He owns handwritten thank you notes from grateful sirs Elton John and Tom Jones, has designed a talking timepiece for Stevie Wonder and recently presented Rihanna with two watches – one set to UK time and another to Barbadian, of course.
This is just a sample of the glittering world that watchmaker-to-the-stars Mike Cohen has created for himself by founding and designing the Bellagio, Paccioni, Cadoni and Delanicci collections (all under the Bellagio Europe umbrella), creating custom-made and limited-edition watches.
It can’t all be stardust though, can it?
“Definitely not,” he laughs. “I go to work each day, I work very hard, some days for 18 hours. This is not glamorous at all. Of course we feel extremely lucky and honoured to be invited to some amazing functions across the globe attended by some of the world’s finest, yet this is part of my work and I roll with it.”
That 18-hour day is not an exaggeration. Mike says he has a system that allows him to squeeze two working days out of one with a gap to see his family in between. He’s a doting father of two girls and his Twitter feed is a mash up of family pictures, new products and images of him posing with celebs. Nonetheless he is “shocked, flattered and extremely humbled” by his nomination into the WatchPro Hot 100.
This year he brought the assembly of the Paccioni collection to the UK (“it took a great deal of organising and training, but the results have been incredible”) and has extended the company’s capabilities beyond watches to include pens, leather goods and jewellery.“This happened by chance and simply escalated. Now I am working with major brand owners in developing luxury goods that are sold worldwide.” It all fits in with his core business of limited-edition ranges for retail or gifting.
But next year will focus back on watches as Cohen hopes to roll out the custom watch concept to his most democratic market yet as he teams Paccioni with high street retailers in the UK, Europe and US.
It has worked out wonderfully well for a man who says he has loved watches since he was very young but wanted to be a fashion designer. After shouldering aside 3,000 other applicants to become the youngest student to ever get accepted to his chosen fashion college he promptly ditched the course and returned to his first love, watches. “I was not cut out for it, and someone else deserved my place.”
The rest is history. “I realised I could never compete with some of the larger brands, so what I have created is a niche market. Here I am still, working hard and having fun with my work.” And achieving highly.
Bellagio Europe founder and designer Mike Cohen was an Entrepreneur in the WatchPro Hot 100 2013 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers. To read a digital version of the book in full online, click here.