How Did Daniel Wellington Get So Popular And Why I Will Never Buy One



It is a near global sensation seen on a diverse set of wrists from hip students to junior executives in a rare equal-gender distribution. According to a Bloomberg report, the company raked in $70 million in 2014 with a sale of 1 million watches; Daniel Wellington is an immensely successful watch company.


Let me start off by saying that I don’t own a Daniel Wellington and I never will. The purpose of this article is not one of endorsement (obviously) but neither is it meant to be a bashing of the brand and its followers.

What it is, is an objective study into the contributors which turned an ostensibly plain looking watch into the phenomenon it is today, followed by the reasons why true watch guys will never be converts.

In avoidance to accusations of sounding snobbish, I’d like to clarify that true watch guys refer to people with a love for mechanical watches and horology history; it has nought to do with how much money they have and how expensive their watches are. 

Success contributor 1: It has a romantic founding (and most likely fake) story

First of all, the founder of Daniel Wellington is a Swedish named Filip Tysander.

So who the hell is Daniel Wellington?

As the story goes, Filip had a chance encounter with an English stranger named Daniel Wellington during his travels across the British Isles. Mr Wellington had a thing for wearing vintage watches on weathered fabric straps and this so inspired Filip that he decided to create a watch brand and name it after this mysterious gentleman. Hearing a story like this conjures up images like this:


It’s all very sentimental, and while it may well have been true, there’s absolute zero evidence to back it up, which feels to me that they created the watch first, and the story second.

The non-occurrence of a Daniel Wellington coming forth to identify himself as the Daniel Wellington is also rather curious, considering how big the brand is in the UK. Add that to the fact that Filip Tysander not only met him once, but on numerous occasions between Melbourne and Cairns, as per his claims. Remember that Mr. Wellington was a complete stranger?

Count the number of times you’ve ran into your neighbour in places aside from the corridor. You get my point.

Why true watch guys don’t buy it

We love stories. And we have a lot of them to tell if you had the time and patience. For comparison, here’s a favourite story of mine:

In 1970, the American spaceflight, Apollo 13 , was in deep space en route to earth. And it was in deep trouble.


Buzz Aldrin- the man who wore an Omega Speedmaster on Apollo 11 making it the first watch to be worn on the moon


An equipment failure had crippled onboard measuring instruments. Jack Swigert, a NASA astronaut, used the chronograph on his Omega Speedmaster to time the critical 14-second engine burn ,from which the crew activated a mid-course correction at the precise moment, bringing everyone safely back to earth.

How’s that for a good story? To read more about the Speedmaster: A brief history of the Omega Speedmaster, the first watch that went up to the moon


Heritage comes with the passing of time. Nothing is wrong with starting a new brand/company. After all, every legend started as unknowns but creating a myth to pass off as history doesn’t sit too well with me.

Success contributor 2: it’s all about the strap


Prior to Daniel Wellington, hipsters and fresh-in-the-workforce yuppies unacquainted with watches had never seen something like this – a formal looking watch paired with a colourful NATO strap. In their minds, fabrics straps were meant for chunky sport watches i.e. G-shock; likewise, a formal watch should always come with a leather strap.


The mix of formal and casual was refreshingly original (or so they thought) and this juxtaposition appealed to a generation that grew up on Facebook and iPhones – one that sees classic as ‘boring’ fueled by a culture constantly searching for ‘the new black’.

When Daniel Wellington arrived, it checked all the right boxes: affordable, good looking, colourful and ‘rad’.

The combination of these elements paired with a sophisticated sounding brand name took the world by storm.

Why true watch guys don’t buy it

They’ve been strapping watch cases onto NATOs for years; there is nothing new nor original about it.

Suppose that you were a mathematical genius born and trapped in a cave, and somehow, managed to come up with the theory of relativity unaware that Albert Einstein had already done it 50 years ago, would that make the news?

No. Rediscovery is not discovery.

Photo: watchuseek forum


On the business front, traditional watch companies have also been launching models with NATO straps as a selling feature. These are players possessing true heritage with products reflecting far better quality. So, nah, DW doesn’t excite us. Not one bit.

Tudor Heritage ‘Chrono Blue’
Tudor Heritage ‘Monte Carlo’


Success contributor 3: new media


I’ll hazard a guess and boldly claim that if Daniel Wellington was introduced 15 years ago, it would be dead within 2.

Daniel Wellington does no traditional advertising. It relies on social platforms to spread the word. A #danielwellington hashtag inducts you into a fan club where avid supporters post ‘wrist shots’ and share them with the world.

If there’s one skill this generation has perfected, it is the ability to take marvellous photographs coupled with making magic through camera filters.

Here are some fantastic photos. Bear in mind that these are not models in the regular sense, they’re people like you and me (but better looking).



Why true watch guys don’t buy it

Traditional watch companies have been slow in adopting to social media – a medium often perceived (and rightly so) as too abrupt, with attention spans lasting a grand total of 5 seconds.

The pace of social media does not work well with the messages they’d like to communicate.


Again, for example, the Omega Co-axial escapement that took 15 years of R&D to create – an achievement only made possible by the brightest minds in mechanical watchmaking. This is not a story that can be told in a few paragraphs or 3 minutes, and so, they simply don’t.

Traditional brands adopt a semi-passive stance and would much rather you come to them with a genuine interest to discover, as opposed to splashing it all over Facebook.

True watch guys don’t just like watches for the way they look. The ideas and trials behind its conception are studied with an obsession.

When we look at Daniel Wellington, we see a void.

Success contributor 4: great design


The dials on Daniel Wellington watches look fantastic. It’s clean, simple, sharp and timeless; it’s an extremely palatable design that works for everybody.

Why true watch guys don’t buy it

All is well and good; just that it didn’t come from Daniel Wellington; or Sweden.

I’ve written on a few occasions about Bauhaus – a German design philosophy emphasizing on minimalism and balance. Bauhaus is what you see on Daniel Wellington’s watches.

The original school of Bauhaus

There is nothing inherently wrong with drawing inspiration from classic design philosophies. It’s just that traditional watch companies have done it and done it better. Moreover, their watches are offered at a greater value. Note that I didn’t say price, but value

True Bauhaus. 100% Germany.

Daniel Wellington states in its website that it is ‘constantly striving for perfection, and allowing our Scandinavian identity to shine through.’

While I understand that Scandinavian design takes cues from Bauhaus while also preaching the same values, I’ll nitpick on the total lack of credit to the original philosophy which inspired Daniel Wellington and their watches 



Success contributor 5: It is highly affordable

Daniel Wellington watches range from SGD 250 to SGD 390.


Compared to Swiss or German watches coming in at 4 digits, it does seem like a fantastic deal – a perfect entry point for junior executives.

Why true watch guys don’t buy it

As mentioned earlier, good price does not equate to good value. Value is derived from the clinical dissecting of various components and drawing a comparison back to the price post-dissection.


Let us examine the Classic Glasgow, one of their most popular models:

  • Quartz battery powered hence requiring the occasional battery change.
  • Uses a Japanese movement – Miyota 1L22 which costs about 10 dollars.
  • Watches are assembled and made in China.
  • Straps are made in China.
  • Sells for SGD 250.


I’ll take a similar looking watch, the Tangente 38 from NOMOS Glashutte, a German watchmaker known for its Bauhaus watches.

  • Manual winding. Technically, it should last forever with proper care.
  • Uses Calibre Alpha – a true in-house automatic movement, researched and tested by a team of mechanical engineers over a period of years. Development costs in the range of millions.
  • Watch is fully assembled in Germany.
  • Leather strap is made from genuine Shell Cordovan; each batch takes 6 months to produce.
  • Costs SGD 2,340.

Cost is about absolute numbers; value is not. By comparison, Daniel Wellington is severely overpriced.

While the Tangente 38 costs 10 times more, I’ll gladly save up to get one over 10 Daniel Wellingtons in 10 colours.

Decision time

With that said, the choice is yours, and I fully support the idea of buying whatever we like. This article is an objective 2 cents, which will, hopefully, make you ponder before a purchase.

If you’d still like to pick a Daniel Wellington, be my guest:

Or you can join us in the world of true horology and find out more here:

Buying Guide: Best modern dress watches under SGD 1,000

Buying Guide: Best modern dress watches under SGD 3,000

3 ‘true’ watch brands that won’t empty your bank account

*All images of Daniel Wellington watches were sourced from their official website

*Images of models wearing Daniel Wellington watches were sourced from their Instagram page #danielwellington




  1. Thank you very much for your well founded arguments!

    One compelling argument that convinced me (I’m still a student) not buying DW is, that you actually DON’T have to make a choice between a valuable but expensive Nomos/Glashütte watch (which is undeniably a wonderful watch) and inexpensive but unvaluable watches. You can get incredible value even around the price range of a DW, even if you’ll admittedly not end up with a Nomos/Glashütte, Rolex or the like…

    I don’t want to make advertising for a specific company, but it might be worth mentioning the many beautiful and high-quality watches that are also affordable for the younger folks. I just want to mention here watches like the TISSOT Tradition or the watches from BRAITHWAIT. Especially the latter (e.g. the “Classic Slim”) are in so many ways comparable to DW, down even to exchangable wristbands, except that they feature SWISS movements and Sapphire glass.


  2. These are arguments only work for the watch guys, and there aren’t many. All people want are aesthetically beautiful time piece that keeps good time, and the DW is “good enough” for most people. The classic bauhaus design has become so popular that you can be the EXACT same design without the brand name. Which makes me realize that I still don’t have to pay $200 for a DW. i’ll just get one that looks like it from online chinese websites. As for the Brathwait watches, they are beautiful, but still not worth the $300 for a non-watch guy.


  3. Honestly, i dont buy watches that only can tells me what time is it.

    I opt to buy Arbutus. I forgot what is the model name of the watch. It is stainless steel, able to tells me the time, am or pm, 50m water resistant, day of the week, month, no battery required. Can last for a life time if taken good care of it.


  4. I loved reading this article and agree with a lot of the points you made. I was expecting something more harsh after the opening.

    I was definitely surprised to find out that Daniel Wellington was just some random guy (who might not even exist). It’s par for the course to make up a brand name that sounds vaguely British or French but interesting that the person behind it is Swedish. It’s amazing that they managed to pull it off and keep momentum. I doubt any of these early watches will ever be collector’s pieces unless they become a serious watch company that can pass a watch geek’s smell test and become rare curiosity items back when they sourced cheap watches from China.

    I’ll definitely be reading more of your articles. Keep up the quality posts!


    • Hi there, thank you for your comment and glad you found something useful from the article. Well, I could have been harsh but that would make me a hater who bashes without rhyme or reason (like 95% of the internet); I prefer a more ‘educated’ approach. 🙂

      Am currently working on an article talking about the wildfire spread of minimalistic watches ‘revolutionizing the watch industry’ in recent years. Stay tuned!


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