From Fighter Jets to Executive Education and Limited-Edition Watches
As a project, Oxbridge Watches allowed me to exercise the lessons learned at CJBS and absorb as much business knowledge as I could in the process.
After over a decade flying in the Royal Air Force as a Fighter Pilot, I decided that I would take a different path and attempt to forge a future in business. The Executive Education options available at the University of Cambridge are vast and varied, and I was very pleased to find a course that was complementary to my goals. The Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship available through the Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS) is structured to provide an in-depth understanding of all aspects of founding and running early-stage businesses while dealing with the pressures associated with running these start-up ventures. For me, the part-time nature of this course was ideal, I could work, study, network, and continue to toy with new business concepts all at once. The accompanying one-week long residentials (a total of four) allow short bursts of immersion in the Cambridge experience.
During the first residential of the course, while enjoying the first formal dinner, I was discussing my love of precision engineering with my course-mates. In particular, my passion for limited-edition watches such as the one that I was wearing at the time, which was acquired after six long years of fighter pilot training and finally gaining ‘combat-ready’ status. The watch had a set of RAF ‘wings’ printed on the face and further custom engraving on the case-back. Looking down at the watch reminds me of all the good times I had in the RAF and the feeling of achievement at the end of the training, as well as the tougher parts over the years. It’s a feeling of sentiment and belonging, to a group of aviators who have been through similar experiences.
It became very clear to me during the discussion that there was a real synergy with the feeling of graduation from Cambridge; all the good times to be remembered and all the memories of difficulties overcome in order to graduate. I was asked why we didn’t have something similar at Cambridge? High-end university mementos in the form of limited edition time-pieces, that could be cherished for a lifetime and passed on from generation to generation. Shortly afterwards, ‘Oxbridge Watches’ was born. As a project, Oxbridge Watches allowed me to exercise the lessons learned at CJBS and absorb as much business knowledge as I could in the process. But it soon grew arms and legs!
In 2018, Oxbridge Watches secured an exclusive worldwide licensing deal to retail limited-edition watches for the staff, students and alumni of the University of Cambridge. Shortly after that, the company secured an official license from the University of Oxford and the portfolio began to build. Continuing the theme of ‘best of British’, we partnered with Bremont Watches for the manufacture of the watches; Bremont is an award-winning British company producing beautifully engineered chronometers at their headquarters in Henley-on-Thames, England.
With the knowledge and experience gained in the first year of my Executive Education at CJBS, Oxbridge Watches was able to secure investment, bring several products to market, and begin to generate revenue. The company has since gone from strength to strength, with several more licenses and sponsorship opportunities nearing completion. At every stage of the process, the lessons gained at CJBS have directly benefitted my experience; from consulting with my designated ‘mentor’ in town, to the great lectures, financial education, development of pitching tools, and the opportunity to meet like-minded students starting their own entrepreneurial projects across a broad range of industries. Overall, it’s been a great experience, and there’s still one year left. It’s always a bonus to be able to give back to the alumni community, who have helped in this project a great deal, so if you’re looking to get hold of a limited-edition University of Cambridge watch to remember the good times, be sure to use the alumni discount code ‘CAMALUMNI’.
Written by Owen Thompson, Managing Director, Oxbridge Watches Limited