Thursday, June 12, 2014

Watches Assembled in Cleveland - A Few Minutes with Filip Blazevic

I am a Northern Youth.  Cleveland, or just south of it anyway, is where I'm from.  I had the opportunity to meet the owner of FILIP & Co. watches last year and in our conversations was fascinated to learn that there was a guy in Cleveland who was designing AND ASSEMBLING watches in Cleveland.  But I think it's more interesting to hear him tell about it.  So now, a few minutes with Filip Blazevic -
Courtesy of Filip & Co.
Tempus Fugit - What was your first watch?  Was it a gift, is there a story behind it?

Filip Blazevic - My first watch was a Russian made Raketa.  It was a mechanical hand-wound watch of course, since this was the 1960s, a pre-quartz era. It was a gift from my father.  That was the timepiece that got me hooked.

TF - When you were a boy, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

FB -  I grew up in a family of MDs and PhDs.  My father and grandfather were MDs and my mother was a college professor with a PhD in linguistics and literature.  Somehow I thought I was destined to follow in my parent’s footsteps. First I wanted to be a doctor, then an engineer, then a veterinarian, then a linguist and so on.

I graduated college with a BS in Biology with the intention of going to Medical School.  I was offered a seat at Ohio State Medical School twenty three years ago which I declined.

At that time my friend told me “Do what you’re good at”.  I knew I was good at building “things” ranging from clothes, furniture, go-carts and later watches.  I took a chance and here we are.

TF - Where did you go to school, what did you study?

FB - I went to High school in Zagreb Croatia, where I grew up. I also completed two years of College studying Political Science before moving to Cleveland where I earned BS in Biology.

TF - What brought you to Cleveland, Ohio?

FB - After Tito (the president of the former Yugoslavia) died in 1980, I knew things were going to deteriorate.  So before the War (1991-1995) broke out, I moved to Cleveland.  That was in 1984.

Another reason was to finally grow up and start working and earning my own living, which I had never done before (even though I was 21 years old).

TF - What drew you into the world of watches in the first place?

FB - I started collecting watches because my brother in law was a collector.  I started with Bulova, Elgin, Benrus, Hamilton which I sometimes fully restored, and later higher end watches like Cartier, IWC and Patek Philippe.

My first “bigger” purchase was a circa 1970 Cartier Ellipse which almost cost me my marriage.
Collecting became too cumbersome and expensive so I decided to start making my own watches.

TF - Unlike some folks who simply place an order for completed watches with their company's name and logo on the dial, you are one of the few people who are actually assembling watches in an actual work shop where you actually work.  Why the extra effort?

FB - I make my own watches because I LOVE making my own watches. If you are buying watches with your logo on the dial, they are actually not “your” watches.  You didn’t design them, someone else did.

I like my designs and apparently other people do too.  I can pretty much make any watch I want.  That freedom in design/function allows me to insert individuality in creating watch lines that are different in style but still remain largely traditional, and yet recognizable as FILIP & Co Watches.

There is a tremendous satisfaction in creating a watch from the beginning to the end.  Designing the case, the dial, matching hands, strap and deployment buckle and making it all work together is tedious and time consuming.  However, when it’s all said and done, putting it all together and completing the watch here in my shop is the most rewarding experience of all.

Courtesy of FILIP & Co

TF - It might be hard to chose, but which of the FILIP & Co. watches is your favorite, and why?

FB - That’s a difficult question. I do prefer white dials over dark ones.  Currently I am wearing my Eastside Silver Cleveland every day.  It is an elegant and comfortable watch to wear with pretty much anything you have on.

TF - So you are one guy out there, what are some of the greatest challenges you face?

FB - The greatest challenge is the movement supply.  ETA movements used in all of my watches are an uncertain thing at best.  ETA is gradually reducing sale to companies that are not Swatch Group Companies and securing a quantity of movements is becoming increasingly difficult.

TF - Who else is making watches that interest you?

FB - I was always drawn to the story of  IWC and its history.  Their timepieces were always simple and elegant.  The design is straight-forward, traditional and lasting.  You can wear any IWC watch in the board room as well as hanging out with your friends and you will always have other people admiring it on your wrist.  Now that’s a great watch.

TF - What do you think attracts people to FILIP & Co?

FB - I think the first thing that attracts people to FILIP & Co is the fact that my watches are made here in Cleveland, Ohio.  The usual response is “What do you mean they are made here?”  The explanation is very attractive also: “The complete design of the cases, the dials with hands, the straps with deployment clasps take place here in our shop in Cleveland.  Full assembly, timing in five positions and certification also take place here”.  After examining all of the details and finely decorated movement visible through the exhibition back the watch goes on the customer’s wrist.  This is where FILIP & Co watches truly shine.

TF - Any thoughts on what the next FILIP & Co watch will offer?

FB - Even though I would like to make my next watch a rectangular piece with luminous Arabic numerals reminiscent of the 1930s, I unfortunately still have to consider the market trends.  There would be no point in me making a line of watches that only me and a few others like, however I still haven’t decided yet.

TF - A LOT of people talk about launching their own watch brands, but you have actually done it - what advice do you have for the next FILIP& Co?

FB - You have to really love what you do, and you have to be a little (a lot) crazy.  Don’t even think about launching a brand because you want to make a lot of money.  This, like every other business, is a labor of love.  There will be some good years and some not so good years but you have to persevere and believe in your product.  Recognition and success will come, just be patient.

1 comment:

  1. it's an interesting interview making known even in Europe american realities