A Day In The Life Of A Watch Brand Owner

Many of you would not recognise the name Fred Bekher.  But chances are you would have seen, touched and bought the watches he designed for, well, let’s just say many watch brands.  In fact, Fred is so prolific in designing small tiny intricate things for other people, that he just decided to set up shop for himself.  In the span of a year, Horizon Watches has rolled out not one, but two watch designs; both comfortably overshooting their Kickstarter goals.
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Fred Bekher is the owner of Horizon Watches.  A watch designer with a decade’s worth of experience under his belt, it is perhaps not surprising that Fred has always nursed a dream of having his own watch brand. He was finally spurred to make this dream a reality when he became a father, driven by the urge to demonstrate this to his child and leave behind a legacy of his own.  TBC conducted an interview over email with Fred to find out what has been happening with Horizon Watches and where he is bringing the brand to next.

Excerpts from that conversation have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

TBC: Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Fred Bekher?

FB: I am a 31 year old father and husband. I appreciate life, and what I have. I try to accomplish as much as I can so that later, I will not regret that I didn’t do it. I understand that life is very short, that is why I try to live fast but in slow motion.

TBC: How did you get into watch design?

FB: Since childhood, I wanted to be a designer, but went to college to become a computer systems engineer instead. While receiving a monthly stipend from the government, I saved up for a used old laptop with only 40 gigabytes of storage.  I was at the phase of wanting to learn 3D modelling.   As luck would have it, I came across a watch catalogue. The watch I saw impressed me and I thought what if I can create watches using 3D modelling that watch collectors want to buy?  It is all the spirit of competition that manifested itself in everything.

TBC: What are the watch brands you have helped in designing?

FB: For the first two year of my career, I was a 3D modeler for a Chinese watch factory. In 2013, I received an email from Elshan Tang (Editor: Yes, it’s that Elshan from Zelos Watches). This was the first order where I was not just asked to follow the technical drawings. I was asked to create! So, little by little, I started helping different people who wanted to launch their own watch brands. To this day, I continue to work as a freelance designer for only a few of them.  I try not to take on new clients.

TBC: What advice would you have for anyone aspiring to start their own watch brands? At the minimum, what do they need?

FB: Aspiring watch brand owners should have a clear idea and vision of what they want from the watch and the brand. The clearer the brand owner is about what their watch brand and their design is, the fewer mistakes everyone involved will make.  The length of the design process very much depends on that clarity of vision.

And of course, they should have capital.

The next steps are not easy, because they will need to interact with Chinese watch factories, if that is the direction they want to go. It is not always possible to find those with whom you can work with right away. So, you need to be patient.  With the pandemic over now, maybe they should consider going over to China to visit some watch factories.  That gives the brand owners contacts and lets them have a better understanding of what is involved in making watches.

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TBC: How would you describe your watch design philosophy?

FB: I’m still looking for it, but for the moment, I’m trying to make watches that can stand out from our competitors. I am always hunting for new elements and details that can be used in design – for example, the Pilgrim’s date window that looks just like the 6,9 and 12 hour markers. A secret date window! I also try to stay away from flashy design elements.  It is not the main key to success, but in the long run it may be the right decision.

TBC: Has work helped with the situation in Ukraine? How is the family doing?

FB: Yes, our brand Horizon was able to participate in an auction (In March 2022, Loupe This organised the #WatchFamForUkraine auction with all proceeds going towards to help Ukraine) at the start of the invasion. I was very glad that I could help my country even though my family was actually in occupied territory at that time. There are more plans in the pipeline to help the situation.

After a few months of the invasion, I asked myself – do I continue to live in occupation, or leave through the country of the occupant?  I chose the second option. There was an option to leave for the controlled territory of Kherson, but it was very dangerous to travel through the war zone with my wife and 6-month-old child.

My father is still in Kherson, but it has been liberated!  Still, there is daily shelling of artillery, mortars, and bombs. But for ordinary Ukrainians, life goes on; people continue to live their lives. Only the calm, beautiful life that we had is missing.

TBC: You have evolved from being a watch designer, to a watch brand owner yourself. Was there anything that made you take that leap of faith, or did you see it as a natural progression?

FB: Simply put, it is the desire for freedom. I want to be able to choose where to go. It’s fun and more interesting. And this was the first goal after getting to know the watch.

TBC: What serves as inspiration for your own watch designs under Horizon?

FB: At this stage, it is a book from childhood – Jules Verne’s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” from 1870.

TBC: The Horizon Nautilus Kickstarter campaign managed overshot the initial goal by an astounding 475%.  Give us an idea of how it was like running that campaign?

FB: It was a bit harder than I expected. Even without much control at prototype stage, we were able to do everything well.  This launch let me experience something that I never had before.

TBC: Was it the same with the Pilgrim fundraiser?

We opted to stay with the winning formula; the team did not really change our marketing tactics used for the Pilgrim.  It was mostly the same, with only some product- and narrative-specific differences. We still have a lot to learn in this direction, as it is completely different from design work.

TBC: Can you share what your plans are for Horizon?

FB: We have short-term and long-term goals. The immediate goal is to create an offshoot of an art series once we are done with the initial Jules Verne era. The goal for five years is to become one of the best microbrand in the mind of watch collectors.

TBC: We always ask this question with our interviewees – what is the state of your collection now?

FB: The Horizon Nautilus and Pilgrim prototypes!

If you would like to consider helping Ukraine, please click on:  https://u24.gov.ua/ . Slava Ukraini! Heroiam slava!

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by The Balance Coq

  • August 6, 2023

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