Talking’ Tockr — New Texas-Based Brand Creates Swiss Watches Inspired by AviationBy Keith W. Strandberg
Watches and aviation have gone hand in hand since the very beginning. Louis Cartier famously made a timepiece for pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont and pilots watches have captivated watch lovers ever since.
There are a number of brands associated with aviation, do we really need another one?
Well, after talking with Austin Ivey, the owner and founder of Tockr, I think we do.
Tockr is linked with aviation because of Ivey’s grandfather, who flew C-47s on the “hump” route, the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains over which military transport aircraft flew from India to China to resupply units of the United States Army Air Forces fighting with the Chinese against the Japanese.
“My granddad passed away when I was 11 years old, but my Grandma is still alive, and she kept a remarkable record of his time overseas,” Ivey says. “I’d always known a bit of my granddad’s history, and one of my favorite aspects of this project is discovering more of his history and the world that he flew in. It was incredibly dangerous, because they were slow moving planes flying at high altitude over the Himalayas.
“I remember one story he told — one time, he was flying tractors to China and he heard screaming from the back of the plane,” Ivey recounts with a smile. “It turns out a cobra had gotten onto the plane. They ended up shooting the snake – they were all soldiers and well-armed.”
Ivey himself is a pilot, along with his father, so he knew that an aviation watch was a given, but when he dug deeper into his grandfather’s war history, it confirmed he was going in the right direction. Two of Tockr’s key introduction pieces are based on a rotary airplane engine, and the C-47s that Ivey’s grandfather flew were equipped with…you guessed it, rotary engines.
“Just last month, I found the first watch I was ever given, a Fossil watch that my grandfather gave me when I was 10,” he says. “Surprisingly, it has a C-47 plane on it, and I plan on giving it to my son someday.” After getting that Fossil, Ivey developed an interest in fine watches, collecting some serious pieces from Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and more.
Ivey and his father were in the oil and gas business in Texas (Ivey lives in Austin) until they sold their company in 2014. When Ivey started thinking about his next project, making a watch came to mind and he started doing some research.
“I really enjoy collecting watches, and I started developing a network in the watch industry,” Ivey details. “In fact, I asked some of the people I knew what they thought about me starting up my own brand, and pretty much everyone told me I was crazy. Honestly, that made me want to do it even more. I decided to go to the ultimate watch show, Baselworld, last year, and I was blown away by the scale of it. I was astounded at how big the industry was, but I thought if I came up with something unique, it could work. That’s where I met Serge Aebischer, a veteran of the watch industry, and Sophy Rindler, well known as an influencer and founder of watch forums and groups on social media. Together, we came up with the idea of basing the watch on the radial engine of a vintage plane, and that became our first concept.”
Ivey realized that no one had ever done a radial engine in a watch, so that became the hook. “Everyone we talked to told us that we needed an authentic story that people can understand and relate to, and we needed to offer something unique in the industry, and make it affordable in relative terms,” Ivey explains.
The connection with the C-47 radial engine has been a strong one. “In Texas, there are still some living hump pilots, and there is a lot of enthusiasm for these old planes,” Ivey adds. “Near Austin, there is a great C-47 called the Bluebonnet Belle. At some point, I want to do some sort of promotion with a plane like this.
Ivey has been having a good time, thanks to help from industry veterans like Tockr CEO Aebischer, co-founder Rindler, US distributor Ehren Bragg and TrueFacet, which will be an online retail outlet for Tockr.
“I just came in as a total outsider, but finding Serge and Sophy has been a godsend,” Ivey says. “They have really helped guide me through the minefield to get the brand to where we are today. I think our strongest asset is the team we have put together. It’s been a pleasant experience, because they know who to work with and who not to use. I have found everyone that we’ve dealt with have welcomed someone new coming in with a new idea that isn’t another $80,000 watch.”
Tockr is launching its line of watches today, October 23rd, and will be at the Wind Up Watch Show in New York, at Chelsea Market from October 27 – 29, 2017.
Ivey just inked a deal with Nieman Marcus, another Texas company, and the brand will be on their website and Tockr is going to do trunk shows in Nieman Marcus stores to introduce the brand.
Ivey is quick to credit the Texas connection for a large part of the brand’s success so far. “Texans are very proud of being from Texas, they like to think about it as their own country, so they like Texas things, and we have had a great response due to being from Austin,” he acknowledges. “Texas and watches are not a typical association, but I think Texas is an overlooked market. We have 30 million people and a lot of disposable income. And we have received a number of pre-orders from customers in Texas.”
For the moment, Tockr has two different collections, designed to appeal to the broadest group of watch lovers possible. While the radial-inspired C-47 collection, due to its different design aesthetic, might be the most polarizing – you either love it or you don’t – Ivey has really tried to develop collections that offer something for just about everyone.
In today’s watch world, it’s really a challenge to come up with a design that doesn’t look like something else. Yet, Tockr’s talking pieces, the two C47 watches, have done just that.
The C-47 Wing is the curved wing-shaped watch with the rotary engine-inspired dial ($2,400), while the C-47 is the round watch with the rotary dial ($2,300). Both are unlike anything else on the market and definitely worth a second look, and they feature automatic Swiss manufactured LESCHOT Engineering movements.
The Air-Defender chronograph from Tockr is the quintessential pilot’s chrono, very clean and distinctive. It’s very comfortable on the wrist and it looks fantastic, all for a price that can’t be beat. Powered by an automatic Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement, the Air-Defender retails for $1,990.
Tockr has partnered with TEC Ebauches and Leschot Engineering, two well-known Swiss manufactures, to produce components and do the assembly of Tockr watches.
“My optimistic goal is to sell as many as 500 watches by the end of 2017,” says Ivey. “I just really want to get the word out about the brand. We are going to go to as many watch events as possible.”
For us here at Revolution, it’s exciting to see a new brand willing to do something different, to offer watches that make a new statement, all at a very reasonable price.