Welcome back to our recurring “Interview with a Watch Maker” series. In this series, we’re talking with a variety of folks from across the industry, and get insight into their background, what drives them, and why they’re coming up with the designs they’re creating. Today, we’re speaking with Andrew Perez of Astor + Banks about all those things.
WWR: What is your history with wristwatches?
Andrew Perez: The first watch that ever got my attention was my fathers Timex Indiglo – I thought it was the coolest thing and wanted one. After that one, it wasn’t until I graduated HS and was stationed in Germany where I bought my first watch simply on aesthetics. It so happened to be on a Bund strap and that is what got me hooked. Then I bought another watch, and I got curious about why watches like Rolex were so expensive. From there I started to learn about movements and the details of watches. To do that, I started buying magazines and learning about all these brands I’ve never heard of.
WWR: The sounds like a path that many of us have followed! Do you feel now is the right time to become a watchmaker?
Andrew Perez: I am not a watchmaker in the traditional sense nor do I ever call myself one. But I think now is a great time to become a watchmaker, as there are so few of them. The watchmaking industry needs to really promote watchmaking as a career, if you ask me. The only people who know about watchmaking seem to be in the watch circles – but I think if it were promoted more there would certainly be interest.
WWR: Before you got in to the watch industry, what was your intended career path in life?
Andrew Perez: Working in financial services
WWR: So, then, how did you come to watch making?
Andrew Perez: Simply by getting more and more into the hobby, really. At the same time, like many others, I started to assemble some watches myself. It was something that truly didn’t feel like work.
WWR: What’s been the biggest manufacturing or engineering challenge you faced so far?
Andrew Perez: Making parts here in the US—something that is still a challenge for the watch industry.
WWR: True – though we have seem some small moves in that direction. Where do you think the overall industry is moving?
Andrew Perez: There is definitely a slow down, but I don’t see a slow down in my segment. By way of explaining, there are more and more micro watch brands popping up, which maybe is getting too saturated. In Chicagoland alone there are five brands, and you have a couple down south as well.
WWR: Yeah, there are many a-brand to choose from these days. If the congestion continues, how do you see yourself standing out in the crowd as time goes on?
Andrew Perez: I plan to continue to make small runs of quality watches. I still don’t know where you can get a semi-customizable watch using the components and materials I use for under $2000, so I think the differentiation is there.
Andrew Perez: They can be very helpful for feedback and word of mouth – but they can also be very brutal. That said, I think they are necessary, as these communities really keep the watch world going.
WWR: How involved are you in those communities, and have you established a solid way to gather feedback?
Andrew Perez: I’m not that involved, actually. I need to figure out how to get more into it, but with a family it gets tough finding time to do everything. Social media is the easiest way to be involved these days.
WWR: How does that community feedback, particularly social media, change the watch business?
Andrew Perez: I think watch brands listen. In that way, I think it gives brands a good idea of what people are looking for. It might even be responsible for setting some trends.
WWR: How do you define your ideal consumer? In other words, who is it, in your mind, that wears your brand’s watch?
Andrew Perez: Anyone who enjoys watches – and from all levels. There are many who love watches, but not in the sense of they’re on the forums or going to get-togethers. I have many of those kind of clients but that wasn’t intentional. I also have clients who own higher end brands like Rolex and Panerai who buy my watches because they want something different, and they like the story behind them. This is the reason I made a quartz watch as well, so that it can be more accessible to those that love watches but are not necessarily “watch nerds”.
WWR: What is it that defines your watches? What characteristics are identifiably “Astor + Banks”?
Andrew Perez: The styling I think is familiar but unique at the same time. There is a lot of contrast in my pieces and things like the Chevron are very identifiable.
Andrew Perez: Classically modern.
Andrew Perez: As the saying goes, everyone has their own opinions. This is now different in the watch world, of course. I think the design of a watch is just as important as the materials you use. For me, I have always loved design, whether it was in cars, shoes, buildings or of course watches.
Andrew Perez: Being able to manufacture the majority of our watches in house. This is not because I want to say the phrase “in-house”, but for the control of what we are doing, as well as the freedom to experiment with different design and materials.