Watch company boss Will Stein thought Oprah call was a wind up

Not used to chatting with the talk-show royalty, Swiss watch and jewellery brand Philip Stein president Will Stein was sure his colleague was patching through a hoax call.

Will Stein. Philip Stein
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When Madonna and Oprah Winfrey publicly endorse your new product, it is perhaps safe to put in the order for that Rolls-Royce you have been promising yourself.

When they did just that for Swiss watch and jewellery brand Philip Stein, it sent the company and its president, Will Stein, soaring to dizzying new heights.

Stein flew from his base in Zurich to Abu Dhabi last month to open the brand’s second UAE store, in the Yas Viceroy hotel – the first is in the Burj Al Arab. He admits such celebrity endorsements have helped the brand come a long way in 12 years.

“When my wife Rina and I started our company, in 2002, we were very small and one of our friends managed to get a watch to Madonna’s personal assistant,” he says. “A few weeks later, Madonna gifted Oprah one of our watches on her show – that’s when Oprah called.”

Not used to chatting with the talk-show royalty, Stein was sure his colleague was patching through a hoax call.

“Sure, of course, it’s Oprah on the line – I told him, ‘Let her wait’,” says Stein. “Eventually, I realised it wasn’t a joke and, when we spoke, she said she liked the watch’s interchangeable bands and dual time-zone feature because she travelled a lot. She also said she loved the natural frequency-based technology we use and wanted to introduce it on her show in the Oprah’s Favourite Things segment. Well, you can imagine what happened after that. It was nuts.”

Stein’s watches subsequently flew off the shelves in the United States, with hundreds of shoppers asking for “Oprah’s watch” at the counters of Neiman Marcus stores.

The unique selling point was their Natural Frequency Technology.

“To explain the concept in a nutshell, we’re constantly surrounded by frequencies – both man-made and natural,” says Stein. “Natural ones were discovered in the environment in the 1950s by German scientists. They found that when we’re shielded from them we feel unwell. So we created NFT, a disc that acts like a finely-tuned antenna, calibrating the natural frequencies and channelling them to our bodies for our personal benefits.”

Stein’s driving ambition is to counter man-made frequencies with his technology – making the wearer of his products calmer and more focused.

Following the success of his day-wear watch, in 2012 he rolled out a sleep bracelet for optimal nocturnal rest.

“People tell me they feel more inner balance, a greater harmony,” Stein says. “The sleep bracelet uses the exact same technology but with a different combination of frequencies to attract and induce sleep.

“Some people notice the difference overnight and wake up feeling incredibly refreshed. Others tend to notice big differences with the watch, in particular, in the first week to 14 days.”

Aeroplanes and airports are also places where Stein believes he can convert travel-weary frequent flyers to his new technology.

Winfrey has spoken of the brand’s jet-lag benefits and encouraged her faithful viewers to try Stein’s holistic wrist-wear range, not once but twice more, in 2005 and 2010. She also went on to commission Stein to craft a commemorative watch to mark her show’s 25th anniversary.

Despite his celebrity clientele, and access to the brand’s back catalogue of fine watches, Stein remains humble.

“Personally I only own five watches,” he says. “I’m not a flashy watch person – and just have one for work, one for casual wear and one for sports.”