Talking to Cornelius Huber on the revival of Circula Watches
A family-owned, revamped watch company offering interesting and affordable tool watches
Today we sit down with Cornelius Huber and talk about his adventure in rejuvenating the family business, Circula Watches. The brand can rely on over 50 years of watchmaking history, backed by 100 years of experience in the watch industry in general through the Huber-family. With a focus on accessible, robust watches with a touch of flair, Circula has a lot to offer. With that in mind, we thought it was time to talk to the man behind Circula Watches’ revival.
Robin Nooij, MONOCHROME – Cornelius, you are currently hard at work putting Circula Watches back on the map, a company once founded by your grandfather. Can you explain a little bit about your journey?
Sure I can. Circula was founded by my grandfather in 1955. Our family’s main business since 1926 was a watch wholesale in Pforzheim, where we sold known brands like Junghans and Casio to jewellery stores, mainly in the south of Germany. In the 1950s, my grandfather wanted to offer his clients something of his own making as well, mostly to have some additional stability and to become more independent from the bigger brands.
In the 1980s, my dad took over the wholesale side of the business, as well as Circula and managed it until 2017 when he retired. That was about the time when I decided that I wanted to get back into watches. One year later, I took over the watch brand, the wholesale ceased to exist. Circula was until then mainly a retail brand without a direct-to-consumer approach.
That was obviously the biggest change right from the beginning, that we are now selling our watches directly through our own webshop to watch enthusiasts the world over. Along with this change came the independent design language and another advancement in quality, as well as a first-class service promise which is all-important to succeed as a brand.
Is your family still involved in the rebirth, or is it just you?
My father is now officially a pensioner, but he is still involved and helping with several tasks. Once our watchmaker has assembled the watches, he does the quality control and tests every single one for 72 hours. Also, his contacts in Pforzheim help a lot. Without him, the limited Heritage collection with NOS movements from PUW (Pforzheimer Uhrenrohwerke) would not have been possible. And in general, it is just good to have him around for regular tips and tricks as well as some additional father-son time.
I can imagine this isn’t an overnight thing to accomplish and comes with some challenges and setbacks. How has that been for you?
It certainly isn’t. In the beginning, it was a disaster. I had to learn that selling watches directly to consumers is a very different game than selling watches through jewellery stores. For example, when potential buyers come into a store, they might ask for a simple watch, with 12 numbers on the dial and a date function. The sales representative then decides basically which watch is presented and consequently sold. If you offer a good margin to the store, chances are it’s your watch being sold.
Online, no one is putting you that prominent in front of potential buyers, unless you can offer some real USPs. The Heritage collection with the German movements was the first step to be seen and recommended. The AquaSport with its funky retro design, inspired by a Circula of the 1970s was the next. And now we have the SuperSport which is one of the few real Super-Compressor watches currently available.
How important is the historical foundation of Circula Watches in today’s market? Do people still recognize the brand for what it used to be?
I couldn’t have brought Circula to the level where it is now, without that history. The fact, that we are a family with 100 years of watchmaking history and that there are still vintage Circula models selling on eBay or Chrono24 is tremendously valuable to us. Not so much that people recognize the brand however, that only happens in southern Germany, but it shows authenticity. Something I value a lot in brands myself, actually.
You’ve successfully launched several collections by now, including the AquaSport II and Supersport dive watches. What has been the strongest for you so far?
After the first, more elegant collections, the AquaSport was already a big leap. But the SuperSport put the whole business onto a new level. It is by far the most successful watch we offered over the years. It has been covered by all the major national and international watch publications and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. Something I am very proud of and gives me a lot of motivation and joy to continue with the next releases.
What’s your goal with Circula Watches for now and moving into the future? What’s the idea behind the rejuvenation of the brand?
Right now, I started working on the next model which will be released this coming spring. My idea for the near future is to develop the brand more and more towards tool watches like divers, field watches, pilot watches, chronographs etc. Also, I want Circula to stay inclusive. Everyone who is interested in the brand can participate in the development of our new models. Just like we did it with the AquaSport and the SuperSport, where we asked the help of members of Germany’s largest forum in finalizing the designs.
Could you share a little on future plans for the brand, or collections? Something we might not yet know of, or you feel readers should know?
The co-development process for the new watch which will be released in spring 2022 will start soon and will be announced through our newsletter as always. So I welcome people to subscribe and not miss anything we have coming. I can already exclusively reveal here that our next new watch is going to be a field watch with two to three great features and as usual for a very competitive price.
Any last thoughts to share with us and our readers?
I am always interested in the opinion of buyers, readers or watch enthusiasts in general. Please share your thoughts about Circula and our watches either in an email to me, or in the comment section below. That is indeed one of the big advantages of the direct-to-consumer business, that we hear direct feedback from which we can learn and grow. Thank you for the interview.
For more information, please visit Circulawatches.com