The energetic ToyWatch founder and designer met Stephen Spear at the opening of its first UK store on London’s Regent Street.
Did you always know you wanted to go into design? Actually, when I was young I was into sport. I was pretty good at most sports, and without wanting to sound big-headed, most of the ones I had a go at, I did well in. I even water-skied for Italy when I was 22. But I also worked with my father, who owned a department store. In 1997, he sold it and I decided to open my own watch store, mostly selling vintage watches.
Do you own a lot of watches? More than 200.
And when did you launch ToyWatch? In 2005. I was a well-established merchant by then and was travelling to watch fairs in Germany, Hong Kong, New York and London. I decided that I wanted to make a branded watch using [see-through] polycarbonate. All my clients – people used to spending €100,000 (£91,000) or €200,000 (£182,000) on a watch saw them and loved them. It was fun, and they all understood that.
Was it easy to start the company? The organisation was hard but the creative side is easy – I have too many ideas. Anything I see, I think how I could use that look or that technology to create a watch. And the advertising is easy for me too. In a room of 100 people, if one is wearing a ToyWatch, you can bet the other 99 will ask about it. Honestly, when I worked at the department store we had 25,000 SKUs but I never saw anything that created as much interest or had as widespread a fanbase. We appeal to everyone from 10-year-olds to 80-year-olds.
And you have lots of celebrity fans too, don’t you? Yes. The latest is Michelle Obama. And the amazing thing is that we never pay people to wear them – they actually buy their own and we only find out when we spot them.
But the popularity has meant that you have been copied quite a lot. Does that bother you? No, it’s great. You know, when I was last in Thailand I saw fake ToyWatches next to fake Louis Vuittons. It means you’ve arrived. And you know, these people making the fakes are creative too – sometimes you look at a fake, say a fake Patek Philippe watch, and there are things that weren’t on the original.
You sponsored the timeline at London Fashion Week and created an LFW watch – why? It’s important for me because the LFW people love the product and believe in it, and the UK market is a really big market for us. It is the fastest-growing market and now the second biggest in Europe outside of Italy.
Is that why you’ve opened a London store? Yes, I am happy to have a store here because it is really meaningful to us to be popular in this country – this is a sophisticated and very multicultural country and people here travel a lot and they have seen so much.
Where do you want to be in five years? I want to stay happy and to have 100 ToyWatch stores.
Where was the last place you went shopping? I went to Savile Row and visited tailor William Hunt. I love the big collars.
Which is your favourite vintage watch? The Rolex moonphase.
Who do you think are the most stylish celebrities? I’m friends with Eric Clapton and love his style. He collects watches too.
What’s your favourite piece of clothing? I have a Hermès jacket that I bought 12 years ago – it’s a soft leather biker jacket and I love it.
- Marco Mavilla is the founder and designer of the ToyWatch brand