Change of Hands: 23-Year-Old Entrepreneur Takes Over Luxury Watch Brand From Under Armor Founder Kevin Plank | News

For Spencer Shattuck, it all started with the Montblanc pens his father brought back from board meetings.

Shattuck began collecting luxury writing utensils at the age of 11, first from his father Mayo A. Shattuck III, CEO of Constellation Energy before its 2012 merger with Exelon. This led to a fascination with high-end watches.

Now 23, Shattuck has turned his hobby into a business, becoming the latest owner of Towson Watch Co., the luxury watch brand founded in 2000 by watchmakers Hartwig Balke and George Thomas. Shattuck bought the watch company last year for an undisclosed sum from a venture capital firm owned by Under Armor founder Kevin Plank, a longtime family friend. Sagamore Ventures bought the company in 2016.

As high-end microbrand watches grow in popularity, Shattuck, the company’s president, plans to rejuvenate American luxury watchmaking.

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“There’s a rebound in the luxury watch space right now,” and renewed interest in independent watchmakers, Shattuck said. “I’ve always considered watches to be art, individualized pieces of art that not everyone has. I’ve always been very interested in art and creating something out of nothing.

“Switzerland is not the only place to get a luxury watch,” he said.

As fewer and fewer people wear watches since smartphones also offer the time, watches are making a comeback, both as smartwatches and as fashion statements.

The global luxury watch market was worth $23.6 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.25%, according to Mordor Intelligence, an India-based market research firm. Its report revealed that the market had contracted somewhat with the COVID-19 pandemic, but started to rebound.

“Overall, the growing consumer preference for high-end, high-quality watches, which are seen as status symbols, is the main driver of the luxury watch market,” Mordor’s report states.

The luxury market is largely dominated by major brands such as Rolex, Patek Philippe and Breitling.

There’s even an active market for second-hand luxury watches that consultancy McKinsey valued at $18 billion in 2019 and will hit $25 billion by 2025.

Shattuck was a senior at Johns Hopkins University just over a year ago, planning a career in finance, when Sagamore representatives inquired about his interest in the brand. Plank, Shattuck said, recalled that he “was always into watches.”

“Kevin (Plank) cared a lot about the longevity of this brand and he really wanted to pass it on to someone who was going to commit to it,” Shattuck said. “I’m in a very lucky position where I have the opportunity to pursue my dream outside of college.”

He had had some entrepreneurial experience, running an online luxury goods resale business he started in high school. The money he earned from this business, along with some savings, allowed him to buy the business on his own. He was encouraged to do so by his father, who retired as chairman of Chicago-based Exelon last month after the energy giant split its utility and power generation businesses. electricity to create a new Constellation Energy, based in Baltimore.

A spokesperson for Sagamore Ventures said the company was “proud to support” the watch company, calling it “a valuable Baltimore company.”

“We are delighted that it is now in the capable hands of two passionate locals, master watchmaker Hartwig Balke and brand builder Spencer Shattuck,” spokesman Jeremy Soffin said in an email. “We support their success.”

As a collector, Shattuck had known the brand for years. He was even briefly interned there in college. It boasts exclusivity and precision craftsmanship and two watchmakers who design and manufacture personalized, handmade watches in limited numbers. It only makes 100 watches in each design.

The company doesn’t disclose its annual sales, but Shattuck says it builds 300 to 400 watches each year, which sell for between $2,000 and $15,000. It plans to adhere to the founders’ approach, designing and manufacturing all watches in-house. Since taking over the business last year, he has taken on an apprentice and plans to bring in others to learn the trade from Balke and Thomas.

Each watchmaker works in their own home workshop, although Thomas is mostly retired. Balke also works from a recently expanded workshop in City Garage in Port Covington, where the brand has moved its office and showroom under Sagamore ownership.

In a key shift, Shattuck moved to a direct-to-consumer model, pausing sales at jewelry stores. Instead, it connects with customers via a website, social media and the Port Covington showroom and at watch collecting events.

Such events can be more about networking than selling, said Taylor Classen, a longtime watch enthusiast and Shattuck friend who helps woo customers and manage vendors as a minority partner. Classen, a Towson resident and sophomore at Elon University, said he and Shattuck traveled across the United States to showcase products and meet with customers.

“The watch world is a very small world, and your reputation is everything,” said Classen, who met Shattuck when they were both high school students in vintage watch resale businesses. “Part of my success selling vintage watches has been meeting people at dinner parties or collectors’ groups, outlets where people talk about watches.”

Shattuck was in eighth grade at Calvert School in Baltimore when he first met Balke and Thomas, spending time learning how watches were made for a school project. This internship, like his recent business purchase, grew out of his family’s connection to Plank, who at the time was preparing to take a stake in the business and eventually acquired full ownership.

Balke and Thomas, master watchmakers who met by chance in an Irish pub in Annapolis, had built a following for their watches.

Balke, a mechanical engineer, is known for designing a watch worn by a NASA astronaut on a space shuttle mission in 2000. In 2009, the watchmakers were called by the National Museum of American History to the Smithsonian Institution to examine and repair a gold pocket. watch that belonged to Abraham Lincoln, and led to the discovery of a message engraved by a watchmaker who repaired it in 1861.

Balke said neither he nor Thomas had attended a traditional watchmaking school and instead learned by doing.

Eric Zaccone discovered Towson Watch after moving to Baltimore in 2014 to work as a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. He first saw the brand on display at a Smyth Jewelers store.

“I was blown away by their beauty,” said Zaccone, a collector since he was 16.

Now 39 and a medical science liaison for a New Jersey company, he’s been impressed with the company’s craftsmanship and willingness to show customers where parts come from, including Germany. and from Switzerland.

As a “luxury American micro-brand watch,” Towson Watch is “a staple of watch culture,” Zaccone said.

He considers his “Mission” watch, the design that launched the company, “my most prized watch.” He spent several years looking for one of the few models that had been made and finally found an owner ready to sell.

Just a few weeks ago, he purchased another watch directly from the company, a custom $4,800 Choptank with a copper dial and Swiss-made blue hands.

The brand, he believes, is about to grow.

“You’re getting a fantastic, premium watch at a fair price,” Zaccone said. “These watches stand tall with these highly recognizable big names. … They are just beautiful watches, works of art, both functional and aesthetic.

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