“I am most inspired by people who succeed against the odds and adversity…”
Mike France set up Christopher Ward watches in 2004 after selling Early Learning Centre - as an online only challenger brand - the highest quality products and design (with the same mechanics as the luxury brands) but with a reasonable price point. Recently they have introduced their own movement (a very big deal in watches) and moved slightly upmarket.
RI: What motivates you to innovate in your industry?
Fear of falling behind the competition as well as an innate need for challenge which helps any person/company/organisation improve and get closer to achieving their potential.
RI: What’s the innovation you’re most proud of?
Probably our in-house chronometer, Calibre SH21. Small, independent, British watch brands aren’t supposed to be able to create their own mechanical movements, especially to the standard of SH21, in half the time and at a fraction of the big Swiss brands , using revolutionary production methods.
The then CEO of Breitling, when he saw Calibre SH21 was moved to ask, “What gives you the licence to do that?” which we rather enjoyed!
RI: What or who inspires you?
Many things (including people) but I suppose I am most inspired by people who succeed against the odds and adversity. As a brand, Christopher Ward has an unusual sponsorship scheme called the CW Challenger Programme. We support athletes and adventurers who we believe have world-class potential but who don’t have the backing of big money brands. So far, we have four World Champions and an Olympic Gold medallist in the programme including Sammi Kinghorn, a Paralympian wheelchair world record holder who was paralysed aged 14 in a tragic accident on the family farm. That inspires and humbles me in equal measure.
RI: What industry change was the biggest to you in the last few years?
The decision by the Swiss competition authorities to allow the Swatch Group to not have to supply movements (they owned 80% of the market) to the rest of the industry. Swatch had hoped it would eliminate much of the competition but instead it has spawned a much-needed renaissance of innovation in an industry that desperately needed a shake-up. The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Love it.
RI: How did you overcome it?
We created our own movement.
RI: What industry challenge would you most like to solve?
Brexit. If I could wave a wand I would change the result. What a total waste of time, money and energy to achieve a worse position than existed. The lunatics have taken over the asylum on this one, for sure.
RI: What’s the best piece of advice you could give to a fresh innovator starting out in your industry?
Have enough cash reserves to survive failure. Nothing in the watch industry comes cheap.
RI: Do you have any particular routines that help you find inspiration?
I do my best thinking when talking to people (it’s the way my brain is wired) so I am constantly looking to find interesting and inspiring people to talk to.
RI: What does the future hold for your business? What products or innovations do you have in the pipeline?
Continued success I hope. We now have a platform that can sustain a business several times its current size so we are hungry to keep growing. We have a constant flow of new products but the new Trident Dive watch line, the third iteration of our biggest area, which we will launch in 2019 will, I hope, be a real game-changer.
RI: What technologies do you think will shape the future of your industry?
I am a huge fan of 3D printing. I believe it is the 3rd Industrial revolution and will put the means of production in the hands of designers ultimately and lead to an unprecedented number of smaller more unique watch brands.
RI: What do you think will be the next big thing in your industry this year?
I’m hoping bronze cases are going to be the big thing this year – we’ve certainly got some big orders on them!!
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