WATCH OUT! interview by Jeffrey Felner

“WATCH OUT!” interview by Jeffrey Felner


This is an instance that combines a skill and a craft that dates back centuries and infuses that precision workmanship into what some will call fashion or collectible accessories. Enter Ricky Wolbrom who had an epiphany and turned it into a thriving business. Though the name is seemingly self-explanatory, it is so much more than just cufflinks built from watch parts and mechanisms. By the way check out the website and see that they much more than just cufflinks and not just for men.

Some of you will be familiar with the brands that are repurposed or reimagined in their current state and for those who are unfamiliar; these names are the ultimate in horology and timekeeping.  Watches from many of these brands range in the thousands of dollars and some might even surpass tens of thousands, so if you are an aspiring collector or even a seasoned collector of timepieces Watch-Cufflinks (don’t forget the hyphen) might just be what will appeal to you. Having always been fascinated by watches, this was a company that piqued my interest especially in the fact that many pieces are constructed and built in the same manner as the timepieces they echo and in some respects the same way as the original Miriam Haskell jewelry. The owner (Ricky Wolbrom) and creative director, Daniel Baker, speak to an audience of collectors and fashion fold folk who appreciate the art and craft of fashion, as well as those who might collect pieces that echo the very brands they own or aspire to; names such as Rolex, Omega. IWC, Breguet, Girard Perregaux, Bulova, Elgin and more.

Jeffrey Felner: Can you give us some brief history as to how this business came about and some of your background?

Ricky Wolbrom: With my family originating from Belgium, Switzerland, Israel and Central Europe, I’d been exposed to the gold and diamond business from an early age, maybe it’s genetic! I originally began in the jewelry business back in the 80’s as a goldsmith apprentice here in New York City, and then I went on to get my GIA Certification in Gemology. Prior to actually making jewelry, I found myself working at a prominent newspaper in New York where I rose to the VP of Advertising and Marketing and was successful at both expanding the newspaper and substantially increasing the paper’s revenue. After this rather corporate endeavor, I wanted an outlet for my creative tendencies; I always had a passion for textiles and fiber arts, so I spent time learning different ways to create jewelry from various high end novelty yarns. Eventually I began to experiment with assembling metal jewelry. I found that vintage watch parts lend themselves extremely well to the look I was trying to achieve, a hybrid of something new created from something old. Being strongly attracted to the ideas of recycling and up-cycling, giving new life to watch movements that would normally be cast aside, thrown away and forgotten intrigued me. It is an honor to pay homage to the brilliant and skilled craftsmanship of vintage watch movements. The master artisans of yesteryear hand created these intricate and fascinating little worlds of synchronicity and artistic beauty. Re-purposing them and utilizing these mini landscapes of art to create a new life in captivating and relevant jewelry gives me tremendous pleasure.

JF: Do you see any brand extensions in the future or expanding your retail network? What would be the ideal situation for both?

RW: There is a definite desire to expand both the line and distribution. For one, there is room to incorporate more precious metals as well as semi-precious and precious gemstones to create genuine luxury pieces. There already exists a high end clientele to support this, and I believe this adds another layer of legitimacy to our hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces. I also envisage collaging vintage jewelry, either wholly or in part, to create unique signature statement pieces. We have already dabbled in this area with excellent results, and can imagine an entire line that makes use of genuine vintage jewelry from the deco era through the 60’s. As for avenues of distribution, we have not considered designing for other brands, but instead we have looked to place ourselves in the types of shops and boutiques that cater to our niche market, such as jewelry stores, especially those that focus on luxury watches.  Elite and luxury tourist destinations throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East seem to be a natural attraction for us.

JF:  If you could select any collaboration at all, what it would be and why?

RW: Well, to be clear, I already have a collaborator/ partner who is a highly skilled designer and jeweler. We have a highly motivational dynamic that pushes the limits of our skills and I owe much to this partnership. As for another collaboration, to be honest, this could be you, Jeffrey. Knowing your history in the fashion and jewelry making industry, your expertise and skilled eye could be priceless, from your business acumen right down to design. Who knows, perhaps there would be room to grow into an expanded line of accessories, home decor, textiles, etc.  In the end, any collaboration would have to ultimately be about advancing the art. Success and profits are not to be derided, but the most satisfying thing about the work is creating something that genuinely brings pride. I could not have the former at the expense of the latter.

JF:  Can you profile your clients and tell us “who” they are and what you perceive as the attraction to your product?

RW: Our clients are vast and diverse. We have shipped to almost every conceivable destination in the world. We sell to everyday people as well as a deep roster of exclusive buyers, executive VIP’s, celebrities, musicians and even royalty. We have even been commissioned to produce bespoke pieces for clients as well as for movie houses, prop and wardrobe managers, photographers… even a record label and luxury liquor company. We also do well with corporate gifting companies and “in-flight” magazines…
I believe there are many reasons people are attracted to our product. First, there are the devoted horological aficionados whose kryptonite is anything and everything that has to do with timekeeping. Our audience also includes those who love our jewelry just because of its esthetics; being different from virtually any other style of jewelry they might know since many may have never seen the inner workings of a watch before. This, I believe, enables our jewelry to transcend a singular categorization.

JF: Can you sort of run us through the process in terms of manufacture, etc., so that we have an idea of what goes into the making of your pieces?

RW: It seems that everyone has their own process. For me, I scan through supplies and as I internalize each piece, I can visualize combinations with other components. I then might gather together many different supplies from various ideas I have in my head and begin to lay them out together, trying two or three elements together and seeing if things “click”. My partner is a highly visual person and can often picture a finished piece without picking up a single component. Regardless of the method, once the design is finalized, each piece is stripped of parts that may be excess or unnecessary, sharp edges are filed down and buffed, and metal surfaces to be joined are cleaned and abraded. Then all metal pieces are torch soldered – walking the fine line between reaching the temperature required for solder flow, while taking extreme caution not to burn the delicate surfaces and parts present on various watch movements. Depending on whether a grungy or gleaming finish is desired, the pieces will be lightly or thoroughly washed and then non-soldered elements may be added, such as crystals, gemstones, etc. Assuming that all the planets are in alignment, a finished product has been born and if we are lucky … a work of art has been created.

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