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Gerard Butler GALS

7/4/14 - Hollywood stars ticking over thanks to Glasgow watchmaker


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We’ve all been there, struggling to find a present for your old man that he actually wants.

When you've bought him socks for Father’s Day and something golf-related for Christmas, you start to run out of options.

Glasgow's Tom Kennett found himself in exactly this predicament in 2009, struggling to find a worthwhile present to get his father for his 60th birthday.

Rather than resign his father to receiving another aftershave like the rest of us so often opt to settle for, he set out to produce his own watch as a gift.

In 2010, Hillington-based Kennett Timepieces was born, and four years later, everyone from Gerard Butler to Idris Elba, Coolio, Ian Wright and numerous UK celebrities have worn one of Tom Kennett’s creations.

“It’s surreal seeing people like that wearing one of our watches, a really great feeling. Seeing people with genuine love for the products and brand is probably the biggest kick I get out of it," Tom said.

He continued: “I’d like the business to be really successful financially but first and foremost it’s nice to have people love what we’re creating.

“I hear a lot of stories of people being stopped in stores or out for lunch and asked ‘where did you get your watch?’ even in foreign countries.”

While the 28-year-old originally from Kilmacolm and now living in Glasgow had some funding reserved to form the company, Kennett owes it’s initial launch and early success to a Chinese factory who recognised the brand’s potential.

Tom said: “A Chinese factory we work with gave us entry into the market and allowed us to do an initial batch of 50 pieces.

“There’s no way we could’ve got started without them dropping the minimums to let us in the door and get the first product made.”

Now selling a wide range of products with hundreds upon hundreds of slight variations in the colour of the face, dial and strap, the Kennett brand has established a firm foothold in the UK, and is slowly gathering momentum abroad.

One of the things cited as having potential by the Chinese factory was the “strong name”, which you’ll have realised Tom didn’t have to look hard to find.

Although Tom is the first watchmaker in his family, there is a history of innovation in the Kennett ancestry. His father invented printing technology, and further down the line his great-grandfather produced some of the first synthetic plastics.

It’s a new brand, but with a British history and a commitment to a kind of casual, yet classy look.

“I didn’t set out to create just a watch brand, I wanted a head to toe higher end brand for men and women, like a British Hugo Boss if you like," said Tom.

“Our watches are high end but not ultra high end. Our customers will often wear an Omega or Rolex, then use Kennett for weekends, holidays or at work on a casual Friday.

“We’ve got our own place as a British brand with young executives and older people who have a title watch and use Kennett casually.”

Kennett is Tom’s second fashion brand and while the first is one he’d rather forget elements of, it served him in good stead to build an emerging global brand.

He said: “When I was quite a bit younger I tried to do a casual label, hats and accessories, that sort of thing. It basically failed, but I found a supply chain for my watches.

“It had a bit of an embarrassing name – T-Kizzle, my nickname at school. It was a complete flop really, selling hats and I don’t even know what else.

“At that stage, I wasn’t clued up on the mentality of what would sell and what wouldn’t and I made manufacturing mistakes.

“I’d say one of the biggest things I’ve learned is to test products as best you can before investing.”

Most people wouldn’t know where to start when you set out to build a watch, but that hasn’t stopped Tom, despite having no formal training in the industry.

He was previously working for his father's engineering company in the sales department before embarking on Kennett, his second business venture.

“No, I’m not formerly trained at all. It sounds basic but with watches, you’ve got to work with what you’ve got," Tom said.

“I wouldn’t call myself an engineer. I believe I have a reasonable eye for cosmetic design, making things look nice.

“My job is really remixing the components and finding the right textures, finishes, colours, contrasts and specification of materials.

“Increasingly our design is more in our hands. We’re making all the dials completely custom made to our taste.

“A very small mistake can be very costly when you’re designing. Even the wrong shade of yellow or white can be very expensive.”

With their long-established competitors selling watches in about 150 countries and Kennett Timepieces having broke into ten with only three full-time members of staff, Tom can see a lot of potential for the business to keep growing at an exponential rate not only in the UK, but globally.

“We’ve cracked the online UK market with Kennett in seven or eight of the key retailers. Now we’ve trying to move into the offline market," he said.

“The biggest challenge has been to get bricks and mortar offline retailers to support a young brand. In the beginning we encountered a lot of bad attitude and dismissive answers when we approached people.

“There’s exciting stuff happening abroad too, with the watches being sold in Japan, Germany and France online and translating into physical stores.

Tom continued: “Ultimately I’d like to own our own shops and my personal goal is to have a Kennett shop in London within say 10 years.

“I want to build the product range too, developing more categories and accessories like sunglasses, polo shirts, leather goods. In 10 to 20 years, that’s where I want to be.”

The Kennett collection is available online here.

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Interesting. I would have thought it would be a conflict of interest for his face/name to be used in connection with another watch maker since he's one of the "faces" of Roger Dubuis. :confused: What do I know?

In any case, nice watch!

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:hmm: Maybe it's because it's a 'local' Glasgow owner, Made in China, and not 'expensive' by comparison to Dubuis brand - and from the article, it sounds as if their market share isn't too threatening to Dubuis :lol:

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