German watchmaking company founded in the 1950s. But the business goes back even further, as Cornelius’ grandfather started a watch wholesale business in 1926. Nowadays, Circula is focused on building quality tool-watches at a reasonable price. Collections like the AquaSport II, ProTrail and DiveSport Titanium have been created with input from the public, resulting in compelling and very capable watches. To find out how the brand is doing, and what’s on the horizon, we had a chat with Cornelius.
Robin, MONOCHROME Watches – Cornelius, it’s been a while since we’ve last done an interview. How are things going with Circula?
Thank you, Robin, for taking the time. Since I took over Circula from my dad around 4 years ago, 2023 was the busiest so far. We have introduced two new models and several new dial colours for our classics, as we can call them now, due to their popularity. The collection is now focused on our historical speciality, authentic German-made tool watches. In addition, we have been to 11 watch events this year, all across Europe and the US. For example, the Windup Watch Fair in New York City and the Watchtime Düsseldorf were great events and very successful for us, just to name two.
So, there was a lot going on, as we can also see looking back at our last stories! Can you talk us through the challenges you faced this year?
The biggest challenge was and still is to manage the growth of the brand, commercially, operationally and this year legally. Commercially, launching two new collections in one year was a first and was a lot of work. As you know, we often ask our customers about certain features and details of new models, which we also did with our new 500m diver, called DiveSport Titanium.
This process takes time and effort, but in the end, the watch becomes better, in my opinion. We also had some operational challenges where we needed more space and more hands in watchmaking and logistics. We have now three watchmakers and additional help with dispatching. Legally, we transformed the company into a limited liability company to be prepared for the future.
Do you notice any changes with suppliers, clients, retailers etc. from your perspective?
Nothing surprising I would say. I am happy, that our biggest supplier, Sellita of Switzerland, where we buy our movements, managed to recover very fast from the damage they suffered from the storm this summer. We’ve had only a slight delay in delivery and were always able to deliver ourselves. From our statistics, I can see that clients take more sessions on our website and more time to pull the trigger. As we moved towards an average price of around 1000€, I think this is a logical development, that takes more time to consider.
You’ve launched the ProTrail, your first community-designed field watch. Can you tell us more about that?
The ProTrail, especially the sand-coloured version with its wow-effect-lume, was a great push for us, as the watch became and still is very popular with the media and reviewers. The ProTrail brought Circula in front of many watch lovers, that haven’t heard of us before, became our best-selling model and also paved the way for the releases this year. Many value the scratch-proof case and bracelet with around 1,200 Vickers of hardness and the soft iron cage for anti-magnetic protection of up to 1,000 Gauss. It is a real tool watch!
One of the novelties was the AquaSport GMT. How did that come about?
The AquaSport GMT was a logical extension of our collection. We already had divers and field watches and a GMT was often requested by our customers. We were able to adjust the case of the AquaSport to fit the three-hand SW200-1 as well as the GMT-movement SW330-2 (in top grade with 56 hours of power reserve). Both colours, the blue/orange and the anthracite/mint are now sold out and we will restock them towards the end of the year, latest in January 2024.
With the DiveSport Titanium, you move closer towards professional diving instruments. How has that been performing?
The DiveSport Titanium launch was even more successful than the ProTrail. Already in the conception of the watch, we considered what we heard back from our customers. We received a lot more requests for a bigger watch than for a smaller watch, besides the common trend in the industry. So, we listened and made it 42mm, with all other watches being 40mm until then.
We also used the opportunity to build a real diving instrument with 500m water resistance, as the height and diameter are in perfect balance. The watch is lighter than our steel models but still has a certain weight so that you can feel it on the wrist. In combination with the scratch-resistant case, the DiveSport Titanium thus makes a great daily rocker.
Looking ahead, what can we expect from Circula for 2024?
Next year will be very exciting, as we’ll close another white spot in our current collection with a beautifully looking, contemporary sports watch of 38mm in size. On this project, we worked with a renowned Swiss designer, and former creative director of known luxury brands, and we couldn’t be happier with the result. We are aiming for the La Joux Perret G100 with 68 hours of power reserve as movement and a high-end finishing of all parts. Our sports watch will come on a leather strap with an optional bracelet. Once the bracelet is mounted, it integrates seamlessly between the lugs, making it almost look like an integrated bracelet watch, but with the advantages of lugs when wearing it on the leather strap.
So you’re shifting towards a new generation of movements. Can you shed some light on that?
Two years ago, La Joux-Perret gave us some G100s to test in our watches. Since then, I have been wearing my watches with this movement, and it has an amazing performance. The 68-hour power reserve is ideal for someone like me and our customers, who are changing watches regularly. In addition, it is thinner than the SW200-1, which comes in handy when creating a contemporary sports watch.
And beyond 2024, what’s on the horizon?
Let’s see how the new sports watch lands. If it is the success that I would expect, we’ll develop the collection further with models based on that design. Every now and then, I’d also reissue an old Circula design from the times of my grandfather and father. We have plenty of ideas.
For more information, please visit circulawatches.com.