by Franklyn Calle / @FrankieC7
Have you ever tried finding a watch that truly matches with your kicks, but then ended up feeling disappointed in the options available? Well if you have, you aren’t the only one. And it even seems like if you are a basketball fan, then your options are just that much more limited and subpar. Kingson Tse and Ryan Pietersz have felt this way for a long time and so they decided to do something about it. They launched a watch collection that caters to this underserved market. After launching Meister in 2009, during a time when the economy was crumbling with the worst recession in decades and when everyone told them not to go ahead with the start-up, the longtime friends decided to follow their dreams and launched the independent watch company anyways. Then just a couple of years later they opted to create a brand that brought watches and kicks together, Prodigy.
The idea of Meister commenced in Tse’s garage and that’s after the entrepreneur duo had already launched and failed in four previous businesses. “We basically started in the negatives. We lost money from our previous businesses and had to loan money from a friend in order to start the Meister business. We actually knew one of the manufacturers, so they gave us time to sell the watches. So we got our first batch of products; we started off with like 300 to 500 watches. We then started selling the products to our friends and family. Everyone loved it. We sold out of those within a few months. And then we just built a website and kept going—going to trade shows, starting to get our products on blogs, and selling to some retailers that we hooked up with. We were basically buying the product and selling it, and then saving up the money and reinvesting in the business all over again. From zero to now, we have come a long way,” recalls Tse.
Meister, which is German for master, was launched with the idea of inspiring everyone to do just that—master the craft. “The whole concept behind it was that we wanted everyone to master whatever it is that they are doing. To master the craft and become the best you can be at whatever you do,” says Tse. Adds Pietersz, “Meister is when you get to the level where you are teaching other people. And we basically want to inspire other people to do the same at whatever you do. We want you to be at the top of your level and be at a level where you can teach and help other people to inspire others.”
Meister seemed to cater to a more high-end demographic that wanted a timepiece to wear for special occasions. But what about the sneakerheads and devoted kicks collectors that simply want a watch that would look perfect with their footwear? Having grown up playing the game of basketball since a very young age, and also collecting all sorts or Nike Airs and Jordans throughout the years—a lifestyle that goes hand-in-hand for many basketball fans, especially young ones—Pietersz and Tse felt that there weren’t any watch brands out there that were particularly trying to accommodate those kicks fanatics. Looking to create watches that folks could wear and match with their sneakers, and not look tacky while at it, the idea of the Prodigy as a sub-brand was born in 2011. “Our Prodigy model is our most popular model,” says Piertersz. “We feel people like Prodigy because of the colorways and the material that we use. It’s an everyday watch that you could wear. It’s light and looks good. That’s the main thing, you can wear them for any occasions, really. Our favorite features of the watches are basically the multi-pieces design compared to other watch brands, which allows us to mix so many different pieces with different colors. Most of the other companies just have a one-piece deign. We wanted to create a more sporty line that could be used everyday, versus our Meister one that most people wear for special occasions. We wanted to have something that you can wear everyday and had more sneaker colorways, so now our main focus is doing sneaker colorways for the watches with this new brand—Prodigy.”
A market that had seemingly been neglected for years was now about to get a much needed boost. Says Pietersz: “We wanted to create unique timepieces that matched our outfits. At the time there was nobody else doing it. We just wanted to do something different. There is Nixon and then there is G-Shock. There weren’t any affordable watches out at the time that were really dope. All the cool watches were over $1,000, and the only left was the G-Shocks but that’s what we wore when we were kids and we were kind of looking for something with a more grown-up feel. Then Nixon is all action sports, but we’re not surfers or skaters or anything like that. We are deep involved in basketball and basketball shoes. We just wanted something that could match that lifestyle.”And so they began matching sneakers colorways with the watches, as well as materials that would best complement the two.
But then the question becomes why has this market been neglected for so many years, considering the large fan base that this particular group of basketball/sneakers/hip-hop fans holds? Maybe it’s just that the guys running these other watch brands can’t relate. “I feel like not too many brands care,” adds Pietersz. “They appeal to a general crowd, but we actually live that niche crowd. I think the sports crowd we market to, we relate to basketball fans in terms of team colors and kicks colorways. There’s not too many people trying to target the sneaker market, especially the basketball sneaker market, because they probably think it’s too difficult. There are companies like AP [Audemars Piquet] that sponsor LeBron [James], but those are $20,000 watches—there’s not too many people that are going to be buying that.”
PRDGY couldn’t have been launched at a better time. In recent years, basketball players have gotten much more involved in fashion. From LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, today’s basketball stars are constantly shown walking in to arenas or at podiums during post-games interviews donning flamboyant, GQ-esque outfits. And among the details that have garnered attention have been the accessories accompanying those outfits. This recent upsurge of fashion-conscience star athletes have led to a demand for top-notch fashions-statement accessories by fans, including youngsters. “We’ve noticed that for a lot of people that buy our watches it’s actually the first watch they’ve purchased,” says Tse. “Back in the day, there were a whole more people that used to wear watches. Just maybe ten years ago. But now people are getting more stylish, even for the basketball fans, they want to get dressed up now. People are trying to add to their swag and stuff—wearing specific headphones because they see basketball players wearing those things. So some of our customers, they’re leaning toward that way. For basketball fans, I don’t think there are any watch labels out there that are trying to relate to them. You have headphone companies like Skullcandy that do licensing for basketball, and they’re able to sign a lot more guys because they are just bigger than us, but that’s the direction we are trying to go. Our customers are into basketball, a little into fashion but not a whole lot, so it fits with their image.” Therefore, it’s also safe to say that PRDGY fits right in with the image of this fashion-forward generation.
While Meister was all about mastering the craft, PRDGY is all about those who got next. “Prodigy is similar,” says Tse. “You’re an up-and-comer. You know you are going to be successful one day but you’re still working on your craft and finding your path, and eventually you’ll get there.” Adds Pietersz, “Meister is probably a little more expensive. We came out with Prodigy so that we could give the younger crowd something within their reach.”
The basketball world has already taken notice. Guys like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook have all been seen rocking the watches. But there’s one in particular that has aligned with the PRDGY brand to a much more greater extent. “Once we started marketing our brand, a lot of the guys in the NBA just started digging the product,” says Piertersz. “Brandon Jennings is one of the local guys here in Los Angeles that we just happened to know through a few friends of ours. He started wearing the watches from the start and really liked it, so we asked him if there was one we could make for him and then that’s how we put together a watch for him.”
So there you have it. There are now no excuses as to why your kicks and timepieces don’t match. All things considered, the next time you’re looking for an accessory to go with your new fresh kicks, you might want to think about getting a PRDGY. So many of your favorite ball players already have.
For more information on the entire PRDGY watch collection, check the official website here. Stay tuned on Monday for a very cool giveaway contest that involves some well-known kicks and PRDGY. You’re going to want in on this one!