Interview with Morten Linde and Jorn Werdelin
Many years ago, somewhere in Denmark, two six-year-old boys became best friends. In 2002, Morten Linde and Jorn Werdelin, who worked in design and finance respectively, decided to start a watch company together naming it Linde Werdelin. Enamoured by the same passion for watches and sports, Morten and Jorn wanted to create the ultimate sports watch for men who, like them, are always on the move. As a result, Linde Werdelin is best known for developing mechanical watches with clip-on electronic computers to optimise skiing and diving experiences.
Considered at the forefront of design and functionality, Linde Werdelin has expanded internationally and is still driven onwards and upwards by its two founders and their team.
In an interview with Tharawat, the two childhood friends and business partners discussed their passion, their company, and their friendship.
How did your separate professional paths come together?
Morten: I am originally a furniture architect. I was employed in a design firm for a couple of years and then opened my own office in 1992. I already knew then that I wanted to design watches.
Jorn: I went to business school and then worked in investment and finance in London for 9 years. I grew up with a love for watches because both my father and my grandfather were jewellers and retailed high end watches and jewellery. I used to work at my father’s shops in Denmark.
Morten: In 2002, Jorn and I started talking about setting up a company together. I had previously designed watches for other brands, but was never in a position to build an entire universe around the products I crafted. I love creating watches because if you buy a fine watch, it stays with you forever. Watches speak to us about the most important thing in life – time.
What was your start-up strategy?
Morten: When we started Linde Werdelin, we tried to do it like others before us. We soon realised that being ourselves was the real ticket. We found that every time we stuck to our own story, were true to our own philosophy, we had the biggest success. Looking back, I believe we could have been more self-confident from the start.
Jorn: Continuity, innovation, and personality are the most important characteristics of a luxury good. Our ultimate goal, our moving target, is to create the ultimate sports watch. At the same time, we try to give our customers an experience that allows them to see continuity in our timepieces. Making watches is a constant quest. It is also very rewarding.
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Your designs are in high demand. To what do you attribute this success?
Morten: To create the ultimate sports watch you need digital precision. It can’t be achieved through mechanics alone. We create timepieces that are combinable with digital instruments.
Jorn: Making a good watch takes a long time and a lot of energy. It is super complicated and has certainly resulted in the meeting of our ambition and talent. I think we have reached a point where we are pretty good at what we do, though we still have a lot to learn.
Morten: To achieve success you shouldn’t go against your nature. Don’t get too carried away by what others do. Have respect for what they do but, most importantly, be yourself.
How would you describe your business personalities?
Jorn: I am quite an intuitive person. I don’t believe in long-term strategies. Over time, we have made tons of mistakes and have also had to deal with a market that has changed dramatically. In order to grow we have had to take advantage of this change, like using social media to communicate with existing and future customers. None of our work would have been possible without the Internet.
Morten: Jorn and I have a constant dialogue around the topic, “How do we innovate the way we look at time?” I work to push the limits of what is possible in terms of craftsmanship. For me, the solution almost always lies in the problem. Collaborating closely with artisans, creativity emerges from the challenges we face. I have great respect for the craft of every individual involved in the making of our watches. I appreciate every detail in their work and commit a great deal of time to achieving the best solution alongside them.
Jorn: Having been friends for so long is really important, so is having different business roles. Morten and I understand each other’s roles. It works for us. I think that trusting each other is the key.
What is your approach towards growth?
Jorn: There is a weariness of watches that have gone too crazy in terms of design. Brands emerge, don’t really make an impact, and are then sold from one investor to the next. As a small brand you have to find your way in the world. We do it by insisting on giving our brand a personal touch. We can’t grow very fast. It is a very expensive business to be in.
Also, fast growth is not suitable for us because we want to maintain our independence. There should be more demand than supply, otherwise it is no longer a luxury good. There should be scarcity. Growth in our business means finding niche pockets and the right customers at the right moment. This takes time and creativity.
Tharawat Magazine, Issue 27, 2015