Ahead of his time: South Philly’s Lorenzo Buffa and his flexible wood watches

Lorenzo Buffa is shown here with his wood watches. Credit: Charles Mostoller/METRO
Lorenzo Buffa with his wood watches. Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

Lorenzo Buffa set his goals pretty modestly. When he started his Kickstarter campaign, he figured $10,000 should cover initial production costs for his all-natural wood watches.

With three days left to go for bids, he’s already raised more than $61,000. The project is the highest rated on Kickstarter for the region.

“It’s fantastic. I’m totally elated,” Buffa said.

Two years ago, Buffa, now 26, was working on his senior project at the University of the Arts. Knowing when he graduated he wouldn’t be entering the job market at the greatest economic time, he wanted to design something that he could work on long after classes ended.

His senior project turned into the Analog Watch Co., with an emphasis on flexible, all-wood watches made from raw materials. “It got really, really great reception. People started contacting me.”

Four months after that, he developed a prototype and has been working on not only designing the watches, but with production, marketing and public relations. He works closely with his mentor, Vanja Buvac, of Philadelphia watch company Cadence.

But why watches made from wood?

“I have an interest in natural materials,” the Palmerton native said. “I’ve always been drawn to wood. I’ve seen other wooden watches and they were all made the same way. They just weren’t really fitting my aesthetic, which is minimal, clean, stream-lined. I wanted to do something more iconic and shaped.”

He sourced thin wood veneer and attached adhesive and leather for reinforcement. He said material research was a huge part of the original project.

Using a manufacturing company with experience in both woodworking and watch assembly, the final product was created and inventory should be available by February. The first batch of watches — known as The Carpenter Collection — will go to Kickstarter backers. Stock inventory will follow, along with online orders and hopefully, getting it into boutiques and stores in the city.

“I just wanted to create something that people could wear often or every day. I noticed that jewelry and fashion accessories function a lot as a conversation piece. It’s like a sculpture on your wrist. Having my design be something wearable allows it to be a conversation starter.”

Three of Lorenzo Buffa's watches Credit: Charles Mostoller/METRO
Three of Lorenzo Buffa’s watches Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

Philly is the place to be for entrepreneurs

Buffa said Philadelphia is a great place for entrepreneurs and if he were doing business in New York City, it wouldn’t succeed.

“Philly’s creative community is so tight,” he said. “My voice is actually heard when I talk about something.”

There’s a resurgence of manufacturing, Buffa said, and he credits community events and organizations as key elements to help him produce and market his brand.

“Here, you really stand out,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to get traction here.”

Product costs are lower and even renting out space for a studio or workspace is affordable, he said.

“Philadelphia is a great place for creative entrepreneurs,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff happening in tech, apps or software. Even if you’re more on the consumer end, Philly is just a phenomenal place for that.”

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