Chad DiNenna of Nixon — Dialed In Values

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In a 400-year-old watch industry, Nixon is an anomaly. The brainchild of Chad DiNenna and Andy Laats, the watch brand is arguably the only to nail the surf, skateboard and snowboard market for timepieces. Along the way, it’s managed to weather several storms that came with expansive growth and acquisition. But how does a comparatively new kid on the block start at the corner surf shop and grow into a global brand worth close to $500 million USD? Chad shares the intangible values that have carried Nixon through it all.

Script and Narration by Eugene Kan
Text by Nathan Kan
Photos by Alex Maeland and Justin Ryan Kim
Audio by Elphick Wo

<p>Chad DiNenna, Co-Founder of Nixon, in his Encinitas, California office.</p>

Chad DiNenna, Co-Founder of Nixon, in his Encinitas, California office.

A couple of decades back, a teenager named Chad patrolled the sales floor of his local surf and skate shop.

As much a fan of action sports as he was timepieces, he found the combination meant the latter—especially the strap—paid a hefty price for all the rough and tumble abuse one would put themselves through.

Chad’s interest in watches and an entrepreneurial mindset would eventually turn into one of action sports and the American watch world’s most compelling stories.

Although he has trouble pinpointing exactly when the idea became firmly planted in his head, he does trace it back to his high school years working retail at said surf and skate shop. As this line of work extended into college, he recalls the inevitable amounts of downtime when no one was in the store. So, Chad chose to spend some of that spare time through a simple side hustle.

“In our shop, we sold wetsuits, and when you buy a wetsuit it used to come with a large extra piece of neoprene that you would use to patch up the holes in your knees when you’d surf,” he explains. “So, when I had free time in the store I’d go down the wetsuit aisle and tear off those extra pieces of neoprene. I’d cut them up and staple the ends together, electric tape them.”

Taking a batch of his invention, he’d put the pieces in a bowl at the front of the store and sell them as replacement watch bands. This ad-hoc money maker meant Chad had a little extra cash for the weekends and that he remained focused on watches.

As life would have it, the idea of doing something watch-related didn’t immediately translate after school and so the idea was shelved but never forgotten.

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