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featured 24, Mar 2017 03:24am
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Randy Brandoff, CEO Eleven James: The Netflix for Watches, Part One

A watch aficionado, and a wine connoisseur, the CEO of Eleven James is a force to reckon with. Talking watches, entrepreneurship, and the value of family, WatchTime India presents an exclusive interview with Randy Brandoff – the man behind the unique subscription-based service for renting luxury timepieces.

WTI: Who is Randy Brandoff?
RB: I think we’re all still figuring out who we really are. Isn’t that a life-long journey? First and foremost, I’m a variety junkie, as opposed to a creature of habit who eats and dresses the same, almost the whole time. I’m a person who likes variety and to mix it up, so that I don’t fall into the rut of doing the same thing day in and day out. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I’ve had fairly dynamic careers, while being linked to a lot of entrepreneurial start-ups.
From a hobby stand-point, beyond watches, I would say my favorites would be wine, food, and travel. I do have a fairly finite wine collection, but only because I live in New York City. The city doesn’t make it possible to have big cellars, but socially, occasionally, I do love my wine.



WTI: What fascinated you about watches? Which was your first timepiece?
RB: I remember when I was in high school, a good friend of mine whose parents worked in the watch and jewellery industry, showed up for his 16th birthday with a blue-faced Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. I was either wearing a TAG Heuer or a Movado at the time, and I remember looking at his wrist, and then looking down at mine, and noting to myself, that technically these are both watches, but they are not remotely the same in any way.
At that moment I knew, I wanted more of what he had and less of what I had, and it kind of opened my eyes to a world of horology that I hadn’t been aware of, and I was instantly fascinated by it.
The first nice timepiece I’d acquired for myself was after college. I’d bought myself a Cartier Roadster Chronograph, because I had a reasonable budget at the time, and I liked it for the mechanism. I could change the bracelets and straps easily. So, I acquired a bunch and it felt like I had three or four or five different watches each time, to go with different looks.


Eleven James CEO, Randy Brandoff

 

WTI: So you must be having quite a diverse collection of watches. Which one would you say, is your prized possession?
RB: That’s hard. Since we launched Eleven James, it became quite obvious for me that the first thing people would notice once they meet me, would be my watch. So, it doesn’t make sense anymore to wear something that wouldn’t be from the Eleven James collection, and generally they want to know if they can wear it too. So I’ve shrunk my personal collection and switched to the Eleven James collection because I always want to wear something from one of our watches. I think right now, I’m more emotionally attached with what’s in the Eleven James collection.
But, the watch I enjoy the most at the moment, is interestingly not the most expensive piece. It’s a timepiece I bought early on during my relationship with my wife. She wanted to try on a men’s watch, and she only had small, feminine watches previously. So, we bought an early model IWC Spitfire Chronograph, and now we share it. She and I both love wearing it because it suits us. That watch is not only special to me because it’s officially one of the first nice things I share with her, but I also appreciate it because it opened my eyes to the concept of sharing a timepiece and the fact that certain timepieces have a universal appeal.



WTI: Are there any watches from your private collection, which have made their way into the Eleven James collection?
RB: A handful of them have. But the beauty of the Eleven James collection is that you receive every watch in a brand new condition. They are all loved by our audience. So, if I had to point out a specific timepiece, it wouldn’t make any sense. Plus, I wouldn’t want people to be instagramming that “I’m wearing a Randy Brandoff watch”!


WTI: What attracts you to a watch – the mechanical complications or the overall aesthetic design?
RB: The design. I’m appreciative of the aura of master complications and as someone who has technology permeating my life, I love the notion that these complications were created and perfected centuries ago. I love that there is this enduring nature in the technology and craftsmanship of watches.
I don’t wear a timepiece because of the complication. The design speaks to me. I wear all the watches from my collection because I want maximum familiarity with each timepiece.
I find myself regularly just staring at any watch I have on for 10 -20 minutes at a time, taking it off, examining it. Running my hands across certain angles or curves. I put my head in the watchmaker and designers head and wonder what was going on in their mind when they created it. Sometimes I agree with them and sometimes I question them, but I know I’ll never get the answers in most instances. It just fascinates me. Sometimes it’s also about asking yourself, what would you do differently.

 

WTI: Tell us about the birth of Eleven James?
RB: Let me first give you a little context into my journey. After a brief stint early in my career in management consulting and venture capital, I became the first employee at Marquis Jet in 2001, which was later acquired by NetJets in 2010 which went on to become the premiere private jet card company in the world. Being at the forefront of luxury collaborative models, I had a profound understanding of the consumer psychology, which, once I looked around me, made me realise the potential this untapped market held for renting luxury watches.

 

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