Are you a watch guy?” This was the first question Michael Sims asked on a warm June afternoon as he discussed Hook & Gaff, the watch company he recently founded. It was a conversation that covered everything from the inner workings of watchmaking to wade fishing to the perils of unloading boxes at a Chick-fil-A.
How a 34-year-old Clemson graduate comes to start his own watch company begins with fishing. Sims is an avid fisherman who knows fishing is hard on a watch. “I wade fish a lot,” he says, explaining that his watches would get “very sandy and very muddy and get a lot of salt water on them. Every watch I bought would only last about a year, two at the most.” This led him on a search for a watch that would look good, hold up, and not “break the bank.” After two years of searching, Sims still wasn’t able to find that magic mix of design, quality, and price, so he said to his wife, “I want to make my own watch.”
Then Sims began a different type of research. He met with watchmakers in the Columbia, SC, area, where he lives, to learn the inner workings of the watch business, and scoured the Internet for quality watchmaking companies willing to create prototypes. He finally settled on a Swiss manufacturer because, according to Sims, “Nobody does it better than the Swiss.” Around the same time, he called up a college friend named Gash Clayton, a full-time attorney and part-time artist, to commission a logo. But Sims soon realized Clayton was a fellow “watch guy,” and the two became partners.
Sims and Clayton designed the watch, had prototypes produced in Switzerland, and then wore the watches for a year. “We tested it under the harshest conditions,” Sims says. “I can say that, because I unload trucks at Chick-fil-A (Sims’s wife Britt operates two franchises in Columbia) and I bang the thing around and subject it to harsh temperatures.” After a year of unloading trucks, fishing, and everyday
wear, the watch still looked— and worked—great. The only problem Sims could find was that the crown would dig into his wrist while fishing. The solution: simply redesign the watch with the crown on the other side.
In January of 2014, after a year of testing, Sims and Clayton commissioned 300 Hook & Gaff “Sportfisher” watches, which took almost a year to produce. The watches are now available online and locally at select retailers including Rush Wilson Limited, Smith & James, and Ace Hardware in Simpsonville. “We designed this watch for sun, sand, and saltwater,” Sims says. “And people are amazed at how well it holds up.”
>> Swiss-made quartz movement with moon phase and date
>> High-grade titanium case
>> Water resistant to 200m
>> Screw-down case back and crown for optimal water resistance
>> Anti-reflective, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal
Hook & Gaff Watch Company (803) 542-3086