Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to interview watch-designer Jeffrey Sawyer. As a fellow finance professional moonlighting in the creative world, I was very fascinated by his journey of investment advisor to creating a luxury watch brand. Read my interview with him below.
What motivated you to leave the banking industry?
Honestly, my biggest motivation is time. During my time as an investment advisor, I spoke to people from different backgrounds and ages, who would all share their personal stories with me. I started to notice a pattern. Everyone had a dream, but none of them were living it, and most of them felt stuck. When I asked why they weren’t going after their dreams, their answers were always similar. Timing wasn’t right, they have too much responsibility, etc. I didn’t want to end up there. Those conversations lit a proverbial fire for me. Like my clients, I realized I was waiting for the right time. I knew I had to get going now or it might never happen, so I left the banking industry to start building my dream.
That’s really motivating and this issue is very prevalent in the corporate world. Did you know from the start that you wanted to design watches or how did that idea formulate?
I always knew I wanted to do something related to fashion, but the watch idea came during my “break from work”. I decided to take a three-week travel sabbatical to brainstorm business ideas and get inspired. I put my place on AirBnB, and the guy who came to check it out was wearing a $3,000 Tag Heuer watch that I’d been obsessing over for a while. We launched into a deep discussion and it turned out he got his watch for $500 at a Hong Kong watch fair. He went on to tell me about the structure of luxury timepieces and how the prices are usually significantly inflated.
That was my “Aha!” moment. I realized if I could make a quality luxury timepiece and improve the sales cycle by cutting out the middle man, I could provide watch enthusiasts a quality timepiece at a more reasonable price. I did more research and realized there wasn’t a Canadian luxury watch brand in the market. That is how Jeffrey Sawyer Watches was born.
I mean my name is on it, so it needs to reflect what I am about too, and that’s something that lasts.
Designing watches requires a lot of creativity. What inspires you?
Time and living my life to the fullest are my biggest inspirations. I have become keenly aware that our time here is limited and we need to make the most of it. It’s the surge of urgency and excitement that pushes me to create and work to make every day have impact. I want what I do and create, to last and bring a sense of joy/passion to people’s lives. That’s why we built a quality product. For me, it needs to stand the test of time. I mean my name is on it, so it needs to reflect what I am about too, and that’s something that lasts.
There are many moving parts (literally) to making a watch. The quality controls in luxury fashion is also very high – not everything passes the test to make it to market. On top of that, the style of the watch has to also appeal to your market. What was the hardest part of designing watches as a newcomer to the luxury watch industry?
There are actually a few things that proved fairly difficult. The first was deciding on the movement of the watch. My team and I debated whether to go Automatic or Quartz, in the end we went with Quartz, because it was the most accurate when it comes to keeping time. We opted for a 13 Jewel Gold Plated Swiss Quartz movement that is used by luxury brands like Tag Heuer and Rado. The second tough decision we had to make was the aesthetic of the watch. To me, it had to be timeless, but also had to be bold. We decided the chronograph was perfect for our signature Renaissance collection. We opted for darker and bolder colour palettes and materials to accentuate a rebellious spirit in our timepieces.
As a designer, you must have very good sense of style. Can you walk me through what you are wearing today?
I’m currently wearing a leather jacket from Massimo Dutti, a black v-neck and Levi’s jeans. That’s my typical day to day look.
Is there anything else you want to tell me?
Yes. Game of Thrones is the best show in the world and everyone that hasn’t seen it MUST do it now.