About a year ago to this date, I wrote my original ‘delving into the world of watches’ article. It was one of my first articles and consisted of a generic mash-up of points on how new horologists should get into the world of watches. I remember my main angle being that there is no right way to get into horology. I also recall making a remark about how there is no fixed set of rules for who can call themselves a horologist – using myself as an example of contrast.
I wanted to take this as an opportunity to further elaborate on personal experiences in the field of watches. An overwhelming theme of this blog has been talking about the stories behind various elements of the watch industry. These are mostly personal points of view, and insight that – to some readers – opens a window into my personality. I thought that since this is the case, maybe I can shed some more light towards my experiences so far, and lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
Engineering and watches
If you were one of the handful of readers who have been following this blog since its birth, then you’ll be familiar with 16 year-old Nizam having a huge passion for engineering, and using that as a medium of garnering interest in watches. I want to say that was the case until the height of last summer – where a series of events involving studying Maths at Bristol University, followed by studying Politics and History at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and a work placement at Barclays investment bank – ultimately lead to the heavy erosion of my desire to pursue engineering as a career. That being said, up until that point, I was heavily invested in trying to learn more about the field of engineering in the context of horology. I think the most vivid example of me trying to achieve this is when my 15 year-old self decided to send an email to Richard Hoptroff of Hoptroff London asking for some work experience with his company. I remember sending a brief personal statement about my interest and making sure to send in my CV with a set of established work experiences with engineering and design firms, as well as making it clear that I was a budding horologist.
The email is as follows (please feel free to imagine a prepubescent voice break when narrating this):
My name is Nizam and I’m a 15 year old enthusiast of engineering and design.
I’m aware that this is incredibly unorthodox, but I was wondering if I could be taken as a work placement student?
I’m currently on the verge of finishing my GCSE exams, and an awfully long summer awaits me. I’d like to invest my time in being productive and broadening my experience within the field of engineering. I’m a keen lover of horology and and particularly admire the innovations Hoptroff London offers within their timepieces, such as the incorporation of precision engineering to create the Atomic timepieces.
It would be a privilege to be taken under the wing of Hoptroff London and to be able to develop my skill set.
I do hope you’ll take my request into consideration.
Thanks and kind regards,
When looking through my emails, there was a strong element of cringe brewing in me. I’m currently 17 years of age so the memories aren’t too distant. Looking back, I would have chosen a different array of words to purvey my interest, as well as maybe put a bit more effort into checking for repeated words. Richard did reply however, and the response is what I expected:
Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm for our work. Unfortunately we’re not really in a position to take on a placement student this year.
I sent an email thanking him for the reply and I thought that was the end to things. It was then during the dawn of my A levels did I receive a spontaneous message from Richard asking me how things were going:
How are you getting on in your studies? What are your plans? We’re not hiring at the moment, but I like your enthusiasm and would like to keep you in mind in future…”
I was really chuffed to say the least. I honestly thought there were no more avenues to consider, in terms of establishing a foothold in the engineering side of horology – at least with Hoptroff. Richard and I continued our email correspondence over the following months, and I was even invited by Richard to SalonQP that year, where I got to meet him personally and talk about watches.
It makes for a fairy-tale ending, somewhat, but the experience I had is something I am forever grateful for. Sure, I don’t currently see any future avenues in engineering (at least as for now) but that isn’t to say my appreciation and admiration for the craftsmanship behind watchmaking has degraded. I still have the same level of giddiness when handling a piece of haute horlogerie as I did when I first stumbled into horology at the age of 12. The Hoptroff label has a very unique take on horology as there aren’t any traditional watch mechanisms involved, but rather some very clever bits of engineering and physics.
I’ve since developed a keen interest in the business side of horology and want to make use of every resource I have to learn and grow. I wanted to share this story with you as a means of demonstrating what I meant about the many ways in which horology can be pursued. Does that mean I advise you to go around emailing the CEO’s and founders of watch labels? Not necessarily. I advise you to pursue avenues that you genuinely have an interest in, as sincerity can go a very long way. Maybe that’s turning up at a watch gathering, or visiting an expo or exhibition? The confines of what you can do are only limited by your imagination.
Writing about horology
I’ve often been asked in person why I choose to write about horology, as well as how I came up with the idea of starting the Watchrant. I realise I’ve never written the reason why, so I reckon now is about as good of an opportunity as any to give an explanation.
The Watchrant started off as a result of a failure. Around the spring of 2016, I met up with Tiffanie Darke, a former editor of various national publications such as Telegraph and Sunday Times. I held huge admiration for her as a woman in media, but also for her wacky approach to the world of high-end fashion. I remember exchanging stories about altercations and mishaps with LVMH, to which she ended up losing sponsorship after publishing a risky article criticising Dior. I gave a few of my own examples of mishaps surrounding Richemont, where I somehow ended up breaking Vacheron Constantin’s traditionelle world timepiece (twice). She became interested in the stories I had to tell and suggested that I should write an article for her, explaining how I got into watches. That article became my ‘Yes, it’s about time’ piece and was something I drafted together during my first year A level exams. I remember sending the piece off – full of excitement – thinking this could lead into new avenues, only to find out that it wasn’t what she was looking for.
I was somewhat disappointed with, but not entirely disheartened by, the outcome. I knew that I really hadn’t written any essays or practiced my creative writing since my GCSE English exams and it clearly showed in my writing style. I also thought that maybe my story wasn’t as unique as I thought it would be, so it wouldn’t catch any interest. I did, however, send off my work to some friends of mine, asking for general feedback so I could look to improve. I was given a few pointers in writing technique and rephrasing some sentences, but otherwise their comments were very positive. All of the people I sent the article to said they enjoyed it, despite the errors and despite a lack of interest in horology. It was then suggested by a friend of mine to ‘keep on writing’ as that would be the only way I would improve. To this day, I refuse to edit my original article, as it stands as a monument of how far I’ve come. So that’s what I did. I decided to sign up to WordPress, purchase a domain name and publish my first article. To those wondering why I chose ‘Watchrant’ as a name, I guess the best explanation is that I acknowledge that my writing style tends to be quite informal and relatively freeform, like a rant. I also thought it would be fitting since my topics of discussion tend to be exclusively from my points of view, though I have taken measures to consult industry experts where necessary.
In the end, I’m glad that I failed in this instance. Had I somehow succeeded in impressing Tiffanie with my writing, I probably would have entered a completely different field of interest, or at least channelled it in a completely different way. Instead, I discovered a way of supplementing my hobby through productive means. I have an excuse to stick my nose into current affairs and share my perspective with my growing audience. The Watchrant gives me an opportunity to think on my feet, learning about time and business management, effective networking, marketing, content creation and being innovative in a saturated field. How many countless ‘watch pages’ are there on social media?
It’s a platform I use to learn about business and also develop myself. I feel that these are the ingredients required to create an organic entrepreneurial flair. Ultimately, the pursuit of horology is a journey that lasts your whole life. The trick is to sit back and enjoy the ride, not knowing where you’ll be taken or who you’ll meet. As I said earlier, my writing acts as an extension of my personality. Whenever I receive criticism or praise for an article, it gives me areas to work on. The desire to develop myself ultimately feeds into my daily life, and I have you – the reader – to thank for that.