David Brailsford of The Watchmakers Club
David Brailsford of The Watchmakers Club always has opinions about the watch industry. Angus Davies recently chatted with the charismatic co-founder of Garrick and asked him an array of questions, including the latest news about The Watchmakers Club and the recent impact of Covid-19.
From the outset, Brailsford was clear. He wanted to engage with other independent brands and show watch collectors and journalists what they collectively had to offer. Moreover, members of The Watchmakers Club could collaborate, working together on non-competitive issues. Since it was founded, The Watchmakers Club has held a number of events. Indeed, I have attended most of them, fearful of missing out on an editorial scoop.
Unlike most events where brands try to outdo each other by having the grandest exhibition stand, the approach of The Watchmakers Club has always been very different. All brands present their collections in modest display cabinets provided by Brailsford’s team, mitigating the costs for all members. In addition, the cost of holding the event is spread equally across all the exhibiting brands. By adopting this approach, the margin usually enjoyed by exhibition companies is stripped away, making events far more affordable for its members.
During the events, exhibiting brands actively encourage watch collectors to get ‘hands-on’ with their creations. Furthermore, visitors are free to chat with brand owners and watchmakers alike. The convivial atmosphere of Brailsford’s events provides a refreshing alternative to some exhibitions where staff can sometimes appear aloof and unapproachable.
Having spoken to many horophiles who have attended previous Watchmaker Club events, I have noted their enthusiasm for the innovative format.
David Brailsford of The Watchmakers Club
As the founder of The Watchmakers Club, what were your reasons for setting it up?
I was keen to bring small, independent brands together and encourage them to help each other. Prior to setting up The Watchmakers Club, several people told me the idea wouldn’t work and, to be honest, it made me more determined to prove them wrong.
In addition, I also wanted to bring watch collectors and brands together and create an atmosphere where both groups could engage with each other in a friendly, down to earth way.
What makes The Watchmakers Club special?
Firstly, many of the brands and exhibitors have become good friends with each other. In fact, we often communicate, discussing a myriad of issues.
Secondly, we are non-profit making, sharing the overheads equally between us.
Garrick has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the last few years, no doubt necessitating more of your time. How do you divide your time between your ‘day job’ and The Watchmakers Club?
I don’t work ‘normal’ hours, I never have. I am very lucky as I love what I do for a living and, to be honest, neither Garrick nor The Watchmakers Club feels like work. Building Garrick into an increasingly successful business and promoting The Watchmakers Club are very enjoyable, providing me with a sense of satisfaction. Lastly, irrespective of how my day has gone, I always enjoy finishing the evening with a beer!
In recent months, both Watches & Wonders and Baselworld have been cancelled owing to Covid-19. What future do you envisage for these large fairs?
In the future they will have to change their format dramatically or they are likely to fail. I don’t see how these shows represent value, especially to independent watch brands. Personally, I think intimate shows where small brands can meet genuine collectors are far more beneficial to all concerned. Large exhibition stands are often a function of ego and can prove off-putting to many collectors. Moreover, legislation may prevent large events from happening as a consequence of Covid-19.
In light of the current economic situation, an increasing number of independent brands will have to review how they spend their money and question the value they derive from that expenditure. Ultimately, they will have to focus on clever marketing, possibly participating in small, regional events.
The Watchmakers Club holds regular events for collectors and I know that Covid-19 has prevented you from holding your planned event this summer. Have you anything else in the pipeline?
We are currently planning our regular, annual event in November. We are also looking to add some interesting content to The Watchmakers Club website. Finally, we are also planning to open a boutique, again on a non-profit basis. Further details will be revealed nearer the time of launch.
A consequence of Covid-19 is that many large brands have chosen not to release new models this year, however, some smaller watch companies have chosen to launch new timepieces. What are your thoughts about this? Do you expect new product launches at your next event?
In terms of Garrick, we recently launched the S3 and plan to launch two new models in the next three months. I believe you can’t stop, you have to keep innovating and offering watch collectors new products. While sales of watches may have fallen owing to Covid-19, there still remains some demand.
Garrick always launches a new watch at The Watchmakers Club event in November. However, this year other brands are also planning to unveil new timepieces at the event. I already know of two ‘world-firsts’ which are scheduled to be released, a model from an ultra high-end brand and another, more modestly priced watch. There will be something for everyone at the event.
Over the years, I have grown accustomed to interviewing directors, designers and various a-listers from the watch industry. Invariably, these interviewees are consummate professionals. Responses are honed to perfection and all comments are on message. I don’t blame these individuals, an ill-advised comment in some circles can have career-ending consequences. With larger brands, the production volumes are huge, the stakes are high and potential repercussions can be grave. It is for this reason that I have sympathy for said individuals.
However, having chatted to David Brailsford over the years, there has never been a trace of so-called ‘spin’. He says what he thinks, demonstrating an endearing openness. Furthermore, he has repeatedly shown that he is eager to help fellow independent brands.
I don’t know what the future holds for Watches & Wonders and Baselworld. Personally, I hope they continue to operate for years to come. However, based on the enthusiasm that both brands and collectors share for The Watchmakers Club, and the modest costs involved, I see no reason why this collaborative format shouldn’t continue to flourish.