Kobold has announced a program in which its U.S.-based watchmakers will train a group of Sherpas in the art of watchmaking. The former high-altitude mountain guides from Nepal’s Himalaya region will begin learning how to assemble mechanical wristwatches in March. The one-year-long program also includes a basic course on managing a luxury business.
After successfully completing the program at Kobold’s Pittsburgh facilities, the Nepalese citizens will return to their native Mount Everest region to assemble Kobold watches destined for the company’s Kathmandu retail store, which is expected to open in August of this year.
Kobold expects to train two to three Nepalese citizens every year. “By training relatively unskilled Nepalese workers how to make high-end watches, we provide them with a vastly increased level of competitiveness not only in their native country but around the world,” explains Michael Kobold, the company’s 31-year-old founder. Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries, with a per capita income of only $447 according to the Asian Development Bank. According to Kobold, a Nepal-based watchmaker can earn more than thirty times that amount at home, and even more overseas. Many Nepalese workers live abroad because of limited job opportunities at home.
This venture is not Kobold’s only connection with Nepal. In 2009 and 2010, the company’s founder and CEO scaled Mount Everest in support of the Navy SEAL Warrior Fund. “Manufacturing and marketing watches that say Made in Nepal is good business for a small company that specializes in adventure watches,” said Michael Kobold. “Nepal is a destination for thousands of Western mountaineers each year, and a watch handmade by Sherpas of the Khumbu is the perfect token to commemorate a successful summit bid.”