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BUSINESS BRIEFING: TRIBUS takes flight

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You might not have heard of new British watch brand TRIBUS, which launched in September, but that is likely to change thanks to a global partnership with Liverpool Football Club that allows the business to produce the only watch officially linked to the winner of the never-to-be-forgotten 2019/20 Premier League season. However, it was another passion project that the TRIBUS team wanted to draw attention to when WatchPro’s Rob Corder met them at RAF Duxford surrounded by historic Spitfires and Hurricanes that had flown during the Battle of Britain.

TRIBUS is the creation of the Ward family: James, Jonny Jake (pictured top) and their father Chris.

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We might as well get this out in the open early: Chris is the same Christopher Ward that co-founded the eponymous British watch business in 2004. He left the company that he created with Mike France and Peter Ellis at the start of 2020 and will be chairman of TRIBUS.

James and Jonny will be the driving force and day-to-day leadership team of TRIBUS, but Chris says he will be available for advice should his sons want it.

TRIBUS is a brand that believes in the power of publicity, and exploded out of the blocks earlier this year with news that it had become the Official Wristwatch Partner of Liverpool Football Club for this season and the coming five years. The deal, for an undisclosed sum, is a dream come true for the Liverpudlians and massive football fans. It was made possible thanks to fundraising among a circle of like-minded and wealthy Merseysider investors who understood the power of one of the world’s greatest football clubs to transform a new brand.

TRIBUS has not shared details of the partnership agreement, but did describe it as a “chunky seven-figure deal that includes branding around Liverpool’s Anfield stadium, broadcasting TRIBUS to the club’s reach of 800 million people”.

Interestingly, the commercial arrangement with Liverpool has been on the table for two years, and was originally discussed with Christopher Ward. When managing director Mike France decided he wanted to stick with CW’s policy of not working with brand ambassadors and influencers, the football club moved on.

The Ward family kept the conversation alive and took the decision to create a new watch brand that could take advantage of the massive global reach of the football club and its players.

The Coronavirus pandemic delayed the launch plan by a few months because TRIBUS’s manufacturer in Switzerland was shut down and terms of the deal needed tweaking for a world where football is likely to be played in empty stadia for some time, but went live at the start of the Premier League season with a blitz by Liverpool FC to its millions of supporters around the world.

Another passion project for TRIBUS involves the reconstruction of a Mark II B Spitfire flown during World War II by the Polish 303 squadron, which is credited with shooting down the largest number of enemy aircraft in the Battle of Britain.

Polish pilots were already experienced and battle-hardened, having fought to defend their own homeland. Wing Commander Piotr Łaguna, was one of the most prolific aces of the squadron, but was shot down and killed over Coquelles, France, on June 27, 1941 flying Spitfire P8331.

Wreckage from that crash was excavated in 1986 and a plan to recreate the aircraft and have it officially recognised as Spitfire P8331 by the Civil Aviation Authority and other historic custodians by an organisation called the Łaguna Spitfire Legacy, which also wants the incredible feats of squadron 303 and the Polish aces given greater recognition.

TRIBUS is supporting Laguna Spitfire, and has created a special watch called the TRI-05 303 Squadron P8331 Limited Edition that contains a piece of metal excavated from 303 Squadron’s Spitfire P8331 RF-M ‘Sumatra’ embedded into its backplate.

Sales of that watch will raise money for the restoration project, which aims to get the plane flying again so that it can tour air shows and raise awareness for the contribution of squadron 303.

Scott Booth, director and founder, Laguna Spitfire, says: “We are delighted to have partnered with TRIBUS in a long term relationship where quality engineering is synonymous with both the Supermarine Spitfire we are rebuilding to flying condition and the globally acknowledged best in class Swiss made watches they design. TRIBUS’s passion to dare to be different, the desire to provide something individually exquisite and for perpetuity sees our joint focuses synchronise completely as we strive to be utterly unique.”

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