Watches for those who like a challenge

Swiss company Norqain has conquered the international watch market by creating a new story. CEO Ben Küffer tells us more during a visit to the company’s headquarters in Nidau. He also talks about mammoth tasks, his dream as a father and Norqain’s partnership with Bank CIC.

Ben Küffer is 35 years old and CEO of Norqain. He founded the company in Nidau, near Biel, in 2018. Five years later, Norqain already has a presence in 178 stores in 25 countries. It produces nothing but mechanical watches which cost between CHF 2,000 and CHF 5,500 each. Ben and his fellow founders – former ice hockey pro Mark Streit and Ted Schneider, son of the ex-owner of Breitling – realised from the beginning that the watch market didn’t actually need a new brand. “So our vision was to create a new story that would go beyond tradition and history, the two elements we are already very familiar with in the world of watches,” he says. The new story matches the slogan: “my life, my way” and represents the Norqain spirit: “young, modern and accessible”. Norqain makes watches for those who like a challenge.


Ben Küffer

Ben Küffer, Founder and CEO of Swiss watchmaker Norqain

Headwind from the market

Making watches is in Ben Küffer’s DNA. His family have been in the business for 40 years in Tavannes in the Bernese Jura. He himself spent 11 years working at Breitling, before deciding to set up his own business in 2017. What did he need to take that step? “Passion,” he replies. “Doing things with passion and putting my energy into them comes naturally to me.”  You also have to be resilient. The first year, when Norqain wasn’t even on the market, was tough. The three founders felt a great deal of headwind from the industry. But the breakthrough for the young company came when it entered the market at the start of 2019: Norqain had a very successful year. It established a presence in 12 countries, signed up more than 70 retailers and achieved millions in sales.


But the sense of euphoria at the success didn’t last long. In 2020, Norqain faced new challenges in the shape of the coronavirus pandemic.  But Ben and his team had faith in their ideas and forged ahead with investing in the products. Looking for suitable lenders, Norqain presented its vision to Bank CIC. Since then, the Basel bank has been there for the company as a key strategic partner. For Ben, the decision to work with Bank CIC was an obvious one. As he puts it: “We were very impressed by how well they understood our entrepreneurial vision.” He also appreciates the close and good partnership – especially because it allows Norqain to make investments for the long term. “Bank CIC also appreciates the fact that we’re in a dynamic market where things don’t always go to plan,” Ben remarks. This mutual trust is hugely valuable.

Right from the start, we were very impressed by how well Bank CIC understood our entrepreneurial vision. 

Perfectionism, sensitivity, teamwork

Despite the initial market scepticism, Norqain remains successful on the market. Ben puts this down to the fact that the whole team are perfectionists with a sensitivity for detail. “Before we take important decisions, we think very hard about whether our idea stands out from the competition.” The CEO is full of praise for the close cooperation within the Norqain team. The company presently has 54 employees around the world. Ben describes searching for suitable employees in its foreign locations as “a mammoth task that demands huge amounts of energy”. For him, it’s important that staff are a good fit for the company and share its values. These include a culture of honest feedback, willingness to work hard and good teamwork. 


Ben Küffer

Swiss company Norqain has conquered the international watch market


Looking to the future, Norqain is keen to further expand the global branch network and develop new models jointly with Jean-Claude Biver. Since 2022, the experienced entrepreneur and former CEO of Hublot has been supporting the young company as a mentor and adviser to the Board of Directors.

Dreaming of the fourth generation

And talking of the future: although Ben is a young CEO at 35, he is already thinking about who will succeed him. “My son will soon be six and my daughter is three; my dream is that one day they will take over the company,” he laughs. His family visit him once a week at the company’s head office. “Who knows, maybe my children will develop the same passion for watches I had when I was a boy.” Of course he is not forcing anyone, but he is sure that having succeeded with the third generation, his family will manage to persuade the fourth generation too of the delights of watches.


And when the time is ripe for Ben to seriously set about the succession arrangements at Norqain, he can count on support from his adviser at Bank CIC.