rom a microbrand with no watchmaking background to opening a brand store in the heart of London, Mr Jones Watches is not your typical watch company. From the outset, its playful and provocative designs brought a sense of “shock-and-awe” to the world of affordable watches, as Europa Star reported in 2016. Now, through a series of collaborations with independent artists, Mr Jones Watches offers a much wider range of designs from the morbid and melancholic, to the joyous and absurd. And each has its quirky way to tell the time.
For the man behind the brand, Crispin Jones, modern-day watches are first and foremost expressive objects driven by a time-telling function. During our interview he sports a model called ‘A perfectly useless afternoon’. Removing it from his wrist, he demonstrates: “This watch is representative of what we do now, more pictorial designs. It is an image, and time information is within the image. It’s just a different way of viewing the watch.”
- Crispin Jones, the founder of Mr Jones Watches
Now, through a series of collaborations with independent artists, Mr Jones Watches offers a much wider range of designs from the morbid and melancholic, to the joyous and absurd. And each has its quirky way to tell the time.
To mark its 15th anniversary, Mr Jones Watches has moved its brand store from London’s South Bank to the vibrant retail destination of Covent Garden. The new address in a fashionable area, the aptly named Seven Dials, offers three times the floor space. And in keeping with the brand’s surreal sense of humour, the area was once home to the recording studios of Monty Python.
- ‘A perfectly useless afternoon’ has no numerals or minute markers. The dial features a bird’s eye view of a person lounging in a pool. The relaxed figure’s stretched leg indicates the hour, while a tiny rubber duck floats around to show the minutes. The lines of the tiles act as markers for the hours around the side of the pool.
With no formal business training, no five-year plan, and no sales targets for the store, Jones gives the impression the company’s achievement is all a happy-go-lucky undertaking. He cannot tell you how many watches he needs to sell to pay for this prime retail location. Unlike the name of one of the company’s latest models, he is not a ‘Number Cruncher’. “We are our own kind of watch company,” he explains, “We all come from a Fine Art or jewellery-making background.”
- The “Beam me up!” model
That said, when drilling down into his winning ingredients, he contends, “Fine Art teaches you to be adaptable and to evolve depending on the situation.” This is an approach that has enabled the brand to remain proudly independent. “Everything we do is funded from retained profits in the company,” says Jones, “The new store was an important step for us, but it was manageable within our budgetary constraints. We seek to grow organically and not overstretch ourselves beyond our means.”
With no formal business training, no five-year plan, and no sales targets for the store, Jones gives the impression the company’s achievement is all a happy-go-lucky undertaking.
Taking a firm hold of things also means bringing production back to British shores. All Mr Jones Watches are handmade at its two London workshops from parts bought in and kept in stock. Jones himself spent five years attending evening classes in watchmaking, and two of his watchmakers have acquired qualifications from the British Horological Institute. “Obviously, we are watchmakers. We do all the art printing and assembly in-house,” he elaborates.
- Number Cruncher
The team also processes the time display components from sheet materials on the premises. This level of control allows the creative process to be playful and experimental. Jones continues, “Especially with the sheer number of colours that we work with – some of the designs we do now have 14-15 colours on a single component – it’s mastery and an investment of time. There’s also quality that you can’t get from half the colours.”
All Mr Jones Watches are handmade at its two London workshops from parts bought in and kept in stock.
Such levels of craft make for whimsical watches that are also serious in their intentions. Given its rising popularity among watch aficionados, the brand’s artistry has not gone unnoticed. However, Jones says he never set out to target collectors. The collaborative series in limited quantities may seem like a hook, but what is undoubtedly true is that they have struck a chord far beyond traditional watch lovers.
- Vingt Mille
Jones also believes a luxury-brand customer experience is the way to win hearts and that extends to repairs and aftercare. “In the world of watches, we are as low as you can go. Our core products are around $250. What we offer is an inexpensive price point with the highest levels of service,” he notes. “I am not so concerned that people buy our watches from the store straight away. What I want them to do is to leave with a very strong and positive impression of us as a brand. And when they get home, they start to search for us, see the products, and come back to the brand.”
- The Last Laugh
An unforgettable impression is key to its success, no less. Another of the brand’s secret sauce is its social media presence and viral content, particularly on TikTok. Its engaging videos showing the company’s authentic artistry have generated millions of views. For a company that openly acknowledges the apparent uselessness of the wristwatch in the mobile age, Mr Jones Watches opens an unusual door for watches to stay seen and relevant.