LIST: Tech set – the watches of 6 Australian start-up founders, including the guy who prefers his Daniel Wellington to a Daytona LIST: Tech set – the watches of 6 Australian start-up founders, including the guy who prefers his Daniel Wellington to a Daytona

LIST: Tech set – the watches of 6 Australian start-up founders, including the guy who prefers his Daniel Wellington to a Daytona

Melissa Pearce

Flash through the gallery of any broadsheets’ business section and in their latest technology success stories you’ll either see bare wrists or smartwatches — in stark contrast to other bling heavy business sectors. Maybe the preference is to spend on intellectual property fees with watches only casting a faint shadow on their bedside tables. We went further, tracking down six local leaders and quizzing them on their wrist choices, both connected and classic.

Tim Fung – Founder and CEO of Airtasker
Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39

The premise of Airtasker – the online small jobs marketplace for outsourcing the services of handymen and errand runners in your neighbourhood – couldn’t be any more predicated on the awareness of that most precious commodity in our lives: time. So it comes as a surprise to learn that its Founder and CEO only started wearing a watch last year at the gentle behest of his uncle, having relied on his phone in the past. Fung’s uncle gave him a new Rolex Oyster Perpetual 39 when he got married. The gift took on even more personal resonance when his relative sadly passed away.
“At the time it was a wedding present so it was, of course, special but given his passing a short time later, it was something I appreciated even more,” says Fung. “I also like that my Rolex is a simple design that I think will stand the test of time.”

Josiah Humphrey – Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Appster
Daniel Wellington Classic St Mawes


Unbounded success has not hampered Humphrey’s view of his wrist as a level playing field: “You don’t just have to be a watch snob. There are watches at cheaper prices I really like, aesthetically — Daniel Wellington being one of those.”
In 2015, Humphrey and his Appster Co-Founder Mark McDonald debuted on the BRW Young Rich List with a combined wealth of AUD$58m. Now based in San Francisco, the duo leads a staff of 250 across their app development company’s three global offices and has a target revenue of AUD$100m by next year. Yet Humphrey is more often than not still seen in his Daniel Wellington.
“I just think it’s a nice, very light and comfortable piece to wear regularly, and that works well with casual and formal attire,” he says of the unexpectedly understated choice. “I’m also not paranoid about it either. Something as cheaply priced as a DW can get banged up, whereas I like to keep my premium watches in mint condition.” But while quartz is his go to, Humphrey has some heavy-hitters in the safe, specifically his stainless steel Rolex Daytona (ref 116520) and Panerai PAM 375. Given his large team, we had to ask if potential employees’ watch choices leave an impression. “I am always looking at what watch people wear,” he answers, “but honestly I’m more interested in the person.”

Lee-Martin Seymour – CEO & Co-Founder of Xref
Huawei watch W1 Active 4GB Pulseira

With clients that include Westpac, BlueScope Steel, and Myer, to the NRMA and Telstra in Australia, and a global reach across APAC, Europe and North America, Seymour is always on the move from the Sydney headquarters of his ASX listed organisation. When we spoke to him, the hiring solutions expert mentioned circling the globe five times in the last year alone, overseeing his international client base’s use of Xref. The online, automated solution brings ease and security to the reference checking process by delivering the data-driven candidate insights needed to make informed hiring decisions. So it makes complete sense its CEO counts on a data-rich watch.
“As I’m a Samsung user, my Huawei work watch is the perfect extension of my phone,” explains Seymour. “With none of the distractions of social media notifications, I can rely on it to only give me the information I need, via access to the business apps I use every day. And wherever I am, I know my watch will quickly adjust to a new time zone as I touch down. Of course, I’d love a Breitling or Hublot,” says Seymour, “but for me, the data the Huawei offers on the move is as critical as the time. It’s become an essential tool of my working life.”

Adam Gilmour – CEO and Founder of Gilmour Space Technologies
Seiko Astron SAST001

Gilmour runs a rocket company from Singapore and will be taking on the final frontier with his hardy Seiko. The first generation Astron GPS Solar Limited Edition has been Gilmour’s non-stop mainstay since he bought it in Japan in 2012, but he is the first to admit it’s not without some complexities. Asked to rate the Astron’s difficulty out of 10, he promptly replies with an 8 — and losing its instruction manual early on in his Astron lift-off certainly didn’t help. Recent solar charging issues mean Gilmour’s six-year-old Omega Speedmaster, which the former banker bought when he started getting serious about outer space, has also been seeing more wrist time.
“Why I liked the Seiko Astron was that it kept super accurate time and was easy to change to any international time, plus it maintained a correct date for something like 100 years. I fly to different time zones all the time. [When] I’ve got my old Speedmaster on, I keep looking at it to tell me the date and it’s not there!”
Gilmour concedes he “went a bit excessive” on watches in his former career, and two Rolexes and many other brands remain close at hand. But for the foreseeable starry future of Gilmour Space Tech, the space pedigree and functionality of a watch are paramount: “I am going to wear my Seiko Astron into space when I go myself.”

Hamish Petrie – Founder and CEO of Ingogo
Apple Watch Series 1

Petrie’s most successful venture, the monopoly-breaking taxi app Ingogo founded in 2011, valued at AUD$100m, keeps him on alert, and not just for canny algorithms: “As a CEO I’m always on, connected and looking for ways to be more effective with my time. My Apple Watch gives me that ability and it’s so simple to use.”
The award-winning Ingogo, named #3 fastest growing technology company by Deloitte in its 2015 Fast 50 list, and now in all major Australian cities, has since received over AUD$30m in backing from Australian investors.

Matt Bullock – CEO and Founder of Spinify
Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II ref 116713LN, & Apple Watch Series 2

When Bullock says “I love my watches” he is not kidding. The CEO has noteworthy mention on this list not only as one of Australia’s most prolific serial entrepreneurs, commanding an award-winning e-commerce fleet, but because of his penchant for wearing a watch on each arm, every day. “It’s true people do comment a lot on my two watch habit, but I’m used to it. I tell them ‘I wear two watches because I can’t read a text message on my Rolex’ and people get it!”
His left-hand pick, a rugged steel and yellow gold Rolex GMT-Master II, has special meaning: “It was an engagement present from my lovely wife, but I really like having three time zones on it when flying.” And its right-hand counterpart is no less qualified: “With my Apple Watch, the Intercom chats, email and text notifications are essential, but I really like how the activity counters to remind me to move.”
Bullock started out with his eWAY payments system from a Canberra garage in 1998 and secured over US$50m for its sale to Global Payments in 2016. More recently he’s moved onto Spinify, a workplace engagement and staff motivation venture. As for his watch tag team, pragmatism meets prestige in equal measure.