We had the good fortune of connecting with Andrew McLean and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Andrew, what do you attribute your success to?
Recognizing the power of the underdog. Our brand, from the very beginning, sought to enter and compete in an international market space dominated by very large, very powerful, and very well established brands. The biggest advantage we had in 2013 when I sketched our first concepts in a notebook, and continue to exploit today, is that we are not constrained by the “establishment mentality” of behemoth corporations. Ironically, all of the legacy attributes these giants often promote in their marketing – longstanding traditions, generational stability, fame, wealth, etc – also render them extremely slow to adapt to new challengers because they are necessarily risk-averse. Our speed, agility, and unconventional thinking combine to challenge their outmoded market position because they are simply too big to react quickly. They’re trying to turn a container ship while we’re zipping around in a speedboat. Eventually, they’ll catch up, but during these periods of inversion we gain incremental market share by becoming the market maker when we force them to react to us. I dislike the term “disrupter” but that’s what it is. When we first started, I noticed a lot of other smaller companies doing the opposite by mimicking the market makers and I think the strategic misstep there is that you are actually strengthening their legacy position and failing to differentiate. Recognizing and exploiting our underdog position meant being open to better tech, new engineering, different processes. Sometimes, we had no choice. When big companies literally control the supply chain, we had to develop materials, engineering, and processes to create our own supply chain. You’ve probably heard a million traditionalists in every aspect of life and business say things like “This is just how it’s done.” To win, I think you have to be willing to ask “why?” especially if there is a better way. That’s how you exploit your asymmetrical advantage of being the underdog.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Despite our small size, SēL has grown from a boot strapped start up to one of the worlds foremost manufacturers of ultra-performance dive watches. After breaking quite a few “professional grade” watches, I originally started SēL to make a lighter, stronger, more adjustable, more comfortable, and extremely accurate dive watch. I also wanted us to be more than just a ‘brand’, so we do the majority of our own manufacturing in-house. Design, manufacturing, and assembly is currently done in a 1000 square foot space in Tucson, AZ.

From the beginning, a unique engineering approach allowed us to produce our first deep diver, the “MKI OmniDiver”, from high strength titanium alloys to be smaller and lighter than our competition and specifically designed to eliminate the structural and functional weaknesses common to watches at many times our price-point. We are currently the only company in the world producing a grade 5 titanium bracelet and clasp with tool-less adjustment for perfect day-to-day fit.

Something people may not realize is that most “performance” and “sport” watches – regardless of price – share the same low cost manufacturing techniques that often result in structural failures. They often rely on their brand strength and marketing budgets to compensate for their low performance and I have a box full of broken “professional grade” watches to prove this. The original goal I guess, was to build myself a watch and bracelet that I couldn’t break.

Most small watch companies buy the majority of their parts from generic mass-manufacturers in China. We do not. Our movement components currently are Swiss, but every other part you can see on a SēL from the case to the hands, dial, and bracelet and right down to the screws is manufactured by us. No question, it’s definitely not the easiest or least expensive approach but function first and performance first is sacrosanct to me.

A question I get often is if smart watches have been a threat to the traditional watch industry and they really haven’t at least not in our segment. What we’ve found through focus groups and research is that the smart watch consumer was never a likely customer in our segment. Companies like Casio who made mostly low cost digital watches have been forced to pivot dramatically but we have not.

Looking to the future, I’m focused on scaling production capability to quadruple our annual output without compromising either our product performance or exceptional customer service. We’ll also be expanding our current collection of two dive watches and one field watch to include a fourth watch: an auto-sport inspired chronograph.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
OK ignoring the fact that Phoenix and Scottsdale are really close I’m keeping this 3 day weekend trip in Tucson! The Sonoran desert around Tucson is such an austere and beautiful place so I think a day 1 trip in the Lamborghini would be a great way to start. A drive up the Mt Lemmon Scenic Byway to see the dramatic change in the biome from 2500 feet city elevation to the high desert and eventually alpine region at the peak at 9,200 feet (and the southernmost ski area in the country!) Then I think, head south to Sonoita wine country and maybe a little wine tasting. Back to the city in time for the amazing desert sunset and some street tacos and people watching around Hotel Congress. Day 2, all of my athletic friends would love a trail run at Saguaro National Park east and for the less athletic friends, we’ll grab a horse from Tanque Verde ranch. Brunch at Saguaro Corners at the park exit. Then, we hop in the jeep and head into Redington Pass for some off-roading and a little tactical tailgate: food, brews, and target shooting. For diner, we’ll head back to the house for cowboy steaks over an open mesquite fire under the stars. Day 3 might have to check off some tourist stuff: Bike tour of historic downtown Tucson, Biosphere, Titan Missile Museum, Pima Air and Space museum, Tombstone, Bisbee, Botanical Gardens…

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My wife, Mattie. She deserves more credit than everyone else combined.

Website: www.selinstrument.com

Instagram: @selinstrument

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-mclean-ab49431a

Image Credits
Anthony Maestas

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.