Schaffen Is The Singaporean Start-Up That Lets You Customise A Watch In Five Easy Steps

Make every moment uniquely yours.

BY Celine Yap | Jan 29, 2018 | Feature

Image from Schaffen Watches

Home-grown brands never have it easy. But these days it’s not so bad, thinks Nicholas Han, who’s one half of the duo behind the preppy micro-brand, Schaffen Watches. “I’ve asked groups of people if a brand isn’t worth their attention because it’s from Singapore. There will always be about a quarter who raise their hands, half of the room will say it doesn’t matter and the rest will say that they support a Singaporean brand.”

Together with his younger brother Jonathan, Han started Schaffen Watches in 2015 with the ambition to offer classic dress watches that are highly customisable and yet still affordable to the mass market. It all began when Jonathan, all of 22 years old, developed an interest in horology. The younger Han relates, “There are plenty of beautiful watches out there but for me, there’s always something about a watch that I wish was something else. I did some research and discovered that it actually wasn’t so hard to buy some parts and assemble a watch of your own.”

Horology turned out to be more than just a passing interest for the medical school undergraduate. He even spent a few weeks at the British Horological Institute to learn the finer points of the craft.

The learning curve was extra steep for the brothers not least because of their youth. Han was just 25 years old when he co-founded the brand. He recalls, “One of the greatest challenges relating to product development was the dial. It has to be very specific because it needs to fit the case and the openings have to fit the movement. So we had to make our own dials and this unlocked an opportunity. If we can make our own dials, why don’t we play around with them, make them interesting, something people really want?”

In turning a challenge into an opportunity, they hit upon the most unique element of Schaffen Watches: customisation.

Co-founder of Schaffen Watches, Jonathan Han

Han shares, “One of the most interesting watches we’ve made was a dial with Burmese numerals. The client wanted a watch exclusive to his family so we made it with Burmese numerals and at 12 o’clock was his family surname instead of the number.”

Schaffen means “to create” in German. Han reveals that when they were still considering a name for the business, a mentor of his suggested something really Singaporean, like Chio Watches. With a smile, he says, “I think Schaffen sounds sophisticated and it captures what we’re trying to do with a watch–allowing people to create.”

After more than 400 watches sold since 2016, Schaffen Watches launched its first automatic model in January 2018.

This feature was first published in the print edition of Esquire Singapore, January 2018.