William Wood Watches are capturing the interest of watch lovers around the world with their exquisite British luxury watches dedicated to firefighters.
With a retail price of £299 it is no wonder they are now in 11 countries around the world with celebrity, magazine and charity endorsements. We hear from the founder and CEO Jonny Garrett about the company’s journey to date.
William Wood was the name of my late grandfather. He served as a firefighter in the Tyne & Wear Fire Brigade for 25 years winning commendations for his acts of bravery. Sadly he passed away in 2009 from a lung disease called pulmonary fibrosis. It wasn’t until after my grandfather’s death that I realised just how much of hero he was.
On 29th June 1966 my grandfather and 3 fellow firefighters saved 5 small children aged between 5 and 1 from a severe house fire. They were all awarded with a Certificate of Merit for their courage and bravery which was the first Certificate to ever be awarded in the history of the Newcastle & Gateshead Fire Brigade.
From that very moment I knew that I wanted to create a product, dedicated to my grandfather and firefighters internationally that would raise awareness of these every day heroes through a respected brand people would listen to. For me the choice of product was simple, I have always been mesmerised by the individuality of luxury watches and see them as an extension of the owner’s personality.
The beauty of our watches is the unique design which we know is the only registered design of its kind. We’ve melted down an original 1920’s British brass firefighter’s helmet and made it into a limited edition commemorative coin. Each coin is engraved with our iconic firefighter helmet logo and a unique limited edition number. The coin is then placed in back of every watch and sealed with a sapphire crystal glass. Every time you turn your watch around you can see the stunning craftsmanship through the viewing glass and can remember the firefighting heroes past and present who put their lives on the line to save others.
So I was all set, I had my idea ready and was eager to let the world know that William Wood Watches had arrived. On 1st January 2017 I posted my first image on Instagram, initially sharing ideas of our debut range ‘The Chivalrous Collection’. From the moment I posted the first image I could feel the excitement from our followers. That feeling is even stronger today from our loyal social media following.
On 23rd March 2017 I flew out to Baselworld in Switzerland, the world’s largest watch and jewellery trade show. I had just 10 hours to fly in and out and find a world class supplier willing to take on my brand. All I had was my sketches, a vision and tenacity by the truck load! I flew back to London that night with a smile from cheek to cheek having achieved my goal knowing that William Wood would soon be known to the world!
A date I’ll never forget is 1st August 2017. This was the date that I launched William Wood Watches on Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowdfunding platform for creative projects. This would be the first time the world could pre-order my debut collection. The anticipation was indescribable! 8 months of 18 hour days all came down to this. I needed to raise £25,000 in order to produce my first production order, I pressed the big green go live button and it gives me huge satisfaction even to this day to say that we smashed through our funding goal in less than 7 days and William Wood was now real!
After 3 months of production my watches were ready. We delivered all of our Kickstarter orders before Christmas 2017. It was a huge achievement and the perfect finish to an amazing year. It was time for some rest and recuperation with family to then blitz 2018 with a bang which is exactly what I did!
On 28th April 2018 I participated in the Esquire Magazine Self-Made Elevator Pitch. Sixteen businesses, including mine, were shortlisted to present their idea to a panel of industry experts including Alun Williams (Managing Director Men’s Health & Fitness, Hearst, Esquire, Men’s Health, QP), Leni Zneimer (General Manager, WeWork) and Paulo Diana (Founder, Sigillus Lifestyle). One week later I took a call from Esquire letting me know that I had won! The prize being a free hot-desking space for me and 3 members of my team in Central London for 1 year through WeWork and an editorial in Esquire Magazine. This was a huge win and cemented in my mind that other internationally recognised businesses can see the vast potential William Wood has to offer.
Fast forward to today and we have grown our social media following to over 26k followers with customers in 11 countries around the world. We’ve been featured in the June 2018 edition of British GQ and the July 2018 edition of Esquire. We’re working on a second collection which we are launching on Kickstarter and are set to smash the amount raised in our first campaign.
The future of William Wood is exciting. Our aim is to be a quintessentially British luxury brand producing watches, wallets, bags and accessories using recycled firefighting material. My goal is to donate the equivalent of an annual firefighter’s salary to charities over the next 2 years and be seen as a recognised high street brand that gives back to the people who matter. I’m looking forward to what the future holds and seeing William Wood Watches in a town or city near you!