LAPIZTA founders used their passion for extreme sports to create watch brand

07/20/2014 7:00 PM

07/21/2014 10:36 AM

Passion is something Alexandre Galassi has always known. He and his family feed off the passion for adrenaline and fast cars that drives their lives. But he didn’t expect to find that same passion one 2013 Sunday summer in a kiosk at Aventura Mall.

It was staring back at him from a watch, one crafted from carbon fiber, with a black tire rubber strap and a checkered flag theme on the face.

“At that moment I stopped and said, ‘Wow, this is something that fits exactly with our way of thinking,’ ” said his father, Marcos Galassi.

The Galassis were meant to fly back to their native Brazil on Monday, but that didn’t stop them from calling the owners of the watch brand, a Doral-based startup called LAPIZTA.

Fate met innovation.

The Galassis, who star in a Brazilian reality TV show with a viewing audience of four million called Juntos na Estrada da Indy (“Together on the Road to Indy”), a show produced by Marcos Galassi, met with LAPIZTA, became the brand’s distributor in Brazil and sealed a sponsorship.

The Galassis were the first stepping stone to building a brand that has become known, in only a year and a half of operation, for touching customers at a personal level.

Launched in February 2013, the six-employee, family-run business seeks to bring something novel to the watch industry, introducing a line of watches inspired by the extreme sports that drive its owners’ lives.

LAPIZTA, derived from the Spanish for racetrack, la pista, is the creation of third-generation watchmakers and co-founders Naty Mizrachi and Daniel Schachtel, along with Mizrachi’s brother-in-law Mauricio Acevedo, who is executive vice president.

Mizrachi has completed more than 1,600 skydiving jumps. Schachtel raced cars in Costa Rica and Acevedo is a master diver.

The eight lines of watches, totaling 47 different pieces, are inspired by these sports, as well as motorcycling and boating. The collection also includes a woman’s line. They are priced between $295 and $695, and each style comes in a variety of colors.

Each line is named after wild animals or words relating to adrenaline.

The Accentor motorcycle-inspired line has a brake pad-inspired bezel and motorcycle tire strap. The diving-inspired Audax can we worn in depths of up to 300 meters and features a wave pattern in the face. The Skyros emulates a plane’s cockpit in the screws used for its four-point bezel.

“We are a lifestyle company that happens to use watches as a way of transmitting passion for life and for adrenaline,” Acevedo said.

DIFFERENTIATION

In a market saturated with watches of every design, shape and color, LAPIZTA enters the ring with an eye toward giving their consumers an experience, rather than just another watch product.

“You see a lot of brands that talk the talk, but you don’t really see the passion in their watches,” Mizrachi said.

Passion has always been a central part of Mizrachi’s life. It is what brought him back to the watch industry to pursue his family’s roots.

His grandfather had a small shop fixing watches in Panama more than 70 years ago and his father, Benjamin Mizrachi, had a watch business that Naty Mizrachi spent five years working at when he was younger. Watches were always a part of his life, he said.

In 2009, after spending 20 years in the technology industry, he decided to go back to his roots, joined with cousin Schachtel and Acevedo to build the first line.

In the past, the sharing capabilities of his family’s watch companies were confined to photocopies of watches that were faxed to clients across the country, Mizrachi said. Now, the Internet has facilitated the success of his business in a way his father and grandfather never had access to.

“You are able to show people beautiful designs and you can show it to them in ways that you never imagined,” he said.

For a business that works down to minute details, like the image of a shark the Izurus watch is named after located on the back of the watch, features like zoom-in views online help to give customers a better understanding of the detail that goes into each piece.

The business operates though its website, lapizta.com, and has expanded to 15 retailers throughout Florida. It has distributors in Venezuela, Brazil, Australia, Mizrachi’s native Panama and Schachtel’s native Costa Rica. It also has a presence in Europe through a Netherlands-based online seller, and in India through an online watch shop.

But it has been the partnerships that the Internet and social media have facilitated that have really elevated the brand. In March, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves joined the LAPIZTA ambassador team, catapulting LAPIZTA to the front lines of the racing world.

ADRENALINE AMBASSADORS

Castroneves, whose other accolades include being a Dancing with the Stars champion, reached out to the brand after finding the same connection Galassi found.

“What was supposed to be an hour meeting ended up being a six-hour meeting and by the end he said, ‘What do you guys need me to do? I love your product,’ ” Acevedo said. “Since then he was been opening every door that he can for us.”

Castroneves wears the black and red Oryx racing watch, which comes complete with a brake pad design on the bevel and checkered pattern.

And when he’s racing LAPIZTA is with him, on his car and on his gloves, where a LAPIZTA watch is printed and can be seen from his on-board camera during races.

The LAPIZTA team does social media campaigns around the gloves, inviting people to guess which watch is printed on Castroneves’ gloves during any given race. Castroneves often endorses the watches on social media and shares codes with his followers for LAPIZTA discounts.

The ambassador program was responsible for a 100 percent increase in web traffic and engagement when comparing April to June 2013 to April to June 2014, after the program launched. Online sales have more than doubled in the same time period.

Since, the program has enlisted several other stars from the racing world, including motorcyclist Corey Alexander, single-seat racer Cameron Twynham and factory Mazda driver Joel Miller.

Miller found the watches through an online watch search in March and immediately saw the spark.

“I was looking for the next cool watch out there,” he said. “What makes these watches special is that each one has a story to it. That story is something I could relate to.”

His favorite is the Addax racing watch in red and black. Like Castroneves, he promotes the watch to fans on social media platforms and during races.

“There has been a lot of positive feedback, especially when we started because it wasn’t anything that my group of followers had seen before,” Miller said.

He said he hopes to grow with the brand and develop a partnership in which the two are synonymous with each other in the eye of consumers.

THE ENDURANCE RACE

As partnerships continue to grow, LAPIZTA continues to develop its position in the extreme sports world.

The business participated in two Indy500 races this year, at Alabama in April and Houston in June, and was the official timepiece of the races, a promotional move that it attributes to gained popularity through its ambassadors. Watches were gifted to winners and team owners.

“For a startup company, for us, it’s a major achievement,” Acevedo said.

But to continue their momentum of success, they will have to continue innovating, Schachtel said.

In two months, the business plans to launch its Octane Challenge, a point-earning program in which individuals will be given opportunities to gain points by promoting the brand.

Challenges will range from social media posts to assisting at events or even creating a LAPIZTA event in their local community. Points can be cashed in for stickers, banners and eventually LAPIZTA watches.

Once someone has shown enough dedication to the brand, he or she will be allowed to buy the watches at a discounted rate and sell to friends and acquaintances. As that network grows, sellers will get access to booths, banners, catalogs and anything else needed to promote the product.

“If you don’t have a sponsor or a rich father, LAPIZTA can be a component that can help you continue living your dream,” Schachtel said.

By creating a platform for entrepreneurs to finance their extreme sport dreams, Schachtel said he believes LAPIZTA can become a staple brand of the industry.

“The point of sale has to be different,” Schachtel said. “People want to have a product by having an experience.”

As the business continues to grow, Schachtel said he hopes to continue finding distributors around the world and developing connections. The business would not share revenue numbers but said it has more than doubled in revenue since 2013.

Their new line is expected for release during the holiday season and will include three new race car models and a vintage airplane-inspired model.

“The product continues to communicate what you stand for,” Schachtel said. “You’re not only buying a product, you’re becoming part of a lifestyle. When you wear a LAPIZTA watch, you belong to a crew.”

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