In Conversation With: Daniel Aellig, Chief Commercial Officer At NORQAIN On The Adventurous Element Off Watchmaking

In Conversation With: Daniel Aellig, Chief Commercial Officer At NORQAIN On The Adventurous Element Of Watchmaking

THM Desk
14 Jun 2023 |
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It's time to discover a watch brand that captures the spirit of freedom and exploration. Designed and manufactured in the heart of Switzerland, Norqain watches represent more than just the passing of time. These watches, made to exacting standards, are worthy companions for those who seek adventure, challenge convention, and chart their own course. Norqain stands out from the crowd thanks to the company's long heritage and dedication to quality. So, whether you're braving the great outdoors or the concrete jungle, a Norqain watch is the pinnacle of personal expression and boldness.

The Hour Markers caught up with Daniel Aellig, Chief Commercial Officer at Norqain to get insights into their world, novelties, and more! Let’s get straight to it.

THM: A brand that is known for its robust timepieces and multiple utilities. Can you tell us more about the brand?

Daniel: NORQAIN is a very adventurous and sporty brand and our timepieces are built to reflect this spirit and DNA. The watches are designed to be worn while living an active lifestyle like for example running a Marathon or hiking or climbing in the mountains.

Daniel Aellig, Chief Commercial Officer At NORQAIN

THM: A very interesting aspect that caught our attention is that you have vegan straps. Everyone is talking about metal and saving metal. The consumption globally is billions of tons. The entire watch industry combined would be less than a percent. So when you say I save metal on my watch it really has more than that. But at the same time when you talk about straps, it is huge. Can you shed light on how sustainability is at the forefront for Norqain?

Daniel: As a young company we definitely want to do our part in terms of a sustainable business, be it using recyclable or bio sources materials or our decision in 2021 to only use animal cruelty-free materials resulting out of our partnership with wildlife ambassador Dean Schneider. Dean founded the Hakuna Mipaka Oasis in South Africa which is home to thousands of animals of which some were born in captivity and then rescued. Dean and Ben have become good friends and this close partnership lead to the decision, to not produce any leather straps anymore and only use animal cruelty-free materials for our products. We searched for alternatives of which one is the vegan certified rubber, which is produced by our close partner BIWI, a leading company in the watch industry in terms of rubber straps, different materials, and innovation. Also, the case material (Norteq) of our Wild ONE timepieces, has been developed in collaboration with BIWI and is made out of 40% bio-sourced materials.

Wild One x Dean Schneider
Wild One x Dean Schneider

THM: The watch industry is known for its innovation and the advancements that are happening. How is Norqain keeping up with the trends? What has the journey been like for the brand?

Daniel: The journey has been fantastic and it's clear that as a young and up-coming brand in the industry, we need to be aware of the trends. We need to be innovative in terms of products, in terms of designs, in terms of construction. In this part, we are really investing a lot. It's also a mission of ours to be one of the leading brands in terms of innovation. I believe we showed a good sign with the construction of the Wild One timepiece. It's a new and very innovative case construction that hasn't been done before. The goal was to create the ultimate high-performance mechanical sports watch. With the Wild ONE, we presented a very light but at the same time super robust and shock-absorbing watch that you can wear during any type of activity, for example playing golf or mountain biking.

Norqain Watches

THM: The Norteq material is also what the brand emphasizes. What is so special about this?

Daniel: The Norteq material is a new material that we developed together with our partner BIWI. It is a composite made out of carbon fibers and a high-tech polymer. So it is very light and at the same time also very robust. The unique element of the Norteq material is that we are able to color it. We managed to inject the right “amount” of color into the composite itself to have a through-and-through colored Norteq material (not coated). The limited edition Wild ONE Burgundy was the first Wild ONE timepiece we launched with a colored Norteq material.

Norqain Matterhorn

THM: That’s spectacular. Well, Norqain cannot be spoken about without speaking about Breitling. Ted is from Breitling. Are the watches not inspired by Breitling? What is it that is helping you with your experience and other partners at Norqain?

Daniel: Ben, NORQAIN founder and CEO was at Breitling before and was a close friend of the Schneider family which owned Breitling before the company was sold in 2017. Ben’s father has been producing Swiss-made luxury timepieces for the past 40 years. Ted and Ben are childhood friends and both grew up in the watch industry. So although NORQAIN is a young company, it consists of a big amount of experience within the watch industry and therefore also a large network. Ted knows many players within the industry and is also a great asset when it comes to new trends. Further Jean-Claude Biver also joined NORQAIN as an advisor to the board. He was inspired by the energy and dynamism of the young team at NORQAIN and of course of the entrepreneurship and vision of Ben and is working closely together with Ben to support NORQAIN in terms of product development and innovation. Jean-Claude played an important role in the development of the Wild ONE timepiece.

Norqain Team

THM: Talking about brand building, in terms of a brand, 2018 is when Norqain came into existence. Now, it's just been a little more than five years since the first watch launched. And there are brands that are hundreds of years old, who have the lineage, technology, in-house calibers, a similar price bracket, etc. So how do you face this challenge in terms of brand positioning? And also, product positioning?

Daniel: It's a challenge that we have every day and we see ourselves as a challenger brand. When Ben founded NORQAIN in 2018 he was aware that nobody was really waiting for a new watch brand, but still, there is potential. NORQAIN is a dynamic and innovative brand and a fresh alternative to the larger luxury groups. We are an independent, family-owned company, that wants to keep a close relationship with our partners and customers and also spread the passion for mechanical watches to the younger generation.

NORQAIN as a brand is positioned in an overall sporty environment, focusing on pillars like running or also Ice hockey. For example, we are the official timekeeper of the New York City Marathon, partnered with the Dubai Marathon in February, the Zurich Marathon in April, the Sundown Marathon in Singapore in May, and signed a new long-term partnership as the official timekeeper for the Berlin Marathon taking place in October. This of course is a big field we are further developing and implementing in new markets which is a great booster for our brand awareness.

Norqain Caseback

In terms of product positioning, we want our timepieces to reflect the adventurous and sporty DNA of NORQAIN. A watch that you can wear for all activities and adventures. Further, we want to offer a high-quality timepiece at an attractive price point and keep developing and innovating in terms of products and materials.


THM: You project the brand through sponsorships but when it comes to appealing to the audience, watchmakers are using collaborations as a way to communicate to the audience. Will we see any collaborations with other watchmakers, or watch brands?

Daniel: For the moment there are no such collaborations foreseen, but we will see what the future brings. Our current collaborations are with our partnerships where we create special editions like the Wild ONE for the New York City Marathon or the Wild ONE Hakuna Mipaka edition in collaboration with our brand ambassador Dean Schneider.

Official timekeeper for New York City Marathon

THM: Norqain always projects itself as an adventure brand and does partnerships around that. Are you also thinking of going into the non-adventure side of things? The dressy, if I may call it, watch?

Daniel: For the moment, all the watches have a sporty touch to them. Even our vintage-inspired watches have a sportiness in the design. We try to listen to the market and see what the requests are to implement them into our NORQAIN timepieces. We launched the Independence Skeleton in 2021 which was a new approach in terms of design and movement and instantly became a huge success for us, so we will see what will come in the coming years.

Watch Categories

THM: Why do you think the skeleton is doing this well?

Daniel: It is not only the Skeleton timepieces it is the entire Independence collection that experienced great development, but also due to the launch of the Wild ONE timepieces in September 2022. The Independence collection is probably the most characteristic collection for NORQAIN timepieces when it comes to case design and innovation. And with our Skeleton model, we have a very high-end looking timepiece with a case with three different finishings (polished, satin brushed and sand blasted) and COSC-certified Skeleton movement positioned at a retail price of CHF 3’790.-. So I believe the great price-quality ratio is surely also an important factor for the success of this model.

Independence Skeleton

THM: When it comes to communicating the brand ethos, are you still facing the challenge? When it comes to your partners, what are the kinds of insights you share with them? Why should one choose Norqain?

Daniel: The price-quality offering is surely a main factor when it comes to sales arguments for NORQAIN timepieces. Further, we also have an easy and very convenient way for the customer to personalise his timepiece. Every NORQAIN watch comes with a NORQAIN plate on the side which, if desired, one can personalize and add a personal and emotional touch to your watch. This, together with the independence of the brand and the family behind it are strong characteristics of NORQAIN.

THM: Are people receptive to the idea of personalization on watches?

Daniel: You can see a variation from one market to another. For example, in the US around 70-75% of all sold watches are personalized. Some push the possibility of personalization a bit more than others and some “cultures” are more receptive towards this feature, but in general, it is definitely a nice touch you can add to your timepiece.


THM: Sustainability and personalization are big trends in the world of watchmaking. But, another one is smaller dials. Do you think Norqain is going to cater to that because that's a very big audience?

Daniel: I wouldn't say that we're never going to bring smaller dials. We actually decreased the size of the Independence with the new models we launched in a 40mm case size following requests and trends on the market, so we may see some further evolutions in the future.

Norqain Watch
THM: Lastly, what message would you give out to the watch collectors out there to buy a Norqain timepiece?

Daniel: Well, it's buying into a brand where you can be part of creating it’s story. There's no long history of 100 years or so, so you can still join the journey at an early stage. It is the new generation in the watch industry that is behind NORQAIN which wants to further develop design and innovation within watchmaking, so you will also be adding your support towards that. Then of course you are buying a watch that can join you on all your adventure and offers great price-quality within the industry.

Well, on that note, we hope this conversation brought out the adventurous spirit in you!