Guide to buying a Kickstarter watch

Diewald Seahorse II

A lot of the watches we feature on WRUK are for preorder on Kickstarter. But what is Kickstarter and is it safe to buy from there? What do you need to know before buying a Kickstarter watch? Read our guide for advice.

What is Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a website that allows the developers of new products to reduce the risks associated with funding their business. It works by acting as an escrow – it allows them to raise money from the end-users of their products, but only releases the money to them if they pass a certain target. This means that if there is not sufficient demand for their product then they will not hit their target, and the potential backers have their money refunded.

Some examples of crowdfunded watches

When will Kickstarter take my money?

Kickstarter campaigns run for about 30 days and are the one-shot the brand has to attract enough buyers to make the project a reality. Your money is taken from your payment account at the end of the campaign period if it is successfully funded.

Is it the same as buying shares in a company?

No, if you buy shares in a company then in return for your investment you own part of the company which you can then sell on, or which will hopefully generate you an income through dividends. Although both are ways that a company can raise capital, the Kickstarter funding route is closer to a pre-order.

Can I get my money back?

Although it is generally considered “bad form”, you can cancel or change your bid at any stage while the campaign is still running. Once hte campaign is over, and your money has been taken if the watch is funded, you will struggle to get a refund – it will entirely depend on the goodwill of the company as you have committed to giving them your money and accepted the risks.

What are the risks?

There are some significant risks in backing a watch on Kickstarter, for example:

  • If the company’s funding target is wrong, then they could run into problems later. Kickstarter does not police their target so beware of campaigns with a low target as the company may be unable to deliver the product.
  • You could lose you money. Company failure can occur at any time, and most new companies fail within their first couple of years. Kickstarter campaigns make that less likely, as they ensure the money is in place to produce their product but it’s not guaranteed.
  • You may never receive your product if the campaign fails. Usually, the watch brands will return with a better campaign but a lot of really nice watch designs have failed to attract sufficient interest.
  • Delays are an inevitable part of backing a watch on Kickstarter. Take any estimates of production and shipping time with a huge pinch of salt. The best brands regularly update their backers on progress but it does vary.
  • After sales service can be a problem with Kickstarter watches. Because most of them use off-the-shelf movements you should have no problem finding a local watchmaker to repair your Kickstarter watch, but any custom parts such as cases, bezels and hands may be hard to come by. This is because the watches are produced only in tiny numbers, often by hobbyists or one-man companies that simply cannot offer the level of support most of us are used to.

What are the benefits?

On the flipside there are some real benefits to backing Kickstarter watches:

  • Kickstarter allows some really unusual “off-the-wall” designs to find a place in the market. Big brands often cannot or will not take the risk on a new design so you will find watches on Kickstarter that are truly unique.
  • You will usually get a generous discount for being an early backer of a Kickstarter watch. The level of discount varies, but do beware inflated “RRPs” to make your saving look bigger as some Kickstarter brands do all their business on Kickstarter and never sell at retail.
  • In return for your investment, you will often get perks that are otherwise unavailable – for example, you may get an upgraded strap, your choice of number on a limited edition or a dial that is only produced in tiny quantities.

Is it safe to back a Kickstarter watch?

This is, of course, the million dollar question. Generally, Kickstarter is a relatively safe place to be, so long as you have your wits about you.

  • We cannot overemphasise just how important it is to do some due diligence. Kickstarter can be slow to respond to obviously fake campaigns or copyright infringements and so it is wise to join a group on Facebook or a watch forum such as Intlwatchleague.com so you can benefit from the years of experience of its members.
  • Look for brands with a strong track record of delivery (Google and the watch forums are your friends here), and with a solid campaign.
  • Ideally, look for real images of a prototype watch in the campaign text, and search for reviews on the web. Some watches have been produced from digital renders and look great, but the existence of a prototype means the brand has made an effort. Reviewers often are sent pre-production watches so you can get an idea of whether the watch is for you.
  • It sounds obvious, but don’t spend money you can’t afford to lose on a Kickstarter watch. The vast majority of campaigns deliver eventually, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • Don’t buy a Kickstarter watch to sell on – resale values can be strong for popular brands, but most will be tricky to sell so if you think you’ll make a profit by selling at the “RRP” on the Kickstarter page, think again!

What about the other crowdfunding sites?

There are other crowdfunding sites, for example, IndieGoGo, and they all work differently. You’ll have to read the site’s FAQs for details of how each one works as we’ve only backed watches on Kickstarter.

Buy a watch on Kickstarter

You can browse Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/

You can see some Kickstarter watches on WristwatchReview UK here: https://wristwatchreview.co.uk/page/1?s=kickstarter

Author: Mike Richmond

Usually found skulking around eBay or the International Watch League forum, Mike writes for a living and spends what little money he makes building up his collection of timepieces.

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