Q&A: TW Steel Cofounder Jordy Cobelens
September 25, 2013 | by Cait Rohan | Watches
Netherlands native Jordy Cobelens is the CEO and cofounder of internationally-acclaimed luxury watch brand TW Steel. It would be a huge accomplishment for anyone, but it’s especially impressive considering Cobelens is only 30 years old—and the company he created in 2005 with his father Ton Cobelens recently announced that it is now sold in a whopping 100 countries. To boot, the brand released the CEO Tech World Centennial timepiece to mark the milestone. Add in the company’s announcement as the “Official Sponsor” of the Yamaha Factory Racing Team and multiple partnerships within the music industry (Jordy is a DJ with multiple contacts in the business), and there are lots of reasons to celebrate TW Steel.
Give us the story behind TW Steel’s start.
JORDY COBELENS: I actually was in the music business at the time, and I saw that bigger watches became more popular when I was going out, or [when] I was DJing, I saw that girls were wearing the bigger watches and there wasn’t something available in that price point in oversized watches. We started off with four different executions—TW 1, 2, 3, and 4. TW Steel means ‘the watch in steel’ because there were four steel cases. We launched it in the Dutch market, got some retailers that took on the brand, got some ambassadors from the music world because I knew them already, and the brand started to do quite nicely in Holland. All of a sudden we went from two, three countries to like 10, 20, 40, 50. So it’s been quite a roller-coaster ride ever since.
How did TW Steel get involved with motorsports?
JC: In our second year, [...] we started to use motorsport as a platform, got involved in some local races then moved into A1GP, which was a more global series. We did that for one year and then moved into the pinnacle of motorsports: We sponsored our first Formula 1 team, which changed the whole perception of the brand. All of the sudden people were like, ‘Wow the brand is only four years old, already signing a major sponsorship deal with a Formula 1 team.’ This is our fourth year now and we are collaborating with Sahara Force India, and it’s been great so far. The motorsport has brought a lot of success to TW Steel. So that’s why we’ve [got] another big sponsorship deal with the Yamaha Factory Racing team. [It’s] great for exposure and also we’re the first brand in the world that was ever given a license from Yamaha. They’ve never done that before in the history of the company. They’re going to put all the Yamaha TW Steel products in all the dealers around the world. So we’re retailing now in about 6,000 stores.
Tell us a little bit about the CEO Tech World Centennial watch.
JC: I think the brand’s getting stronger—we started out with products around the $300-$500 [range]. When we started to invest more, we definitely saw that the brand could introduce some more expensive pieces. We started to go up, and up, and they were always extremely well-received. And when we hit country number 100 on the global map, we decided to create a really special piece, which was the $100,000 TW Steel. [It’s] full of diamonds and it’s a fantastic-looking piece, and we also won a couture people’s choice award with it.
What’s it like to work with your dad?
JC: I travel the world, I run the whole business side. I go back to him and I say what I see around the world—color-wise and trends. That just makes us a very powerful team, and he just amazes me every time with the beautiful things that he comes up with.
You partner with a lot of people in the music industry like DJs and Kelly Rowland. Do you have anyone you’d like to work with next in particular?
JC: We’ve never gone out and just searched for someone because we feel that people need to be passionate about the brand, [such as] Kelly Rowland. She was already wearing TW Steel before she got involved with us, and we saw a great opportunity with her. She loved the product. So it was mutually like ‘let’s make this work.’ It creates a different situation when both people really want the relationship instead of us going through an agent.
What would you say is your favorite TW Steel watch?
JC: I think still the Canteen style—the TW 1, 2. The ones that we started with I feel very passionate about because with those watches we proved everybody wrong; everybody said that TW Steel was a trend, and those pieces are still the bestselling pieces in the collection. So it shows that we’re not a fashion brand. We’re an affordable luxury lifestyle brand.
Even though you’re a classic brand, any watch trends to look out for right now?
JC: The overall design, that’s timeless. But the colors, the executions, those are more what’s happening, or what we feel are the new trends coming up. So, blue and rose-gold, that’s very strong right now. We see yellow-gold coming back. Rose-gold is still strong but yellow-gold is really picking up again. The black—the all black—is still popular. The black with the colors is going away a little bit. The titanium BVD, that’s a very strong color now as well.
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.