Independent Insights with: Ugur Mamak, Batavi Watches
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
Ugur Mamak, Batavi
In this issue of Independent Insights, we have the honour of sharing this space with Ugur Mamak of Batavi Watches. Based in The Netherlands, Ugur and the Batavi Atelier produces iconic timepieces that melds contemporary traits within recognizable silhouettes, all at extremely fair prices. Famed for an exceptional after sales service and good rapport with their clientele, Batavi is the next rising star of the independent watch industry. Find out more on what gives Batavi its unique charms at: https://www.batavi-watches.com/
Let’s hear it from Ugur!
Part 1. – Introducing Ugur
Ugur Mamak, Founder of Batavi Watches
Constellar: Hi Ugur, we're so happy that you are able to join us for this instalment of Independent Insights. Shall we kick things off with a self-introduction?
Ugur: For the ones who don’t know me, my name is Ugur. Pronounce it like Uhr (time in German 😉). It means luck in Turkish. My brand is called Batavi, and with Batavi I try to mix Dutch design with the aesthetics of vintage watches.
It’s my way of tributing to the beautiful country called The Netherlands, where my grandfather settled for a better life in the 60s! I live here with my wife and 2 sons. 4 days a week i'm into urban planning/design, while the rest of my time goes to family and Batavi of course.
Wristshot of the Batavi Noordzee
C: Share with us what are your passions in life aside from watches, and how these passions influence your work at Batavi.
Ugur: My hobbies are everything related to design and art. I like studying street art, graffiti, calligraphy etc. I like watching design or art related documentaries as well! A big part of my inspiration comes from music and history.
Traveling is also a big hobby of mine which is now a rarity due to the pandemic.
Some of Ugur's favourite vintage watches
C: How would you describe your personal watch collection? Has there been any change in the way you collect watches with Batavi?
Ugur: Before Batavi it was all Swiss and/or other (exclusive) brands. I love vintage watches more than new ones. I’m fascinated by the idea that people from the past could design and make more beautiful stuff then we do now. My all-time favorite is the Rolex Datejust, it’s the best designed watch ever. You have them in so many colors and variations. When I was young I thought that was an old man’s watch. When I bought my first DJ, I was hooked! It’s truly timeless. Unfortunately I sold most of my vintage watches to finance my hobby: Batavi..
Now I own several microbrands and I’m sure I will own a lot more!
C: We love the vintage aesthetic too, as we feel that simple vintage designs always seem to be more refined! Moving on, what has been your favourite watch in your collection, and what is the story behind its acquisition?
Ugur: My favorite is a Longines Evidenza moonphase that I will pass on to my oldest son because he used to look and ask me about the moon every day when he was little. So this watch will suit him perfect. I got it from Ebay, from an Italian guy who got this watch from his ex-wife as wedding gift. He must have hated her so much because he sold it to me for a very, very cheap price 😊
The watch did not affect my design language at Batavi because it’s a very stylish watch while Batavi is more sportive and colorful.
C: That is an amazing story behind your favourite watch. We believe it will inevitably become your son’s favourite watch as well! What do you want supporters of Batavi to remember the brand for?
Ugur: I'll answer this through 3 sentences!
Micro brand, Macro heart!
Quality over quantity
A buying experience you can match with more exclusive brands.
C: You’re doing great work Ugur! We believe you’re definitely on the right track! Let’s now move on to learn more about Batavi and what the stories behind the brand.
Part 2. – Insights into Batavi
The Batavi Architect in Copper Dome
Constellar: Please do share with us how did Batavi come into being.
Ugur: After several attempts I was willing to give up on my own brand until I read a story about the old Dutch settlers called Batavi. They inspired me so much that I would try it again under their name. I also tell my sons to never quit, but that was basically what I was doing. So I decided to start all over again and be like the Batavi, a fearless underdog that’s willing to do anything to achieve the goal.
C: A great story of perseverance Ugur, we're so happy that it all worked out in the end for you! What was your Vision for Batavi, and has this vision changed throughout the years?
Ugur: My vision was and still is to be one of the best microbrands of the Netherlands, then Europe then the world 😊
C: What would you say are the strongest traits of Batavi watches?
Ugur: The strongest traits I think are the concepts I bring up for every collection. Also, the story telling.
C: We agree, the storytelling at Batavi is phenomenal! It was so easy for us to match the watch to the stories told. Would you like to share with us your typical day to day schedule in the running of Batavi watches.
Ugur: A typical day for me is working in urban planning/design and in the spare time answering mails from clients or shipping out watches to customers. In weekends I have customers wanting to come to the atelier. Then I will be their host, serve them with coffee and sweets like baklava or chocolate and have a good conversation about watches.
Also keeping in contact with manufacturers 24/7 is a must. We live all in different time zones so in fact we are working 24/7.
C: Share with us the journey you embarked on in creating your first product. How did it measure up against your expectations?
Ugur: I failed a couple of times completely; some manufacturers even send a sample without a movement. I experienced it all! The first product I was happy with, was the Batavi Noordzee.
At the time (still is eventually) dive watches were the thing! Like all other brands, of course I wanted to bring out a dive watch as well! The Dutch have battled with the Noordzee (North Sea) for many years in order to have it under control because, a big part of the Netherlands is below sea level. So I called it the Noordzee. The lifeblood and also the biggest enemy of our country.
The Noordzee dive watches was meant to be a minimalist dive watch and a turning point for me. I designed several colors and a layout for the design that I would use for all my upcoming models. I liked the concept and the design of the watch a lot. It resembled the colors of the Noordzee (North Sea) in black, green, deep blue and grey.
It did not get the attention I had hoped for. It missed target almost and I was missing about 7k of the production price. So I had to decide to put the rest of the money in myself or kill it and move on. I killed it and made the Kosmopoliet GMT 😉.
C: We believe most people would not know about the challenges Batavi had faced in the past. We understand the disappointment this brings, and we're glad to see that you have used the experience as a motivation for your follow on releases!
Describe the very first order you fulfilled. How did it feel and how did the experience shape your journey since?
Ugur: The very first order was through Kickstarter, in fact it was a bulk order. I remember the day that the Kosmopoliet went live. I was all alone and it was time to push the “online” button. It was one of the most exciting days in my life. When I received the watches and was able to ship them out, it really felt amazing because I fulfilled the promise.
C: That is amazing! Having gone through the process several times in the past we totally understand what you mean. All of our hopes and dreams start with the click of that button!
How would you describe your most unforgettable experience in the running of Batavi
Ugur: I was ordering food with my two sons at a local restaurant. While we were waiting, all of a sudden, a guy came to me and said: You are Ugur right, Ugur from Batavi. I said yes how do you know… He was also following the FB groups and he loved the watches. So we ended up talking for a while. I invited him to the atelier and we stayed connected ever since. For a second it felt like I was a celebrity, all because of Batavi haha!
C: In your opinion, what is the single most challenging part about being a brandowner?
Ugur: The most challenging part for me is managing quality. Everyone who owns a Batavi loves it because of the good quality. First impressions are important and I always want to deliver the best! If a watch is not good on the first delivery, I will always send them a new one!
C: Looking back on your journey, how would you have done things differently, if you were given the opportunity to start all over again?
Ugur: You have only one chance to do everything as professionally as possible. Do it like it’s your last chance!
C: Batavi has now released two wildly successful launches, the Kosmopoliet GMT as well as the Architect. How was the experience in running each of the launches?
Ugur: Thank you for your kind words. It was a success but not a wild success. The Kosmopoliet was the blueprint for me. Anything that I learnt with the Kosmopoliet, I applied to the Architect. In this way I managed to get the architect delivered on schedule.
The first thing is to get the samples right, after that the pictures and video, then advertising. For the Architect I just followed what I learnt from the Kosmopoliet, so I was more experienced with the procedure of running a Kickstarter project.
There is always room for growth, and my next step is to do it outside of Kickstarter and have the whole batch ready for shipping in the atelier.
Inside the Batavi Atelier
C: Tell us more about the Batavi Atelier
Ugur: I run all the Batavi related stuff from the atelier. The atelier is a room in the office we bought together for my wife’s law firm. We use this area together to receive guests, and also as a space where I can store all my stuff safely, around 700 to 1000 watches.
It was always my dream to work from another space other than my home. It’s more professional to have a place where you can receive guests and have all the watches and accessories displayed to show to the customers. One can experience a warmth and welcoming atmosphere in the atelier. I will always serve guests with good coffee and sweets, and most of the time it’s baklava.
The most memorable experience was when a customer made an appointment to size his bracelet. He looked around while I sized his bracelet, and all of sudden he ended up buying 2 more watches and an extra strap! Another good experience was a customer who came to check out the color of the “copper dome” as he was afraid that it might look like a toy watch if the color was not done right. He liked it a lot, and left with the Batavi on his wrist, and his Chronoswiss skeleton watch that is worth $12-15K in the Batavi box. These things are unforgettable.
Part 3. – Industry talk
Constellar: What do you wish you knew, before stepping into the industry?
Ugur: I wish I knew that it costs a lot of money and time. On the other hand, I have made many friendships with people that I can call my friend!
C: What advice do you have for someone intending to start up their own brand?
Ugur: Don’t just think of 1 watch. Get your story, concept and design ready as if you are going to exist for the next 100 years.
C: What trends have you observed in the industry of late?
Ugur: I was right about the colorful watches and the integrated bracelet hype. I wished the Architect didn’t look so similar to the Tissot PRX. I never saw that watch while designing the Architect, nor was I inspired by it. It’s one of the most popular models of 2021, and it cost me a lot of new customers, but I’m happy that I predicted the hype correctly! Don’t ask me what will be the next trend, I wish I know! 😉
C: What do you feel is lacking in the industry currently?
Ugur: I feel that originality is lacking, and when a brand is bringing out something, it has to be special to immediately stand out from the crowd!
C: What predictions do you have, for the small independent scene in the next 3 to 5 years?
Ugur: That’s a really good question, I wish I know. I think that good quality will always win.
No matter the trends, I think that originality, consistency and good after sales service are key.
C: What is your opinion on crowdfunding platforms and the role they play in our industry?
Ugur: It has played a major role for microbrands. It’s the perfect way to start something new without putting all your money in it. I think now it’s a bit oversaturated. Generally the idea and concept of crowdfunding is spectacular.
Kickstarter played a major role for me personally, because the big brands also started with this platform and it felt good to be there as well. However, it has a negative vibe as well. For me so far, it’s all good. I was able to collect all the funds and manufacture the watches and ship them out thanks to Kickstarter.
C: What are some brands and brandowners you admire, in our segment?
Ugur: There are too many to name. I’m almost friends with all the brand owners who are showcased on Facebook. I’m afraid that I might miss out on one should I put some names out here.
I have to say I have much respect for you and your brand! I want to see the day date watches by Constellar Timepieces. It's time Edgar & Song!
C: Who would you like to know more about as a brandowner, in our segment?
Ugur: Like I said, I’m connected with almost all of them and we share ideas and plans together. I really love the microbrand scene! It’s a world within a world!
Part 4. – Upcoming Releases
Upcoming development for the Batavi Architect
Constellar: Do tell us what is next for Batavi.
Ugur: I have 2 more projects in the pipeline and 2 new colorways for the Architect - Purple and Tiffany. I can’t tell you about the 2 new projects for now, but i’m sure you will see them on Facebook in due time!
C: Do you have any plans on going into peripherals such as straps and accessories?
Ugur: I have a great partner for straps, but I have no time to facilitate that as well. I feel like people want Batavi accessories but I simply don’t have the time to provide that. All the time and energy go to watches.
C: What about expansion? What are some key markets Batavi is keen on entering in the physical retail space?
Ugur: I talked to some retailers, but I think going online is the way to go. It’s cool to have some watches in stores to feel and try the watches, but for now everything is via e-commerce. People from the Netherlands can always drop by the atelier to have the retail experience.
Part 5. Closing words from Ugur
Ugur: Thanks for having me bros! I’m honored to be a part of this! I really hope your next project will be a huge success! Sharing is multiplying and it’s a great way to bond. You guys are doing a great job with these interviews. Thank you.
Constellar: Thank you for your kind words and for joining us Ugur! We wish you all the best in your upcoming releases! It's gonna be a blast!