My First Grail Watch: Brandon Little

My First Grail Watch: Brandon Little

My First Grail Watch: Brandon Little My First Grail Watch

Welcome back to an original aBlogtoWatch feature, "My First Grail Watch." In this series, we ask prominent people in the watch industry about the first timepiece that they lusted after. Today, we are speaking with the Chief Creative Officer of the Fossil Group, Brandon Little. Read on to learn where his career started, and what vintage pocket watch got him on the path of watch creativity.

My First Grail Watch: Brandon Little My First Grail Watch

aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?

Brandon Little: My name is Brandon Little. I am the SVP, Chief Creative Officer for Fossil Group’s Portfolio Brands. As Chief Creative Officer, I lead our internal studio of international designers for Fossil Group's watches and jewelry along with providing creative direction for Zodiac, which we own.

My First Grail Watch: Brandon Little My First Grail Watch

ABTW: When did your fascination with watches start?

Brandon Little: My fascination with watches started after college; however, my attention to accessories has been something of a passion from when I was very young. I recall very clear memories of sitting in church and watching everyone proceed down the aisle for Sunday communion. I could read into a person by noticing their watch, glasses, shoes, and jewelry. I loved spending endless hours rummaging through and talking to all the vintage watch, jewelry, and accessories dealers in Southern Louisiana. I liked to imagine the people and special occasions that all these old details came to life upon. They are special things — little things that take effort to buy and wear.

My First Grail Watch: Brandon Little My First Grail Watch

ABTW: Those are some astute observations for a young person. And I agree, watches are very much an accessory that can reflect you. How did that all lead to discovering your first grail watch?

Brandon Little: I discovered my first “Grail” while living and working in New York. I moved to the city to focus on a career in fashion design, but quickly found myself diving back into the details that make up the person versus the clothing. I developed a Sunday walking route around the city, stopping regularly at vintage mainstays and a very popular open-air flea market near 7th Avenue and 25th street. That’s when I discovered it — a large vintage SouthBend 40mm pocket watch movement. It had no hands, a cracked enamel dial and no crystal or casing. It was perfect for what I was unknowingly searching for. Inspiration. It was like an abandoned soul with nothing to offer other than its heartbeat.

My First Grail Watch: Brandon Little My First Grail Watch

ABTW: Well, now there is a brand you do not hear about any more. How did the relationship with this mechanical heartbeat develop?

Brandon Little: The fascination very quickly became an obsession. I would wind it up and listen to the escapement ticking away while watching the regulator and large ruby jewels make their music. My obsession was with the magic of it all. I was already into the idea of watches as a tool and a statement on individuality, but this really drove home more than design. It captured a much deeper reaction. It was a manual machine that was tracking time. It would draw me in, and the sound would level me out.

My First Grail Watch: Brandon Little My First Grail Watch
The original home for a South Bend movement

ABTW: Well, obviously that particular watch - or watch movement, as the case may be - made a powerful impact on you. Do you still have it today?

Brandon Little: Unfortunately, no. But I would pick another one up in an instant.

ABTW: Obtaining that first grail is an important milestone, to be sure. What other grails have you moved on to these days, if any?

Brandon Little: From that point forward, I began transitioning my career and have never stopped since. It has since been returned to the sea of lost souls, but has never lost its place in my timeline. New “Grails” and unique one-of-a-kind expressions have come and gone — but this one is the one that changed it all.

  • Timestandsstill

    Nice to see that someone in a position to influence the design of potentially so many watches that could end up on the wrists of many probable first time buyers has a soft spot for mechanical watches, especially one as classically styled as the featured (pocket) watch.
    I really wish however, that some of these guys would just flat out state the watches that they actually aspire to own rather than avoiding the (rather direct) final question put to them, although I do realize that the article title is “My First Grail Watch”.
    Of course I understand it’s not in the best interest of his corporate culture if that watch did not fall under the umbrella of the Fossil Group, but nevertheless….

    • I got to meet Brandon at the new Fossil Europe building in Basel during BaselWorld 2016. I found him to be a very approachable and engaging guy. More down to earth than what this interview might lead you to believe.

      • Timestandsstill

        And then there are those interviewees whose “grail lists” are long to list 😉

        • Guilty as charged. So many watches, so little time…

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I use to have to hate listening to company “mission ” statements,………….they annoy me. ” build on whats great ” Do more good ” Blah blah blah. Your going to have to go some to make Micheal Kors a name to be reconned with, but, good luck.

  • iamcalledryan

    My Dad was born and raised in South Bend; I had no idea this watch company existed. I will now make it my mission to pick one up!

    • egznyc

      You know, it really is amazing how many different U.S.-based watch brands there were 125 years ago. And many of them did very good work! Long before the quartz crisis, like 100 years before, the Swiss had to overcome American manufacturing ingenuity. regrettably, the American watchmaking industry stumbled and nearly died out completely, but in its heyday it was a force to be reckoned with. Columbia, PA houses a fascinating museum dedicated to watches and clocks, which includes hundreds of pocket watches from brands you’ve probably never heard of, but the workmanship is awesome.

  • Jack Daniels

    Why does Zodiac not make that mystery dial any more?

  • cg

    begs the question: Why in the world didn’t he get that watch restored? I too think that mission statements are nothing but fluff and propaganda esp., with phrasing like “touch points”, “brand heat”, “omni channel expertise”, “focus & distort big ideas” all silliness from some research consulting company. But if you are ever in South Bend the Studebaker Museum is well worth it. Unfortunately the South Bend (Studebaker) Watch factory is long gone. Makes me want to look for a good Astrographic….

  • Geoffrey Kuhn

    Fossils newer watches with their STP movements look interesting. The quality looks as good as ETA, as well as being paired with the new line of Zodiacs. But there seems to be only one online retail source to get the new Zodiacs. That makes me worry about how long fossil will stand by them if their retail is so limited.

  • pkansa

    Just to let you know, Brandon has been reading the comments, and he’s come back with some additional information for your questions. And I quote:

    “For me personally – A collection of must haves is always a moving target. First, I lean toward 100% custom tailored made for me, by me. But – as a watch lover – I can shed some light on what i find to be incredible works of time keeping mastery :
    Panerai Radiomir California dial PAM00424,
    IWC – Portuguese Power Reserve
    Jaeger-Lecoultre Grande Reverso Tribute to 1931
    MBF Legacy Machie No2
    De Bethune DB28 Dark Shadows”

    • Timestandsstill

      Thanks for the follow up Patrick! And thank you Brandon for the very interesting and eclectic list and further comments!

  • phil evans

    Thank you for a great story about an American watch company.

  • RT Custer

    Thank you Patrick for sharing a great story of inspiration. It’s up to people like Brandon to inspire Millennials like me and my team to dream big while building our modern watches. I’d like to recommend for your readers wanting to know more about their antique piece. It’s a good start for us when we’re salvaging a pocket watch movement for restoration.