The emergence of UK watches is due to the economy

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By Mustafa Khalifa

I created the Boxer Watches brand because I sought to design something which I’d wanted for myself, a luxurious yet affordable watch. I’ve always had a passion for everything old school and retro so to speak, which is why I naturally became drawn to mechanical watches.

I launched the brand with the purpose of introducing skeletonised watches to my peers, a digital generation who may not be familiar with mechanical timepieces. The watches are a symbol to make the wearer more consciously aware of their time and the value of it.

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I think the emergence of British watch companies has occurred due to the economic climate. Careers and jobs aren’t as secure as they used to be and people are more willing to try something different, like start their own companies. Perhaps the rise of entrepreneurs and SMEs in the UK has spilled over into the watch industry. This doesn’t surprise me since the industry is a place where you can be creative, work with fascinating people, and there is still plenty of room for new opportunities and innovations in the field.

I don’t push the idea of Britishness through Boxer Watches, not at the moment anyway, but it has been something I’ve considered. I’d only go for it if it can be done in a classy and tasteful manner. Image is everything with watches so it’s important to get across the message well, rather than just for the sake of it.

What makes a brand British, however, is a difficult question to answer, not only in the watch industry but in any industry where goods are sold. My worry is if we put standards or restrictions on what can be British and what can’t, then this may discourage people because of another barrier to entry. I think the Swiss have a history and reputation to protect so they require a standard, which at this moment in time I don’t believe we need just yet.

I think that British brands can fight for a share of the Swiss watch industry, but how big of a share remains to be seen. Swiss-made timepieces will always be popular because Switzerland is synonymous with watches and that will never change. But this isn’t a zero-sum game and I believe many British brands will continue to flourish and inspire other brands.

It’s important to realise Britain is on a unique high at the moment in terms of how the world perceives it. Never again will we have a two-year period which sees a Royal Wedding, Diamond Jubilee and summer Olympic Games all taking place so successfully with the eyes of the world on us. If the British watch making industry could perhaps do some research to discover which nations have become increasingly infatuated with everything British, then we might be on to a winner.

As a young British entrepreneur, I would love to be involved in a scheme or program of some sort which helps individuals break into the UK watch industry. I hope that if I enjoy success with Boxer Watches, I’ll be able to provide opportunities in the future to other young people who want to be involved in industry. With the recent news that the Birmingham School of Jewellery has created an honours degree in Horology, it seems as though demand is there for grow the UK industry. The UK is a fertile retail market, ripe for investment. So there is no reason to believe the watch repairs and manufacture business can’t be cultivated within the UK with the support of the government.

This column was taken from the September 2012 issue of WatchPro magazine. If you work in the watch industry and would like to write a guest column for WatchPro email the editor at rachael.taylor@itp.com.

 

 

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