Our Founder, Dr. Shehab Jabir graduated from St. George’s University of London in 2011. After completing his internships, he managed to secure a place in his chosen speciality of Plastic and Reconstructive surgery. Having been exposed to jewellery and watches from a very young age, given his family’s involvement in the trade, he always wanted to continue his family legacy. In addition, his love of history resulted in him studying the history of watch-making in the United Kingdom which further inspired him. Love of precision, intricacy and design together with the desire to preserve his family legacy and his fascination with the history of watching making in Great Britain propelled him to develop Hawchester, a quintessentially British designed timepiece paying homage to Clerkenwell, the historical epicentre of British watchmaking. 2021 is a big year for Dr Jabir. 10 years after graduating from medical school and working in the NHS, he completes board certification as a plastic surgeon with both the British and European boards this year. Apart from this achievement, 5 years since Hawchester was conceived, the first ever collection was launched this autumn.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I am a dual accredited plastic and reconstructive surgeon by profession and founder of Hawchester London watches. My family history in the watch and jewellery trade meant I received significant exposure and developed a taste for them at a young age. Hence, assessing, valuing and handling articles of jewellery and watches came naturally to me. On the flip side however, I always had an interest in science and the human body and anatomy in particular, so I decided to undertake a degree in medicine at St. George’s University of London. I then managed to secure a place in the highly competitive speciality of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. During my time training within this field, the very artistic nature of the speciality drove me to develop my creative side. Furthermore, I’ve always loved history, so reading about the history of watchmaking in the United Kingdom opened my eyes to the pioneering inventions of British watchmakers who drove the science of mechanical watchmaking forward. These three aspects, my family legacy in the jewellery and watch trade, my profession which was hinged on precision, intricacy, evidence and artistic flare and the inspiring history behind British watchmaking drove me to establish Hawchester.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I’ve been a watch collector since my school days, collecting reasonably priced timepieces and enjoy updating my wrist-wear ever so often. The turning point was when my one of my brothers (we are a family of four boys and my 3 elder brothers are avid watch collectors) suggested to me that I should get a wrist watch with a bit more “oomph” for the lack of a better expression! I felt that buying an expensive watch on its own wasn’t ambitious enough for me. Furthermore, at the time this happened, I was heavily influenced by the 3 others factors we discussed above. This event however, is what triggered the cascade of events that spurred me on to set up Hawchester London. I eventually set up the brand with a long-time friend who was also a watch enthusiast.
How did you achieve awareness?
We are still in the process of creating awareness. In fact, this is within the top 5 priorities for us. We have a number of social media outreach avenues from Instagram to Pinterest and our website has just gone live. Furthermore, we set up the “Dux” (latin for leader/guide) magazine to organise written and video content based on our slogan “Non Ducor, Duco” which is Latin for “I am not led, I lead”. This would be an avenue for everyday leaders to share with Hawchester their stories of success, trials and tribulations so that we can all take heed of the lessons learnt.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Hawchester London was created with my own savings. I come from a background where putting your own money in a project is considered a vote of confidence in whatever you’re pursuing. Despite being conceived 5 years ago, Hawchester is only launching its first collection this summer. This is a dedication to the amount of focus, thought and attention we give to our products. We have been approached by a number of investors both inside and outside the watch and jewellery sector, however I am keen to develop an authentic identity for Hawchester and not dilute it with outside influences for the time being. That said, if the right investor who understands Hawchester London’s vision does come along we would be more than happy to look at ways that we could potentially collaborate.
What are the key successes?
For me one of the key successes has been to design and develop a product that matches heritage brands in terms of quality, durability and design. Every single detail, from the dial to the watch hands, have been manufactured from scratch instead of using mass produced parts. The colours have been painstakingly chosen by me. Everything was prototyped and tested prior to introduction to the market and developed to Hawchester’s exacting standards.
The biggest success for me though is our unique packaging design. I am extremely proud of designing a watch holder made of top grain genuine crazy horse leather that not only acts as a vessel to hold the watch but can double up as a wallet with space for cash, cards and even coins once it has done its job of delivering the watch. This is the first time in the watch industry that this innovative approach to packaging has been conceived. You may have thought that this type of upcycling when it comes to packaging may have already been developed by the giants in the industry but unfortunately it hasn't, at least not until Hawchester turned up!
What were or are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Getting a reliable product out to market has innumerable challenges. From the overall inspiration to converting that inspiration into a design that captures that inspiration, to finding a reliable manufacturer to branding and marketing the product. I have faced challenges throughout the entire journey up to this point and I am only getting started! I bet there are lots more hurdles to come or might I say overcome! However, when facing these challenges, I always refer back to a set of principles I hold close to my heart:
- Starting with why – I always remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing
- Seeking advice – always remember that there is someone out there who knows more about a topic than yourself so seek advice from them.
- Learn to “observe and not absorb” – when something isn’t going your way try not to get emotionally too involved (i.e. don’t absorb the negative energy), rather try to step out of the circle and become an observer. This usually helps you see things from the perspective of the other and also makes apparent solutions to the issue that you may have never noticed when you’re completely absorbed in the situation.
What are your plans now or for the future?
Right now, I want to raise awareness of the brand and what we are about. We are also currently working on our corporate-social responsibility strategy and are in talks with BFIRST (British Foundation for International Reconstructive Surgery and Training), a UK registered charity which trains surgeons in the poorest countries in the world to enable them to undertake reconstructive surgery, releasing children and adults from the state of poverty and destitution associated with disability and deformity. This is a cause which is very close to my heart given my professional associations. Our aim is to contribute to the work that this charity performs. In the future, I hope to manufacture as many parts for our watches within the UK as possible. My ultimate goal is to build a mechanical movement that could be considered authentically British.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Be authentically yourself. Be open and honest. Have conversations about your idea with as many people as possible. If intellectual property applies to your idea, make sure you register it with the relevant governmental agencies. Understand that entrepreneurship can sometimes be a lonely journey so build a support network. Try to have fun while doing it and celebrate even the little successes!
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Start early and stick with it
Under promise and over deliver
Don’t set your expectations of others too high – always be prepared to be let down
If you get rejected move on swiftly, your next opportunity is around the corner
Be patiently impatient i.e., pursue your goal patiently but be impatient in accomplishing those little steps that will get you to your goal.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
George Daniels – a contemporary British watchmaker (who passed away in 2011) and inventor of the co-axial escapement. His dedication to perfecting his craft is unmatched in any field.
Seth Godin – probably the world’s most famous marketing and branding guru. His books and insights into what make human beings click are fascinating. I would highly recommend “This is Marketing” and “Purple Cow” by him which are both tours de force on the topic.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – I listen to his life-story at least once a week as a reminder. It’s a fascinating example of a person thinking big, working hard, ignoring the nay-sayers and fulfilling his dreams. Totally inspires me every single time!
Graham Perks – one of the most decorated British surgeons who has served as the President of the British Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons and on the boards of many national and international plastic surgery associations. My relationship with him however is a personal one as I trained with him. His dedication to getting the best for everyone he comes into contact with will always inspire me. He is a mentor and someone I look up to in my profession and life in general.
My Mother - Last and most importantly, I wouldn’t be in this position without my mother. Her kindness, love and gentleness is something that I have not experienced from any other and is only something a mother could give. Her support is unwavering and is the driving force for me in continuing this journey. Her ability to compromise her happiness for that of others has taught me about sacrifice and humility. She has inspired me throughout my life in a variety of ways when it has been needed the most!