Independent Insights with: Benedict Ong, Mitch Mason
In this column, we interview brand-owners and creators in the independent watchmaking scene to learn about the people behind the brand, and the reasons why they do the things they do. Through these conversations, we hope for readers to discover that a brand is beyond just the sum of its products, and explore the depth of thinking that goes into shaping a brand.
This, we believe, will truly elevate the consumer experience, and redefine the way we enjoy a brand's products.
Schedule: Bi-monthly, or as our schedule permits
Benedict Ong, Mitch Mason
In this instalment of Independent Insights, we interview Benedict Ong of Mitch Mason. Having met up with Benedict over the weekend, we learnt that there’s so much more to love about him and his brand besides his impressive Kickstarter track record with the Chronicle being fully funded in a mere matter of minutes. At the time of this article, Benedict is running a Kickstarter campaign for his second collection: The Mitch Mason Maelstrom at: http://kck.st/3FjtNN8. Find out more about the rest of the Mitch Mason collections: https://mitchmason.com/
Without further ado, Let’s hear it from Benedict!
Part 1. – Introducing Benedict
Benedict Ong, founder and owner of Mitch Mason
Constellar: It’s great to have you here with us today Benedict. What would you like people to know about you and your brand?
Benedict: I am Benedict, please call me Ben. I am the founder of Mitch Mason watches. If you’re looking for something that is unique, refined looking, and just cool in general, do take a look!
C: What were you doing prior to embarking on Mitch Mason watches? Has the career switch impacted your life in any way?
Benedict: Prior to establishing Mitch Mason watches, I was in engineering. However, at heart, I was always a creative. Being relatively young with lots of time left in life, I decided to nurture my creativity into a possible business. The notion of watches came naturally as it was something I was already very passionate about.
Since the creation of Mitch Mason, so many things have happened. I have made many friends, spoke to many people from all over the world, and learnt so many things I would never imagine of learning before.
C: What about your family and friends? What do they think about you being in the watchmaking industry?
Benedict: It is common for people around you to be very doubtful when you venture into something new and unconventional on your own. However, I was very fortunate to have very supporting friends and family around, which made the whole journey extremely smooth.
C: We guess you can say that you thoroughly enjoyed the journey thus far. Great to see that things are great for you. How about your hobbies outside of watches? Do they in any way influence your brand?
Benedict: I have quite a few hobbies! But the one which is relevant to Mitch Mason would be photography. I think that photography is very calming and allows one to view the world from a different angle. Through the lens, we take notice of intricacies that are often overlooked. All these definitely influence the way I see things, and the way I design Mitch Mason’s watches. I believe that design is strongly influenced by one’s life experiences. You can see my photography work here: https://www.benedictongphotography.com/
Benedict in the midst of his photography work
C: It’s always interesting to learn what influences a brandowner’s design, with everyone being ever so different.
How did you get into watch collecting?
Benedict: I had a couple of kids watches when I was little. Those have since all been long lost and forgotten. However, in my third year of university, I wanted a watch as I thought it was cool to have something that could accessorize my bare wrists. I decided on a Seiko quartz chronograph at the time.
From then on, I did a lot of reading and researching on the designs and technicalities of watchmaking and soon got hooked.
Benedict's Seiko Chronograph
C: Do you have a favourite amongst the watches in your collection? What makes this watch special to you?
Benedict: I would say the Seiko SARB035 is my favourite. It is a watch that I got together with my significant other to mark our 2 year anniversary. I wear mine on a leather pin and buckle strap most of the time, while she always has hers on a leather nato. Apart from the sentimental value that this watch has to me, in my opinion it is of unequalled value, and an end of an era for Seiko.
The Seiko SARB035, Benedict's favourite timepiece in his collection
Part 2. Insights into Mitch Mason
The Mitch Mason Chronicle
Constellar: Let’s dive back into Mitch Mason. What made you start Mitch Mason?
Benedict: I have always been a creative from the start. I excelled in anything art or design related since primary school to university. One fine day, I just felt the need to do something with my design skills. Something tangible and not just as a pass-time at home. This meant that it had to be translated into product design. Naturally I chose watches as it was a product that I had the most knowledge on and passion for.
Little did I know then, that designing was just the beginning of a very challenging journey. I learnt, from research and the kind people around me, that for Mitch Mason to have any chance of success, there were so many other factors that were of equal importance. Things like, marketing, branding and customer relations to name a few.
C: You are definitely right that there’s more to being a brand owner than just designing watches. It’s something that we ourselves learnt after getting one foot into the industry.
How did you go about creating your first product?
Benedict: This is my first draft of the Chronicle. I knew what I wanted in the design, so it looks quite the same as the final product. Of course, some dimensional changes were made along the way due to technical constraints.
The first draft illustration of the Mitch Mason Chronicle
C: The Mitch Mason Chronicle was a massive hit on Kickstarter! We were preparing for our own campaign when you first launched the Chronicle and we recall being hooked onto the progress of your campaign! What do you feel contributed to the success of the Chronicle?
Benedict: To me, there are a few key factors that led to the success of the Chronicle launch. A strong marketing campaign, crucial advice from some good buddies, and unparalleled support from the microbrand watch community.
C: We certainly are noticing this common advice from many successful brandowners on the strong marketing campaign, and we’ll certainly take note of that. Is there a style or genre of watches that you would like Mitch Mason to be remembered for?
Benedict: This is something I am still exploring. I do not want to limit myself at this point but would want everyone to remember Mitch Mason to be a brand who stuck to their beliefs and provided the best customer experience.
C: Let’s move on to the topic on brand ownership. Having been a brand owner for a year now, what is your takeaway from this whole experience? Would you also have done things any differently if you were given the opportunity to start over?
Benedict: I have learnt that it is not the hardest to run a successful one-off launch, but it is extremely difficult to have successful follow-up attempts. I am still learning everyday. The hardest part, to me, is keeping the momentum of fresh design ideas. The best part is to be able to share my creativity with everyone.
Mitch Mason wouldn’t be what it humbly is at this moment if I did anything different in the past. As I am happy with where the brand is going now, I would choose not to do anything differently.
Part 3. Industry talk
Constellar: Now it’s time to move on to our industry talk segment. Was there anything you wish you knew before stepping into the industry?
Benedict: Nothing comes to mind at this point, I probably still have not realized what I am missing out on haha. If anyone has the magic formula to success please ring me up.
C: Please ring us up too should anyone share the secret to success! Given the scale of success in your first campaign, what advice do you have for someone intending to start up their own brand?
Benedict: I believe that my campaign did as planned, but nothing crazy. I would say, always take in constructive feedback. If someone has given up a few minutes of their life to provide their opinion, please give them the same care, attention and respect.
C: We most certainly agree on this. To us, constructive feedback is always welcomed, and taking feedback in stride drives us brandowners to truly understand our clients' needs.
What about your predictions for the industry for the upcoming few years?
Benedict: The small independent scene is getting extremely competitive these days. It is no more about slapping your brand name on an off-the-shelf watch, that time is long gone. I think that in the years to come, small independent brands will be pushed very hard for more originality and innovativeness in their designs. I am excited to see what is to come!
C: Now for a question we see popping up now and then on watch forums: What is your take on the term “Swiss Made”? Does the term mean anything to you in our segment?
Benedict: I do not. Some watch lovers still hold on dearly to the idea that “Swiss Made” means “Best Quality”. I believe that we should judge a product for what it is, for how it looks, feels in the flesh and performs, not solely on where it is made. We judge one another based on our interactions, not based on our place of birth, right? So why not the same with watches?
C: Indeed! It does seem as though the industry is moving away from the focus on “Swiss Made”. In our opinion, our industry segment is in a better place right now as compared to say, 5 years back. We are happy to see the micro/indie community grow by the day, which certainly shows an interesting trend to how the the market is evolving, especially with regards to what is defined as a well-designed, well-made watch.
Are there any brands or brand owners that you admire in our segment, and like to know more about?
Benedict: The recent Furlan Marri Kickstarter launch really impressed me. The product, homage or not, is great for what it is. The way in which the entire campaign was executed is spot on. I have many things to learn from the way they handled it.
We all operate differently, and I think we could learn a thing or two from any brand owner.
Part 4. Upcoming release
C: What is next for Mitch Mason?
Benedict: We started our collection with a field watch, the Chronicle. Next, we venture into the depths of the ocean, with the Maelstrom dual crown diver watch. Although the majority of us love dive watches, we didn’t want to start Mitch Mason off with one. We wanted to grab attention with something different.
The coming years will be crucial for Mitch Mason to develop its brand identity. A consistent design language, but without too much repetition is needed I think, so I will be working on that.
The Mitch Mason Maelstrom
Part 5. Closing words from Benedict
Song (wearing the Feynman Cove), Benedict (wearing the Mitch Mason Chronicle),
Edgar (wearing the Constellar Starseeker)
Benedict: Thank you Edgar and Wei Song for having me participate in this little interview! I wish you all the best with Constellar Timepieces.
To those reading, thank you for coming this far. Whether you are a brandowner or collector, always stay humble and treat others with kindness. We sometimes lose ourselves in this journey and start spreading snobbery. Let’s build a pleasant watch collecting environment together, for all!
If you are keen to follow me and my journey with Mitch Mason, do visit our site here: https://mitchmason.com/
C: Thank you once again for joining us Benedict! We look forward to the evolution of Mitch Mason design language and we are excited for what is to come. All the best for the Maelstrom campaign!