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How to Start a Watch Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

Edited by:

David has been writing and learning about business, finance and globalization for a quarter-century, starting with a small New York consulting firm in the 1990s.

How to Start a Watch Business

Fast Facts

Investment range

$17,650 - $36,100

Revenue potential

$110,000 - $234,000 p.a.

Time to build

1 – 3 months

Profit potential

$44,000 - $94,000 p.a.

Industry trend

Growing

Commitment

Flexible

It may be surprising, given that most every adult has a smartphone that tells time, but the watch industry is alive and well. In fact, the global luxury watch market is projected to expand nearly 25% in the next few years. Wristwatches can make a fashion statement, serve as great conversation pieces or become part of a collection. 

To cash in on that growth, you could start your own watch business, design your own watches, build up your brand. Who knows – it might become the next Rolex!

But before you start drawing up your new timepieces, you’ll need to understand how to launch, market, and grow a business. Fortunately, this step-by-step guide ticks off all the boxes on the must-do list to put your new watch business on a path to success. 

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

Pros and cons

Starting a watch business has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you. 

Pros

  • Flexibility – Run the business from home selling watches online
  • Creative Outlet – Design your own unique watch line
  • Good Money – Healthy profit margins on watches

Cons

  • Partner Search – Finding a reliable manufacturer can be difficult
  • Prestige Market – Compete with respected, established brands

Watch industry trends

Industry size and growth

watch industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

watch industry Trends and Challenges

Trends in the watch industry include:

  • Smartwatches are booming, becoming their own industry with a projected size of approaching $100 billion by 2027.
  • High-end luxury watches are the largest growing segment of the watch industry, with such watches perceived as status symbols. 

Challenges in the watch industry include:

  • Pre-owned watches and vintage watches are growing in popularity, which create more competition for new watch brands.
  • A large percentage of people still prefer to buy watches in a store rather than online, creating a challenge for an online watch brand retailer.

What kind of people work in watches?

watch business demographics
  • Gender – 16.7% of watchmakers are female, while 83.3% are male.((https://www.zippia.com/watchmaker-jobs/demographics/))
  • Average level of education The average watchmaker has an associate’s degree.
  • Average age – The average watchmaker in the US is 43.9 years old.

How much does it cost to start a watch business?

Startup costs for a watch business range from $17,000 to $36,000. Costs include a computer, watch design software such as 3Design, and an inventory of watches.

Costs will be dependent on the quality of watches you plan to design, the cost from the manufacturer, and the minimum quantity of orders that the manufacturer allows. 

You’ll need to find a watch manufacturer such as the American Watch Company to white label your watch designs. 

Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Computer$800 - $1,500$1,150
Watch design software$300 - $500$400
Inventory of watches$15,000 - $30,000$22,500
Total$17,650 - $36,100$26,875

How much can you earn from a watch business?

watch business earnings forecast

Prices for watches vary dramatically. Luxury watches sell for $1,000 and up, while more affordable watches go for just $30 to $40. These calculations assume you’ll fall somewhere in the middle and sell for $300. Your profit margin should be about 40%.

In your first year or two, you could sell seven watches a week, bringing in nearly $110,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $44,000 in profit, assuming that 40% margin. As your brand gains recognition, sales could climb to 15 watches a week. With annual revenue of $234,000, you’d make a healthy profit of nearly $94,000.

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a watch business. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Finding a reliable manufacturer with low minimum orders
  • The competition from large watch manufacturers

Related Business Ideas

If you’re still not sure whether this business idea is the right choice for you, here are some related business opportunities to help you on your path to entrepreneurial success.
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Step 2: Hone Your Idea

develop a business idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a watch business, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Market research will give you the upper hand, even if you’re already positive that you have a perfect product or service. Conducting market research is important, because it can help you understand your customers better, who your competitors are, and your business landscape.

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research watch businesses in your area and online to examine their products, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the market is missing a business that sells affordable watches with leather straps, or a business that sells luxury watches that look like vintage watches.

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as quartz watches or personalized watches.

This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

What? Determine your watch designs

You’ll need to design watches for your watch brand. You should probably start with just one or two designs to test the market. 

How much should you charge for watches?

Prices for watches vary greatly. Once you design your watches and find out the manufacturer’s price, you should price your watches to give you a profit margin of about 40%. 

Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will be broad, so you should spread out your marketing to include social media sites like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.

Where? Choose your watch store location

In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you might want to open a store, so you’ll need to rent a storefront. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.

When selecting a location, consider the demographics of the area and the local competition. Look for a high-traffic area with a strong potential customer base, such as a shopping mall or popular downtown district.

A location with good visibility from the street can help attract attention and draw in more customers. Consider a location with large storefront windows or a highly visible storefront sign.

By choosing a location that meets these criteria, you can increase the likelihood of success for your watch business.

watch business idea rating

Step 3: Brainstorm a Watch Brand Name

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “watches” or “luxury watches”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “ WatchHouse” over “Sports WatchHouse”
  • A location-based name can help establish a strong connection with your local community and help with the SEO but might hinder future expansion

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Here are the key components of a business plan:

what to include in a business plan
  • Executive Summary: Summarize the vision and strategy of your watch business, focusing on offering a range of high-quality, stylish watches for diverse customer preferences.
  • Business Overview: Describe your business’s focus on designing, manufacturing, and selling watches, ranging from luxury to affordable, functional timepieces.
  • Product and Services: Detail the variety of watches offered, including different styles like dress, sports, and smartwatches, and services like repair or customization.
  • Market Analysis: Assess the demand for watches, identifying target demographics such as fashion-conscious consumers, tech enthusiasts, or collectors.
  • Competitive Analysis: Compare your products and brand to other watch companies, highlighting unique selling points like design quality, price range, or technological features.
  • Sales and Marketing: Outline your strategy for reaching customers, including online sales, retail partnerships, and marketing campaigns.
  • Management Team: Highlight the experience and skills of your team, particularly in areas like watch design, manufacturing, and retail management.
  • Operations Plan: Describe the process of watch production, from design and sourcing materials to assembly and quality control.
  • Financial Plan: Provide an overview of financials, including startup costs, pricing strategies, and projected sales.
  • Appendix: Include supplementary documents such as design sketches, market research data, or supplier agreements to support your business plan.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to watch businesses. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your watch business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

types of business structures
  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using an online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

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Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online.

It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

types of business funding
  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Venture capital: Venture capital investors take an ownership stake in exchange for funds, so keep in mind that you’d be sacrificing some control over your business. This is generally only available for businesses with high growth potential.
  • Angel investors: Reach out to your entire network in search of people interested in investing in early-stage startups in exchange for a stake. Established angel investors are always looking for good opportunities. 
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a watch business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. If your business does well and is poised for rapid growth at some point, you may be able to attract angel investors or venture capital. 

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Business Licenses and Permits

Starting a watch business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties.

If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your watch business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

types of business insurance
  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

Launching a Business

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as LS Retail, Vend, or Retail Pro, to manage purchasing, inventory, and invoicing.

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism.

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.

Marketing

Here are some powerful marketing strategies for your future business:

  1. Instagram Influencer Collaborations: Partner with fashion and lifestyle influencers on Instagram to showcase your watches in stylish, everyday settings, reaching a broader audience and building credibility.
  2. Limited Edition Releases: Create a sense of exclusivity and urgency by periodically releasing limited edition watch designs, encouraging collectors and enthusiasts to make swift purchases.
  3. Storytelling through Social Media: Utilize social media platforms to share the stories behind your watch designs, emphasizing craftsmanship, inspiration, and the people who wear them, creating a connection with your audience.
  4. Popup Shops and Events: Organize popup shops at trendy locations or participate in fashion events to give potential customers a hands-on experience with your watches, fostering a personal connection with the brand.
  5. Collaborations with Fashion Brands: Forge partnerships with established fashion brands for co-branded collections, tapping into their existing customer base and expanding your reach.
  6. Interactive Online Contests: Engage your online audience by hosting creative contests, such as designing a watch face or suggesting a new collection theme, fostering community involvement and generating buzz.
  7. Subscription Box Partnerships: Collaborate with subscription box services to feature your watches, providing customers with a curated and surprise-filled experience, while also introducing your brand to a new audience.
  8. Engaging Video Content: Create captivating and informative video content, showcasing the craftsmanship, features, and styling possibilities of your watches, and share it across social media platforms to enhance brand visibility.
  9. Customer Testimonials and Reviews: Encourage satisfied customers to share their experiences through testimonials and reviews, building trust and credibility among potential buyers.
  10. Strategic Retailer Partnerships: Partner with select high-end retailers or boutiques to showcase your watches, positioning your brand alongside other reputable names and reaching customers who prefer in-person shopping experiences.

Focus on USPs

unique selling proposition

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that set it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your watch business meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your watch business could be: 

  • Affordable watches with a luxury look 
  • Unignorable, uniquely designed quartz watches 
  • Luxury vintage watches that take you back in time

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a watch business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in watches for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in watches. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

Building a Team for a New Business

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you might want to open a store and you’ll need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a watches business include:

  • Shop Clerks – make sales, customer service
  • General Manager – scheduling, ordering, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Running a Business

Watches are still popular with people of all ages, from quartz to vintage, and from smartwatches to collectibles. Luxury watches are a fast-growing industry, as people want to show off their status and make an impression. If you’re a watch lover with a flair for design, you could build your own watch brand into a household name!

You’ve done your business homework now, so it’s time to get designing and building a thriving watch business. 

Watch Business FAQs

Is a watch business profitable?

Yes, profit margins on watches are high. The key is to come up with some unique watch designs that will stand out in a competitive market.

Is it hard to start a watch business?

Starting a watch business can be challenging due to the competitive nature of the industry and the high level of expertise and resources required. It involves extensive research, planning, and investment in design, production, marketing, and distribution.

How can I differentiate my watch business from competitors in the market?

To differentiate your watch business from competitors, focus on developing a unique brand identity, product design, and marketing strategy that highlights your company’s strengths and values. Consider offering innovative features, customization options, or sustainable materials that appeal to specific target audiences.

How can I effectively market and promote my watch business to attract customers?

To market and promote your watch business effectively, utilize various marketing channels such as social media, email marketing, influencer marketing, and search engine optimization. Showcase your product features, benefits, and quality through high-quality photos, videos, and customer testimonials. 

What is the most sold watch?

The most sold watch can vary depending on the year, region, and market trends. However, some of the best-selling watch brands include Rolex, Omega, Cartier, and Tag Heuer.

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How to Start a Watch Business