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Black Label - What's Next

Black Label - What's Next


This is week 8 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.

Black Label launched with a solid variety of products, but that was just the beginning. When we launched in May, the collection consisted of 12 straps in 3 sizes (18, 20, 22), and 5 watch rolls in 3 styles (1, 4, and 6 watches). We've already sold out of a couple of the rolls (which we are working to restock!) and some of the straps are getting low.

While we are restocking most of the straps this week, some of the straps were made with leather that had a limited supply. Once they sell out, we won't be restocking some of the models (for instance, the Alcott). This will always be the case with some of the Black Label straps. We like to buy interesting leather that speaks to us, even if we can only get 1-4 hides of it, leaving us with a limited supply.

The good news is that we already have new models in the works. We plan to get into a wider variety of leather colors and textures, as well as explore other stitching patterns. So far all of the Black Label straps are side-stitched, but that won't always be the case. There are several other stitching patterns for a strap that we think will fit in great, and offer more variety to the collection. Furthermore, we will consider offering more width and length options for the straps, which has been a common request.

We also plan to offer more colors of our pouches and rolls. They have been well received this summer, and will undoubtedly pick up this fall/winter, as they make an awesome gift for any watch lover.

Be on the look out for new models landing later in 2016!


Black Label Product Names

Black Label Product Names


This is week 7 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.

You may have already noticed the unique names of each of our Black Label products. In last week's installment, we talked about the design inspiration of the Black Label logo, including the fox head icon. In order to be easily identified and distinguished, we wanted each Black Label name to have a distinctive name. When it came time to decide on a naming convention, or common theme between all of the names, we explored several options. The route that we settled on included a tie in with the fox head icon.

As we touched on last week, the fox head icon represents the sleekness of the Black Label collection. As it turns out, there are also a lot of names associated with foxes and what they represent. We researched the fox in various cultures, languages, time periods, and beliefs. Some of the characteristics we found were adaptable, guiding, strategic, wise, noble, cunning, and protective.

Finally, we researched and chose names that had meanings and origins relating to the characteristics we found. Some examples are Oberon (nobility), Fennec (a small fox), and Sagan (wise one). Luckily we didn't have a shortage of names. After pairing names up with straps and rolls, we still had a solid list to tap into for future Black Label products.

This installment was short and sweet. Next week we will be covering what went into the pre-launch week, where we introduced and teased the Black Label line. We had never quite done a product launch that way, and we put a lot of work into it!

If there is an aspect of Black Label that you'd like to learn more about, please let us know. We'll be wrapping up this series soon, but are more than willing to squeeze in an extra week or two.




The Logo and Mark

The Logo and Mark


This is week 6 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.

Since Black Label was to be a distinct product line within the Crown & Buckle brand, it needed its own visual identity. In September 2015, we set out to define that identity with the help of our friends at Motto. On a broad scale, we knew from the beginning that we wanted the visuals of Black Label to be dark, clean, and high-fashion-esque. We started experimenting with logos, and created an internal document that hashed out some of the language we'd be using to define Black Label, much of which you can see in use on the Black Label page. A "mood board" for the photo style was also created, to help us stay on track during the multiple photo shoots of Black Label products.

After a few different iterations, we settled on the logo design you see below. The full Black Label logo combines several elements. The first thing you'll notice is the low contrast, grey-on-black coloration. Our standard Crown & Buckle logo mark is at the top, anchoring the logo with a familiar element. The Black Label text in the center is a sans-serif font that plays very well with our standard logo mark, while being differentiated enough to stand on its own. The last element is the icon, which is used throughout the Black Label web page and embossed on all of the Black Label products.

The icon is a free-form design that is simple, strong, and easy to remember and associate with Black Label. It may look like a ribbon or a banner at first glance. You might also be able to make out a fox head in the design. This loose association was to symbolize the sleekness and elevated nature (noble, wisdom) of the Black Label line. Used on its own or as a part of the complete logo, we really love the fox head icon. It is now Crown & Buckke's "iconic mark of quality."

Did you see anything in particular in our logo before reading about it's origins? We'd love to hear about your impression!



The Materials of Black Label

The Materials of Black Label


This is week 5 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.

In 2014, we launched our American Made collection almost exclusively using Horween Leather hides. Horween is probably the most well known leather tannery in the world (besides luxury conglomerates like Louis Vuitton and Hermes), having made a strong name for themselves over the last century. They certainly deserve their excellent reputation and the allure surrounding their renowned products like Shell Cordovan and Chromexcel leathers.

Watch straps require leather with very specific characteristics. A strap needs to be comfortable, but it can't be flimsy. Stretch is typically a bad thing for watch straps, and lots of leathers get stretchy the thinner they are. It's easy for leather to be strong when it's several millimeters thick. However, if a strap is double layered, you are looking at a maximum of 2mm per layer, or just ~1.25mm per layer for svelte designs like our Black Label straps.

We've learned a lot about picking out the best leathers for watch straps through our own manufacturing. One of the things we've learned is that what works for one type of strap may not work for another. For instance, when it came to the Black Label watch straps, any oily or waxy leather would not be suitable. With the strap only being sewn at key points, we are relying on strong glue to hold the layers of the strap together. However, any oil and/or wax present  in leather prevents the glue from bonding properly. Improper glue bonding can cause the layers to split apart, sometimes the very first time you flex the strap! That is why it was vitally important for us to use appropriate leathers for these straps.

You may have noticed that the Horween name is absent from the descriptions of our Black Label products. That is not at all a knock against Horween; we simply made the decision to use Spanish and other American leathers for Black Label to best fit the specific demands. We selected leathers with characteristics that would allow them to be glued and form a rock-solid bond that won't separate. In the future we will continue to use Horween leathers for a lot of our American Made products, but that collection will also be increasingly supplemented with other American tanneries. Those tanneries may be less known, but they nevertheless make excellent leathers for watch straps.

Lastly, we made the conscious decision to withhold the names of the tanneries for the Black Label products. We did so as the only benefit would be for our competitors. The tanneries used essentially have no public presence and no brand recognition, meaning the average consumer would have no association with the name, unlike with Horween Leather. Big name or not, this is some of the best leather in the world, perfectly suited for the specific application of watch straps, rolls, and pouches.



The Look & Feel

The Look & Feel


This is week 4 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.

Over a year ago we made the early decision that the new products we were working on would need to be a stand-alone collection with special branding, similar to how we segmented our American Made line. These products have a different look and feel, and not all of them are made in the U.S. Even though there is some overlap between American Made, we created the Black Label line to encompass all the new products. From the extensive launch marketing to the Black Label sub-site, this was a product introduction that was larger than any other since opening Crown & Buckle in 2011. We're going to take a quick look at how and why Black Label differs from our regular product line.

Crown & Buckle spawned from the realization that we just couldn't find straps we wanted to wear, that were reasonably priced, and were easily available in the United States. Furthermore, our goal was to find the right balance of quality and price -- our straps represent a great value.

As it relates to Black Label, we felt the market was lacking value when it came to hand made, classic styled, side-stitched watch straps. At the low end you could buy a straight cut, single layer, roughly stitched strap for about $50-80. They had the "look," but lacked in quality and finishing. On the high end you could buy a tapered, lined, precisely stitched strap for about $130-160+. These straps are great quality, but they cost more than a lot of people wish to spend on a watch strap. Our Black Label straps have the quality of the higher end straps, with a price point closer to the lower end. Probably the only noticeable difference between our straps and straps costing twice the price is in the edge finishing. High end straps tend to have burnished edges and the edges may also be radiused. Our edges are smoothed and dyed in a matching color to the leather, which still looks great but takes less labor, keeping the price down.

How does this all tie into the look and feel of Black Label? It was clear to us that these products are special. We consider them the best straps and watch rolls we've ever sold. Even though they represent an excellent value, these products are at a price point we had never previously touched. As such, it was important to differentiate Black Label from the rest of our product line in how the products are identified and purchased on our web site. It allowed us to better tell the story behind the straps, and to show that, 'hey, we put a lot of work into these'. These aren't the same as our $40 leather straps.

Do you feel like we did a good job differentiating our Black Label products? We'd love to hear your feedback. Shoot us an email! Check in next week for week 5, where we will go into the materials that were used for the Black Label products. We will be discussing the logo and visual aspects of the brand in week 6.



Two Years Coming

Two Years Coming


This is week 3 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.

Over two years ago, Crown & Buckle reached a milestone with the release of our American Made collection. It featured products hand made directly in house, at our South Florida location. Except for our previous collaborations with Logan Zane and Woodnsteel, this was our first foray into American products, and it was our first time manufacturing under our own roof. The learning curve was steep, but well worth the effort. Our initial American Made collection included NATO straps, 2-piece straps, and watch rolls.

We excelled with the leather NATO straps and continue to make those in house. The 2-piece straps and rolls were more difficult for us. While we had a lot of success selling the best of the 2-piece straps that we made, there was a high rate of rejects during our production process. We of course could not and did not sell those straps. The watch rolls simply took a lot longer to produce than anything else, so we only worked on those once in a while and couldn't keep up the demand for them.

It was back to the drawing board to refine the design and productive efficiency of the 2-piece straps and rolls. In the spring of 2015 we really began to shape what was to become Black Label. We created a new pattern for our watch rolls and transitioned them to a softer leather outer and suede lining that was much more user-friendly. While not made under our own roof any longer, the watch rolls are still made in the United States.

The 2-piece straps were a harder proposition. We realized early on that the leathers we were using for them weren't ideal for the type of construction we were trying to achieve. At that point we were using only Horween leathers. Horween has created quite a name for themselves and they truly make world-class leather. However, most of their trademark leather is very oily and waxy. That makes them great for footwear and even NATO straps, but not great for un-stitched watch straps that are double layered (with a lining on the underside). Most strap makers avoid this issue by making "unlined" 2-piece straps, which are single layer straps like our leather NATOs. To be thin enough to fit between the spring bar and the case of a watch, a NATO has to be thin like that. However, when it came to classically designed 2-piece straps, we wanted them to be more refined and to feature a lining, which created great challenges in both material selection and the assembly process.

The materials we chose and the assembly of the 2-piece straps is a long enough story to warrant it's own post, which will be coming in week 5 of our series. We will go into much more depth with those subjects, which were our greatest challenges of the Black Label project.

Stay tuned for week 4, where we will cover the look and feel of the Black Label brand, and how it compares to our core Crown & Buckle brand.





The Making of Black Label

The Making of Black Label


This is week 2 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.

Frequently we receive requests to see more behind the scenes action from C&B. We did not want to spill the beans before the launch last month, but now that Black Label is available in all it's glory, we want you to be able to experience the ~2 years that lead up to the launch.

Over the next 6+ weeks, we are going to devote one blog post a week to showing the product development, materials, branding, web site work, photography, and everything else that we poured our efforts into leading up to the Black Label launch. Posts will go live every Wednesday afternoon.

We think this is going to be a great experience for everyone. It will be fun for us to share, and we think you'll enjoy learning more about our method, thought process, and inspiration while getting to see some cool behind the scenes visuals. See you next Wednesday!



Black Label - Thank You

Black Label - Thank You


This is week 1 of our Black Label Experience series, where we will be posting a behind the scenes view of our Black Label line over the coming weeks. View all the posts here.

It's hard to believe, but we are already coming up on a month since the Black Label collection launched. The weeks leading up to and following the launch were a whirlwind for us. After close to 2 years of product development and countless hours spent on the web site, photography, packaging, and branding for Black Label, it was finally live! Even though we were completely confident in the products, it was still a little nerve-racking to finally "put it out there" for the first time.

The week leading up to the official launch was spent teasing and promoting the new collection. Right off the bat I think the hard work we had put into this project was very apparent to those that saw it. The macro photographs we used as teasers perfectly captured the intricate detail of each product. Even with only teasers to go on, the response was immediately very positive and supportive. This was new ground for us, and we were thrilled to see our customers and followers get excited about a new C&B venture.

On launch day, we watched closely in excitement as traffic picked up on the web site. At the peak, our concurrent users on the web site reached 25-40x the normal rate. People came to see what all the excitement was about. We stayed very late that day to ensure everyone that ordered on launch day received their brand new Black Label products as soon as possible. In the days following, it was an amazing feeling seeing people unboxing and enjoying their new Black Label straps and rolls, as shared with us on social media and by email. Receiving positive feedback, especially when the customers were now wearing and enjoying their new straps, really meant to world to all of us.

Black Label would not have been possible without you -- our follower, customer, supporter, friend. No matter how big or small, all of the support we have received over the years has helped us reach milestones like our American Made and Black Label collections. Thank you, sincerely, for supporting us. We are grateful and blessed to be able to do what we love.





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