Jens Koch has been an editor at the German Chronos magazine since 2001. His stories and reviews have been translated and have appeared countless times inside the international editions of WatchTime and Chronos in the United States, China, India, Japan, and other countries.
1. Describe briefly your childhood.
I grew up in a suburb of Hamburg in the north of Germany as a fairly average kid of the 1970s and 80s. My dad taught computer programming and my mum worked as a foreign language secretary before studying psychology. It was a time of prosperity: My parents owned a flat and a car, which both of my grandparents could have only dreamed of. I spent a lot of time outside with friends in the woods and riding mountain bikes.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
I used to write poems but never tried to make a profession out of it. Like all my friends, I wanted to be an astronaut or secret agent.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
My dad collected vintage cameras, especially from Voigtländer. Because of that, we spent a lot of time at flea markets where he would hunt for bargains. He was also an amateur craftsman and repaired some of the cameras. Watching him at the dinner table with all of the small parts laid out in front of him is one of my earliest memories.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
Not really. After graduating high school I had to go through military service where I worked as a radio operator on a small submarine. After that, I traveled for ten months around the world where I did odd jobs like assisting a farmer in New Zealand or acting as an extra in a TV serial in Thailand. After graduating from university where I studied philosophy, German literature, and media science, I went straight to practical training as an editor at the watch magazine Chronos.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
Where I am today, writing about watches seems natural. My two main preferences have led me here. One is literature and writing; the other is my love for anything technical, especially watches and cars. After I left school, I was quite confident I would become an editor or journalist later on. I used to produce a small magazine with funny travelogues for my circle of friends. Digitally, I reviewed games for an online magazine and worked at a satirical web magazine. I also love design and little details that make a difference, so that helps when I collaborate with brands to make special watch editions for Chronos.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
I was a moderator for a watch forum that Watchtime.net once owned. People would talk about their experiences with different brands. One day, our CEO called me and said we had received a written warning from one of the brand’s lawyers. A user claimed that the hands of one of his watches from this specific brand had fallen off. The brand said that was a lie and that we should delete the post. In the future, I should verify all negative allegations of fact, which of course was impossible at the time. Users were complaining about censorship and I felt very uncomfortable being the one everyone was annoyed at. Finally, we shut down the forum. Anyways, it was around that time that Facebook stepped in to replace most of the online forums.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
I was 21 years old when my father died of a brain tumor. It was hard to see him in the final days when he could no longer recognize me. My close friends helped me through that time. I know that my dad would have loved to see me move on.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
I wouldn’t say that one single person has influenced me that much. However, I do like to read magazines about all my different hobbies: cycling, aviation, high-fidelity audio, trail running, and cars. Wherever there is an interesting story, good photography, interesting ideas, or excellent writing, it fascinates and inspires me.
9. What are you most proud of?
My children. There is nothing like seeing kids grow up, when they become independent and surprise you with their creativity and sense of humor. When it comes to my professional life, I am proud of what I have accomplished. Most recently, for example, when the latest issue of WatchTime Magazine — America’s No. 1 watch title — came out, I realized I had written half of the stories featured on the cover.
10. What advice would you give to a 20-something interesting in taking a similar path as you?
Try to figure out what you love and what you are good at. I think this is the biggest challenge in life. Once you know that, there will be a way to live on it. Be open minded because life is often not a straight line. Help other people; you never know when they might help you later. If you like to write, write as much as you can, even if you’re not getting paid for it. That will make you get better.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
I got a divers’ certification a while back, but have never managed to see sharks or manta rays in the wild, so that would be great. Additionally, driving on a track is so much fun for me. I would like to do that with a very potent car like the McLaren 720S. Finally, although I have already designed some limited-edition watches for Chronos with brands like Oris and Sinn Spezialuhren, I would love to design an IWC or Omega.
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years time?
There are two large challenges that are related: Digital transformation and attracting the next generation of customers. One part is transactional. Some brands already sell online, and I think everyone will do so in ten years. Does this mean the authorized dealer will die? I don’t think so, but for sure some sales will be shifted to online so there will be less revenue for dealers as a whole. A stronger digital presence also means it’s easier for a newer brand to make a name for itself. We have already seen a lot of micro-brands use Kickstarter and Instagram to promote themselves successfully. Another big theme is customization, as online you can often configure and design your own watch, which is popular not only in the car world but also with sneakers from Nike and Adidas. Another thing that could help attract younger customers could be events and special experiences as luxury is largely shifting from owning goods to more experiential endeavors. For example, seeing how your watch is assembled or going on an expedition with a brand could be more appealing to younger people.
To learn more about Jens Koch