Elmond Khoza, the CEO and founder of Nkarhi Timepieces has a mission – to get the world to notice the beauty of Africa through their Africa-inspired timepieces.
Khoza, an electrical engineer who owns a solar company, travelled Africa in 2016 to install solar systems, and that’s when the idea hit him to start an Africa-inspired brand.
‘I noticed the distinctive characteristics of African cities. They’re alive with a heart and a soul of their own, and hold the hopes and dreams of many who left their homes to seek a better life in the city. I wanted to pay homage to African cities by introducing a brand that would embody their spirit as well as their unique design and architecture.’
If you told Khoza a few years ago that he would own a watch brand, he wouldn’t have believed you. At one stage in his life, he didn’t want anything to do with watches.
‘My dad repairs watches for a living, and in our house, there were always watches. As an African boy, the concept of “African time” didn’t exist for me, because my dad made sure that I always had a watch around my wrist, and I never had an excuse to be late. This led to a love/hate relationship with watches and I wasn’t a willing apprentice when my dad wanted to teach me, his eldest son, his trade.’
Yet, when Khoza went to university to study engineering, he met a group of friends who really loved watches. ‘One friend had to have his watch repaired but was told that he would have to go to the manufacturer directly. I told him if he bought me a tool set I could do it for him, and I did.’
That’s when Khoza realised that watches had become an integral part of his being while growing up, whether he liked it or not.
‘So, when I was thinking of starting an Africa-inspired brand, the answer came naturally, I wanted to launch a watch brand.’
However, Khoza was initially unsure if people still wore watches. With smart devices that manage our lives and schedules constantly, was there really still a need for a new wrist watch brand with the sole purpose of telling time?
There was only one way to find out. In 2017, Khoza challenged himself to find 2000 watches to fix, and as a result the #Fix2000Watches campaign was born. Khoza was surprised to find 2000 people through this campaign who indeed wore watches and who needed their watches repaired. While fixing these watches, it also became apparent to him that no Africa-inspired timepieces existed.
And so, Nkarhi was born. ‘Nkarhi’ is the Xitsonga word for time, which goes with their slogan: It’s Africa’s time to shine. It took two years of evolving designs and ideas before the brand was launched in 2019. The main challenge was to procure quality components, which mostly come from overseas companies. ‘My ultimate dream is to manufacture most of the components on our own continent – which will emphasise our truly African brand further.’
And how does his father feel about his son’s finally following in his footsteps? ‘Words cannot describe the look on my dad’s face when Nkarhi was launched. Today, he is the proud owner of the first Nkarhi watch ever produced. Hopefully, my dad will be able to play a bigger role in the brand in the years to come – he is, after all, the one with whom it all began, and I have him to thank for finding my calling, firstly as a watch repairer, but now also as a watch designer with my own brand.’
Nkarhi has created a fund for up-and-coming entrepreneurs. R20 of each purchase is donated to help build their businesses. For more information go to nkarhi.africa.