Angus Davies is a passionate watch collector who chose to abandon a successful career in order to share his love of horology. He launched www.escapementmagazine.com in 2011 with his wife and business partner, Heidi.
1 Describe briefly your childhood.
I was born and brought up in Lancashire. For those readers unfamiliar with the United Kingdom, Lancashire is a county in the north of England, a region that is culturally very different to London.
My formative years were spent in a former mill town. Soot clad chimneys, abandoned with the demise of the cotton trade, punctuated the skyline. The weather was invariably rainy and factory workers spilled out into the streets to the accompanying shrill of the end of shift 'hooter'. The scene bore a strong resemblance to a Lowry painting.
Most of my childhood was spent in a semi-detached house on a nondescript cul-de-sac. I was an only child and I knew from a young age that I was 'working class'. While the class system may not be as pronounced today, it continues to prevail within the United Kingdom.
Behind the facade of respectability, my home was not a happy place. Needless to say, throughout my childhood I yearned to escape to sunnier climes and happier times.
Ironically, I still live in Lancashire, albeit in a much nicer and prettier part of the county. I love my region and could not envisage living anywhere else.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
I toyed with the idea of being a dentist, an accountant, a banker and a policeman. Indeed, I contemplated a myriad of careers, except being a teacher. My mother was a teacher and I knew that it was not an easy way of making a living. Indeed, I often witnessed her marking books at night or attending one of many after-school events.
Most of all, I wanted to get away from home. It was for this reason that I considered the army, the Royal Air Force and the merchant navy. I would often joke that 'muck and bullets' were preferable to life at home.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
I prefer to leave that period of my life in the past.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
Yes, I was the co-owner and marketing director of a chemical company. My business partner was a chemist, while I focussed on generating sales, working with clients and developing various ways of differentiating our company from competing firms.
During my time in the role, I did not fully utilise my MA in Marketing. Ironically, my post-graduate research was in luxury branding which had nothing to do with chemicals but has since proved useful whilst working in the watch industry.
Working for a small firm meant I had to wear several hats and during the 24 years I spent in the chemical industry, I learnt much about health & safety, food safety and even microbiology. If anyone wants to know about Listeria monocytogenes, I'm your man!
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
I had spent most of my adult life doing a job I hated. It struck me that I did not dream about chemicals, my nocturnal thoughts always centred on watches. I started collecting watches in my 20s and I frequently perused books, brochures and subsequently, the internet, hungrily devouring all information about horology.
My original idea was to set up a website dedicated to watches and derive income from selling advertising banners. After a short period, various websites and magazines commissioned me to write articles. Thereafter, having seen my work, a few watch brands approached me, requesting my help with copywriting.
Today, I seldom write for magazines as I don't have sufficient time. However, my website www.escapementmagazine.com continues to flourish and I now write copy for several brands and help with marketing related tasks. In addition, I often carry out public speaking commitments for a number of brands, talking about complications, finissage and métiers d'art.
Effectively, I am paid to do something I love. Since I formed ESCAPEMENT in 2011 my passion has not waned. Moreover, the job allows me to work with my lovely wife of 27 years. Indeed, she edits all of my work, so I suppose that makes her the boss.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
As a student I had various part time jobs, including cleaning cars at a Volvo dealership, flipping burgers in my local branch of McDonalds and even delivering newspapers. However, despite these roles sounding a tad mundane, they were never as bad as my years at the chemical company.
Back in those days, I would drive 65,000 kilometres per year and spend a third of my life sleeping in numerous hotels scattered around the United Kingdom. I often worked in excess of 80 hours per week and when I did eventually come home, I was tired and grumpy. I must confess, I feel guilty about the impact this lifestyle had on my wife's happiness at the time. Moreover, I regret that I did not spend more time with our children when they were small.
Looking back, I spent too much time chasing money and material possessions and neglecting the valuable relationships close to home. Sadly, wisdom only comes with a receding hairline.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
There have been several tough episodes in my life. Two moments which immediately spring to mind, both happened in 2008, my annus horribilis.
My father-in-law, Brian, passed away. We were very close. I first met him when I was just 18-years of age. He became a close friend, confidant and mentor. Most of all, he was like a father to me. While my father was alive at the time, I have to be honest, I always felt closer to Brian. When he died, I took it badly, but obviously I had to stay strong for my grieving wife.
In addition, my daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition causing curvature of the spine. We sought the best help we could and found an excellent surgeon with a good track record. However, as is often the case with surgery there are risks. In this instance a key risk was potential paralysis, but if we did not consent to surgery she would be resigned to spending her adulthood in pain. We elected for surgery and thankfully there were no complications and she now lives a full and active life. Nevertheless, there were many sleepless nights before everything was concluded satisfactorily.
It is sharing the tough times together with your partner which makes a relationship stronger. I am very lucky that my wife has always been there throughout my adult life. She is my rock.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
My strongest influence has to be my father-in-law. In addition, I have a small number of close friends who have been supportive during the tough times. Friends and family are far more valuable than sports cars and designer clothes, it just took me a while to work this out.
9. What are you most proud of?
My children. I have a daughter, aged 22 and a 20-year old son. They are quite different. Isobel is very academic and wishes to be a maths professor, teaching in a German university. Euan is incredibly creative with a passion for photography. He attends a specialist arts university in England where Damian Hirst once attended. I just hope I don't find a shark in our lounge when I get home one day!
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
Only embark on any career if you have a passion for your chosen profession. If that passion subsequently dissipates, don't beat yourself up, look for another path to professional fulfilment and, more importantly, happiness.
I cannot overstate how much I love my career. I get to see incredible mechanical objects, crafted by artisans and made without compromise. While watch brands have famous ambassadors, I always become starstruck when meeting A-list watchmakers or artisans. I once remember meeting Anita Porchet at an event in Geneva and blushing bright red and stuttering badly. The poor lady tasked with translating my questions into French must have thought I was mad. I look at Porchet's work and do not feel we breathe the same air. How many jobs can you do where you regularly meet your heroes?
Don't think that you will earn lots of money. I cannot recall meeting a multi-millionaire watch journalist or copywriter. However, providing you have sufficient means to live, I would say forget about money, the sacrifices are too great.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
1. A few years ago, I travelled to Japan. I felt humbled by the culture. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly and polite. Indeed, it made me feel embarrassed about how some of my compatriots treat each other and overseas visitors. Japanese food is amazing, something which has always been a priority to me. Furthermore, away from the cities, some of the countryside is breathtaking. One day, I want to take my wife to Japan. Probably after we have ceased supporting our children who are currently studying at university.
2. I want to devote some time to studying a language. The only thing I need to decide is whether I focus upon French or German. Based on my daughter's unwavering desire to live and work in Germany, I think the latter language may be more useful.
3. I want to build a train set for my grandchildren, play on a beach with them, kicking a ball and snuggle up with my arms around them, sat in front of the television watching films. I haven't got grandchildren yet, but I live in hope. However, my children don't know anything about this, so please keep it between us.
12.Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years time.
The large watch brands will continue to open their own doors (retailers). I don't blame them in some ways, by controlling the distribution chain, they can mitigate discounting. In addition, their products will be sold in a mono-brand environment, remote from their competitors' products. In addition, there will be a greater incentive for brands to invest in training, improving the public's purchasing experience.
However, one downside of this approach is that brands are unlikely to open doors outside of key cities, necessitating the consumer to travel further to see their chosen watch.
Independent retailers will need to engage with smaller brands, including my beloved 'indies', albeit the retailers will need to take a leap of faith. I do think the outlook for smaller brands looks bright. The benefit of watch magazines (both print and online) heightens consumer awareness of those lesser known brands out there and the added value they proffer.
Online watch sales is certainly a growing area. However, I still think the public will want to try on watches and enjoy the luxurious environment and sense of occasion that only a bricks and mortar retailer can provide. I don't think it is sustainable for consumers to repeatedly research potential watches in a retailer's premises and then subsequently purchase online. The market will inevitably find a solution, leading to winners and losers.
Lastly, the pre-owned market is a potential goldmine. For years, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche et al have offered 'pre-owned products'. These services provide would-be buyers reassurance of the provenance and condition of a vehicle. Furthermore, comprehensive warranties provide additional peace of mind. This approach has to be the way forward for watch brands.
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