Welcome to Episode 58 of the Tenn & Two Podcast!
Today we are joined by a long time friend of the podcast, Mr. Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, 4th Managing Director of FEARS Watches. Y’all might remember Nicholas from Episode 20 of the podcast as he was our very first interview that we had done. Back in October of 2019, prior to all of the chaos and before social distancing, Nicholas stopped through town during a whirlwind tour with FEARS through several US cities. We met up for Nashville Hot Chicken at a local favorite (Hattie B’s) and it was clear we were all going to be good friends from the start. What followed was a lovely coffee and interview where we learned about Nicholas as a collector, as well as about FEARS Watches and the history of this UK brand. If you haven’t listened to that episode we highly recommend that you go back through and check it out! (Find Episode 20 Here)
Catching Up with Nicholas Bowman-Scargill
Nicholas starts us off by going over a bit of a refresher about himself and the FEARS Watch Company, one of the oldest watch companies found in Britain. Nicholas restarted the family business in 2016 after a 40 year closure and they focus on creating small batches of watches that are hand made, finished, and assembled. In these unprecedented times, this is surprisingly not the first time that the FEARS brand has had to close it’s showroom and pause production. The brand survived both the first and second World Wars and Nicholas peaks about finding a bit of hope in that fact.
When we last spoke to the Fourth Managing Director, FEARS was about to announce the Brunswick Blue, the first dial variant of their traditional Brunswick white. He speaks about his desire to create watches that would have been done regardless of if the brand had closed its doors for those 40 years or not, and that’s what the Brunswick Blue was able to achieve. We also speak about the FEARS Archives which had recently began when we all sat down together last fall. Nicholas mentions having recently had a pocket watch come in that the movement was signed by Edwin Fear, the founder of the brand and his great great great grandfather. Given these trying times, Nicholas talks about how unique of an opportunity it is as a business owner to really sit down and evaluate his business and product. And at the end of the day, he is proud of what his product is.
We chat about how much the industry has changed in the recent weeks, laughing at the joint press release from Rolex and Patek. Nicholas had his own experience in trying to deal with Baselworld as he was considering showcasing at the event this year. He mentions how absolutely difficult it was to work with Baselworld in negotiating anything so he understands the frustrations of other brands. We talk about traditions and how important they are, but not at the detriment of the industry which is what is going on in the Swiss watch industry.
Moving on to this weekend, we have the first online Watches and Wonders which is quite a surprise for such a traditional industry. Nicholas talks about how excited he is to have the familiarity of sitting around looking at new releases online just as he used to before (though this time he won’t be able to hop on a plane and go see them in person at the event). Nonetheless it is an exciting time of year for enthusiasts and there is a bit of a breath of fresh air about the idea of brands still releasing new product.
How Is FEARS Handling These Difficult Times?
We move on to discuss what is going on with FEARS right now. While he will probably be delaying several of their launches that they had considered doing this year, he isn’t ruling everything out completely and will re-evaluate as things change in the coming months. While he mentioned earlier focusing on the brand in small areas that are often ignored when busy, Nicholas is using this time to rebuild his website and commission more photography.
The Fourth Managing Director is very open about the state of his business, mentioning that there was quite a noticeable decline in sales that began in February and got significantly worse over the weeks that followed. It wasn’t until speaking with a few other brands that he found a bit of relief in seeing that it was an industry wide trend. Of course once their lock down began, sales came to a standstill but are slowly picking up a bit.
Don’t Buy a Fears
Nicholas brings up a campaign that he had started when things began getting serious, “Don’t Buy a FEARS”. He mentions being inspired by the idea that small businesses are what are hurting most right now and need the most help. The idea behind the campaign was to get consumers focusing on helping out smaller businesses, their local shops instead of purchasing watches. We chat about how horrifying this must have been as a small business owner himself who was facing difficulties in his own business. (check out the post here)
Changing His Business
Nicholas speaks incredibly candidly about meeting with the brand’s accountant when the reality of closing down business as he knows it was coming to a head. As a small brand, there is a team that works behind the scenes of FEARS who are dependent on their income. Nicholas talks about how this was always the scariest part of having a business, and now it was the reality that he is responsible for them. That being said, he decided to take a 100% pay cut and worked with his landlord and other suppliers to make sure that he would be able to pay his team before anything else.
Of course, Nicholas still has a mortgage and expenses of his own which meant him taking on a full time job at his local ASDA in order to be able to provide for himself personally. Going in to the grocery store at 2am and then running FEARS when he comes home, it allows his team to work from home and provide for their families as well.
Somehow We Get Interviewed?
Nicholas turns the tables on us and asks what our post-lockdown watch purchase might be. While we are both pretty hesitant about spending an excessive amount of money right now, we can’t deny that we have thought about it. Katlen starts off by saying the only watch she is definitively buying this year is the FEARS for our one year anniversary of the podcast. While she wants to purchase more, there’s also the practical side of things that there are so many watches that just sit around in a box. If anything gets added outside of the FEARS, it will probably be a Doxa Sub 300. Kat talks about the idea that she might go for the one in one out policy because she too struggles with the aspect of not wanting to have watches sitting around. She’s really leaning towards a two tone birth year Datejust in a more rare dial color, pale champagne.
Well y’all, that concludes our chat with Nicholas Bowman-Gaskill of FEARS Watch Company. We want to thank Nicholas once again for coming onto the podcast for a second time as it has been an absolute pleasure catching up with him about life, FEARS, and watches. Be sure to head over to his website and check out the amazing things that FEARS has to offer. Follow him along over on Instagram as well at @fearswatches and @nicholasbowmanscargill.
Until next time!
Kat, Katlen, and Nicholas
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