Independent Insights with: Dan Uchida, RVLVR
Updated: Aug 15, 2021
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
Dan Uchida, RVLVR
For the first instalment of this column, we decided to reach out to Dan Uchida of RVLVR. To us, RVLVR represents the pinnacle of a strongly themed watch brand with a distinct, unforgettable DNA, a rarity in the toolish / everyday carry watch market. For those familiar with RVLVR, a simple mention of the brand will immediately project to mind one of its watches (for us it's the AD5). This is how memorable RVLVR is as a brand, which is something we hope this column can evolve to be in time to come.
Furthermore, Dan is the perfect first brandowner for us to interview as he was one of, if not the very first microbrand owner who we have come to know on a more personal basis. In our microbrand journey, Dan has been very kind to share his experience and advice on how we can do better as brandowners.
So without further ado, here's Dan from RVLVR!
Part 1. Introduction
Constellar: Hi Dan, thank you for agreeing to join us for the first iteration of our brandowner interviews! We’re really excited to have you here! Let’s start things off with a quick introduction. Introduce yourself as well as the brands you represent.
Dan: My name is Dan Uchida, and I’ve been producing watches since 2015, with my brand Rvlvr, and am in the process of creating a few more.
I draw inspiration from pretty much everything. Rvlvr was obviously inspired by the revolver, but I’m heavily inspired by innovation and creative work that spark emotion. My other passions include playing guitars, cryptocurrencies, and everything that has to do with design.
C: Since 2015! That makes Rvlvr a seasoned veteran in the microbrand/independent segment! What do you see yourself doing in a parallel universe if you did not start up Rvlvr in 2015?
Dan: I’m into so many different things, I could see myself jumping from one thing to another (kind of like I do now lol)
C: Sounds like you have quite the free-spirited character. Now you have me intrigued on how your personal watch collection has evolved along the years! If you do not mind sharing, how would you describe your personal watch collection?
Before starting my brand, I’ve collected everything from Seikos to Rolexes, but I’ve come to the point where I’ve filled up 3 large watch boxes with my own designs, so I slowly got rid of most of my high-end watches that I used to own. Now- although I buy pieces that intrigue me from time to time, most of them don’t stay in the rotation for too long.
Dan's personal stash
C: We share the same “problem”! On most days we find ourselves picking up our own designs over other high-end watches! On a positive note, I guess this meant we truly created something we would wear ourselves.
Now, as a brand owner, what do you want patrons of Rvlvr to remember you for?
Dan: I guess I’d like my original designs and creative endeavours to be my legacy, and have my artwork be the focus point of my watches.
Part 2. Insights
The Rvlvr R88 Automatic
C: Time for a deep dive into Rvlvr! What is your story behind its creation?
Dan: Before the watch business, I was creating and selling a lot of products related to graphic design. At the time- I was pretty heavy into social media, and received free watches to promote, as I had millions of followers across Instagram accounts and was viewed as an influencer in the eyes of certain companies, that’s when the bug hit me and I decided to give it a go myself.
C: That is a rather interesting backstory for Rvlvr! This is quite possibly the first time we ever hear an origin story stemming from promoting other watches! In creating Rvlvr timepieces, what were the key design elements or themes you have kept consistent, through the years, and what were the concepts and design elements you have experimented that didn’t work out?
Dan: With Rvlvr, the designs have always consistently been based around the revolver. I’m at the point though; in which I’d like to experiment and step out of this zone shortly.
Since starting the brand, it was always my goal to create a perpetually spinning, unique second hand. The designs that I had originally created had failed because I didn’t understand weight distribution and what a movement could and couldn’t handle. Much of my first sketches were rejected by the factory engineers because it wouldn’t hold up to continuous use.
An early concept illustration of the first Rvlvr watch
C: It is fair to say that all brandowners will eventually meet this “ideal vs reality” check at some point in time in their journey. But we feel this in turn makes things interesting as it gives us a larger room to innovate and grow! We’ll be looking forward to a breakthrough from Rvlvr in time to come!
Do share with us the very first order you fulfilled; how did it feel and how did the experience shape your journey since?
Dan: I used to have a rather large social media following. My first order actually came in a group of 30 or so (if I remember right). I was selling T-shirts and other products back then so it felt great branching out into a whole new field.
C: It must have been a memorable milestone for you and your first group of buyers! Now, looking back on your journey, would you have done things differently, if you were given the opportunity to start it all over again?
Dan: If I could start over, I would have focused more on what the customer wants and less of what I want. Or at least try to come up with a better balance.
C: Perhaps that is something we will start seeing with Rvlvr in time to come!
How would you describe your typical day-to-day in running your brand? What are the key things you focus on, when designing and producing a watch collection?
Dan: In a typical day, my main focus is in designing new watches. Then the marketing stuff comes after, which has not really been a focus.
Whenever I create a watch, I start with the dials and go from there. My aim is always to create an original timepiece that I can add my personal touch to.
C: Share with us your most unforgettable experience in the running of Rvlvr
Dan: Personally, the best experience that I’ve had in running the watch business is the travel aspect of it. When flying to meet vendors, the travel experiences make it more than worth it. Of course, it’s also amazing to see customers happy and leave good reviews about the watches.
Part 3. Industry
C: Let’s move on to talk about the microbrand / independent watchmaking industry. What are some things you wish you knew, before stepping into the industry?
Dan: I wish I knew about Kickstarter so I didn’t have to dump a boatload of money on my first batch of watches!
C: Most certainly! You could have quite possibly have gotten an even larger audience on your first release too! What advice do you have for someone intending to start up their own brand?
Dan: In my opinion, this needs to be a passion project first, and then a business next. As the industry gets saturated by more and more brands, it gets harder to break through. If this is an itch fuelled by passion, I’d say go for it- as this whole experience has been extremely rewarding.
C: We wholeheartedly agree! As a brandowner there will be times when your mettle is tested, and what pull you through will be your passion in the project. What do you feel is lacking in the industry currently?
Dan: Up to a few years back, I felt that brands were charging way too much for the specs that they were offering. Good deals were pretty hard to come by. However, these days, as competition increases with Asia increasing their quality exponentially, I feel as the internet is making this a much more accessible and enjoyable realm. Personally, I’d like to see more unique designs and less homages, but business always has to revolve around what sells so I guess the market dictates the direction of the industry.
C: What predictions do you have, for the small independent scene in the next 3 to 5 years?
Dan: It’s hard to say, but following up on the last question - as cheaper and better-quality watches ship out of the East, I feel owners will need to concentrate either on fine tuning their marketing or on offering unique designs as you can find a plethora of homages at extremely competitive prices.
C: In your opinion, what do you think are the ingredients for success in this industry?
Dan: To be honest, I feel like I’m still searching for this answer. Although I’m fortunate to work from home and design when and how I want, if it weren’t for my previous investments, this probably wouldn’t be a full-time occupation for me.
C: What would you like to know more about as a brandowner, in our segment?
Dan: I really want to understand marketing more, which is probably the aspect I currently focus least on, and probably need the most work on.
C: What are some of brands and brand owners you admire, in our segment?
Dan: I’d have to say brands such as Zelos, and innovative brands like Sevenfriday and MB&F (if they’re considered a Micro brand), I also met a lot of really cool people creating incredible watches, whom I have much respect for- including the team over at Viqueria, Radcliffe Watches, and of course you guys of Constellar.
C: You flatter us. We hope to live up to your expectations in time to come too! And now for the exciting stuff!
Part 4. Upcoming release
C: Tell us about your upcoming release/releases.
I have my Neon Gears Machina-X project that I’m currently working on- a dual automatic movement I’m trying to get out at somewhat affordable prices.
C: What are you most proud of for this release? What were the most challenging aspects for this release?
I’d have to say I’m proud that this was a project that stemmed from my artwork which was based on a lot of aspects that I will slowly release as the project comes along.
It was extremely challenging to create a functional product to fit with my vision- in fact I’m still sending it back to get redone as we speak.
C: And that’s all we have for you today Dan! We hope that our readers discovered a different side to you and Rvlvr today. Thank you once again for taking the time to join us for this interview! We’ll be looking forward to the Neon Gears Machina-X project!
Dan: Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to share my story! I’m looking forward to creating and sharing my designs with watch lovers across the globe!
Check out Dan and RVLVR at: https://rvlvr.com/
Jointly Produced by:
Dan Uchida, Rvlvr
Song and Edgar, Constellar Timepieces
All content recorded in this column is a result of exchanges (verbal or written) between us (Song and/or Edgar) and other brandowners and creators. Content posted are with the permission of all participants to the interview. All interviews conducted are purely on the basis of promoting the independent watchmaking scene, and no transaction (cash or otherwise) has been carried out between the parties for the purposes of this interview.
P.S. If you are a brandowner or a content creator in the independent watchmaking scene that agrees with our approach to promote our industry segment, please do reach out to us at: email@example.com.