Pierre Brown founded Hager Watches in 2009 with a mission to make affordable, high-quality automatic watches right here in Hagerstown.
Six years ago, a broken watch became the catalyst that inspired local resident and self-proclaimed "watch nerd" Pierre Brown on his mission to make affordable, high-quality automatic watches right here in Hagerstown.
"I started shopping around, looking at different watches online, and I noticed they all use the same movement, which is basically the engine of the watch," Brown explains. He also noticed that the overwhelming majority of automatic watches in the luxury market are being produced by companies based in Switzerland. "You'll hear peoplte say that if it's not Swiss, it's not a good watch," he says. "But that's just not true—America dominated the watch market back in the 1800s."
That research led Brown to found Hager Watches (pronounced "Hah-ger," after the original German pronunciation of the city of Hagerstown's founder, Jonathan Hager). "I came to the conclusion that I could make an affordable watch—not a $5,000 watch, but a watch that any man can wear," he says.
A Symbol of Style
Every man should have an automatic watch, according to Brown, a former Marine and Army officer who now conducts market research, risk management, and data analysis for a Virginia-based company called Leidos. "For the well-dressed man, an important element of having a great look is wearing a great timepiece," he says.
Unlike modern quartz watches, which are battery operated, automatic watches use the natural motion of your arm as an energy source. "Before quartz and digital watches and before cell phones, watches were pretty much what everybody had to rely on," Brown says.
Brown sees a watch as more than just a status symbol or a convenient way to tell time. "It's a style symbol," he says. "It's a statement about who we are, our hobbies, our lifestyles. It's a way to express your style and your character that tells people who you are."
Right now Brown only sells men's watches, but he's thinking about releasing a line of women's watches next year.
Luxury for Less
Watchmaking is a complex business involving a lot of moving parts that are produced all over the world. While Brown designs and assembles the watches himself here in Hagerstown, he relies on carefully selected suppliers overseas for many of the necessary components. "I found the best dial makers, the best case makers, the best hand makers, and the best movement makers—the ones that produce really good quality stuff," he says. "So you're getting the same quality you would with any high-end Swiss watch." In the future, Brown says he hopes to bring production of some of those watch components, such as movements, to Hagerstown.
Brown's watches, which range from $600 to $2,000, feature all of same attributes as luxury Swiss-made watches that can cost thousands of dollars more. "I'm not going to sell you a watch that I'm not going to wear myself," he says. "I take pride in what I do, so I don't want anybody wearing something that's not worth the price."
Brown's Traveler GMT watch, which starts at $700, features a rotatable 24-hour graduated bezel and 24-hour hand that allows the wearer to tell time in three different time zones. "This works really well for guys like me who are constantly traveling overseas so we don't have to do mental gymnastics," Brown says. "I can just look down at my watch."
Hager Watches are sold at Fashion Time retailers in McLean, Dulles, and Woodbridge, Virginia, as well as through the company's website -- www.hagerwatches.com.