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Guidance for Microbrands and Watch Builders

The Psychological Advantage of Staged Payments in Watch Building

Building a watch can be an intricate and detailed process. It involves precision, skill, and a true passion for the art of timekeeping, not to mention attention to detail as though you’re creating a piece of art.  At least in my opinion. For clients seeking a custom-made watch, they’re not just buying a piece of jewelry; they’re investing in craftsmanship, the talent of the builder, and the promise of something unique. As a watch builder, understanding the psychology of the buyer and structuring payment processes around it can be a game changer. Here’s why I choose to ONLY ask for parts costs up front, and then collect labor, tax, and shipping costs after fulfilling a commissioned build.

Lowering the Barrier to Entry

The first and most obvious benefit is that this method reduces the initial financial burden on the client. By only asking for the parts costs up front, I am essentially telling the client, “Trust in my skills and vision. Invest just in the materials for now.”

This approach serves to lower the barrier to entry, combined with offering a level of genuine trust for potential clients. The initial outlay, being just for parts, is generally more palatable than the full amount that includes labor, tax, and shipping. For the client, the perception is that they’re taking on significantly less risk. They know that if, for any reason, the project doesn’t progress as planned, they’ve only committed to the *cost of materials.

*A young friend of our watch building community (who I will not name) passed away suddenly a couple of years ago with a bunch of commissioned builds in process.  After his passing, several of us in the community came to support his clients that not only didn’t get the builds they paid in full for, but also lost ALL of the money that paid for those builds.  We did our best to accommodate his clients, but I don’t EVER want to experience that again.  This (although unintentionally morbid) is another reason for only taking parts cost up front.  Because Heaven forbid something happens to us, the parts could be shipped to the client and another builder could be re-commissioned to complete the builds.  Lastly, for those of us in the Horology Hub community, we have a literal team of global builders that could help fulfill any outstanding builds for our clients.

Building Trust and Commitment

Staging payments in this manner is not just about easing financial tension; it’s also a powerful tool for building trust. By taking on the responsibility of crafting the watch without immediate (full) compensation, I am sending a clear message of commitment and confidence in my own skills. The client can sense this commitment and is often more at ease throughout the process.

Furthermore, this approach subtly shifts the conversation from a transactional one to a more collaborative one, which it should be. The client feels more like a partner in the creation process, knowing that the final payment (representing my profit and hard work) is contingent on their satisfaction with the finished product.

The Motivational Factor

From a personal perspective, this method serves as a powerful motivational tool. Knowing that my profit comes after the successful completion of the watch pushes me to ensure that every piece I craft is of the highest standard. It’s not just about finishing the project; it’s about perfecting it, knowing that my reward is tied to the culmination of my efforts.  This is why it’s almost always better to have one cookie now, and another later, vs two cookies now and feeling uncomfortable.

A Win-Win for Both Parties

In essence, staging payments in watch building — or in any craft, for that matter — can be seen as a trust-building exercise. The client takes on less financial risk initially, and I, the watch builder, work with a clear goal in sight: delivering a masterpiece that justifies the subsequent costs of labor, tax, and shipping.

In the end, this approach fosters a stronger bond between the client and the craftsman. It promotes a mutual respect where both parties recognize and appreciate the value each brings to the table. By understanding the psychological benefits and implications of this payment structure, we can create a business model that’s both profitable and deeply rewarding.