How A 31-Year-Old Bro Built A $180 Million Watch Empire In Less Than 5 Years

Everyone has spectacular dreams, but for most of us those wondrous aspirations never come into fruition. Filip Tysander made his dreams become an astounding reality. Despite being fired from a couple of jobs early in his adult life, the highly motivated businessman singlehandedly constructed a $180 watch empire.

Filip Tysander, who is from Uppsala, Sweden, went backpacking in Australia after high school in 2006. While traveling between Melbourne and Cairns he met a man named Daniel Wellington. Tysander was in awe of this intriguing gentleman from the British Isles because of his distinct style. What stood out most about Wellington was his watch. Daniel was wearing a minimalist black-and-gray nylon band, known as a NATO strap, securing a large-faced Rolex Submariner.

The stranger and the simplicity of the timepiece made such an impression on Filip that it stuck with him until he got home to Sweden. At the time, Tysander was already an entrepreneur; running an online necktie store and producing a line of plastic Rolex replicas.

At the age of 26-years-old, Filip started his own watch company by investing $24,000 of his own money into the fresh endeavor in 2011. He named the company “Daniel Wellington,” based on the sophisticated stranger he met in Australia by complete chance.

The watches would have a large, round, minimalistic face with interchangeable nylon NATO bands. He found a Chinese factory that could not only make the watches, but also the nylon bands. The first Daniel Wellington timepiece was sold in May of 2011. The watch was 40mm and rose-gold, and the customer could select one of four bright nylon straps.

You can check out more Daniel Wellington watches and buy them here.

“I designed a thinner case and added some color to go with the preppy trend going on at the time,” Filip told Bloomberg News.

Tysander used his business instincts to go a different direction than most watch companies when it came to advertising. Instead of placing expensive advertisements in magazines, Filip utilized social media.

Tysander’s marketing strategy consisted of hiring influencers with lots of followers on social media to model and showcase his watches. This is an advertising tactic that is widely used now, but in 2011 it was hardly being executed properly. The Daniel Wellington brand Instagram now has over 2 million followers.

Consumers ate up the idea of a fashionable, versatile watch that was also inexpensive. Instead of selling watches for $5,000 or even $1,000 like the luxury brands, the most expensive Daniel Wellington timepiece is $299.

The strategy worked brilliantly Filip. In 2014 it sold more than a million timepieces and took in $70 million. In 2015, Daniel Wellington had $180 million in sales, with a margin of more than 50 percent. This was all achieved by a 31-year-old and his 100 percent self-made company.

“Our watches are inspired by the upper echelons of the watch world but at a very accessible price point,” says Frans Sjo, U.S. business manager for DW. “It’s fair to say that we want everyone to be able to own a Daniel Wellington.”

Tysander says that anyone can become a successful entrepreneur, but you must put in the hours and have some luck. Filip is a big believer in Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000-Hour Rule.” Gladwell, an author, believes that to achieve success and expertise in any skill requires honing your skills for approximately 10,000 hours.

“A part of me wishes to contact Daniel Wellington and explain what’s happened, but at the same time, I want to let the sleeping bear lie. If the source of my inspiration should turn up at the office one day I guess I’ll have to hide underneath my desk,” Filip tells Business Insider.

And to think that this entire enterprise all started with a chance encounter.


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