Tea with Chris Pilton

 So why did you decide to start your own brand? And why watches?

I am what you might call an avid watch collector! I love watches and have collected several rather nice ones over the years. But in my collection I didn’t have the “perfect” watch for every occasion. I’m big on solving problems, so I set about making myself the perfect watch.  

  • Size – my Swiss watches are too chunky for my business shirts but my minimal sleek ones were a little too skinny. I developed my Classic range to be perfect under a shirt but big enough to have a nice presence on the wrist.
  • Second hand – and I don’t mean owned by someone before you, I needed a second hand to time 1 minute rest periods when I’m at the gym or between sprints in the park. So I added one!
  • Travel Case – I used to put my watches in rolled up socks in my hand luggage. A 1950s Tudor Oyster Prince inherited from my Grandpa deserves better than a sock! So I designed a leather case that transports two watches and 4 straps which is inclusive in the price.
  • Automatic vs Quartz – if you have more than one automatic watch, the chances are you’ll need to reset it every time you put it on. I found myself grabbing my Quartz watches in the morning because it was easier.
  • Two straps – I wanted our watches to be versatile so include two straps. These are made 20mm wide which is the most popular size globally so my customers can use other branded straps and don’t have to endlessly buy new straps to change up their style.

How do you even know where to start when building a new fashion brand?

That was part of the fun. You don’t know to start! But you soon find your way. I had a decent knowledge of business and a better than average knowledge about watches. I have read a lot about a lot over the last 12 months, which has helped fill in the gaps in my knowledge. I’m a project manager so I basically treated the whole venture as a project.

Who designs the watches?

I design everything myself. I sketch down ideas and take lots of photos of things I like. Some of the designs that have inspired my first collection include the 1950s Tudor Rolex watch design, Aston Martin DB5 - which I think in 60 years on still look amazing today. That’s the feeling I got on a recent trip to Sydney walking around the opera house; some of the materials used, like brass, wood, concrete, plush red carpet and tiles… it’s incredible that it all works and still looks really slick today.

The range I’m designing at the moment is less “classic” and features brushed stainless steel, black face and black rubber strap. I’m really looking forward to wearing it myself actually!

Which stores can your watches be purchased in now?

Right now I have four handpicked stores in Brisbane; Clay Rondo in the Stamford Plaza, Pureman Barbers which was GQ Australia’s barber of the year! Du Monde sur Latrobe in Paddington and Wil Valor which is a gentleman’s tailors in Milton. I also have several online stockists in Australia.

Most recently I’ve negotiated an agreement with a friend of mine who has a whisky business called Melbourne Moonshine, he’ll be helping me get around five stores in the Melbourne area stocking DeMontbrayPilton. I’m going over to the UK to establish the brand in Europe so I’m hoping to add more stores to the list.

Who is your fashion inspiration?

I only wear a handful of big label brands; Prada, Barbour, RM Williams boots and then I have suits and shirts made by Clay Rondo and Wil Valor. I do like Paul Smith socks as well actually!

If I see something I like and it doesn’t have a label I still buy it if the quality, cut and colour is good. But with watches my main inspiration is from Tudor, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe.

Describe the ‘ideal’ DeMontbrayPilton wearer.

I initially envisaged my customers to be similar to me – those who love style and quality but don’t want to pay a massive price tag. What I’ve found is really interesting, my customer base is much broader than I first thought. I’ve shipped watches all over the world to both ladies and gents. I think the classic style of the watch has drawn interest from a much wider customer base than I thought.

I just want the wearer of my watches to love cruising around wearing the watch, enjoy changing the bands to match their outfit, get complements about how nice they look and generally feel that they’ve got great value for money from a great product.

The wearers of DeMontbrayPilton should appreciate clean lines, excellent quality and take compliments modestly. I think our watches can compliment many styles from tattoos and beards to slick hair and suits. We have everyone from an England cricketer to an Aussie pro surfer as brand ambassadors so the watches seem to work on a wide spectrum. 

What were you doing before you started the brand?

I started out of University as a graduate investment banker but it was 2007 when the global financial crisis hit so that didn’t last long. Unfortunately the graduate scheme was cancelled when the banks had their melt down. I got one month’s pay and was given my matching orders. I was fortunate enough to pick up a job as a planning engineer in nuclear power through a friend. Working in nuclear power conditioned me to accept that working 13 hours a day was normal, which has helped in my whole career. After working for a few years in the UK I emigrated to Australia and started working for a global engineering consultancy which I stayed at for around five years and had some great overseas junkets. Right now my day job is as a project manager and I have a functional role as operations manager in a project controls consultancy called PPSS based in Brisbane.

What is the future for the brand? Where do you see it in five to ten years?

I want to keep the brand small enough to still be special based on a smaller number of pieces made. I absolutely want to stay independent but I also need to grow the business in order to develop more designs. I’m getting a balance between the two at this stage.

I am about to launch a Rose Gold watch with white leather strap, I’m also designing something really special which is automatic and 100m water resistant.

I am designing DeMontbrayPilton wallets and will be meeting manufacturers in Italy in August 2016. Many things have already been invented, nowadays it’s about improving something that already exists and that’s what I intend to do with watches and wallets.

Whatever I do next I intend to improve existing, increase quality and lower the price compared to the competition. I’ll always be competitive because it’s in my nature. I’m doing this because I love it, not to make a living. I enjoy solving problems so I’d also welcome people to contact DeMontbrayPilton with their fashion accessory gripes and we’ll take a look at it for you. 

What's your favourite tea?

Earl Grey with milk but no sugar.