Standing the test of time. That’s the sign of quality, endurance and lasting relevance.
As Banneker Watches celebrates its 10th anniversary, CEO Derrick Holmes shared his excitement – and a bit of relief.
“To survive through what was a rough recession, when people were more concerned about saving their homes than about buying great products, feels really good,” said Holmes from Los Angeles, one of the company’s three office locations including Chicago and the headquarters in Denver. “A lot of companies, large and small, were not able to sustain. It was a tight time for everyone. I’m glad to get on the other side of it.”
Holmes launched his first line of Banneker watches in 2004, named after early American astronomer, inventor, surveyor and mathematician Benjamin Banneker who built the first entirely wood-made clock in the United States in 1753. Each watch design includes a unique wood face including exotic varieties such as African Maple, African Padauk, Madagascar Ebony, Red Sandalwood, Stained Mahogany, and Egyptian Zebra wood.
“Making it this far shows our staying power, and that people do really like Banneker as a brand,” he said. “Luckily, things have picked back up in the watch industry. Watch sales are fashion driven. Younger people are buying them as a fashion statement.”
As part of the company’s post-recession rebirth, Benjamin Banneker, Inc. was formed in 2014 as the parent company of Banneker Watches and Clocks. Banneker watches are priced $85 to $599, including a new line of nine Banneker watches that came out May to July this year. The Benjamin Banneker line of luxury and custom timepieces will be priced $1,000 and above, and feature swiss movements and materials like platinum, gold, white gold, rose gold, emeralds, rubies, and all colors of diamonds.
Holmes and the Banneker staff, including Vice President Dave Herda based in the Chicago office, have been successful in establishing partnerships that will facilitate the anticipated fast growth of the brand in the next couple years. MZ Berger is a world-class manufacturing partner with more than 60 years experience, several well known brands in their portfolio, and more than 700 employees. Royal Asscher is one of the world’s most storied and prestigious diamond producers and will be providing all of the diamonds and precious stones used on Banneker watches.
Paradox Fine Jewelers is a distribution partner with more than 1,800 independent retail locations across the nation. The retail store in The (George) N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art in Detroit, one of oldest African American-owned art galleries in the world, will begin selling Banneker watches on Nov. 21.
The Banneker CEO has enjoyed developing several relationships with celebrity endorsers, who have come on board to build brand awareness. Tyler Perry wore Banneker watches in his movie Single Mom’s Club released in 2014. Russell Simmons, James Pickens Jr., Rocky Carroll, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Beyoncé, Brad Pitt, and other entertainment and sports stars own Banneker products.
Banneker’s president is former NBA player Tim Hardaway, who is now the assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons. “He is working on developing a real network and distribution opportunities in the NBA. We made the first ever NBA championship watch in 2006 when the Miami Heat won it, and would like to do that in years to come,” Holmes said.
Select retailers such as the Sterling Group will carry exclusive watch models and celebrity specific designs. Banneker will set up a co-op advertising campaign and use in-store appearances with select celebrity endorsers to launch new products.
In addition to watches and clocks, Benjamin Banneker, Inc. will produce bags, sunglasses, school supplies and other products. These new items will be tied to selected celebrity endorsers and some products will utilize cause-related marketing to help drive efforts of nonprofit organizations.
Banneker’s relationships with celebrities are also benefiting youth across the nation. Through the Banneker Franklin Foundation, high school students will be encouraged to stay in school and graduate when celebrities and national leaders visit their schools and reward each student for graduating with a Banneker watch. The foundation director is Allen Webb II, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb’s grandson.
Author-actress Denise Nicholas has been a promoter of the Banneker brand with her connections in the Hollywood community and across the country over the past three years. She led the efforts to get the watches in the N’Namdi, and she hosted a successful Watch Sale Party in Los Angeles, which generated more than $10,000 in watch sales in three hours with about 60 attendees including multiple celebrity buyers such as James Pickens (Grey’s Anatomy), Rocky Carroll (NCIS), Vanessa Bell Calloway (NCIS – New Orleans). Additional parties, where watches are displayed, a sales team answers questions and party-goers can try on watches, are planned for Denver, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New York City.
In 2015, Benjamin Banneker, Inc. will roll out the new brand, Lady Banneker, with fashion watches, sunglasses bags and other women’s products. Women are already a target market and avid buyers of Banneker watches, while men continue to show a strong interest in watches – even in collecting them.
“Sixty percent of men I have spoken with are quasi watch collectors. What I noticed is that for men this is our only real piece of jewelry that speaks to who we are. Our cars, our shoes and our watches – those are the three things that give men an opportunity to make a statement. Because of that, a lot of men collect watches. Some serious collectors own 12 to15 watches,” Holmes added with a lot of satisfaction and optimism about Banneker’s next 10 years.
Editor’s note: For more information, go to bannekerwatches.com. For investment opportunities and information, contact Derrick Holmes at 720-435-5528 or Derrick@Bannekerwatches.com.