The concept of GTGs, or G2Gs, or get togethers in plain english, is a staple of the Instagram handled, Facebook-inhabiting individuals known collectively as ‘the watch fam’. For all that the growth of watch collecting and connoisseurship has been driven by digital platforms, there’s nothing quite like meeting like-minded people in person, calling them by their Instagram name and fondling the watch on their wrist. Typically GTGs are semi-regular affairs, based around fora, Facebook groups or, more recently, organisations like RedBar (started by this guy).
Well, the GTG that took place in The Hour Glass’ freshly opened Sydney boutique will go down in the annals of watchnerd lore. I’m confident saying that never before has such a significant collection of independent watches been shown in Australia, courtesy of Group Managing Director Michael Tay’s personal collection. George Daniels. Roger Smith. Philippe Dufour. F.P. Journe. Richard Mille. Vianney Halter – and that’s not even half of it. Tay brought the heat in a big way.
And while the rest of the attendees were queuing for an up close and personal inspection of some of watchmaking’s holiest of grails, I borrowed five minutes of Michael’s time to find out about his plans for Australia, what he thinks of the local market, and what we should be buying now.
So Michael, brands have for a long time understood the importance of community, and some brands are quite good at marketing on this level. It’s interesting that you’re doing this sort of traditional community event in a very commercial setting. Is this a response to a challenging global market – trying to find new ways to engage?
I think what we’ve done here isn’t too dissimilar to what we’ve always done elsewhere – we’re at the forefront of building these peer networks. This was an opportunity that we grasped, so in a way it’s a response to the market, but it’s also an awakening in that this is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to host this event.
Yes, about that. Why now?
This is our first official opening, even though we’ve been in Australia for 27 years. We wanted to wait for the right time – with the right assets and a market that’s mature enough to appreciate our efforts. I think the core of The Hour Glass has been to build communities, based on a shared passion for watch collecting. In Australia we haven’t done much of that, but globally it’s what we’re known for. So when we completed this project it was the perfect place to host our grand opening yesterday and tonight – an evening dedicated to the watchnerds.
I’d like to know what you think of the Australian market. It seems to me we’ve had a bit of a charmed existence for quite some time. Are we special?
We’ve been here 27 years. In the past three years we’ve invested 60 million into this market. By 2019 it will be just north of 80 million. So we believe in Australia. We believe it’s a burgeoning market, there’s a lot of active enthusiasts. Australia has always been a strong base. We want to grow that base and be the market leader.
Are we maturing as a market?
It’s a very mature market. Probably one of the biggest vintage watch collectors in the world lives in Australia. The guy who consigned the Bao Dai lives in Australia. You’ve got some of the most important vintage watches in the world here. And for contemporary watches there’s an active interest, both from the local community and from Asian migrants to Australia, who bring their passion for watches with them.
Who do you think we should be watching? What brands do you think are about to take off in Australia?
I’m speaking objectively here. At the entry prestige level, guys like Nomos. They’re super interesting. I like cult brands like Sinn; I think TAG Heuer is doing a fantastic job. I love the new Autavias, they really hit the nail on the head with that one.
And in terms of independent horology? How do you get us into the indies?
I think it’s really a process of people being curious. If you’re curious about watchmaking and the associated arts, you’ll discover it. It’s not for us to push. It’s a different aspect and style of watchmaking. A different vision.
And on that note, I left to have one last look at Michael’s magnificent collection.