Riddle me this… Don Cochrane
Up close and personal with Don Cochrane of Vertex watches – who re-founded the family watch firm
If you knew then what you know now… would you still do it?
For sure, I love Vertex, it’s part of my life and part of my family. There are certainly things I got wrong and a few ways I could have made life easier for myself but I don’t spend much time dwelling on them. In the same way, I tried not to take too many different people’s advice during the start-up process as it just gets confusing and once you’ve decided in the direction of travel it’s best just to start walking.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I think two of the most important things I was told were also the simplest pieces of advice when it comes to the M100. The first is that it should be no bigger than 40 mm and the second is that it should be mechanical. The mechanical element became the standard to which the whole watch was built keeping as much of the authority of the original World War 2 (Dirty Dozen) watch as possible and not going to crazy with a massive modern interpretation.
From a business perspective, the best piece of advice I have ever heard is make sure your profit is bigger than your loss. It amazes me how many people start businesses without considering this.
What was your biggest break?
By far the best thing that happened to me was being able to buy back the trademarks and IP for Vertex, 40 years after the company closed its doors. The company that held the rights was very understanding and in the end very helpful. Had that not happened Vertex certainly would not be back in the world today.
Also making the right choice of manufacturing partner in Switzerland was essential. They were not the cheapest but the quality is beyond questions and they have been amazingly supportive.
What’s the weirdest rumour you’ve ever heard about yourself?
Luckily, I’m fairly new on the scene so I am not sure there’s really been any rumours about me as yet, well certainly none of heard anyway! One of the things that people find it hard to understand is the sales model or path to market for Vertex. Some people feel we are being selective or even elitist, which is not the plan at all. I just really wanted to create something where Vertex had much more of a relationship with our customers than traditional brands and where an owner’s value to Vertex was much more than a commercial transaction.
Do you consider yourself lucky?
Check my Twitter description, it says ‘living lucky and punching way above my weight’ I do have a very lucky life, I have a beautiful and loving wife and amazing son, who should not have made it passed his second week but is now a strong and serious 9-year-old and I also have the best-looking cocker spaniel you will ever see. I have had jobs which allowed me to travel the world drive the most amazing cars meet some incredible people, I never stop feeling blessed by it all.
You really need to understand opportunity there are so many people who become blinkered by their perception of their world and that keeps them from all the wonder that waits for all of us. My advice is to keep moving, don’t let anyone else define you and finally, “it’s the stillness that kills us.”
What’s most important in your life?
My family and friends without question. As much as I might like to try and kid myself, you really can’t do all this on your own. I’m not the best at delegating and I certainly push things too far on my own sometimes, so it’s amazing and very helpful to have people by your side that can take a second look at things. Even if sometimes I find it very hard to hear their criticism.
What brands do you admire?
I admire so many brands, anyone that takes nothing and turns it into something really impresses me, obviously Bremont is a fantastic example of this within the British watch industry and I have huge respect for them. I love the way Belstaff was taken from a run of the mill bike brand to a luxury brand seemingly overnight.
Looking at how hard Rolls Royce work is always inspiring, given both Rolls Royce and Maybach started out on the re-launches at the same time and the same volume goals and price point, it’s great to see how you can get it so right and important to learn how to get it wrong too.
Having been an integral part at the launch team at Tesla, I obviously have a great amount of admiration for what they have achieved. Being disruptive while focused on a singular belief is something missing form many modern brands. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
Do you have a guilty pleasure – if so what is it?
Cars, bikes and books. Living in central London I do not have room for any of them but given time I hope to expand my collection, if I can find space (and so long as my wife doesn’t find out)!
Describe your personal sense of style.
I have lived in England all my life and feel very proud to be British at the same time I have spent as much of my life surfing as I have in a suit so I’m a bit of a dichotomy. I value utility and practicality I want to be able to do things and I don’t want clothing to stop me doing it.