interviewing Dean Schneider-Norqain Ambassador & Wildlife Activist

Dean Schneider, Global Brand Ambassador and Wildlife Activist for NORQAIN.

On the occasion of the WILD ONE Hakuna Mipaka Launch Event in Singapore. Dean, who’s work and design inputs towards creating this edition graced the occasion together with Ben Kuffer, Founder and CEO of NORQAIN

The Norqain Wild One Hakuna Mipaka Limited Edition launched with Dean Schneider as global brand ambassador

Gerald: Hi Dean. Welcome to Singapore. We were just chatting about how Singapore is a new experience for you. What’s been your experience so far taking Norqain around the world?

Dean Schneider (DS): It was a great experience, a big adventure. Still, a long journey ahead of us, I think. It started two and a half years ago. It was actually absolutely not planned. As many people know, up until today, Norqain is my only real brand deal, collaboration, and partnership that I do. It was not planned because it is very tough for someone who wants to stick to his values and his mission in all possible ways – to collaborate with big brands who have budgets to finance such a collaboration – and still continue to stick to those values.

However, my association with Norqain came very naturally. It was suggested by a friend. I said a couple of times, “No, I’m not interested in the watch industry or the luxury industry” Then the friend said, “Listen, it’s much more than just a watch brand. It has a mission to it. It has a message to it. It has a higher purpose in general. So why don’t you just sit down with the CEO who would love to meet you and just have a casual chat and see where it leads to”.

I was anyways in Switzerland so I thought, okay, let’s do that. So we sat down, we chatted for about half an hour and it was an immediate match! We’re friends today as well. So it’s much more than just a partnership or a collaboration. The values are fully aligned. His values are the same as mine. He just practices them in the watch industry and I practice them in the animal conservation industry. And this is why I think that was such a good match.

Norqain Wildlife Ambassador Dean Schneider and Norqain CEO, Ben Küffer.
Norqain Wildlife Ambassador Dean Schneider and Norqain CEO, Ben Küffer.

And that’s when everything started. Up till today, if you ask me, like, how do you experience that whole collaboration thing, I don’t even look at it as a collaboration. We have never really had a real business chat or business talk. We don’t talk a lot of numbers either. It’s just, “You support me, I support you. Wherever I can help you, we will help. Wherever you can support Norqain, you will help”. And that’s how it has been for the past two and a half years and I hope it will remain that way because I love this way much more than the official traditional business, finance, contractual way.

Norqainer & Brand Ambassador, Dean Schneider with Norqain CEO, Ben Küffer at Norqain Boutique in Singapore
Norqainer & Brand Ambassador, Dean Schneider with Norqain CEO, Ben Küffer at Norqain Boutique in Singapore

Until the majority of the public started realiizing that by only being with the animals and at the same time creating cool, entertaining content, can all this be financed. So you need an income source.  Norqain has become an essential income source of Hakuna Mipaka and the entire mission.

I think people slowly but surely understand that as well – which makes me happy obviously because often we live in a dream world where our dream scenarios don’t align or match the reality.

Gerald: Tell us about the work you are doing with animal welfare and conservation

DS: Okay, so if you talk generally about conservation, you know, in my world there is like two different chapters. One is animal welfare and the other one is animal conservation and nature conservation.

The welfare part is just doing something for the benefit of an animal, whether it’s in captivity or it is in the wild. Conservation has nothing to do with captive animals. Like helping any animals in captivity, a herd animal or a domesticated animal has nothing to do with nature conservation.

So if we want to look at the global scale of conservation, global warming, species getting extinct, deforestation and all these things, my personal take is very  straightforward : I think it’s something you cannot stop, but you can delay the onset of such effects. Let me try to explain it thus.

The world and humanity will get extinct. Like most of the species will be extinct eventually. In fact, I believe nature will survive. Yeah. It has survived already so many times.

Let’s talk about the world, our planet. All the species, dinosaurs for example, will eventually become extinct. Humans included. However, “nature” will survive. It will recover, it will create a new system for itself. This is a fact and I think no matter what we humans do, it will not change this fact.

What we can do is to minimize the current harm which we cause our planet, so that a couple of more generations might be able to see the beauty of what we call “beautiful nature”.

You know what I mean? Eventually people will have to get used to having less of the nature world; people will forget about certain species…. it’s sad for us, for our reality now. It’s going to be normal reality going forward, for the next 10 generations.

So I think it is very essential to put efforts in protecting nature and in minimizing our negative impact.  We will not be able to stop it, which I think is just a reality which we need to be aware of. This needs a lot of resources. Yes. A lot of effort, a lot of resources.

Gerald: How has your association with Norqain specifically help in some of the projects that you’re working with?

DS: So I think there are two main ways.  First of all funds. Animal Welfare and Conservation is a field that always needs funding – it cannot by definition be a profit making endeavour.

A brand like Norqain can contribute to nature conservation by funding great projects and letting some funds flow into what gives back to our planet. This helps spread the message about having the right values towards conservation; and helps to create a community who is aware of animal cruelty.  This message can come through their products. For example the Wild One watch and all future watches will be 100% free of animal products That’s already one step into the right direction.

Gerald: This was something that you initiated, right?

DS: Yeah, I think pretty much. I think Norqain already wanted to have that uniqueness and do something positive, When they invited me to the table, I had one request: “There should not be any animal products.” Norqain took a calculated risk financially to institute this.

It changed the whole system, obviously. I think it’s a great success for me and Hakuna Mipaka as well, because we had an influence on a brand who hopefully will be a big world brand. Who will in turn be a great example for all other brands who still do unsustainable things, who still have products consisting of animal products, of animal materials.

And yeah, I think it’s a circle.

Norqain Wild One Hakuna Mipaka Limited Edition - Isochrono Original Photography
The Norqain Wild One Hakuna Mipaka Limited Edition launched with Dean Schneider

Gerald: Lets talk about the Wild One, what are your thoughts about how it turned out?

DS: Phenomenal. Like, I think it’s literally… I haven’t been long or big in the watch industry, like, or, you know, I haven’t had a lot of watches before.

You can just wear it and you don’t have to think about that there is anything that you harmed, anything on this, whether animal, nor plants, etc.
It’s sustainably sourced, it does not consist of any animal products, you can just wear it, like without any moral compromises.

On the other side, to have this type of quality, I mean, I’m literally wearing it every day, and it works, it’s shock resistant, you can, I wear it when I go under the shower, and it’s clean afterwards again.
The strap is like the rubber strap, it is fully vegan, it’s practical, not too heavy, it’s light, ultra robust because the NORTEQ material is so hardy that it an take a fall or beating without damage being inflicted. I love it. Not just because of my association with it – I am a user of it at the end of the day.

Gerald: Fantastic. Yes, this is a very unique collaboration. Do you see yourself as a someone who works differently (in a better way) with a luxury brand?

DS: Yeah, this kind of hooking up with this luxury world. From the world of nature and animal conservation is unusual – I think that’s why people like you are so important. Media can broadcast the  message further allows us to have a voice and to be an example for other potential collaborations.

What Norqain strives to have with each and every ambassador is a game changer basically. I truly believe that in the course of not one or two years, but in maybe five or ten years we can truly make a change like that. That even other ambassadors, high end ambassadors, celebrities, think before they create a deal. To think, okay, I’ll do the deal with you guys, but what’s the message behind it? What do I stand for? That this is a requirement for an actual deal. And it’s not just about the money which comes in. Its about what impact the collaboration has on the world.