Whoever loves the outdoors and watches will inevitably wonder what kind of watch to bring on an adventure. We picture ourselves wearing a certain watch to do a certain activity and then look for it on the market. We go on a hunt, hoping to find that one timepiece that will match our specific requirements: good water resistance, great proportions, a robust build. The hunt—a term that sounds a little caveman-ish at times—is an integral part of watch collecting and especially, I would say, for those of us who are into sports watches.
In a sense, watchmakers go through the same process in conceptualizing a watch. When thinking about a new collection, Chris Boudreaux, the cofounder of the Vero Watch Company, first pictures a situation he could find himself in and then what kind of watch he would be wearing. This is how he figures out the perfect recipe for a new collection—the right dimensions, design, and colors—whether it be a field watch or a dive watch. Whoever thinks this way, then, will assuredly make and wear the proper timekeeping device.
It Starts With a Vision
All great product designers have had a vision at some point in their life that took time to become a reality. It’s not that they can’t act on it as soon as it manifests itself. It’s just that they know that they must allow this vision time to take on a life of its own and come to full maturity and perfection. It takes a certain type of person to trust one’s own instincts, not only to nurture that vision but also have the courage to realize when it’s ready to be shared with the world.
Chris and his team went through this process. They had wanted to create their own watches for a long time while they kept themselves busy running a sporting goods store and selling EDC items (everyday carry.) Chris, who had been collecting watches for a while, knew that he wanted to create a watch company, and his friends and his team encouraged him to make it a priority.
Chris had always been an accomplished athlete and businessman, running marathons and participating in the Ironman competition multiple times while also running a sports equipment store. His relationship with horology goes back many years. The first significant foray into watch collecting came in the form of buying a Breitling for Bentley 6.75 to mark the personal milestone of his marriage. Quite a hefty and massive watch that projects a particular type of horological sportiness, this watch prompted him to explore more models from various brands, all somewhat adventure/outdoor-inclined in the likes of Panerai, Bell & Ross, and Tudor. Chris, therefore, has always been attracted to well-made, rugged sports watches from known watchmaking houses.
While Chris and his friend were running the store, then, Chris kept mentioning—in passing, he thought—that he would love to create a watch company. He spoke about it so often and with such passion that his friend felt compelled to eventually point out that they should really give creating a watch company a try. They both realized this was the project they had been looking for, so finally in 2015, they founded Vero. Vero is latin for “truth”, a clear and immediate indication of how the two friends wanted to go about creating their own brand and first model: with authenticity.
This vision, then, was born several years before Vero was incorporated. It is my personal opinion—based on multiple conversations with brand owners—that the longer a vision is left to mature in our creative mind, the better the product that comes from this vision will be. I could draw several parallels with some of my favorite microbrands—Todd Adams from Seaholm, Jérôme Burgert from Serica, and Lasse Roxrud Farstad from Straum, for example—in which the creators of the brands spent several years thinking about creating a watch brand and envisioning their first model. The same is true for Chris and Vero.
Their Vision for Horology
Back in 2015, there were many conversations in the microbrand world about the provenance of the materials and parts that make up a watch. There were many brands that used to refrain from disclosing information about where their watches were made, even though it was easy to guess that they did not come from Switzerland. This was based on the fact that many brands sold watches in the $250-$500 price range (the cost of labor in Switzerland naturally makes any proper sports watch sell for more than $500). It is in that context that Vero was born, and it was clear that the brand wanted to do something different. They wanted to be upfront about where their watches came from, for instance, and where the parts were made, which didn’t dissuade them from offering a whopping 10-year warranty, which had never been seen in the microbrand world (only Swiss giants had been offering such warranties until Vero came along).
Most independent video and written reviews you can find about Vero watches will mention at some point in the storyline that all parts were made somewhere and assembled in Vero’s studio in Portland, Oregon. Until 2021, most of the parts were actually made in the United States and assembled in Oregon, but that year, the company decided to shift production to Switzerland. They made that decision so that they could maintain the sought-after Vero quality while lowering the retail price of their watches to make them more competitive and produce larger quantities of watches to make them more readily available. So, regardless of where the watches are made, they are built to high standards, and that is why the company backs up all of their watches with a 10-year, no-questions-asked warranty.
Again, it is uncommon if not unheard of for a microbrand to offer such a warranty, given the fact that brands have to cover the cost of the repairs. In the case of Vero, they cover the cost of any repair, regardless of what it is: cracked bezels, faulty movements, dislodged indices, you name it. They do so because, first of all, they believe that their watches are top-notch, and secondly, they don’t want their customers to worry about what could happen to their watches while using them while hiking, competing in a triathlon, climbing Mount Everest, or diving deep in the ocean. They want the watches to spend as much time as possible on the wrist of their fans.
And this brings us back to the name, Vero.
Chris and his team were deliberate in choosing the name Vero. It became a sort of mantra, an everyday reminder to be true to themselves and to their customers. Being true to themselves meant being okay with their vision of creating classic sports watches that can be worn in any situation. Incidentally, they adopted the “classic” terminology for their watches because a lot of brands were already marketing their products as sport watches for the everyday adventurer already, and Vero didn’t want to be yet another brand that seemingly makes watches that can truly only be worn in specific situations. Vero wanted to make this kind of timepiece to be worn in specific situations, and that is what they went for, regardless of the conventional wisdom of the time. As we will see later in this article, Vero goes through a particular process to design its models that reinforces their company value of maintaining integrity to their founding vision.
The Creative Process
Each new model first starts as an idea, an image that forms inside Chris’ creative mind. Being an athlete and an outdoorsman, he imagines different types of situations he (or any outdoorsy person) might find himself in, be it camping, hiking, or competing in a triathlon. From this image comes a questioning process that defines what the watch will do and how it will look. He asks such questions as what functions does it have to fulfill in that situation?; what dial colors would be appropriate for it?; how big or small does the watch have to be in order to be comfortable in that situation? This critical questioning process results in a list of specifications that the watch would have to be endowed with in order to fulfill the function Chris envisions for it.
Once he and his team have completed the list, they move on to the next phase: creating a mood board. They accumulate a plethora of photos of someone doing this particular activity in different locations with different types of equipment at different times of day. They look for inspiration and seek to understand what most people doing this activity would need from a watch and what other type of EDC this person would have. Interestingly, they don’t include pictures of people wearing watches because they don’t want the creative process to be guided by the vision of another brand or something else that already exists. Every time they create a watch, they seek to get deep into the psyche of the person doing this activity at the highest peak of their performance.
Once this phase is done, they get in touch with an industrial designer to help render the prototype concept in technical drawings. After this comes the manufacturing of multiple prototypes, which requires a lot of back and forth with the designer and the factory, and then getting the models assembled and regulated in the United States. From the first glimpse of the vision to a sellable product, the entire process of creating each watch model takes one and a half years on average. Think of how many models Vero has released thus far going through this tedious process and how many might be coming soon. When you see a Vero watch, it is not surprising that it takes that much time to create a good tool watch.
The Importance of Imagery
The very first time I came across Vero I was struck by how nice their imagery is. The photography they display on their website and Instagram page is as good if not better than what Swiss luxury brands produce in order to advertise their latest sports watches. Their images are moody, full of contrast, and have a certain explosive level of energy that makes you want to strap a Vero watch on and go on an adventure. Whether they are showcasing their current model (the Open Water) or their previous one (the Centuries series), the imagery conveys something powerful. It scratches this secret itch we have to pack our bags and go climb a mountain or dive the Great Barrier Reef. Their watches are tool watches, and the imagery matches their purpose. I find it sad when a brand makes a great tool watch but only has studio shots with which to publicize them. Current marketing trends emphasize letting the potential customer see watches being used for their intended purpose, and Vero does a great job at this.
Imagery is important because it communicates what the brand is all about and who it is made for. Being a brand that makes sport watches made for use outdoors and in all conditions (instead of gathering dust in a watch deck) means that their imagery needs to communicate this. Chris and his team therefore spend a lot of time creating a visual identity that could then be adopted by photographers who support the brand and wear Vero watches. It has taken time to create this identity because it has to convey the right message. The images cannot be over the top and improbable. They can’t, for example, show a random person walking on the surface of the moon or an office worker hiking Mount Everest. Instead, they show normal people doing normal outdoor activities with passion.
Now that we know a little bit about the brand and its philosophy, let’s take a quick look at the collections they have released thus far. Vero started with a bang in 2016 by introducing their first model, the VS, a time-only fully-polished tool watch equipped with an Eterna movement, and every part of which was manufactured in the United States. The VS sold for almost $3,000, and while it may be a lot of cash to spend on the first model of a new brand, the watch received critical acclaim. This is no small feat for timepieces produced domestically, which is not something that could have been said of many brands in 2016. Their second model, the SW, which was released in 2018, was a bulbous field watch with big Arabic numerals and alternating case finishings. So far, so good: definitely a thing for well-made sports watches. That same year, they announced their 36mm hand-wound Rally and Sunset collections, elegant and sporty field watches. Still good.
In 2018, the automatic variants, the Rally and Sunset models, were released in what was named the Centuries collection, which came in both 36 and 40mm cases. The brand continued on its path to offer well-built sports watches. In 2018 and 2019, Vero released limited editions in partnership with Worn & Wound in 2021 before going through some internal restructuring and releasing the Open Water series, their current dive watch collection.* Now Vero is working on yet another stunning collection of field watches, this time in the form of their Workhorse Chronograph (see picture below), a return to the brand’s bold and rugged tool watch designs that are reminiscent of their SW collection. As you can see, the people at Vero have been busy working on new models consistently, and Chris said they have some other cool stuff coming out in 2022.
*Earlier we mentioned that Vero switched to sourcing Swiss-made parts to lower the production costs and manufacture more watches. This transformation took place in 2020/2021.
If you are into the outdoors, sports, exploration, and you have an affinity for watches and well-made things, you should take a look at Vero’s catalog and history. Sometimes we see brands coming to life and offering over-specced watches that seem too good to be true, and upon first inspection, one or several shortcomings usually become immediately apparent. These brands, coincidently, do not offer a 10-year, no-questions-asked warranty but often a one- or two-year limited warranty, so the fact that Vero offers that kind of warranty and is more than transparent about where their watches are made indicates something unique: they have full confidence that their watches are built to specifications and truly are tool watches that everyone can afford (unlike Swiss luxury timepieces). It is heartwarming, then, for a collector who’s into sports and tool watches to see that they won’t have to save up for a decade to buy a decent watch.
Thanks for reading.