Local startup is one to watch

Photos courtesy of James Caird.

The Endurance watch. Photos courtesy of James Caird.

As the clock ticks on their fundraising campaign, Beth Morris and Kevin Lucci hope consumers will give their startup the time of day.

The couple last month launched James Caird Timepieces, a Richmond-based brand of wristwatches. They’ve designed their first line of watches, tested the prototypes and are gearing up to buy its first run of about 500 units.

That initial purchases hinges largely on the success of a crowdfunding campaign launched on Kickstarter on Feb. 1 with a goal of raising $43,000 by March 2.

james caird pic1

Kevin Lucci and Beth Morris

Morris and Lucci, who are engaged to be married, think there is demand for an affordable, fashionable watch.

“We thought there was an opening for stylish timepiece around the $200 mark,” Morris said.

It was on the deck at Ardent Craft Ales in Scott’s Addition that the pair was brainstorming what kind of watch they should develop. Morris recalled being struck by the array of cyclists, businesspeople and parents that surrounded them.

“I thought that’s it,” Morris said,  “these folks need a watch that can do all of these things.”

With help from an overseas manufacturer, Morris and Lucci eventually designed The Endurance, a unisex, diver-style line of watches that come with either a nylon or leather strap in various colors.

They pitch The Endurance as a watch a Richmonder can wear to the office, while kayaking along the James River, and out on the town. The James Caird name comes from a life boat used by explorer Ernest Shackleton.

“We wanted something to do all those things without having to switch your watch,” Morris said. “It looks nice, and it feels like you don’t have to be gentle with it.”

Morris said her company will look to tap into a niche of consumers who are not as interested in smartwatches or spending thousands of dollars on a timepiece. She said she was encouraged by the amount of activity she saw on online forums for watch collectors.

“We found there’s still a huge community that is very impassioned about mechanical watches,” Morris said. “It would appear that the vast majority would never switch to smartwatches.

“We’re going after someone who appreciates the beauty of a mechanical watch.”

Morris said being one of the only dedicated watch companies in Richmond could help James Caird Timepieces get a head start in the market.

For now, the venture is part-time for the co-founders: Morris is a high school English teacher, and Lucci is a general manager at a local Kroger.

More of the company's selection.

More of the company’s selection.

Their Kickstarter campaign will not only help them acquire the initial inventory to sell online and on store shelves, but has also been a great tool for market research.

“It lets you know a lot about where the market is at,” Morris said. “It creates a forum where people can give you feedback. We’ve already noticed that blue is really popular.”

The campaign thus far has raised more than $4,500 with help from at least 16 backers. Morris said supporters hail from Richmond and as far abroad as Singapore, New Zealand, China, and India.

Money from the campaign will be used to order watches, develop a website, and pay for marketing and advertising. Morris said she and Lucci have put about $2,000 into the company so far.

Morris said if the campaign doesn’t work out, they will hold off on the initial run of watches and see what she and Lucci could have done differently and try again.

“Our goal is absolutely to make this a full-time venture,” Morris said. “We’d love to ultimately make some more sophisticated watches.”

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