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New York State of Mind: Why We’re a New York Watch Company

June 14, 2018

New York City has a lot to offer. The taverns of Washington’s era are still in the heart of the Manhattan (here’s looking at you Fraunces) and Brooklyn is an amazing city within a city. If you follow Diefendorff on social media, you’ll see that the Diefendorff feeds have a lot of posts from around “BK.” It’s natural. That’s where I live, after all.

More Than Brooklyn: A New York Watch Company

But Diefendorff is not just a Brooklyn watch company, it’s a watch company for the entire State of New York.  It’s a subtle difference but I wanted to lay out the reasons why when I started this company, I made some deliberate decisions to make Diefendorff bigger than Brooklyn and bigger than NYC.

The Roots: The Battle of Oriskany

First, I most likely wouldn’t have named America’s next great watch company Diefendorff had it not been for a strange coincidence in time. As the story goes, my sixth great-grandfather, the son of Swiss immigrants, died 200 years to the day of me being born in an ambush during the American Revolution. This happened in the small hamlet of Oriskany, which is just outside of Utica, New York.

I remember getting chills up my spine when I came across Henry’s story in my research. At the end of the day, what else could I have named the company? And no matter what, while Henry’s story is an American story, it’s deeply interwoven with the State of New York.

The Roots 2.0: Canajoharie, New York

One more reason that we’re a New York company also relates to Henry. About 50 miles to the east of Oriskany is another small town called Canajoharie. Kudos if you’re able to pronounce it without stumbling.

This town is where Heinrich Diefendorff (Henry’s father) settled after arriving in the US from Switzerland. It’s also where Captain Henry was raised, married and raised his children. I’ve been to the town and it’s really charming. I plan to visit again this summer and will keep you posted.  

The Adirondacks

In addition to these connections to the Diefendorff story, my family also has other connections to upstate New York. Over 100 years ago, my great-grandmother bought a cottage in the Adirondacks and it has been in the caring hands of the family ever since. It’s a special place, not only because of its beauty – the Adirondack Mountains are very striking and the Adirondack Park is dotted with the most picturesque lakes – but because of this family connection. It’s remarkable that many of my fondest childhood memories, my father’s and his father’s all connect to the same physical space that, for the most part, has remained unchanged. Every time I visit, I feel a connection to them.

Our First Step - Joining Companies Incorporated in New York

Due to all of these reasons, when it came time to incorporate I had to make a decision. It probably would have been best, financially, to incorporate in another state that has less taxes than the State of New York. But because of all these connections, it just felt… wrong.

It probably would have been easy to get away with, too. Most people, when making a purchasing decision, never care or look into which state a company is incorporated. It’s just not part of the decision process.  But being authentic is an important part of the Diefendorff brand. With all of these strange coincidence in time and space, incorporating in a state other than New York seemed to violate authenticity. New York is where Henry tried to create his new life, New York is where he died, New York is where I live and New York is where I came up with the idea for this company and designed our first collection.

Some people would disagree with me; especially because the tax savings could sizable. Businesses are about making money, after all. But Diefendorff is about more than making money.  Diefendorff is about making distinctive, high-quality watches with 7 points of difference; offering those watches at a fair price; and standing for something bigger in our approach to Rebel Against the Usual®. If we do that right, we’ll do alright. And supporting the state that supported me and my family is the right call.

Step 2 - Finding Suppliers

One of the most interesting journeys in starting Diefendorff was finding suppliers. Because we have very high standards, searching for suppliers for all of our products, parts and services took a longer than I expected.

I’ll never compromise on quality, trustworthiness and reliability for our suppliers. While those are foundational criteria in selecting a company, there are other considerations as well. To begin our search, we wanted to focus first on finding suppliers in the State of New York.  This includes some of our independent contractors (graphic designers, etc.), but we’re also happy to say that our packaging will be made by a company with a sizable footprint in New York. I’m sure I’ll write a blog post about that, soon.

Step 3 – the Headquarters

Lastly, with all of the above and the fact that I live in Brooklyn, it just made sense to locate our headquarters in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Keep an eye out for snaps on Diefendorff’s Instagram account or through Diefendorff’s Facebook page.

So, that’s part of our story – why we made a decision to Rebel Against the Usual® by incorporating and becoming a New York company, rather than in a lower-tax state.  It’s probably a detail most people don’t care about, but for us, every detail matter.

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