A Day In The Life Of A Watch Industry Executive

by The Balance Coq

  • February 26, 2024

Watch industry executives are usually not the ones reaching out to buyers and collectors.  They are the show-runners, helping to set the stage for their retailers or sales staff to engage with consumers.  TBC hunted down one of these executives and sat him down to ask some uncomfortable questions.  As it turned out, the watch industry veteran had some uncomfortable truths to share.

Photography by Ronald Chew

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As you may have noticed by now, it is almost de rigueur for our Innerview guests to have pseudonyms.  It gives them the freedom to speak freely, which is ultimately the whole point of this segment.  Matt is the pseudonym given to our guest.  Matt entered the watch industry as a sales executive at an authorised dealer.  An opportunity to take up a corporate position came up, and he ran with it.  That was more than ten years ago.  Now he handles all aspects of his brand’s B2B outreach. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

 

TBC: Hello Matt, thank you for taking the time out for us.  First off, tell us about your job scope and your responsibilities?

M: Thank you for having me.  I will try my best to answer your questions!  My role is an overlap of many functions, so to be more accurate, I look after the B2B aspects of the brand.  Liaising with our partners requires the team to understand their needs, troubleshoot on product-related issues, and to train and guide them when we have new products launching in this part of the world.

 

TBC: What do you like about your current role?

M: I am as close as anyone can be to a new watch release without being directly involved in product design and development.  As a watch collector myself, I think this is really what I love most about my role.  New watch brands have no stories to tell.  Our brand, on the other hand, have many achievements and collaborations to remind people about.  I get to tell these stories – stories about the brand, stories about past glories, stories that ultimately cumulate in the form of the product in its present state.

 

TBC: If someone wants to apply for your position, what qualities and experience should they have?

M: Firstly, I would say you need to think very carefully.  Coming into the watch industry can be a surprise to some; the starting pay may not be as high as people would associate prestigious brands with.  Just as I would imagine for other industries, you have to work your way up and prove your worth to the organisation.  I think it is fairly accurate to say that most watch brands outside of their HQs run relatively small lean teams, which means most of us actually double- or triple-hat in other areas and responsibilities.

Ideally, you should be able to present well, because this role requires us to speak to retail partners, guests and sometimes, celebrities.  You need to be comfortable in front of people.  Your ego needs to be pretty healthy.   Retail partners can be very friendly and accommodating, which may give you a false sense of entitlement.  You will need to keep the size of your head in check – it is the brand they are talking to, and not you.  You are just an interchangeable intermediary.  Once you are out of the brand, your phone may go silent.  Those lunches won’t be forthcoming anymore.  (Laughs)  It is just business.

Contrary to what I think you might be hinting at in your question, an interest in watches is a “good to have”, not a “must have”.

 

TBC:   So, someone with a deep interest in watches can apply?

M: You would think that might actually work in your favour, wouldn’t you?  Having been in a brand for years now, I am inclined to think that that might actually work out to be a liability.  When you have an outside-looking-in perspective of a watch collector, your view of the watch industry is not fully formed.  It is much less romantic inside.  The brand has to look at each product as a commercial decision.  Like, how there were so many green dial watches two, three years ago. Integrated bracelets, also another good example.   Increasingly, we need to jump on and off trends.  Brands need to have products or product lines that retain the current clientele, excite them, and at the same time, give the retail partners something to go court new buyers with.

(Deep silence)

Actually, you should not have an interest in watches at all.  You know why?  The marketing campaigns and events are probably the part of product launches most collectors are familiar with.  But there is so much more, as you can probably guess.  I think many watch lovers will get jaded or disillusioned with the whole process of designing and launching a product.  You also have to look at factors like pricing, margins, revenue per watch…if these terms excite you, great!  If not, those Morgan Stanley Swiss Watch Industry Reports are going to be great bedtime reads.

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TBC: It is not the first time we have heard this from other industry insiders. 

M: It is like Dorothy drawing back the curtain, and finding out what the Wizard of Oz actually looks like. My advice for any young watch collectors looking to make the mantra “Do what you love and you will never work.” come true is this: do not stray off the yellow brick road and make a turn for the Wizard’s palace.  Keep that magic alive – stay in your day jobs and just buy watches, people.

 
TBC: What does your typical workday look like?

M: Lots and lots of meetings.  Casual catch-up sessions.  More formal product briefing and marketing sessions.  It all depends on the time of the year, but roughly equal parts strategic work and execution work.  I work with partners to present new products to customers.  Every watch launch has a different experience we hope to bring to customers.  And after each launch will come the training component – to make sure that sales staff know their stuff.  This part is important because now there are blogs and websites such as TBC to educate collectors.  It is increasingly important to ensure that there is at least a meeting of minds when collectors and sales executives meet.

 
TBC: Any pet peeves that come with the role?

M: B2B relationships are rewarding and exciting, but they can be very frustrating, and demotivating.  Partners do can come to the table with microeconomic level issues.  As you can see from the recent headlines, there is a slowdown in the broader watch market.  There are some persistent issues with products going into the secondary market.  Do they expect me to fix these issues?  I think more often that not, it is to get the brand’s perspective through me.  It’s frustrating because I want to do my best to help but I obviously cannot solve any of these systemic issues.  I honestly do not know any one person can.  We just have to roll with the punches and adapt.  Be water, my friend.

Sometimes I go along to product training sessions.  Those can be fun and I take the chance to meet new faces.  The sessions can also be a drag when the participants are physically present but have already mentally checked out.  Getting participants to respond to quizzes and questions almost seem as awkward as asking them out on a date.  This kind of participants are not interested in the watches at all.  To them, it is simply a product to sell.  It might as well have been a car or a yacht that we are conducting training on.   But what can we do, right?

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TBC: What is the career pathway like for someone in your role? 

M: There is a structured career pathway in my organisation.  You get to take on more responsibilities.  You get a bigger team.  You get a new name-card with a new title.  It does get better.

 
TBC: What is the state of your collection?

M:  I’m going to skip this question.  It will be giving away the game.  But I will say that I am partial to sport, or at least, sport-themed watches.

 
TBC: Any last words for the readers?

M: I can only imagine how different the watch industry would be if every function has watch lovers running the team.  I will leave it at that and let your readers’ imaginations run wild.

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