December 13, 202320 min Read

Marko Koncina – The Force Behind Swiss Watch Gang

By Niclas Berglund

October 2011, Slovenia.

It’s an unexpectedly hot day for early October, but the car’s air conditioning, provides a comfortable escape from the heat. Inside, Marko Koncina sits, nervous yet expectant. Next to him sits his older brother, quietly looking out of the window. At the wheel is their uncle, whose firm grip on the steering wheel radiates silent determination. Beside the uncle in the front passenger seat is their aunt. The four of them are on their way to Switzerland. Marko and his brother have left everything behind in hopes of a better life. Marko rests his forehead against the back seat’s side window; the cold glass helps him relax. In his lap lies his diploma, a document attesting to his talent. Outside the car window, he watches the landscape slowly change, feeling a mix of anticipation and a slight anxiety. He closes his eyes.

What Marko doesn’t know on this day is that, in 10 years, he will have been a driving force in changing how the watch industry communicates. His face will be well-known worldwide, not least through one of YouTube’s biggest channels about watches.

Marko Koncina with his Maserati outside the Swiss Watch Gang and EFFEKT Agency studio in Zürich.

November 2023, Zürich.

I have arranged to meet with Marko Koncina, the founder of the YouTube channel Swiss Watch Gang, in central Zürich. It’s early morning, and just before our meeting, I receive a message with a picture of a damaged Maserati. He soon calls to explain that he will be late, waiting for traffic police. A truck had unexpectedly crashed into him from the side in the busy morning traffic. An hour later, he parks his car outside my hotel, and as soon as he sees me, he starts smiling broadly while apologizing for the unexpected delay. Until now, I had been worried that the damage to his car might cause Marko to cancel our meeting, or put him in a bad mood, but this concern proves to be unfounded.

– Cars are meant to be used, just like our watches. It’s just superficial damage that can be fixed, says Marko Koncina with a smile.

We sit down at a nearby café, and he places two watches on the table in front of us, from the watchmakers Chronoswiss and Feilipe Pikullik. I notice that he is wearing Konstantin Chaykin’s model The Joker on his wrist. These are very special watches, each unique, 1/1. The watches hold a special place in Marko Koncina’s collection and represent in several ways the journey he has made in life. Marko Koncina picks up the watch from Chronoswiss.

– I’ve been working with Chronoswiss for several years, and I remember when I went to their workshop to record a video. I pass by one of their watchmaker’s workstations and see a dial lying a bit carelessly on the side. I then ask Maik Panziera, head of design and head watchmaker, what kind of dial it is. I didn’t recognize it from any of their models. He explained that it was a dial they didn’t intend to use. But I loved it, so I asked if I could have it mounted in my Chronoswiss watch. He immediately said yes. They were also generous to give me the unique confirmation on the dial by adding “Limited 00/00”. I love how it shifts from intense green to sea blue in tone. The case has a PVD-Coating, a type of varnish, with a brown hue. Such a beautiful watch.

Chronoswiss C301, a watch that holds a special place in Marko Koncina’s collection.

Marko Koncina’s Chronoswiss with a Unique Dial.

Marko Koncina now runs one of the largest channels on YouTube, focused on independent watchmaking. Therefore, it’s not surprising that he brings three watches that are not particularly well-known to the general public. His journey from Slovenia to today is filled with interesting twists.

– I don’t come from a family with an interest in watches. I didn’t get a watch as a child; my interest in watches started when I was around 18-19 years old. I borrowed my grandmother’s watch, opened it, and disassembled the entire movement. Amazed by the mechanics, I decided to become a watchmaker. Unfortunately, I never managed to put my grandmother’s watch back together, he says, laughing at the memory.

He continues:

– I started looking for watchmaking courses and found one in Switzerland, WOSTEP, but it cost approximately 40,000 euros for two years. That much money wasn’t available in Slovenia.

With another laugh, Marko adds, “Maybe half, if even that.”

What the then 19-year-old Marko Koncina did was to evaluate which city in Switzerland had the highest average income, and then he made his decision.

– Geneva is the city of watches, but I saw in the statistics that it would be faster to earn money in Zürich. At that time, I had started study as an interpreter in Slovenia and wanted to work with translations between English, Slovenian, and German, languages I am fluent in. However, my enthusiasm for the interpreting profession began to wane. I went to the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana for five months and lost interest; the university wasn’t as fun as I had thought. My newfound passion for watches had ignited a new fire within me, says Marko Koncina.

We are in central Zürich as Marko Koncina displays his Chronoswiss with the characteristic retrograde second hand.

Upon my request for a portrait, Marko Koncina creatively stages a shower of falling leaves.

"There's An Opportunity – And Another One"

Zürich, October 2011.

We return to the day Marko Koncina arrives in Zürich with his uncle, aunt and older brother.

A gentle nudge on the shoulder startles Marko from his sleep. Disoriented, he tries to get his bearings. They have arrived in the Swiss city of Zürich. He attempts to get a first impression of the city that is to become his new home but is interrupted by his uncle pointing towards a restaurant outside the car. “What are you waiting for?” his uncle asks, his gaze fixed firmly on Marko. Without answering, Marko Koncina opens the car door, casts a final glance at his diploma, and steps out of the car.

– I will never forget that day outside the restaurant. My uncle had promised my family back in Slovenia that he would ensure both my brother and I got jobs before he returned, says Marko Koncina.

He strides into the restaurant and introduces himself, proudly showing his qualifications. However, the staff barely glance at the papers and quickly dismiss him. Disappointed, Marko leaves the restaurant and is met by his uncle’s questioning look outside. The uncle lifts his hands in a questioning gesture. Marko responds with a shake of his head. Without waiting for any further response from Marko, the uncle points past him and says, “There’s an opportunity – and another one,” as his finger sweeps across the line of restaurants along the street.

Marko Koncina’s unique watch from watchmaker Felipe Pikullik. Observe how the Swiss Watch Gang logo functions as the second hand.

Sometimes You Have To Give A Lot To Get A Little In Return

November 2023, Zürich.

Marko excuses himself as his phone rings. It’s the insurance company calling about the car damage. He converses quickly and efficiently in German, recounts the incident, and concludes the call by informing that the insurance company will assist him with the damages and that he already has an appointment at the workshop in a couple of days. Then, he returns to our conversation.

– My uncle is a real “doer”; he makes things happen. I admire him for that. His way of thinking and his attitude have played an important role for me as an entrepreneur.

Marko Koncina grew up in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, with his mother, father, and older brother. Throughout his childhood, he watched his parents work hard for the family’s well-being. Marko Koncina’s work ethic is deeply rooted in his home environment, where he learned the value of hard work.

– I am proud of my parents. Seeing their work ethic taught me early on what it takes to succeed in life. My brother and I eventually got jobs, me as a waiter at a local restaurant and my brother in the construction industry. When I wasn’t working, I delved into watchmaking, reading everything I could find. I even applied for jobs at established watch brands and local Zürich retailers without formal education. I told them, “Ask me anything about a watch, I know the answer.” I knew every little detail. But I was rejected, says Marko Koncina.

While saving money for his education, Marko Koncina also began to take an interest in marketing and social media. He started the page I Love Watches on Facebook, which quickly became popular. Marko Koncina immersed himself in literature on how to navigate the field to grow organically and how to become a successful entrepreneur. From these books, he gained an insight that he still carries with him today.

– To get something, you have to give. Sometimes you have to give a lot to get a little back. Generosity is a powerful trait that should not be underestimated, and I value it highly. When I started in the watch industry, I spent several years giving. I paid for all my travels myself, including hotels and flights. I worked “for free” to show what I could do. It was an investment that has paid off many times over today. In a few days, I’ll be attending Dubai Watch Week, and this year I have full access to all the brands we wish to meet. Sometimes I have to stop and really appreciate how all the hard work has changed my role in the industry, says Marko Koncina.

A year ago, Marko Koncina achieved one of his milestones with Swiss Watch Gang: receiving the coveted Silver Play Button from YouTube – a testament to 100,000 subscribers.

Marko Koncina setting up the lighting in the Swiss Watch Gang studio.

The board with Polaroid pictures of visitors to Swiss Watch Gang and EFFEKT Agency over the years.

The start of A Fast-Paced Journey

It all started 2016 when Marko Koncina decided one day to buy a simple camera and travel to the watch fair BaselWorld in Switzerland. He financed the trip with money he had saved, initially intended for his watchmaking education. His newfound interest in digital creation had sparked new thoughts within him. Following his intuition, he gave it a chance.

At BaselWorld, with his new camera set to full automatic, Marko Koncina confidently approached one of the larger watch brands. They turned him away for not having an appointment. This scenario repeated itself at the next watch brand, and again at the third. After several hours at the fair, he had not managed to take a single picture. Feeling disappointed but determined, he shook off his despondency. He recalled the day he arrived in Zürich, remembering how his uncle pointed towards the restaurants, saying, “There’s an opportunity, and another one.” Marko Koncina then turned to the section with the independent brands. Approaching URWERK, to his surprise, he was warmly welcomed. “A new guy, how nice that you want to see our watches. Welcome,” said the staff at URWERK, entrusting him with watches worth over 100,000 euros to photograph. He was overwhelmed.

– Just now, I wasn’t even allowed in the booths of brands with watches for 3-5 thousand euros, let alone hold them. Suddenly, I was standing with watches worth 100.000 euros in my hands. They gave me full access and treated me with respect. I received the same treatment at MB&F and Akrivia. My passion for independent watchmaking took shape right there. As I mentioned before, I don’t come from a family with an interest in watches, so my mind was open and unbiased. I feel nothing special for an Omega Speedmaster, even though it is an iconic watch. But the way these independent brands tell time fascinated me. I was completely taken and knew that I had found my niche as a digital creator, says Marko Koncina.

Konstantin Chaykin’s model The Joker. A unique watch purchased by Marko Koncina from the watchmaker in 2018. The eyes function as the hour and minute hands.

This unique watch stands out with its distinctive face dial that uses the eyes as hour and minute hands, and a smile serving as the moon phase indicator.

I Didn't Dare Show The Pictures To Anyone

Promoting unknown watch brands carries certain risks for those seeking a large audience, an experience Marko Koncina learned early in his career.

– I knew it would be harder to reach people with my pictures and videos. Small brands don’t get help from, for example, Google because almost nobody knows about them. But today, my followers expect me to spotlight these unknown watchmakers. I’ve seen how my YouTube channel has changed the lives of some of them. It’s an amazing feeling.

We sip our coffee and comment on how the noise level has changed in the café, which has become filled with guests. Marko picks up my recorder and holds it close to ensure good audio. As a photographer, I was curious when he mentioned that he photographed the watches at BaselWorld with the camera on automatic mode. I asked him how the pictures turned out.

– Oh God, it was a disaster. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t dare show the pictures to anyone. I had gotten the chance to photograph watches, which to me are works of art, and I could barely look at the pictures. I remember how URWERK asked me to send them the pictures. But of course, I didn’t, says Marko Koncina, smiling at the memory.

URWERK’s T-Rex 105 model, captured by Marko at BaselWorld 2016.

Another image captured by Marko with his camera set to full automatic mode at BaselWorld 2016.

When he returned to Zürich after the trip, Marko Koncina reached out to skilled photographers via Instagram. He realized it was a time for learning and that humility was key to developing his photography. He asked his role models Alex RoseJames ColeAlex Teuscher and Zurab Zazashvili how they did it and what he needed to photograph watches as well as they did. Marko Koncina had read a lot about interpersonal relationships and how to ask for help. Now he could start applying his theoretical knowledge in practice.

– You have to ask for help in the right way, not just assume it’s always there. I think the books helped me understand this.

They taught him how to handle his camera, understand shutter speed and ISO. They told him to buy a flash and lights. Marko Koncina listened and absorbed everything. After that, his photography improved dramatically. His Instagram account, which was then called “SanMarcoWatch”, started growing quickly. That’s when he was contacted by Beyer, who offered Marko Koncina to photograph their watches to post on his Instagram account, but he responded with a different offer.

– I offered to manage their social media for a three-month trial period at an attractive price. They accepted my offer, and I quit my job as a waiter the same day, abandoning the idea of becoming a watchmaker. I knew I had found my path.

Marko Koncina talks about a conversation he had with his uncle before leaving his homeland.

– “Marko, what would you like to work with if you already had all the money in the world?” It was a rhetorical question. He wanted me to work with something I was passionate about. When you work with your passion, you don’t give up at setbacks. You’re also not entirely driven by money. I would do the same thing I do today even if I had no income. I love watches, says Marko Koncina.

For Marko Koncina, this watch represents not just exceptional watchmaking craftsmanship but also a playfulness and originality that reflects his own approach to watch design.

The back of the watch is adorned with a Chinese lion, carefully chosen by Marko Koncina for its symbolic meaning as a protector against misfortune.

The Beginning Of Swiss Watch Gang

The account “SanMarcoWatch” was later acquired by a company that took over both the account and its followers, and today the account operates under a new name. By this time, Marko Koncina had already started a new account under the name Swiss Watch Gang, where he took a new direction. The account would no longer be anonymous; Marko Koncina would now be a front figure and appear with his face.

This turned out to be perfect timing. The sale of his old account provided him with funds to further invest in Swiss Watch Gang. At this time, he had also begun collaborating with some like-minded individuals from his home region in Slovenia. They ran a film production company and were skilled filmmakers.

– I had long wanted to start a YouTube channel but lacked the knowledge. A lot is required to make a good video – everything from filming and editing to color correction. But with my new partners, I now saw this as possible. They soon moved their operations to Zürich and offered me to be part of the company. Swiss Watch Gang then began to be produced by our joint creative video production, EFFEKT Agency, says Marko Koncina.

And as they say, the rest is history. Swiss Watch Gang is today one of the largest YouTube channels about watches, with 122,000 subscribers. The channel primarily focuses on independent watchmaking. Today, EFFEKT Agency has grown and become a major player in digital creation and social media campaigns in the watch industry.

Marko Koncina, focused on his work in the well-equipped Swiss Watch Gang studio in Zürich, creating content that captures the essence of watch culture.

The creative hub of EFFEKT Agency and Swiss Watch Gang, located on the outskirts of Zürich city, where ideas come to life and the passion for watches thrives.

Marko Koncina diligently preparing the perfect cover photo for Swiss Watch Gang’s next YouTube video.

The Key To Success

Swiss Watch Gang is now an established channel, and Marko Koncina is a well-known face in the industry. I ask him how he views his journey from the day outside the restaurant with his uncle to where he is today.

– You have no idea how much I have worked to get here. I get up at 06:00 and turn off the light at midnight. It’s been like that for many years. My first video on YouTube got just a few hundred views, within the first weeks. I remember thinking, “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into,” and I was close to giving up, says Marko Koncina.

But the entrepreneur in Marko didn’t give up. Instead, he continued with the attitude that if you give, you get back. He started contacting other digital creators and suggesting collaborations.

– I contacted Teddy Baldassarre, an American YouTuber, and he was surprised I didn’t have more followers. He invited me to his channel, and I doubled my followers in one day, from 400 to 800. It was a big moment for me and a milestone for Swiss Watch Gang.

He continues:

– When I started the channel, I only had my own watches to begin with. I remember doing a review of my Tudor GMT and my Jacob&Co Epic X. They didn’t get many views, but then I managed to persuade Jacob&Co to let me record a video for them. Today, they are one of my most loyal customers. Many of the videos you see from them have been recorded by my production company, EFFEKT Agency. We also work with Bucherer, Beyer, and URWERK, to name a few. These were brands that I heavily invested in when I started. Today, they are our clients, says Marko Koncina

Generosity and giving of one’s time and helping others is something Marko Koncina constantly comes back to. He believes that a large part of his success is due to his consistent generosity and the belief that if you give, you will receive in return sooner or later.

Marko Koncina’s unique watch from Felipe Pikullik. The Swiss Watch Gang logo indicates the seconds.

The dial, striking with its meticulously hand-engraved details.

Highlighting Watchmakers And Brands

Marko Koncina picks up his Felipe Pikullik from the table and begins to talk about his friendship with the German watchmaker.

– The essence of Swiss Watch Gang is to highlight watchmakers and brands that are unknown. I had made a video about Felipe Pikullik without having one of his watches in the studio. After that, we started talking, and I asked if he could make a watch for me, as I really liked his design. He then suggested that we create a personalized model with the Swiss Watch Gang logo as the second hand. Initially, I was skeptical, but today I’m glad I agreed to it. I now own three watches from him and they are fantastic watches with outstanding craftsmanship. We’ve become good friends over the years, and I often give him advice on how to navigate in the industry, says Marko Koncina.

Another one of Marko Koncina’s watches from the watchmaker Felipe Pikullik.

The model named MoonPhase is a limited edition.

We decide to leave the café. Marko Koncina puts on his Joker watch and we head towards the EFFEKT Agency and Swiss Watch Gang studio on the outskirts of Zürich City. He’s going to show me how they record their videos and work in the studio. However, time is running short as he has a photo assignment for one of his clients’ Instagram accounts later in the afternoon. I mention that I usually work with existing light when I shoot for Bezl, but I’m curious about his studio lighting techniques. Unfortunately, I can’t join him, as he has a meeting with a client.

In the Swiss Watch Gang studio, the team is busy meticulously setting up the scene and choosing the right backdrops for the next recording.

Big Plans For Swiss Watch Gang

Arriving at the EFFEKT Agency and Swiss Watch Gang offices and studios, I am struck by how professional everything is. It feels like any established production agency. The studio is familiar from the Swiss Watch Gang’s YouTube videos. Marko Koncina immediately begins preparing props and asks what I need to take good pictures. We work together in the studio while I photograph. I ask him about the future plans for the channel.

– I have big plans for Swiss Watch Gang. We just received the first samples of our own watch straps. I’m also designing a unique website that will offer visitors a unique experience. Watches will might be in focus, but there will be more. I’m a bit of a horder, says Marko Koncina, laughing.

Suddenly, he stops and looks at his watch.

– I’m sorry, Niclas, but now we need to move towards the city center.

He packs his things and we leave the studio. Later in the evening, I receive a text message from Marko with a picture showing his photography equipment for watches. The flash, diffusion box, lamp, and various materials used along with the watches are clearly visible. With the picture, he has shown how studio photography of watches is done. I feel grateful for the new knowledge he has shared and his generosity and motto become apparent once again: “If you give, you get back in one way or another” ⏱

To stay ahead and receive the latest updates from Bezl, follow us on our social media channels @bezlmagazine on Instagram and YouTube. We look forward to sharing our passion for watches with you!

🎥 See the trailer video with Marko Koncina, the founder of Swiss Watch Gang.