Meet the Newgate clock and watch designers making waves in the industry
Losing track of time is never a problem for Jim and Chloe Read, founders of clocks and watches brand Newgate.
They started out as ‘teenagers flogging clocks’ and now their timepieces – designed in Shropshire – adorn walls and wrists around the world.
“We launched the business in the 1990s, from our spare bedroom, after we both dropped out of college – Jim was in art school and I was partway through my business degree.
“We were set up on a blind date and soon realised we had similar backgrounds and ambitions, so started plotting business ideas.
“Jim sold his Mini Moke car and we used the money to buy the equipment needed to make some clocks and fund an exhibition at Alexandra Palace to showcase our initial designs. It was at this show that we secured our first blue chip stockist – Harrods.
“We run the business together, playing to each of our strengths. Jim is the ‘artist’ and head designer and I’m the ‘sorter’, dealing with the business and sales side of things.
In 2015 we diversified, naturally, into creating contemporary men’s and women’s watches. This year saw the launch of our fourth wristwear collection – the G6,” says Chloe.
Over the past three decades, the couple, who have three children, have witnessed many changes in the industry and have stayed up-to-date with shifting tastes and trends.
“At first, we made everything ourselves by hand from the spare bedroom of our flat. It overlooked an old town gate, called Newgate, which gave the brand its moniker.
“As time went on, rapid expansion meant the two of us just couldn’t keep up with demand. We design everything in our British design studios and manufacturing happens overseas, with suppliers that we are committed to building and maintaining long-term relationships with – some of which we’ve worked with since the beginning.
“Another big change would have to be the rise of the internet. It’s constantly evolving. Our focus has shifted to growing our online presence alongside the wholesale business as well as building on our social media platforms.
“Last year we relaunched our website under the Newgate World umbrella to combine both our clock and watch collections, allowing greater choice to customers when shopping the Newgate range.
“Smart watches and smart phones have changed tastes, the way people shop, how they communicate and even socialise. And they are always being updated. However, analogue watches still dominate. Especially as a fashion accessory.
“The trend for furniture over fashion is also rising. Thanks to the age of Instagram, not only are people posting images of their outfits, they are showing off their homes too.
“Clocks are an essential for the walls when it comes to interiors. We’re known for our iconic clock designs. Fusing classic and contemporary styles to ensure our timepieces suit all kinds of interior aesthetics,” says Chloe.
She believes their two biggest achievements have been securing an order from Harrods when they first set out on their venture and branching out to producing watches.
“Harrods was one of the first stores to place an order at that first trade show. Suddenly we had a proper business on our hands and had to get busy making orders.
“At the time we both had day jobs, then in the evenings we would go back to our flat and make up orders to ship out to retailers in London, America and Europe.
“Launching our first watch collection in 2015 was also a great achievement for us. We had talked about it for ages but wanted to take our time and get it right. We still get excited now when we see someone in the street wearing one of our watches,” says Chloe.
Jim believes ‘quality, great design and affordability’ sets Newgate timepieces apart from others.
“In day-to-day life I always try to surround myself with good design. I think immersing yourself in great craftsmanship and brilliant ideas hones your abilities as a designer.
“During the design process myself, I try to stay clear of looking at trends or what other people are doing. I want to keep my mind clear and just create what feels right to me,” he says.
Oswestry-based Newgate has just launched its new G6 collection, which has been inspired by Jim’s late grandfather who was a Morse code expert for MI5
“We wanted to do something completely different this season to shake up the watch market and add some colour,” says Chloe.
“Jim was inspired by his grandfather, Eddie Read. He was a Morse code expert for MI5 and his call sign was G6US, which Jim used to name the collection.
“Eddie had a big influence on Jim’s passion for moving-part design and the instrumentation of time, so he knew this was the one to honour his late grandfather,” says Chloe.
The collection is described as “clashing contemporary brights with high-spec functionality to create a stand-out watch range”.
“Designed in Newgate’s British design studio, by Jim, the G6 range is a modern collection of women’s and men’s chronograph watches, featuring multicoloured triptych sub-dials with stopwatch and date function.
“We’ve also introduced interchangeable straps for the first time in this range. Each G6 watch comes with one handcrafted black Italian leather strap and one colourful canvas strap, for two different dress styles,” says Chloe.
A clock for every room
As clock and watch makers, it will probably not be a surprise to hear that their home is full of timepieces including many of their own
“Every room in our home has a clock and we have a large collection of giant vintage and retro clocks. Some of them are 6ft in diameter.
“The G6 Geneva is one of Jim’s favourite watches and I love wearing the black dial G6S Domino.
“We have the full G6 range at home!,” says Chloe.
Running a successful business in our ever-changing world isn’t always plain sailing but the couple have learned together how to overcome any challenges that come their way.
“Like any business we’ve experienced our fair share of challenges – and still do,” says Chloe.
“From shipping delays and the decline of the high street, to finding the right talent and ever-evolving consumer needs. We are lucky to have each other as sounding boards.
“From the beginning we learnt that we had two choices when faced with obstacles – to run away and bury our heads in the sand or deal with things head on. We chose the latter of course.
“You need to be wholly committed to doing everything you can to make the business a success,” she adds.
So, what would be the couple’s advice for anyone considering taking the plunge and setting up their own business?
“Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever done before, have confidence and trust your senses. If it’s the right idea, nothing will hold you back or give you cause for doubt. Call it gut instinct or a sixth sense, if you aren’t confident about it don’t do it,” says Chloe.
The couple are getting ready to mark three decades of their clocks and watches next year.
“We’ve got lots of exciting things in the pipeline, especially for next year as we celebrate 30 years of Newgate. You’ll just have to watch this space – pun always intended,” says Chloe.
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