Launched four years ago, the stylish high-end watch brand PU – known for combining traditional Khmer art with a sleek modern luxury aesthetic – will soon unveil its ladies edition, which is among four new models slated for release this year.
“After we finished our design phase with the four models including the ladies edition, we’re happy to announce that the latter is officially the ‘Rose Gold Edition’ with blue hardware and 18K rose gold hands,” Seth Pitu, founder of PU watches tells The Post.
Pitu says that PU watches has a mission to promote Khmer creative talent and increase demand for the Kingdom’s products abroad and the design was inspired by laterite bricks – the main construction material for building Cambodia’s ancient temples.
“The case back is artistically designed based on laterite bricks and it bears the Khmer numerals 6 and 9. We used high quality cow leather as a strap and it has a retail price of between 600 to 800 dollars each,” says Pitu.
Starting in January 2022, PU launched four new models for local and international markets aimed at clients who appreciate the art of watchmaking. They also have a line of accessories.
Another new model is called “Tiger Eyes Stone” and it’s made from a special gemstone cut thin to 0.5mm. During the trial production, PU had to be careful not to break these thin wafers before they were set due to their fragility.
“We spent a longer time on them and that meant higher production costs. For the ‘Tiger Eyes Stone’ watch project, something like 210 out of 300 stone pieces broke and then only 90 per cent of the remaining stones could pass quality control standards and then we still lost another 5 per cent to breakage during the assembly stage,” Pitu explains, noting that the outer casing of the watch is made from durable ceramic that is both scratch-proof and wear resistant.
According to Pitu, the Tiger Eye Stone watch comes in 18K solid yellow gold, blue screws and a special automatic movement (10 ATM). The 1.5mm PU logo on the watch is made from sapphire crystal glass.
“Because of the high costs in the production chain, with a lot of trial and failure, the Tiger Eye Stone watch comes with a price tag of $4,190,” says Pitu.
The third model is called the Banteay Srei Limited Edition and is named after the 10th-century Cambodian temple located 25 km north-east of the main group of Angkor temples that is famous for its intricate carvings dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
“We took inspiration from the carvings on this amazing temple, but we don’t use too much ancient style embossing or engraving on PU watch. We don’t want to copy the carvings exactly and commercialise them,” he says.
Pitu says the price on the Banteay Srei is $5,200 and it’s a limited edition timepiece that seeks to promote the value of Khmer art and show its magnificence.
“In 2022, PU produced only six of the Banteay Srei Limited Edition,” According to PU Watch Cambodia’s official instagram. “The last of this model will be available for pre-order in 2024.”
According to Pitu, “Tiger Eyes Stone” and “Banteay Srei Limited Edition” are popular among Chinese people because they believe in Feng Shui and those watch designs adhere to its rules and therefore bring good energy to their owners.
The quality – and price tag – of PU watches doesn’t max itself out at four digits. The most expensive watch is the Laterite Limited Edition. Announced in January, 2022, clients who pre-order the watch must wait for two years before delivery of the $30,000 timepiece.
“PU Watch Cambodia planned to produce only three watches of this kind and two of them were sold immediately at the launch,” Pitu says.
Pitu, who postponed studying for his Master’s degree in sales and marketing to pursue watchmaking and design training with Swiss and Japanese companies, said the Laterite Edition watches are meant to signify strength and longevity like the bricks that have kept the temples of Cambodia standing for centuries.
PU Watch Cambodia began operations on October 1, 2018 and according to Pitu they have been surprisingly successful – even beyond his expectations – encountering a huge demand both locally and internationally for these limited edition and made-to-order timepieces.
In their early days, PU began with 10 staff members and it took at least five days to produce one watch. The first three models were the PU Classic Model, PU International Model and PU Traditional Model with prices between 400 to 500 dollars in overseas markets.
The materials and parts for making the watches are imported, but Pitu says that his goal is to provide great jobs for local people and promote traditional Khmer design in modern luxury accessories.
“The watches are entirely assembled by hand in Cambodia using Khmer designs and modern techniques as we want to create jobs for Cambodian people,” he says.
Less than two months after PU announced the Kingdom Craftsmanship watch that year, Pitu said that 50 of them were purchased within Cambodia and he has already exported PU timepieces overseas to countries such as South Korea, Japan, Brazil, Bosnia, China, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, the US and Australia.
Since its inception, PU Watch Cambodia has produced 15 different watch models and all of them have come with hand-made Khmer-designed boxes and bags, but Pitu has chosen not to use local woods because of the issues of deforestation and illegal logging in the Kingdom.
Before PU Watch Cambodia was born with the support of Pitu’s friends and the professional watchmakers he met during his education, Pitu says he experienced many personal failures in business management.
The 33-year-old founder said it took him five years to build this luxury watch brand and he hopes that PU will last longer than he does.
“I want to build a brand that can compete in the international market and my dying wish will be that PU watches last 100 or 200 years even after I’m gone,” he says.
Beside watches, Pitu is expanding the PU brand by adding glasses frames and bags to his line of products. He hopes to compete for the National Entrepreneurship Awards organised by the National Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Khmer Enterprise.
“I’m interested in competing for the award this year, but I’m still missing out on one of the qualifications. But in 2023, I’ll compete in the National Entrepreneurship Awards.”
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