Graeme Goldman - CEO of The 5TH

The inescapable passion turned career. After clocking away over twenty years in the watch business selling Swiss-made watches, it’s the passion that Graeme Goldman, CEO of The 5TH, cannot escape from. His grounding, yet insightful odyssey, will dial through the meaning that a watch is truly more than what meets the eye. Ultimately, why the ticking of the horologe remains on your wrist and not necessarily just in your heart.

What was your dream job, in dare I say, the slightly younger days?

I’m not so sure if I had a dream job. It was more a matter of get out. Let’s just create a future and create wealth and opportunities. I don’t come from a fashion background. I’m a qualified chartered accountant, so it was more a matter about making sure that there was enough income coming in to be able to support and sustain the lifestyle that I wanted to live. Maybe it’s a different generation, we didn’t dream as much. It wasn’t as defined as what your generation is with what you wanted to do. The world was a different place thirty years ago.

I’m interested to know how did you and Founder of The 5TH, Alex McBride, meet?

Serendipity. Pure and absolute serendipity. I’d never heard of The 5TH. I’d never heard of Alex. I met someone, through pure chance that introduced me to Alex and the rest is history basically. I like what he stands for. I like what he has built to date. There were some skillsets that he didn’t have- that he needed. There was some assistance on the business side that I could offer from my many years in the watch industry.

It was just a really good meeting of the minds. We share the same values and same dreams of what we want to achieve in the watch industry. This was very interesting because we are in opposite ends of the age spectrum. He’s only two years older than my eldest son. It’s almost like I’m in business with my son, which is pretty good as well. I can understand Alex, because I can understand my son. We share similar values and similar dreams of what can be achieved in the watch industry, which is quite exciting and frightening at the same time.

It’s surprising that you would have people that are maybe twenty-five years apart in age, that have very similar views of the future of the watch industry… and that we have come from different segments. I come from luxury Swiss [watches] and he comes fast fashion non-Swiss [watches]. It was a meeting of the minds, serendipity and destiny.

What are the values that you and Alex equally share within The 5TH family?

If you look at where the over-connecting circles are between Alex and myself; it is a strong degree of honesty and integrity. A strong connection back to the past. He set up The 5TH because he was inspired by his grandfather. He has his grandfather’s watch, that was subsequently passed on. I thought this was pretty cool. Because for a while there, I thought the millennial generation didn’t care about that kind of thing.

What were the mutual values you two connected on when initially meeting?

Being open, transparent, truthful, and offering value for money as opposed to working out what the consumer will pay. I don’t want to disrespect other brands, but I feel that there are a lot of other brands out there that can radically overcharge because of the name. It goes above the cost of the goods and above the cost. I’ve worked for some of those brands, so I understand the way the financial metrics work. To offer good products with fair value and full transparency to our customers. To bring happiness and joy to their lives. That’s the basis of values.

When someone purchases a product from The 5TH, you do know it’s going to be a quality product. You have a very strong emphasis on quality over quantity. Why is creating a product that will last so important to you at the end of the day?

From my perspective, the world that I grew up in, was a world where you buy good quality things and you keep them for a long time. The world today – well a large part of the world today, is about buying product. Fast food, fast products and chuck out, chuck out, chuck out. It all becomes landfill.

So, for myself and for Alex, one thing we connected on was the ability to create something that has a bit of a legacy. It might sound a bit morose, but what would happen if my grandchild asked me on my deathbed “Hey Dad … Hey Grandad,  how do you feel about what you did?”. Yeah, we basically built a business where the products end in landfill, [that] is not something that I would feel proud about.

I still get a buzz when I see people in the streets that are wearing watches that I introduced to Australia many years ago. I still get a buzz when I see people wear a Swatch that I released when I ran Swatch. I get really excited, I know it’s crazy! It’s mental and I remember the watch and I worked at swatch nearly twenty years ago.  But I remember the watch and on occasion (to the embarrassment of my wife) I go and talk to them about the watch and she thinks I’m mad. The thing is, nobody has been rude or abrupt or told me to get stuffed. They’ve all been engaged and they’re like, ‘You’re the guy who brought the watch here? You worked for Swatch?’. I look at that and I think, yes it’s crazy and amazing that you can reach out to someone about the watch they’re wearing, engage with them, and talk to them. And they’re happy to engage and talk back about it. At the end of the day they say it’s just a watch. To me it’s more than just a watch.

In a world of many empty wrists, what does a watch ultimately signify to you?

More than time. Obviously, a watch is there to tell the time. Being on time and time itself are even more important in this day and age. There is so much going on, we all seem to not have enough time! But, for all intensive purposes, there is time all around. There’s time on your phone, there’s a myriad of places you can get the time. To me, a watch is more of an emotional connection. It’s a connection with an object that brings you joy. There’s so much negativity and hardship and horrible things going on in the world. We’re in the business of just creating a bit of joy. If you think about people who don’t wear watches or certainly do wear a watch, I don’t think they realise how many times they glance down at their watch. If you looked at your watch consciously or subconsciously [and it] makes you feel better or makes you feel happier; then it’s a very simple, small and inexpensive way to add a bit of value,, and add a bit of joy, to people’s lives.

There’s also the emotional connection which I’ve found over many, many years with people who have been given their watch by their parents for a special occasion; like graduating university or school or their 21 st birthday. Then on the other end of the spectrum – and I see this all the time. I’ve seen this for over thirty years… When a father passes away, you’ll find one of the most coveted things that is normally desired, either by the son or the daughter is their watch. It’s like a piece of Dad on my wrist. I have it too. I’m never surprised at how many times I’m with people from all walks of life, whether that be shapes, sizes, colours, religions, creeds and genders. They all share the same thing. I tend to ask people, “Why do you like your watch?” and there is some connection. Whether to a Grandfather or to a Father or something along that line. It’s not just a weird coincidence. It’s not tied to a generation.

It definitely turns into an heirloom for a lot of people.

Somebody once said to me in Switzerland that what makes a watch so covetable is that the watch has its own heartbeat; but it is worn on the wrist - where you take the pulse. It’s where you feel the previous owner’s heartbeat. It’s in tune with the watch because when you think about it, you go to the doctor and where do they take your pulse? On your wrist. Where do you wear your watch? On your wrist. So, I thought that was a romantic way to think of things basically. It’s just a bit of joy! Bit of joy, bit of happiness in life. That’s all.

Do you have a ‘dream watch’ or perhaps a favourite in your collection?

If you have multiple children, it’s like asking a parent which child you love the most. I am a Collector. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have the collector’s bug, so I’m constantly looking for the next one. I’m constantly refining … My favourite watch is probably the one my Dad had for many, many years. I initially bought it and he took it off me because he loved it so much. I had it when he passed away. It’s always the special one.

Published on 11/07/2019 by Leonie Henzell CEO of beauty's got soul