ICYMI, last Thursday, we launched our biggest, baddest promo to date. CLICK HERE to enter and get a chance to win prizes (valued at $1500):
- A pair of handcrafted watches by THE 5TH
- $500 worth of personal care products by Beauty’s Got Soul
- Two (2) limited edition bottles of Belvedere Vodka (not available in stores)
- $500 in gift cards by WeTeachMe to take in a learning experience* for you and a friend
*Book any class or workshop listed on weteachme.com at any major city in Australia.
Last week, we sat with Leonie Henzell, owner at Beauty’s Got Soul, and got a serious dose of creative inspiration. And this week is no different.
Read on and get a behind-the-scenes look at watchmaker extraordinaire Alex McBride, founder of The 5TH.
You were born into a creative family. In your opinion, is creativity is more nature than nurture?
That’s a really interesting question - I’ve never thought about it like that before. My parents were normal parents with a passion for what they did; yes, their passion was in a creative field, but to me, it was normal. It’s only been in later years when I show people my parents work or tell my story that I get perspective and appreciate the creative environment I was brought up in.
To answer your question more philosophically, I think a lot of life is about nurture. One thing I did learn growing up in this environment is that it can be incredibly tough to uphold your creative vision; to stick to what you believe in despite the opposing opinions. In any creative field I think you need some determination and grit, and that is something I witnessed in my parents from an early age.
Do you still have the vintage watch your grandfather left you? Do you ever still wear it?
Of course I do! I keep it safely tucked away as a source of inspiration. To be honest, I’d find it hard to ever wear another brand other than The 5TH. I think it’s important to appreciate the beauty of other watches, which can provide inspiration, but I couldn’t wear one. (Editor’s note: More about grandfather PJ’s watch here.
Given your creative background, how does it fit into your company’s R&D process?
Not working inside my parents’ company, I didn’t get to intimately understand their formal (or informal) process; however, I think it more of an attitude thing when designing or creating something new. That is, not letting ideas be confined by boundaries, not being afraid to have a go, and knowing when you’ve pushed things too far. It is important to be disciplined or have disciplined people around you who can balance some crazy ideas out.
Your watches say “simplicity”. What was the thinking behind the minimalistic approach?
Nothing more than personal style haha. I can appreciate more ornate objects but my preferred style is simple and beautiful, it is just what I am drawn to and what comes naturally to me.
What can you tell us about the watch you’re wearing right now?
Well, as I answer these questions, it’s 7am and I’m sitting at my desk after just getting back from the gym. When I’m off to the gym I strap on my ‘Ventana’ watch, which firstly goes with my all black gym gear, but also has a silicon strap and is 100m water resistant so it’s good for the more outdoor activities.
So, how does a watchmaker succeed in an age where everything from mobile phones to cars is able to tell time?
Simple: design beautiful objects.
As millennials, we are meant to be the generation who don’t wear watches due to the advancement in smart technology. Then again, there is yet to be a smart watch or phone that is as beautiful an object as a traditional watch.
Also, I think traditional watches have the ability to connect us to powerful emotions and values, whereas a smartwatch or smartphone does not. Take my grandfather’s watch, for example. This has served as an inspiration to me for a lot of my life, and this is something that no smartphone can provide.
What do you think is the difference between the traditional and modern markets for watches?
Watches (or time telling devices) have a long history of only being accessible to the elite, even back to some of the first telling devices, like the 24-hour candle, which was only affordable to the wealthy.
The majority of the traditional brands have been able to make a lot of money positioning themselves to the elite. And alongside that, there is a long supply chain, in which portions of the margin are taken along the way (wholesalers, retailers, sales agents, celebrity endorsements, etc).
It’s only been in the boom of direct-to-consumer brands that watches have been made accessible.
Our aim at The 5TH is to connect this same traditional craftsmanship (the true beauty of the industry) with contemporary culture. And we do this by selling straight to the end user. No middlemen.
Of course, today, you don’t just make watches; you’re an “e-commerce fashion business”. Tell us about how that evolved.
This is where I revert to my early statement about “discipline” being required. To be honest, we got caught up in too many ideas and a hunger to continue designing products that have traditionally not been accessible due to price point.
We designed a range of sunglasses, which were handmade in Italy, and we designed bags and leather goods with premium Italian leathers; offering everything at accessible prices because we went direct to the customer. But all of these products actually took us away from our original purpose, the reason we started doing what we’re doing.
Soon, you’ll see these products gone from our shelves and then, find new unique and interesting watch designs coming through. Back to basics.
We’ve read that you were able to grow your Instagram base to 50,000, before you even sold a single product. How did you do it?
Consistency. Much of brand-building is about consistency. You need a clear content direction and you need consistency in what you do. We coined the term “the 5th view”, which we said was the view from above, and we only shared birds-eye photos. When we started introducing over the shoulder watch shots, it was a natural fit. (Editor’s note: 465,000+ now and counting!)
Paint for us the future of the watch business.
We’re working on some revolutionary projects at the moment, projects that I think could change the watch industry and I’m excited to bring to life. Sky’s the limit really.
I’d love to divulge more, but these projects will come to life in the next few months, so watch this space.
If you weren’t in the watch business, what would you be doing instead?
My previous job was as a Development Manager for a Melbourne based property developer, which I really enjoyed. I was able to bring to life many projects, from art installations to multi-residential towers. But it was the art projects that really got me excited about what I was doing.
My passion is bringing to life ideas and working with people who are equally passionate about what they do. But I don’t really see another path for me until this one ends. I’m excited about what we are working on on a day-to-day basis and that’s what gets me out of bed bright and early every morning.
Finally, if you had an entire day to yourself and can learn absolutely anything in the world, what would you choose?
More about myself! Introspection is really important, especially in a fast-paced environment. It’s important that you set time aside to hear your own thoughts clearly and make sure your pointing your focus in the right direction.
This is a constant challenge in a business, because there is always 101 things to do, but it’s important to sometimes slow down.