I recently had the privilege of conducting an email interview with one of my favorite watch industry icons: owner and founder of Bathys Watch Company, John Patterson. In 2005, John Patterson created Bathys, a small watch company based out of Hawaii. Bathys started out small with very limited models, but has expanded so rapidly in the past two years that in 2007, they were invited to Baselworld (one of the biggest watch industry shows on the planet). In less than two years, Bathys Watch Company has gone from a single quartz model to three separate lines of automatic watches.
Bathys specialize in a very unique line of super tough dive watches: The 100 Fathom, The AquaCulture, and The Benthic. Bathys designs and creates watches with a rare passion for quality, ease of use, legibility, and customer satisfaction. They are a wholly cool company that brings a young fervor to the ancient watch industry.
The following is an email interview with the owner and founder of Bathys Watch Company, John Patterson.
JS: Of all the Businesses to invest in, why watches?
JP: That’s easy. I love watches more than any other “thing”, so it was an
obvious choice. Mostly I am attracted to the quality and function of the
watch movement rather than their external design; though clearly this is
important as well. My watches are simple in design because I do no like a
lot of “gimmicky” elements. I think these can look dated quickly.
If I had a “do over” in life I would become someone like Christophe Claret
or Ludwig Oechslin and work to make haute horology pieces. I have basic
watchmaker skills and can disassemble an automatic movement and put it back
together again – and it keeps time – but I am nowhere the level I would need
to be to be a master watchmaker. And since life has no do-overs, what I do
now is try to make my own innovative watches by staying on top of things
like materials sciences and nanotechnology. Truth is, there’s not a lot of
new ideas in watchmaking. In fact just today I saw a chrono from the 1970s
that has the same basic case shape and look as the new Bell & Ross BR series
– square case with big round dial. So coming up with something truly new is
JS: What was your first watch?
JP: The first one I remember was some kind of an automatic Lucien Piccard from
the ’70s with a brushed wine red dial.
Probably more important in shaping my tastes was seeing my father wearing
his steel Rolex Daytona chrono from 1969 until just recently. I had to start
my own company to convince him to put the Rolex in a safe place and strap
on something else. I just found out that the Jubilee bracelet he had on it
since the day he got it was not the stock piece and must have been some kind
of custom order. It should have had a Oysterlock bracelet.
JS: Outside of your own product, what can usually be found on your wrist?
JP: Honestly a Bathys is all I wear. I have 3-4 Bathys watches that I rotate
wearing, but primarily I wear a silver automatic with grey dial. I do have
several nice timepieces, including a Rolex GMT II and a Zenith El Primero
Chrono, however I basically never wear them anymore.
JS: Has Bathys rapid expansion met your projections, or has its success surprised you?
JP: I have been happy with our success so far. Not many small watch brands have
made it to BaselWorld in under two years, especially coming from the US, so
I think that can be used as one benchmark of how we are doing. I would like
us to continue our current trend of doubling our production every year until
we reach a level we find manageable without us trying to do too much –
perhaps 5,000 watches per year or less. We should be able to reach that
point by 2010. We started 2006 with 1 model in 2 versions, now by mid-2007
we’ll have 4 models in 18 versions – not bad I think.
JS: Do you have any advice for other young-blood companies looking to emulate
JP: Be honest and stay true to your core philosophies, whatever they may be.
Treat your customers with respect and don’t underestimate them. Listen to
what your customers say.
JS: How did the Bathys name fare at Basel?
JP: We did great, except my feet turned into ground beef since I never wear
leather shoes here in Hawaii. We had interest from several large high-end
retailers in Europe and the US. Look for us to launch at Selfridges/David
Morris in London later this summer.
Also our Hawaiian-style hukilau party was a great smash – the hula
performance was fantastic.
JS: What can we expect from Bathys in the next 12 months? Any new models you
wish to share about?
JP: We are excited to be releasing two new ETA 2892-based automatic watches, The
AquaCulture and The Benthic. The AquaCulture is a special edition of the 100
Fathom Line with the upgraded ETA movement and a mother-of-pearl dial. The
Benthic is our new Diver watch with a unidirectional rotating bezel and a
44.5mm case. It will come in seven versions; including orange dial and MOP
As for upcoming watches – we are working on several projects at all times –
the designing and testing phase consumes the majority of our time. Lately we
have been collaborating with several metallurgists on case manufacturing
techniques and materials that we’d like to use in future timepieces. We
don’t like to be too specific until we are close to production, so I can’t
say much. What I will say is that we are working on both a women’s model as
well as several innovative quartz watches. These will be available in early
I am always interested by people who mix it up in such and old and solidified business. John Patterson has positioned himself and his brand to be a major player for many years to come. If you’re in the market for a high-quality, ultra-tough, limited edition watch, don’t overlook Bathys Watch Company. Keep watching Watch Report for more on this emerging brand, and maybe even a detailed review.
By James Stacey