HONG KONG — Sally Lim was so fed up with her husband Glenn’s horology obsession, she issued an ultimatum: Find something constructive to channel his watch addiction into — or else. Little did she know, she would be pulled along with him into the microbrand watch world with Ayers Watches’ “The Metropolitan.”
Glenn Lim had been an avid watch collector and started becoming more interested in independent watchmaking with the release of Visitor Watch Co.’s Duneshore. “It was just cool to see something so different,” Glenn said. After moving the family to Hong Kong for work, Glenn started researching watch manufacturing and quickly started making contacts. “Hong Kong is really a watch collector’s haven,” he said. “I asked to see samples by different manufacturers and I thought the quality was really amazing. I thought, this is something I could actually do.”
At first, Sally wasn’t a fan of the idea of launching a watch. All she saw was risk and the couple had a newborn baby girl at home. “I just thought it was this over-saturated market,” she said. “You walk by any store and see all these watches,” she said. “I told Glenn, this is not going to work out. He ignored my advice.”
For Glenn, it was the right time. “We had just had our first child and I knew life was going to slow down. This was my way of pushing back agains that. I just had to sell the idea to Sally. I explained that there are whiskey drinkers and whiskey connoissers and it’s much like that in the watch market. There are people who drink only major label stuff and those who seek out small batch whiskies from smaller companies. It’s the same with microbrands. I told her we will be the small batch whiskey of watches.”
A watch is born
“I started seeing this niche he was talking about,” Sally said. “In Melbourne, we tend to have a disrespect towards big corporations. We like smaller independent companies and hometown businesses. I started seeing microbrands watches in this light. I like that you can get to know the people behind the watch and their inspirations. Once I started to see the details and thought behind the details of the watches, I started to come around to this idea.”
Glenn added, “Now, instead of fighting my obsession, she got on board.”
The couple used their tastes for Art Deco-period architecture to begin sketching ideas for The Metropolitan. The dial was inspired by the couple’s former residence, an old Deco-era police headquarters in Melbourne that was converted into an apartment building. They also looked at clocks adorning century-old buildings to draw inspiration. Even the cushion style case was a nod to the old buildings. Inspired by the lit clocks used in buildings, Glenn started kicking around the idea of a full lume dial. This would complete his vision.
Glenn chose the Miyota 9015 movement for its reliability and hi-beat rate. An integrated steel bracelet completed the Deco-era feel.
With renders of the new watch complete, Glenn started approaching manufacturers in Hong Kong. After some ups and downs, he found a factory he was confident in and had prototypes made.
“Once I saw the prototypes and people’s reactions to it, I thought this whole thing could really work,” Sally said.
Back to the drawing board
With prototypes in hand, Glenn and Sally planned a Kickstarter launch for September 2017. They started sending prototypes to reviewers for feedback. After one review one of the commenters said the watch was very similar to Finnish watch brand Sarpaneva’s Northern Lights model. Glenn thought the watch was different enough not to be confused with the haute horology brand’s signature timepiece.
But he was influenced by the full-faced lume of Northern Lights. “I thought, ‘I don’t want people to view us as a copycat watch company,” Glenn said. “And while I saw differences, it was just too similar for us have the independent feel we were looking for.” So, they pulled all the prototypes and started rethinking the dial design.
At the same time, the factory Glenn chose began downsizing and could not meet demands of the new dial. So after numerous delays, the couple found another factory that could take on the project. All of this pushed the Kickstart Launch to April 2018. “This journey has had so many ups and downs,” Glenn said. “Some manufacturers promise the world, but just can’t deliver. It took us about two years to get to this point.”
When Glenn met Sally
Glenn and Sally were neighbors who would bump into each other occasionally at their apartment building in Melbourne. The two ended up talking for a few hours as a traffic accident blocked the road to access their building. Glenn started showing up at Sally’s apartment to borrow sugar.
“The rest is history. Now we have a two-year-old girl and a watch company,” Sally said with a laugh.