Stock founder David Tatangelo has over 100 watches of various origin and has dismantled and put back together equally as many. That horological love from a young age, and his professional background in architecture, lead to the logical next step... designing his own watches. Stock have developed into a successful and widely recognisable brand, both in Australia and overseas, and is now David's full-time career. We paid a visit to the Stock studio to find out more.
Photos by John Tan.
Stock studio, Melbourne, Victoria.
What was the founding moment of Stock? Was it a lighting moment?
After visiting the watch fair in Hong Kong, I knew that creating my own brand was a possibility. When you see people from all over the world meeting for one of the biggest watch shows (aside from Baselworld) to show what they have to offer, it's really inspiring but daunting at the same time. I always saw the brand as a small company from a little corner of the earth in Melbourne, making a few watches that I liked and hoped others would too. After visiting the fair I realised it could be much more than that and things all started to fall into place quite quickly.
How has the business grown and how did u grow the business?
The product range continues to grow and I want that to continue by having a new watch style released every year, though with that growth has come new ways of operating. Initially it was just me doing everything, though taking on others to help where needed due to my own time constraints has been necessary.
In terms of brand awareness, it has been quite an honour to be sold in stores like the MOMA design stores and Conran Shop alongside designers I've admired forever. With that comes a new audience of design conscious customers and appreciation of the brand.
How would you describe STOCK as a brand?
Stock is exactly as the word can suggest. No frills design objects, with the products speaking for themselves. A stock item that people don't think of as a status symbol, but as a staple item in their core collection of keep sakes. I don't really care for 'brands', I care about how it's designed and how it will make me feel. Stock tries to embody that by not trying to suggest anything with a brand name that influences your opinion on the item. The name doesn't corner us into only making watches also, which is something we hope to explore in the future.
What is ‘success’ for Stock?
Has that changed over time?
Success for Stock is seeing a stranger wearing our watches. When the brand launched 6 years ago from money out of my own pocket, that I saved working in jobs I didn't really like, I thought success was going to be me working for myself. That hasn't changed also. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery and we have seen many S001 imitators along with even a watch brand from Sydney copying our watch case design.
I guess when you get copied you know you're doing something right.
Since starting the brand I've seen the industry flooded with a lot of the same thing but Stock still remains, so this has been validation and success for the brand that I didn't see coming when I started.
What are your feelings on that influx? How do you protect your designs and convince people to appreciate a genuine or original product?
It's becoming more and more difficult to control copies, though it seems to strengthen our brand's image in some ways as people will compare back to the original if they see it's a copy. The people that decide to blatantly copy are starting from behind also, as they have to try and sell something that they didn't design and try to make it original in their own way. If they've copied a watch design you can be sure they will follow boring formulaic marketing attempts and they're gone fairly quick, as they think selling cheap will make them successful. They often don't have after sales service and imitators think they're going to make a quick buck off cheap copies, but they run into issues when they have customers returning faulty or poorly made products. In the end, people who appreciate design will gravitate towards a good product. Someone willing to buy a cheap knock off isn't the customer who will buy the original and while it's easy to blame the people making the imitations, it's the customers who fund them to continue.
I find its best to focus on what you do best and not get caught up in who's copying who. It's exhausting, frustrating and not something worth putting effort into.
Where do you see, or intend, Stock fitting in the watch industry? Are you there yet?
At the core of the brand, we will always be a offering affordable design. I feel that Stock is there in that respect. The nice thing about watches is that they can align with design, fashion and jewellery industries in a number of ways. While I think Stock has dabbled a bit in each of those, the goal would be to collaborate with some people in each of those industries. Whether that's watches or something else is yet to be decided. We don't want to just do things for the sake of putting our name on another project though, it should compliment what we're already doing.
What is your work space like? How important to you is environment in the creative process and business operations?
Currently we're in a large shop space, with the studio set up at the back. The environment can have an influence on the day to day mood of work, though it doesn't really inform the creative process. The creative side of the things tends to come when travelling and when removed from the 'business'. As with any business, having a base to operate from is necessary, though creatively it's not something that Stock needs for it to thrive.
Could you sum‐up the design and production process behind the scenes of your beautiful new S005 Series?
The S005 series came in response to people wanting slimmer watches. I had been toying with different concepts to really slim down the watches and almost overnight, the idea hit for having the parts of the watch to be 'stacked' and recessed to give the impression of 'thinness'.
The production of the watches is different to others in the range as the watch case is milled from one solid piece of steel, rather than a number of pieces fitting together. It simplifies the assembly and creates a seamless feel to the watch. This design exercise has proven to be quite successful and will carry on through to the other ranges to redevelop them and streamline their production and appearance.
The Stock range is extremely cohesive and distinct. What do you see as the identifiable style of a Stock watch? Is it important each design is identifiable as a Stock design?
The identifiable mark that adds to the style of the brand is the numero ' № or º ' symbol that is seen in the logo and on the watch dials. While it's seen everywhere in logos and branding now, it was intentional to use this symbol for exactly that reason. It's a numbering symbol that is universal and doesn't tell you what you should think about the products.
Each design should relate back to the core ideals of the brand and include the logo in some way as a small touch. The products themselves are strong enough to be identifiable as Stock with or without the logo however.
What’s your biggest business related accomplishment so far?
After visiting the watch fair in Hong Kong years ago on my own, it was nice be invited back as a guest of honour and meet with many big watch brands to discuss the watch industry. Going from an onlooker to being included in the discussion around the industry is something I never would have dreamed of when starting out.
What’s the hardest part about what you do?
Ironically managing my time. Feels like there is never enough hours in the day.
Do you ever feel any restraints being a product design company located in Australia?
Being from Australia can have some disadvantages, though the internet makes location somewhat irrelevant these days. When running your own business it can feel like the grass is always greener somewhere else, but if you're focussed on what you do, location shouldn't make too much of a difference.
What experience would you say most influences your company?
Some experiences that influence the company are meeting other watch designers and discussing design with them. I am in touch with a few brands from around the world and we meet every now and then to discuss business and experiences. This is invaluable and has been eye opening to understand struggles and risks from people in the same industry. I believe discussing design and meeting others in the industry is great to grow your brand and to be more aware of the industry itself.
What was the biggest risk you took?
The biggest risk was putting life savings into a business that everyone said was dying due to mobile phones killing the industry. Aside from this, every time a new product is released it's a risk as you can never be too sure how it will be received.
How important is it to you to have your products presented in a brick and mortar outlet, be it a shop like Compendium Design Store, or a pop‐up store, and not solely online? Is one more important than the other? Would you ever enter bricks and mortar retail yourself?
Having a store presence is great for people like myself who HAVE to touch and feel before buying. I'll often dwell on a purchase for a long time, visit a store multiple times and not make impulsive purchases. I feel that is that same for many of our customers.
We are looking to expand our retail partners as watches have a special connection with people and people will often purchase from their favourite stores because of the retail experience they provide also. While having store presence is great, often people aren't located near a retailer that have our watches, so online is absolutely necessary as well.
What would be a tip you’d pass on to someone on the crest of turning an interest or ‘side hustle’ into an all‐in full‐time business and career?
I would say go for it! Just don't overextend and be sure you can support yourself before you ditch the other job. It takes time and there aren't any shortcuts to building a full-time business. Sometimes putting yourself in a difficult position can yield great results, but you have to know yourself and strengths, don't kid yourself basically.
Music in the studio, podcasts, silence?
Music most of the time. Comedy podcasts for duller days in office. If I have to concentrate on what I'm listening to while working, I find I'm less productive and distracted. Recently found Norm Macdonald's podcasts and they're funny and distracting, so perhaps that contradicts everything I just said!
Who knows?! Would like to continue with watches, but should the right opportunity come along, we may work on other things.