TIME STOOD still for the two artists who sought inspiration in London’s Portobello Market, which is famous for its vintage items, when they found a watch of a different kind. Among the piles of bargains and bric-a-brac, they unearthed an unbranded black leather strapped watch with a small dome face. When they turned it around, they found “Henry August 1965” engraved on it. They bought the watch and took inspiration from it. The design provided the DNA of the UK’s newest watch brand, Henry London.
“Who was Henry? We have no idea, maybe he got the watch for his retirement or for his 21st birthday. The watch is more than 50 years old. But what we do know is our artists fell in love with its simplicity, its high double dome acrylic lens, and its curved dial and hands,” Paul Harry, Henry London’s international sales and marketing director, told BusinessWorld at the brand’s media launch in the Philippines on Sept. 5.
Henry London, which started in October 2015 in the United Kingdom, employs 14 artists — the largest group of watch artists in the UK according to Mr. Harry.
“Our designers have been crazy about anything vintage, they like to be idiosyncratic. Two of our artists found the watch [at Portobello Market] at the time when Michael Kors was at the top in the UK. And when they saw it, they felt like it was an antidote to the trend. It is not big, it is not bold,” said Mr. Harry.
The found object, however, had its brand scratched off so it remains unknown until today, and Mr. Harry said they did not seek to learn of its provenance.
Asked if it was a form of copying, Mr. Harry, who started his career with Seiko, said: “Well, to begin with, there’s no such thing as a new idea. We did take very direct inspiration from this watch. Yes, you can say that the inspiration is very close, but by making different sizes and colors and to put a chronograph dial into a curved dial takes genius engineering.”
While Henry is a man’s name, the brand decided to do two things to make it appeal to anyone and to make it different from the original mystery watch. First, they make watches in different sizes (25 mm, 30 mm, 39 mm, and 41 mm), and, second, they have variety of colors (brown, yellow gold, aubergine, moss green, grey, black, rose gold, and teal blue).
Like the original Henry watch, each timepiece can be etched to make it more personalized. Mr. Harry showed me a list of messages from clients, and most are romantic: “Happy birthday, I love you” and “You became my brother,” among others.
“So when you asked me what is the difference of the brand, it’s this little sprinkling of magic, because they (the artists) saw the watch and immediately thought of their grandfathers. It has a passion and a positive emotion in it, that’s what makes it special. Moreover, the watch is affordable but the message of love [engraved on it] also makes it priceless,” he said.
“This is magic, it’s the antidote for the brands doing the same job,” he added.
“With most brands that have made impact over the years like Ice, Daniel Wellington, and Michael Kors when it was still riding high, they were all one look of watch, and what that does is it manages to carve out reputation so they become recognizable. I think the genius of Henry London, if I may say so myself, is that we have one watch that is the heritage of everything, but we have different options for young, adult, and everybody in between. It marries fashion and classic,” Mr. Harry, emphasized.
First previewed in Basel, Switzerland in 2015, Henry London is now distributed to more than 70 countries. Locally, Henry London watches are available at Wristpod, Swissgear, Landmark Makati, and selected SM Department stores. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman