Chris Ward, co-founder of 'Christopher Ward' watches, is a grounded entrepreneur. Coming from outside of the watch industry he was able to see a unique opportunity within it, ten years ahead of its time.
1 Describe briefly your childhood.
Born in Liverpool in 1960 into a working-class catholic family of Irish descent, my early years were largely spent playing football around the fields and roads of Huyton. From the age of 11 I was lucky enough to get a grammar school education and started work at 17 rather than go to University. During the 70’s Liverpool had unemployment rates as high as 30% and was the City were major riots took place in 1981.
2 As a child did you have any driving ambition?
I always thought I would like to work with animals or be a cowboy, but to be honest after completing school, jobs were very scarce, and one took whatever opportunities came your way. Those dreams were never realised. Suffice to say, whist there were a few “cowboys” in Liverpool, none of them had horses.
3 What is your first significant memory as a child?
I have two memories that jump to mind, one happy, one sad. When my grandfather died, it was customary to hold a wake at home, then off down to the local pub. With coffin open, I was invited to say my goodbyes. I vowed as a child never to see someone I loved in a coffin again. In 1969 as a nine-year-old I also remember vividly my first football match at Anfield, the Home of Liverpool. Liverpool beat West Ham United that day and playing for them were some of the great names that had won the World Cup for England in 1966.
4 Have you ever had another profession?
My career before joining the Watch Industry was steeped in the garment industry, both working in the buying offices of well-known UK retailers and blue-chip International brands. At the age of 32 I left the corporate world, setting up my own business and going back to study for an MBA
5 What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
In 2004 after meeting up with Mike France and Peter Ellis, we decided we would after some research venture into the world of Watches. A close friend of mine with experience in Swiss watchmaking gave us an insight into the way the Swiss watchmaking industry operated and the traditional distributions they used. We saw an opportunity for a direct business model in the industry and set off to offer “ the cheapest most expensive watches in the world”. We never really used that tag line, but the sentiment was real, and in 2005 we sold our first watch directly on the back of an advert in a Sunday newspaper and through an unsophisticated website.
6 What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
Probably a newspaper round in the early 70’s. In those days’ newspapers were like encyclopaedias and there was no such thing as Online. Everybody wanted a newspaper delivered come rain or shine, especially rain!... and we got a lot of that in the north west of England.
7 What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
Probably going through a divorce with two young sons after the collapse of my first business. You just have to get back in the saddle, and it is always easier to do so with the help of friends and family. Being catholic, my family is huge.
8 Who has had the strongest influence on you?
Probably my two wives, firstly my estranged wife Jayne for keeping me on a righteous path when I could have easily taken a different one. And secondly, my current wife Wera for lending support through thick and thin.
9 What are you most proud of?
My 3 sons.
10 What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
Never give up. Nobody in the western world dies of starvation if they have a work ethic. Keep going until you have exhausted all avenues and can look yourself in the mirror and say you have given it everything and can’t do anymore. Trust those that love you.
11 Name three things on your bucket list.
Take a large herd of cattle from Argentina to Brazil with my three sons and the gauchos
Drive a Riva across Lake Como
Visit Thunderbird 5 in space
12 Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years’ time.
Seriously though, I don’t think much will change over the course of the next 10 years. There will be ups and downs (mainly down for Quartz) I think. More sales will move to online, and hopefully there will be less kickstarter watches launched by those that have no inclination of building something real for the future.
To find out more about Chris Ward