If you are not into watches, then talk to Giles Ellis. He will convert you. As a horological evangelist he has no equal, speaking with a fevered detail and passion that is utterly compelling.
In 2011 he launched his own brand, merely as a by-product of creating the best watch he possibly could. Just so he could wear it.
“I wanted the perfect watch – one that would look great with a T-shirt or with a suit and tie,” he says. “There were maybe 10 watches in the world that I wanted and I couldn’t afford any of them. So I thought I’d create my own.”
He had spent four years designing, scouring for suppliers and researching the market. He admits he entered into the quest with a purposeful naivety. “That naivety is an important thread in everything I design. It means I don’t compromise and I can work without limits, unfettered by what is actually realistic.” And at the end of it he came up with the Signalman watch. Supplier minimums meant he had to create 100 of them. “So I had 99 spare and only one of my friends was rich enough to afford one so I thought I’d better try to sell them.”
He created Schofield Watches and took it to Salon QP. “I expected to sell maybe 20 in the first year. We sold over 120.”
Repeat success at 2012’s Salon QP plus social media and some excited press has helped to foster the cult fan base Schofield deserves. It looks set to stay that way. So far Ellis has spent a grand total of just more than £50 on advertising and he is not about to add to that total, at least not in the traditional ways (he is currently planning a concept video) and that is key for Schofield – nothing about it is traditional. And with that mind-set in place it is likely to remain the biggest little watch brand around.
Ellis likes it that way, keeping watches limited in their editions and resisting some lucrative retail possibilities, even though he gets requests from shops almost every week. He lists Selfridges and Liberty among those courting his wares. “I don’t want to make mega money, I want a sustainable business that really appeals to the cult following.” And with sustainability in mind, Ellis is drafting Schofield’s corporate social responsibility charter, which – like everything else about the brand – will be just that bit different, focusing on art commissions that will raise awareness of the pollution created by toothpastes.
The future will see more of this uniquely creative individuality. He has designs in place for new watches until 2016, explaining that he lives with every design for months, or even years, until he is satisfied that it will work. “It has to be something I can look at every day and still enjoy – it has to resonate on the classical register.”