‘Avant garde, inspiring, personal’ – Avantist founder Keeran Janin certainly has high aspirations for his timepieces. But then, given the kind of clientele the relative newcomer has managed to captivate, it may well be that he’s already there.
“I’d been wanting to make a watch for almost a decade, but about three years ago I was having coffee with a friend of mine who was an avid collector, and at the time was wearing a Richard Mille tourbillon. For a laugh I asked him the time and – no joke – with the hand wearing the watch he reached over and picked up his phone from the table to find out.”
It’s a story we’ve all heard before. For most of us, we’ve been the guy with the phone. On the surface it might seem ironic, especially working for a watch magazine, but as Keeran understood quickly, that’s the beauty of watchmaking.
His friend’s answer? “I don’t wear this to tell the time. I wear it to tell you the person I am.” The question therefore is, what kind of person wears an Avantist?
The answer’s simple really: collectors. Yes, that could be said of any watchmaker, especially the ones with as big an emphasis on making everything in-house. The difference is Avantist is also made by collectors.
To put that in to context, the Avantist brand is based in Singapore, the watch collector capital of the world. It’s a place where there are too many clubs dedicated to horology to count, a crossroads that every collector worth their name will likely find himself.
It means that they are close – both physically and metaphorically – to the very people they are designing watches for. Sure, these things could be done across distance, “but by actually being so close to them allows us to build up our new brand much faster, but also understand our clients wants on a completely different level.”
Understanding clients is something we’ve heard time and time again, and to be honest it’s begun to sound like PR fluff, especially when it comes from the larger brands. Not so Avantist, as Keeran points out. “Since launching in July 2017, we have sold north of 100 units, and I have met or spoken to every single customer personally. This is something that I want to continue doing for the foreseeable future.”
That means not getting much bigger, but that’s no bad thing. It allows Avantist to maintain quality and work with some of the finest craftsmen in the world. Add in their unique (in the watch world) philosophy of openness and collaboration – something Keeran learned first-hand from tech start-ups – and you have the potential for one of the most intriguing collector’s brands in the world.
Just because Avantist won’t start producing thousands of watches a month doesn’t mean Keeran has no plans going on, of course. If you stop moving forward you die. “We want more collaborations with inspiring people in 2019, and the introduction of a new model each year filling the gap between our entry level (Legend Series) and our top of the line (La Majesté Tourbillon) watches. Whatever we do though, we’ll always be the low volume collectors’ brand we began as.”