Phil Smith | Look Outside and learn

October 25, 2019

Award-winning and reputed businessman Phil Smith continues his series where he brings knowledge from successful brands in other industries and looks at what we can learn from them.

This issue he talks to Anneke Short, Co-Founder & Designer, The Camden Watch Company.

This month I have been speaking to Anneke Short, a watch designer who has recently collaborated with the Frank Rimer of Thy Barber. This grabbed my attention while visiting their store at Box Park. Anneke’s story from designer to brand is an interesting one and one I was glad to learn more about.

Phil: Anneke, you were originally a watch design studio, before creating the brand – what inspired this move and how did you go about it?

Anneke: The world of watches is incredibly secretive, and we had NDA’s with all our clients. So we were running the design studio and working with some great brands, but we weren’t allowed to tell anyone about them. As you can imagine, that made pitching to new clients very complicated. It’s hard to turn up to a meeting and say “We think we’re really good at what we do, but we can’t actually show you anything we’ve done, you’ll just have to trust us”.

That’s essentially how the idea of The Camden Watch Company came about, as a showcase for the design studio, a way of flexing our design muscles and being able to show prospective clients exactly what we could do, but it soon took over and became the bigger business.

We launched it with a loan from the Camden Collective, the shared office space we were working in at the time, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Phil: You mentioned that you didn’t require a marketing plan. Has this changed as the brand has grown over the years?

Anneke: Yes and no. We have a general idea of what we want to do and where we want to go, but equally, we like to keep things loose and we don’t have anything down on paper. Our advantage as a small company is that we can be very agile and quick. We can react to opportunities as and when then come along, and that’s a great strength, and something we like to make the most of.

Most of our marketing is through the bricks and mortar stores, or via social media, which we run completely in house.

Phil: You have recently opened a store in Camden. With a decline in the high street, what fuelled this move?

Anneke: It’s actually not a new store as such, we’ve just moved into a bigger space. We actually have three stores now, our flagship in Camden, a shop in Boxpark, Shoreditch and one in Greenwich Market.

It wasn’t a conscious decision to run the business this way, it just turned out this way. We launched the brand with a pop-up on Camden High Street, and it worked so well that it got the cogs turning, if you’ll excuse the pun!

We don’t wholesale at all, and having the stores has really worked well for us. It’s a lot of work, but I think if what you are providing is unique enough, people will come. We work very closely with our staff to ensure that they have a great knowledge of watches and of the company, so it can be a learning experience rather than just a sales transaction. Plus watches lend themselves well to retail, even in our day and age, it’s a product that a lot of people like to try before they buy.

Find the full interview in our Online October version… Click here