SOMA: Are you a watch lover or collector?
JR: I’ve long admired both watches and clocks. For me, there’s nothing that can complete a guy’s (or woman’s) look than a great watch. It’s that final statement on an outfit that makes everything come together. Especially these days, mens fashion is increasingly limited. At least in New York, it’s rare that guys wear ties or pocket squares to work, for example. A watch is a very personal statement about your own sense of self, story and style.
Also, from a horological perspective, watches are amazing! Anytime I take apart a movement, it blows my mind how tiny all of the pinons, wheels and jewels are–it’s incredible the level of precision required to make a watch work perfectly! Many people understandably don’t have experience taking apart a watch, but it really does give you a new appreciation of the art and science behind horology. That being said, it’s not something I recommend doing without a trained professional at least coaching you every step of the way. These parts are so small, the simplest mistake can prove disastrous.
SOMA: Aside from the historical element, what were your motivations for starting Diefendorff?
JR: Ironically my motivation to start Diefendorff came from a very modern experience – my step-tracking device stopped working almost immediately after the warranty expired. To top it off, this was the second time that had happened!
It was so frustrating that I decided to ban new technology from my wrist and began looking for a traditional wrist watch. I found that most of the watches either looked very similar or were so wild and crazy in design that I wouldn’t want to wear them in the first place. I wanted to create something that fit between those two categories: a truly distinctive watch that is familiar enough that you would be happy to strap it on. I think we’ve hit that mark.
SOMA: Stylistically, how would you describe the aesthetic of your Cornelius Collection?
JR: It’s a great question because we deliberately didn’t want to make a watch that squarely fits into a one category, at least for our first collection. A key part of the spirit of our brand is to break free from the crowd, so we wanted to deliberately be different.
That being said I think the Cornelius Collection watches fit mostly within dress and field watch aesthetics. The watches in the Collection have a lot of premium upgrades like a Swiss-made movement and sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coatings. Also, it used to be that dress watches had to be very simple. To some extent that’s a little true today, which is why we have markers instead of numerals at the hours and only a central second hand and date complication. But these days you have a lot more flexibility with color which is why we have bold yet tasteful colorful sunray dials. Basically, it’s the type of watch you could wear in the board room.
At the same time, it’s also the type of watch you can wear out at the bar. It has some functional elements that tend to be prevalent in field watches. For example, the lumed hands and markers make it easy to read at night.
SOMA: You ground your brand in the figure of Henry Diefendorff, who participated in the American Revolution. When did you become aware of his story?
JR: I first became a hobbyist in ancestry research in 2007 or so. I used one of the well-known websites to conduct my research and eventually hit a wall with many of the branches of my family tree particularly because I insist on having reliable documentation for each new person to prove the connection before I add to my family tree. So, I stopped and set it aside for quite a while. Then about two years ago, I got back into it and used the same web site. Their technology had advanced so much that I had access to many more databases and records – it was a treasure trove!
I still remember the day I found Henry Diefendorff’s records. It stands out because he was born 200 years to the day, perhaps to the hour, of me being born. When I saw his record pop up and I saw the day of his death, I literally rubbed my eyes because I didn’t believe it! It’s an incredible experience to have that much of a coincidence with a relative I never met. I’m just happy and proud that I’ve been able to do something that will help his name live on.
SOMA: Before talking to SOMA, how much did you know about distributed ledger technology (DLT, also known as blockchain)?
JR: Enough to be dangerous! Seriously though, one of my other interests is economics so I’ve been aware of cryptocurrencies and the DLT backing it for quite some time. It’s a fascinating field and one that has a lot of utility in many different industries and sectors. I’m very excited to work with SOMA in getting the platform off the ground and bringing the technology to the watch industry. I’m always interested in trying new things and really want to support watch lovers in finding each other and the products that they love.
SOMA is going live in Q1 2019 with partners such as Diefendorff. We’re onboarding partners now!
If you’re a watch manufacturer or retailer, contact email@example.com. If you’re an individual lover of quality watches, sign up here to be notified the minute we’re accepting registrations!
On legacy ecommerce platforms, anonymous usernames and depersonalized storefronts strip trade interactions of an important social element. Additionally, buyers lack a definitive way to ensure the authenticity of items. Enter SOMA. Our Heimdall Protocol stops forgeries and counterfeiting by validating ownership and provenance history on the blockchain. Social media elements bring personalization and interaction to trade, and allow users to monetize social influence, while a rewards system incentivizes beneficial collaboration. SOMA is a free-market ecosystem — free of market manipulation, price-fixing, gouging, and bloat.