Independent Insights: The Watchmakers Club A round-up of all the independent brands on show at the recent TWC event in London by Sky SitJanuary 19, 2020 MIN READIndependent Insights: The Watchmakers Club
There’s something brewing in London town. A ticket so hot it will burn your fingers to the bone as soon as look at you. If you haven’t heard of The Watchmakers Club, listen up. It is here, it is happening, and it wants you to get on board.
As soon as tickets go on sale, they are spoken for within 24 hours, if not 12. People travel from Europe and beyond, especially to attend a one-day event. David Brailsford, the founder of The Watchmakers Club, says year after year, “The only real problem is oversubscription.”
The Watchmakers Club (TWC) is a collective of independent brands and watchmakers, from anywhere in the world (Switzerland, Germany, Britain, Sweden, Austria, Japan, you name it). Brailsford himself is the owner of the independent watch brand Garrick, a manufacture based in the South East of England. Limited by size and resources, these brands know they can achieve more by working together. The event is a chance to present their watches in a relaxed and intimate setting twice a year, for one day only. It always takes place in central London, yet a different classy venue is chosen every time, with a changing rota of brands to keep things fresh, fun, and flexible.
A hotbed of independent activity
“Priority is always given to serious watch enthusiasts and influencers,” proclaims Brailsford. The sole objective of the event is discovery. The watch market is a minefield, but the independents are very transparent and much easier to navigate. I often use the pyramid (as illustrated here) to explain the different breeds at different levels within the independent segment.
The Watchmakers Club does a great job of assembling a list of attendees from across the independent spectrum. From the heritage-inspired (Vertex) to the avant-garde (Vault), from the entry-level (Fears) to the top end (Andreas Strehler). Since TWC launched in 2017, over 40 brands have showcased their wares at the event, including HYT, Parmigiani Fleurier, Fabergé, Arnold & Son, Christiaan van der Klaauw.
Thanks to its artisan watchmaking, Great Britain was the horological superpower for 200 years before Switzerland took over at an industrial scale (if you didn’t know this, read here). The resurgence of the independents is returning the British Isles to prominence. And rightly so. I have witnessed an increase in concerted action, from exhibitions to auction houses, to educate and connect watch buyers like nowhere else.
The Surprise Discovery
The Watchmakers Club event is precisely that. Each brand is presented on the same footing, with an identically minimalist table set. No one brand is more important than any others. There are no loud banners or fancy displays to be seen. The format encourages guests to feel at home as soon as they walk through the door. Anyone can walk up to any brand, pick up the watches, chat over a drink, and get to know the people. You can count on meeting brand CEOs, founders, and watchmakers without an appointment or formality. It makes me smile to see the likes of Cyrus, Czapek, GoS, Garrick, Schwarz Etienne, and Zeitwinkel return to every edition.
Even though I already know most of the brands, there are always hidden gems that blow my mind. Minase was the latest brand to take my breath away. I was fascinated by the origin of the company and the craft skills possessed by its employees. Above all, I was captivated by the striking aesthetic of its watches. Angular lines and facets tend to grab me more – I’m sure it says something about my personality. That aside, the Minase cases are like nothing I have seen on the market. Unbeknown to me, Robert-Jan and Mike already made their own discoveries here and here in the past year. I encourage you to read their reviews because I am 100% in agreement with them.
The Friendly Origin
The Watchmakers Club was a long time in the making. While these events seem to spring forth, fully formed, the road to realization is ever-winding. It started life in a pub (as all the best things in history do). Its initial incarnation was as a get-together aptly named, “The Night Before,” as it took place on the eve of the VIP opening night of SalonQP. It was an informal social gathering that took advantage of the presence of watchmakers, collectors, journalists, and bloggers, who all flew into town to attend the prestigious (now defunct) watch show.
Word got around about the animated discussions and pub drinking bravado. Not surprisingly, a few friends turned into a small crowd, and that crowd quickly turned into an occasion. Before long, a new institution was born, and fans of British horology had another date in their calendars. In the hands of an entrepreneur, the event has enjoyed a professional facelift. And, in 2017, it became part of The Watchmakers Club.
The Magic Ingredient
Brailsford is adamant he has no plans to change the format or monetize it, despite the many offers and suggestions. TWC doesn’t make any money from the events. Participating brands all share the costs equally. Attendance is free for guests. The Watchmakers Club events shall remain faithful to the original spirit — a gathering of friends. It’s the reason for it to exist in the first place, and that’s what sets TWC events apart. So far, that’s proven to be a winning formula.
So much so that the format is not unique. There are similar events such as ClubQP, the new exhibition that filled in for SalonQP (covered by Gerard here as a guest speaker). But without the spirit, the result is entirely different. For the lucky ones who get to attend the TWC events, it’s like being part of a secret society gathering for a night out to discover some fantastic watches.
According to Brailsford, TWC has over 4,000 watch enthusiasts on its mailing list. Despite that popularity, TWC has decided to suppress attendance numbers to around120-150 to maintain intimacy. With those kinds of numbers in play, it’s clear why these tickets keenly sought after. Seventeen brands hosted their most recent November event; the amount will surge to 30 for the first time for the next edition in June 2020. To stay in the loop, visit The Watchmakers Club.
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About the author
Sky is the founder of SKOLORR, the curated hub dedicated to the pedigreed independent watchmakers. SKOLORR is official partners with Farfetch and Quintessentially, handpicking fine watches from independent brands for tastemakers and coolhunters. Sky has operated at the heart of… read more
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