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Discussion Starter #1
When I thought things we progressing well on my entrepreneurial venture the excitement has turned to anger since my supplier has swindled me! A lot of you gave me valuable feedback on my thread here:
http://www.watchfreeks.com/33-general-watch-discussions/175114-feedback-needed-pre-prototype-sastek.html
and its such support that kept me buoyant working through making the project a reality.
However, after working on it for 6 months my supplier has suddenly turned around and said: we do not have the time to work on it, its complicated, so we are backing off from it, you gave us a large sum of "development" money thank you for that but we are not proceeding with it. Bye!
I am seeking legal assistance but would like to A) Highlight the issue to other potential members who might want to design a watch B) Like to know what I can do now? Defame them online? What are my rights

Ok, so here are the details:

  • I decide to design my own watch in Feb. Being an automotive engineer, I know CAD so I drafted up a complete design as close as possible to what I envisioned.
  • I search for potential suppliers in Asia, EU. I was a bit weary of working with Asian suppliers directly, in hindsight, a mistake. I work for a Korean company and actively get involved in technical discussions. I could have do it myself! But, a company with decent website based in Netherlands came up. Not naming them atm. Spoke to the owner(has no clue about watches, marketing guy), confident in delivering a successful product. Good! The technical guy who works for him, is the designer for some successful startup brands, has his own brand and has "20+ years of watchmaking experience" as advertised on watchuseek- based in Turkey. Again, not taking names. Spoke to him, he knew what he was taking about boasting about all his successful projects .
  • I thought, OK. I am already a full time engineer, rather than work with Asian suppliers at odd times morning/night lets work with a "middleman" who can deliver the project in the quality I need. I was already brainwashed by the Turkish guy saying: If you work with chinese suppliers directly they will promise you XYZ give you ABC or not give you anything etc etc.
  • So what was agreed then. For the sum of 3600 EUROS as development fees which would cover 2D design, 3D models, renderings, 3x finished prototypes, promotional animation video, half the development cost refunded upon successful production order, production support and release based on approval from customer. The verbal assumption was "you are a startup, the watch has to be made in Asia not Switzerland"
  • They designed a watch case for me based on my direction, in week 2 of working. Good progress made. Regarding the dial details, since I knew CAD software, instead of sending them a rough drawn sketch, I sent them CAD models to help speed things. I made it clear, this is what I am thinking as a concept however, we need to make the watch productionizable. No point making something fancy that cannot be produced. If you see the watch renders, the hour hand is bent. Its not visible but the minute disc has a step edge to avoid light passing through and the crystal is printed.
  • At this point, this guy got way too busy working on his other successful customers constantly avoiding communication telling me ill get back to you etc.
  • Again, knowing CAD, my thought was..OK ..its my project..I want it to work.. So if he didnt have time to 3D design, I skyped him..asked him.. "Is this feature easy to make..do you think its doable?" .." Yes Yes..its just bent hands ..very easy" Ok then..I will design it as we discussed. So after multiple discussions, he did not even touch the hands, dial CAD files. Simply pasted it into the case geometry and gave me renders of the final design. At that point based on his "years of experience" everything is easy, doable.
  • Then I didnt hear back for a while again cause he was busy. I requested him to design the caseback based on a photo. No response, so I did it myself and sent him the file. again, "all easy no problem". I doubt he actually looked through what I sent him..cause he was "busy"..
  • I requested prototype release around May. That time the design had tritium tubes (2x) which were "very easy and industry standard".. Suddenly I am told, we are waiting to hear from supplier so we cannot commit to tritium tubes..We are working on another watch for a customer so you need to wait for two months so we can see the result of this supplier! WTF! 2 months wasted?!
  • I spent a month, then redesigned the tritium tubes out made changes resent files to them. All being done by me, they didn't have the time so I didnt want to wait around. I pressured them that the tritium issue is negated now..go for the release,... and they wasted more time..basically the 2 months as above I dont think was for the supplier..they didnt have time.
  • Then..last changes as I posted on my watch page were re rendered by him. 2 Weeks ago, our conversation was " Dont worry its very easy project... dial printing we do it many times...not difficult at all" .
  • Then I get a mail.. The bent hands are more difficult than I thought. No supplier in China can make it. Can you redesign it. I was annoyed since in the last 6 months he did not even look though the files I sent him for feasibility checks. OK..fine.. I will redesign it to move forward.
  • In 1 day, I sat through the night..did the changes and sent the files. The next day," this minute disc shape with the step. Its not easy to make, suppliers want to change it.. You have made it complicated" ..i Said" but you said its ok..remember our detailed discussions on it?" Whatever.. I will redesign it again and send it..
  • The next day Monday 17/8/2015:
Hi Saket,
I have news for you but not good ones. We are very very tight with our producttion as you know and your project was the last one which we accepted, but it is getting far more complicated as before estimated. That is why we decided not to go through the sample manufacturing process with you. If you agree, we can recommend you a capable supplier for you or you take care of one by yourself. We are just afraid we cannot give your project the attention which it needs.
Thanks for understanding
Best Regards


My response and the mail exchange:

This is extremely disappointing and unprofessional. I can understand that you have been quite busy and my project was the last that was accepted, but then why did you take it up if you were unsure about it right from the start? Regarding the project being complicated, why has this been discovered now? It was simply because there was no time/attention devoted into the project. The reason I went ahead with your company for this project was your experience. At the start everything was ok and easy and now suddenly it is complicated to manufacture. Yes it all boils down to lack of time for this project but here is where I think the problem was:

  • Compared to some of your other customers, I am an engineer and deal with CAD design, engineering problems everyday. I understand, when you ask for 3600euros in development money I am paying for you expertise. Fine.
  • I did not come to you with a paper sketch. I had done some CAD already on what I wanted and the idea was to develop it.
  • Regarding the dial, hand details etc. I spent days/nights refining the design doing all the 3D design myself. At that point, bent hands, tritium tubes everything was okay and thats what I based my design on. And here is where the problem starts! My expectation was that at this point, you look at the CAD I have made, look through the details and come back to me regarding what we can make what we cannot so i can make amendments. However, all of my 3DCAD was passed on the modelling guy and we had the first off renderings on a design that cannot be productionized. I am sorry but where was you expertise utilized? I am not a watch designer, I cadded up a shape you rendered it and we are discovering the problems now. I could have made the hands 2mm thick and they would have slipped through because no one was checking.
  • ABC, at this point you came back with the request for the second half of the development money. Even though XYZ was quite busy at this point, I was continuing to do a large part of the 3D CAD legwork of the design thinking about the ultimate goal to get a final product. I could have halted the transfer but I trusted you and XYZ's expertise to see the project through to the end knowing very well that almost all the 3D was done by me and there were no 2D drawings ready which was the second half of the development cost.
  • Caseback design, the only thing that requested to be modelled from your end. But had no response. At the end, I spent a week to do it myself and sent the design through. Again, just because I know how to use the software and was getting things done the project crept forward.
  • Tritium tubes were easy, we get to the release costings and they were not even included till I reminded about them. Then I had to wait for 2 months for the tritium tube supplier because of which I had to redo the design. And now after another month we cannot have the hands bent which were again easy at the start, the minute disc cannot be dished which it was since day 1 if it was checked.
I am sorry to say but in all of this where was the "development"? I didnt behave like a "customer" to get the best final result but all I have been doing is chasing to get bits done. I didnt see your expertise evolve the watch, i didnt see any 3D models done, 2D drawings, 3x prototypes etc. Above that I have spent 7 months over nothing. At this point all I have are renders of a design that is too complicated to produce!
I can understand that you are too busy to work on this project now. It should have come up earlier but, better late than never. It needs to be attended with detail to see it though else the end result wouldn't be as required. Therefore, I would be getting it done by myself and request you to refund the development fees for this project.

Basically, at this point, he blames ME..saying you made something difficult to produce..So we can go with swiss suppliers to make it.. Can I afford swiss suppliers ...? NO! Easy way out for them..!

Dear Saket,
All what is sketched can be done. We just have a budget problem. It is sometimes like this, you sketch something even doable but you don't know what kind of surprises expect you. With your project we are facing fundamental budget problems. Anything we sketched can be manufactured as our initial plans, but realizing that even the best asian hands supplier to manufacture the double bent hands was something new to me. We made some some experience with single bent hands but these were from swiss suppliers. You also overestimate the watchbusiness a little bit. You came up with details which were new to me. Like the reflector ring on the second and minutes hour discs. For you it is easy as an engineer to sketch it but you are not a watchmaker and you do not know whether this will affect the function of the movement in any way. With giving us an order for a Design, you cannot expect from us, that we teach you watchmaking up to all manufacturing details. We did not ask you the 3600Euro for a crashcourse in watchmaking. We asked you this in order to cover at least a small part of our expenses. We perfectly delivered a design which is doable, but it is really painful for us to see that this watch as sketched cannot be made with a low budget investment for tooling with asian suppliers. If you still insist on the ccoperation, we would need to charge you Swiss toolings and minimum order quantities and deliverytimes. At this point we cannot invest more than we did. The project as it is, with all its surprises such as the reflector ring on the hands, needs double and triple attention and we cannot guarantee this to you. We would definitely cause disappointment. That's why we prefer to back from this project. If you want us to recommend you a good supplier, we will be happy to do so.
Best Regards


So I responded back telling them that I didnt pay them 3600 EURO to cover their coffee sipping expenses!
Dear XYZ,
The current situation, how is it any different to what you had told me on day 1 of the project. That Chinese suppliers will say, yes we can produce something which is perfectly doable and then back out. I agree, the double bent hands and few aspects were different. However, it was not a hidden fact that we would be having the watch made in Asia, that was the very first assumption of the project. Bent hands, I changed the design to suite the straight hand arrangement. Regarding the reflector ring, months ago we had discussed the section view with the stepped hands and everything. That time, you mentioned we can add a ring to the edge no issue. I mentioned that specifically during our discussions a few days back, that please watch out for that detail and then you checked with your supplier and mentioned that it cannot be done. I discussed all of these details with you while doing the CAD. I can understand that you are working on multiple projects and details can be missed out but I didn't come up with something frivolous. At every step I was asking you can this be done yes/no? So I am a bit surprised that you are now mentioning that things cannot be made either completely or cost effectively. The files that I sent you the other day, I redid the design again to eliminate the chapter ring out.

Regarding a design order, I didn't want to learn watch making. That's your area of expertise. I came up to you to design and deliver a watch which looked a certain way. I knew 3D CAD so instead of just giving a pencil sketch I gave you a 3D model to work with. That's it. If you did not have the time, I decided to speak to you about all the technical details and model the watch accordingly. If it was not checked for feasibility at that stage and now if you pass the blame on me that I sketched something not feasible that is not acceptable. The 3600euro is not a small amount, neither it is a token to cover your expenses. It is an amount against which you agreed to deliver something: 3D models, 2D drawings, 3x finished prototypes and 50% development costs refunded upon successful kickstarter, but, other than a case 3D model and renders nothing has been delivered from your side. And I am sorry but the concept of "we" delivered a doable design is non existent.I tried to keep it "we" but all I did was chase up, complete 3D CAD myself and wait for a response from you and now due to lack of timely attention we are at this situation. If fact, two weeks back when we spoke you mentioned "its an easy design" and now suddenly its not doable unless we go to Swiss suppliers. I am surprised.

Even after the changes that I have done, if you cannot deliver this project then you have not held your end of the bargain. After this experience I don't want to go to a recommended supplier, who might suggest other things that are not feasible and at the end of the day no one is liable for the time and money spent. As a business with expertise in watches, if you are quoting against a deliverable the expectation that you would deliver it. If you back out then I have lost a lot of time and you would loose the development money that you quoted. I don't see any other straightforward solution to this issue.

Regards

Saket

So,after this extremely long post I am in the process of seeking legal action against them. However, the project is not dead! Like in any new venture, this is a minor hurdle that I will cross. I am pissed off but the passion to make this a reality is still there. I am going to source an Asian supplier, work with them DIRECTLY tweak the design a bit but launch it!

I would like to get some views from the forum.. I think they are wrong here. Yes? Can I go public naming them? Surely this fraudulent attitude could happen to someone else! Am I within my rights to do so? I have sent them mails saying..what you response is.? Are you going to refund me..yes/no.but they are not responding..:mad:
 

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First off, I feel for you. This is certainly difficult news.

Second, I'm no lawyer, so take what I say with that in your mind.

Do NOT publicly shame them. You risk an issue of libel there. They can then come after you for libel. I'm assuming they have deeper pockets than you do, so they'll just lock you up on court until you're tapped out. Get a lawyer first, and follow her or his guidance.

Good Luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I prefer moving forward rather than get entangled in a mess as well. Its just that they wasted my time and money! You dont think something like this will happen, so you let your guard down w.r.t written communication, documented proof. Lesson learnt but what they did was wrong, very very sly.
 

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First off, I feel for you. This is certainly difficult news.

Second, I'm no lawyer, so take what I say with that in your mind.

Do NOT publicly shame them. You risk an issue of libel there. They can then come after you for libel. I'm assuming they have deeper pockets than you do, so they'll just lock you up on court until you're tapped out. Get a lawyer first, and follow her or his guidance.

Good Luck.
I also recommend 100% in getting a lawyer. Do not defame them online. There could be serious repercussions that would hurt your case and/or pocketbook.
 

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I prefer moving forward rather than get entangled in a mess as well. Its just that they wasted my time and money! You dont think something like this will happen, so you let your guard down w.r.t written communication, documented proof. Lesson learnt but what they did was wrong, very very sly.
No doubt infuriating. Stay strong, you have a nice design.
 

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Yes, they are wrong. However, most good agents are based in Hong Kong. Never deal with a Chinese factory directly ... at least I would not recommend it for an initial watch. Look for a reputable HK agent, there are a good many. Since you have most, if not all of the development done, I would not think you would need to pay any additional money until you order components. You should be able to get feasibility out of a supplier if all of your design and data are complete.

I hope the Turkish vendor gave you good DFM advice. You may want to fly your original design with the tubes and bent hands for a good HK agent and see what they say.

Best of luck ... I know it can be frustrating to get screwed by a vendor when you are excited about a project.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Pallet Spoon.. Ideally Yes. I should go to a supplier and say these are the drawings, what needs to change? If nothing go go go..

However, they have not given me any production drawings which was part of the fees and sadly after 6 months I am none the wiser if that design can be achieved. In theory it can, since I did simplify it based on his demand. However, its a pandoras box, I dont know what he knows, that he basically switched his views in a week and backed out.

I was insisting on DFM suggestions since day 1, and all I got was "its easy" "its simple" "this is not complicated at all" .. Its more frustrating since I was working harder than them on the project and at the end they pocket my money and walk off.

But thanks for the comment about HK suppliers. I will look into it.

Yes, they are wrong. However, most good agents are based in Hong Kong. Never deal with a Chinese factory directly ... at least I would not recommend it for an initial watch. Look for a reputable HK agent, there are a good many. Since you have most, if not all of the development done, I would not think you would need to pay any additional money until you order components. You should be able to get feasibility out of a supplier if all of your design and data are complete.

I hope the Turkish vendor gave you good DFM advice. You may want to fly your original design with the tubes and bent hands for a good HK agent and see what they say.

Best of luck ... I know it can be frustrating to get screwed by a vendor when you are excited about a project.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Just as a thought, people post on Facebook etc. tag a company in the post saying "I bought this and it was delivered broken" or " I bought this car and its falling apart" .. Its the same thing isnt it? I am the consumer whom they promised something.

I also recommend 100% in getting a lawyer. Do not defame them online. There could be serious repercussions that would hurt your case and/or pocketbook.
 

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Just as a thought, people post on Facebook etc. tag a company in the post saying "I bought this and it was delivered broken" or " I bought this car and its falling apart" .. Its the same thing isnt it? I am the consumer whom they promised something.
B2B you incur additional liability. You could be putting your company (what there is of it) on the line. You are not making statements as a person, but rather as a brand or entity.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Jason, I am not sure about the EU laws though. Would need a lawyer for that. The only issue is that lawyers in England charge 300$/hr. And that the starting price!

NAME AND SHAME. It's not libel because it's true.

Furthermore, American libel and slander laws are incredibly lax.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Just as a note, my dealings with them have not been as Sastek. It was as a person. The company based in EU who I had the agreement with, are the ones I need to chase/litigate. The owner is a marketing guy who can sell watches but doesnt know how to make them.
However, the annoying thing is that the guy based in Turkey was the technical design contractor. He is the one that gave this false security that everything is easy etc etc and bailed out last minute. So if any one is the name and shame target, its him! He has a 25+ page thread on watchuseek boasting his 23 yrs watchmaking credibility. I would list the whole scenario there, not take names but enough info for people to join the dots. If I name him, he could say..I dont have any contract with you..how can you blame me... And I can do the same thing..I am talking about an XYZ turkish guy with years of watchmaking experience..I dont know who you are.. And what can he do? Sue me from Turkey, non EU?
 

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Oh, I assumed you are American. English libel laws are notoriously strict! Still, I'd name him. He's the one who dudded you and kept your money, the community would be better off knowing who this guy is.

And I seriously doubt anybody is going to waste thousands on a lawyer chasing you. Especially if they aren't American!
 

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SaSteK I apologize because I have not taken the time to read every detail of your post so I will not provide any comments on those details. However, I will say that through personal experience setting up business ventures in other countries add an element of risk that is in many cases difficult to clearly understand/appriciate especially due to local laws, and especially if you are not local. I have been burned before once which was way over $40K (including time invested) --- I recovered some but it was only due to some hard core tactics and lots of luck. Sometimes you get the feeling that how foolish could I have been when in reality its out of your hands and you made decisions that carry inherent risks. So, what I am saying is that you are not the only one who has been screwed. I know many people smarter than myself that have been screwed. Most importantly -- and I want to stress this point! You have to know when to cut your losses and move on. I always try to be diplomatic and at least try to salvage some of what I wanted then I move to strong arm tactics and then I just walk away and forget about it. Life is too short to be loaded with negative energy. Id rather channel my bandwidth to the positive side of the equation which generates positive energy = positive outcome.

Best of luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Slowmotion, you are absolutely right. I do think of the final goal as well. At the end of the day, what's victory for me.. Successfully releasing the watch or be happy about winning a case against them? The former definitely. The money spent on litigation filing would probably buy me some prototypes from Asia. In that situation, I am better of moving forward.
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However, If I don't publicize it to avoid someone else falling into this trap, then it would promote such people. I spent some of my savings on this project but would keep moving forward with the release. Someone else could loose his money and back out of the whole venture with an idea that never sees the light of day, purely because of such people.

SaSteK I apologize because I have not taken the time to read every detail of your post so I will not provide any comments on those details. However, I will say that through personal experience setting up business ventures in other countries add an element of risk that is in many cases difficult to clearly understand/appriciate especially due to local laws, and especially if you are not local. I have been burned before once which was way over $40K (including time invested) --- I recovered some but it was only due to some hard core tactics and lots of luck. Sometimes you get the feeling that how foolish could I have been when in reality its out of your hands and you made decisions that carry inherent risks. So, what I am saying is that you are not the only one who has been screwed. I know many people smarter than myself that have been screwed. Most importantly -- and I want to stress this point! You have to know when to cut your losses and move on. I always try to be diplomatic and at least try to salvage some of what I wanted then I move to strong arm tactics and then I just walk away and forget about it. Life is too short to be loaded with negative energy. Id rather channel my bandwidth to the positive side of the equation which generates positive energy = positive outcome.

Best of luck!
 

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Slowmotion, you are absolutely right. I do think of the final goal as well. At the end of the day, what's victory for me.. Successfully releasing the watch or be happy about winning a case against them? The former definitely. The money spent on litigation filing would probably buy me some prototypes from Asia. In that situation, I am better of moving forward.
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However, If I don't publicize it to avoid someone else falling into this trap, then it would promote such people. I spent some of my savings on this project but would keep moving forward with the release. Someone else could loose his money and back out of the whole venture with an idea that never sees the light of day, purely because of such people.
Hey, I hear ya 100%. My business partner said of one deal that went sideways with some guys in Peru. "They would have been better off trying to screw with the mafia" and no, I would never resort to any physical threats. In that case I know enough people in the industry we were dealing with that going public with some obscure documented proof of their past and present dealings, just like you are doing, would have cost them a whole lot of money. I always try to keep a few aces up my sleeve at all times. For me I have found that its all about minimizing the money you loose to customers not paying, damaged product, theft and general things that are out of your control -- contrasting that with maximizing the money you make. Hopefully more of the latter.
 

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BTW -- consider yourself lucky. You are dealing with the US customs. Everything Ive done is going outside of the USA. Ive been screwed by customs officials in other countries too many times to count. I refuse to pay a bribe and it has cost me way more than any bribe. You feel so helpless. I think that is why I have developed thick skin.

Keep following the path forward. Best of luck to you and keep us posted. Again, and it is probably too late with this post but try to work it out with them. Let them know/feel you are potentially a solid well funded customer they should not loose.
 
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