When Raymond first presented the idea of starting a business, it wasn’t with the intention of forming a partnership. He had an idea and wanted to hear what I thought. We had been friends for many years, and still kept in close touch despite having gone our separate ways.
As is often a good first step, he sought a close friend for some unbiased feedback. While ideas can feel brilliant in our own mind, they are often quite undeveloped, or worse, not as brilliant as we think. In speaking out an idea, one can sometimes trip over deficiencies himself and a friend’s impartial mind should hopefully catch some of the gaps as well.
But what quickly ensued was not a rigorous analysis. Rather, I softly and cautiously proposed to jump on board. If he was expecting the classic investor that could locate every flaw- he was going to the wrong guy. I have an analytic side but am more fueled by intuition. I admired Raymond’s entrepreneurial spirit and also recognized a product with which I could vibe. I honestly hadn’t thought so deeply about the numbers before I accepted a first-class ticket on this supremely intriguing adventure.
You see, I had spent the majority of my post-college years seeking truth. In college, I had enveloped myself with books, pens, pads and lattes and attempted to explore the depths of life. I was intrigued by life’s big questions and as the cliche continues- I totally wanted some answers.
I continued on this path for much of my 20’s. I lived in a distant land and delved the ancient sources. I ultimately was able to develop myself into someone I was proud of and my life path into one I felt was genuinely satisfying and rewarding. Having sufficiently established this spiritual backdrop, I was now able to set my horizon on pursuits less metaphysical in nature.
Still, entrepreneurship was a world I felt to be out of my reach. Honestly, I never thought I had the character for it. I’m often most comfortable journaling in a coffee shop, quietly exploring nature, or conversing with friends. The thought of dueling it out in the arena of business with millions of mega-super geniuses was one that contrasted with the tranquil existence I often lived.
Of course, this isn’t to say that entrepreneurship didn’t interest me. As our world becomes more and more globally connected, I see this as an opportunity for business to help drive a sort of spiritual narrative. A narrative in which people travel, connect, and experience the brilliance of life together. This narrative greatly piqued my interest but still, it felt unlikely that I would be one of its’ characters.
And then Raymond rang me that call.
To say that Raymond and I are different is a great understatement. In the early years of knowing each other, I was quietly reading my books while Raymond was having the time of his life. He had a very fun-loving and adventurous side to him and attempted to live life to the fullest. I did too, honestly. Except, the adventure was being carried out in my rich inner- world.
Despite our differences though, we bonded naturally. It is one of those things that is hard to describe. Our personalities clicked but in a subtle and abstract sort of way. If I had to try to pinpoint the common denominator, I think I would label it: a love of life.
It is so cliche, I KNOW. But I feel it best encapsulates this unique set of interests we shared. Interests including a deep appreciation of a good laugh, a supreme interest in the phenomena of life, a polite rebelliousness toward the established norms and a strong desire to positively impact the world. Somehow, maybe only in my offbeat inner-world, all of these factors combine to mean: we love life.
So when Raymond gave over his idea that day, a part of my intuitive thought process included a quick analysis that our personality traits could complement each other well. My cautious temperament could counterbalance his daring personality and maybe something could come of our quirky duo. In this moment I started to glimpse an opportunity to embark on the spiritual business narrative that I had dreamed of in my quieter moments.
But there was an obstacle: I could only start a business that sold a product that I could connect to. I view many products as useless, unnecessary, uninteresting or a combination of all three. This is not to put down those who sell these products. I understand the practicalities of having to make a living. I also understand that many people selling these items may wish they were in a different line of work themselves. I also fully concede I should not be the authoritative voice regarding the positive qualities of different goods.
Still, if there is one thing I hope I do understand it is myself. And what I know about myself is that it is very hard for me to give my time to something that doesn’t interest me, I don’t believe in, or that I am not passionate about. At least certainly with all of the time and sweat it takes to embark on the path of entrepreneurship, I knew it would need to be a pretty interesting widget to suffice.
When I heard the word “watches” something immediately clicked in my mind. Looking back, I realize that I saw watches as representing something much deeper than a mere watch face, hands, and strap. I saw watches as a symbol of mankind’s struggle with life’s bigger questions. What is time? What force put it into motion? How does it affect each of us on an individual level? What is going to be tomorrow and the next day? Where will it ultimately lead us?
I am personally learning that as one gets older time becomes a more tangible concept in one’s life. The memories accumulate and grow distant, the personality subtly changes in many ways, and of course, our physical surroundings change as well. Even the days seem to pass much quicker and all of this occurs within this most mysterious vacuum of time.
I view watches as a product of this historic quest of mankind to grapple with the uncertainty of life and the uncertainty of time. If they couldn’t control time, at least they could organize it and live harmoniously with it through the creation of calendars, clocks, and watches.
At a fundamental level, I wanted to become another contributor to this epic quest to duel with time. For me watchmaking wouldn’t just be building another widget, it would allow me a chance to etch my small contributions toward a cause spanning generations and capturing the minds and souls of so many. I don’t even think I need to to convince you my words aren’t contrived. I would hope their intensity and passion speak volumes because this notion of watches truly got me this excited.
But even more, Raymond added a few adjectives to his description. He wasn’t just talking watches. He was talking fun and creative Swiss-quality watches.
Raymond thinks there is a lack of fun, creative and well-built watches. He is more of the fashion expert between the two of us and craves beautiful timepieces to more properly match and accentuate the different styles he is wearing. I really appreciate the practicality of his thinking. When one creates mental vistas like I am wont to do, very real and grounded ideas can prove most refreshing.
His first idea involved bright and lively colors. If one could wear socks in a way that was fun, lively and yet still subtle, why couldn’t the same be done with watches? Really, watches have some similarities to socks: they can only stand out so much due to their small size and decentralized position in an outfit and they are also often covered by a garment. People enjoy expressing themselves through the subtle creativity of a brightly colored sock so why not also through a brightly colored watch?!
Raymond was also interested in expressing his fun side. If in the same way I could channel my spirituality and intellect through a watch, he could channel his fun-loving nature. I was intrigued by a situation where we could each passionately build watches but apply our unique personalities and dispositions in the process.
These adjectives of fun, creative, and Swiss spoke to me on a deeper level too.
I deeply appreciate the value of enjoying life. Really, I consider it essential that we as human beings understand the importance of capturing every moment. A part of the mystery of life is that we have each been gifted our respective existence. We must take stock of this and appreciate the blessing of life for what it is. I could believe in a watch that embodies the importance of happiness and even helps to bring this quality out into the world a bit more.
And then there was “creative”. Creativity by definition entails some rebelliousness. If one is to be creative it means he is acting in a way that deviates from the norm. This was also a characteristic that connected with my nature. I have always had a predisposition toward a certain humble and respectful rebelliousness.
I guess you could say that I rarely accept things at surface level. If something does not make sense to me then I need to understand it before I can move forward. In college, life didn’t make sense to me and I needed to figure it out. This caused me to choose a path vastly different than my peers and it has led to incredibly satisfying results. To build a watch and create a business that extends the norms of Swiss watches is one that fits me well.
Finally, this magical little word floated out there: “Swiss”. This really caught my attention. I wasn’t a watch expert growing up but I have always had a fascination with geography, culture, and travel. The distinctive characteristics of peoples was something that has always sparked tremendous interest and the Swiss people were no exception. A beautiful country surrounded by high mountains with a people so precise and successful. What was the secret to their success? They were good with money, with chocolate, with watches, and with something particularly hard to succeed in: building a harmonious and well-functioning society.
In regards to watches, I was of course familiar with the fabled Swiss tradition. I knew that Swiss watches were known for being of the highest caliber. They are typically elegant and well-built with a precision that other cultures cannot replicate. I began to dream of this chance to learn more about their culture and the secret to their success in this most profound craft.
Honestly, I was sold.
The idea of a down-to-earth and friendly company building awesome Swiss timepieces was something to which I could give my time, energy, and resources.
These were some of the first moments of Raymond & Pearl but many more would follow.