On “Speaking of work with…” we sit down with the movers and shakers of the watch industry. Some have a prominent role, while others work more out of the spotlight. With this series, we want to give you an intimate look at the industry in all its aspects. first is chase fancherfounder of Oak and Oscara young brand with a strong identity combined with a quite friendly price.
Martin Green (MG): Left an unsatisfying corporate job to start a watch brand to find a better work-life balance; How has he been so far?
Chase Fancher (CF): I work harder and longer than ever, but I love what I do and I have my own very flexible schedule. Balancing my work life is one of the best parts of Oak & Oscar. I am fortunate to have the freedom to be with my family when I want, run errands in the middle of the day, and continue to focus on building Oak & Oscar. Of course, none of this would be possible without our amazing Owners (we don’t like the word customer), fans, and of course the rest of the Oak & Oscar team. Our team works hard to support each other and make sure everything runs smoothly.
Where does the name Oak & Oscar come from?
Simple really: When I was early in the development phase of launching my own watch company, I wanted it to reflect the things I loved. I wanted it to be personal, to sound good but not include my own personal name. Oak, which is the type of wood that bourbon is aged in, and Oscar, the name of my dog, represent two important things to me. I’ve always loved bourbon: the craftsmanship that goes into making a good barrel, the memories made with good friends, and the festive nature of enjoying a special pour. As for Oscar, he is my furry companion of 9 years. Dogs have always been a part of my life. In fact, my first word was my dog’s name when he was a kid and my family currently runs a dog rescue group in Pennsylvania. I’m proud to say that part of our profits go to a local dog shelter (One Tail at a Time). So now I can spend more time with my family, my dog, drinking bourbon while playing clocks! Not bad at all if you ask me!
It is based in Chicago, which is very close to the city of Elgin, once the heart of American watchmaking. Do you consider your brand to be a continuation of this tradition? A little lucky?
My goal is not to make the most American watch we can. My goal is to make the best watch we can and make sure it’s beautifully designed and a great deal. We use some of the best suppliers from around the world and make the most of their individual years of experience to maximize the quality of everything we do. As we grow, I realize that making some of our own parts on our own schedule and to our own tolerances is becoming more and more important. So, we’ll see where it all ends. All I know is that having our own internal watchmaker and doing things the right way, not just the quick and easy way, is extremely important to me.
It recently introduced an exciting new watch; How is the design and development process of a new model carried out at Oak & Oscar?
Designing and developing a new watch is always fun! The first thing I start with is asking myself: what kind of watch do I want to make next? Is it a chronograph? moon phase? Diver? lazy? GMT? I want to know where he fits into our current lineup. From there, we can explore movement options that place significant constraints on the design. There is no point in designing a watch for a movement that does not exist! We are lucky to have a strong design language and we can take advantage of it to make sure that any watch we are developing fits into our world. We then move on to prototyping and development to make sure it works in metal. But I would say that one of the most fun parts of designing a new product is making sure all the details are just right. The design is in the details!
I hear there is quite a bit of bourbon poured at Oak & Oscar; Is this true, and if so, what is your favorite drink?
Last time I checked, we had about 60 different bottles of bourbon/whiskey at the venue! We love welcoming people into the shop to have some whiskey and watch the talk, one of the best things about my job! As for my favorite pour? Man, that’s a great question! We made a single barrel bourbon selection with a local favorite, FEW Spirits, a few years ago that is absolutely delicious. We gave most of the bottles to our owners (we don’t like the word customer…) during our annual owners weekend, so there are only a few bottles left. I’ll be sad when that’s gone. Otherwise, I’m a fan of EH Taylor Single Barrel, Elijah Craig 18 Year Old, Four Roses Single Barrel, and Rittenhouse Rye.
What is your opinion on the current watch market?
oh man. To best answer this one, I feel like I need a shot of one of those bourbons I just listed… ha! For me, the watch market is an exciting place. It is always evolving and never boring. I think what we know is that well-designed and interesting watches from a horological point of view, made by brands that truly respect their craft, will always be in demand. The crazy demand for what I call “celebrity watches” or watches that are sought after by people who are very knowledgeable and well financed (sometimes both, sometimes just one or the other…) is a bit crazy to me. There’s nothing wrong with that because people can spend their money on whatever they want, but the social pressure to have the “it” watch (…I’m looking at your Tiffany Nautilus) is almost off-putting. That said, and I really do believe it, getting more eyes on the industry can only be a good thing. When the Newman Daytona was all over the news, I can only imagine that it brought more collectors to the market on all different levels. That’s a good thing because mechanical watches, regardless of their age, price, heritage, etc., can be works of art appreciated by anyone. So long story short, there’s a watch for everyone and that’s a great thing.
What can we expect from Oak & Oscar in the coming years?
Easy: We will continue to make amazing watches for amazing people and continually respect the art of watchmaking, our spirit of design, and the passion to go out and discover new adventures!
And some questions that I ask all the people who participate in an interview;
Favorite food: You can’t go wrong with a good taco…
Favourite place: Having lived there when I was younger and being an outspoken Anglophile, London holds a special place in my heart. But, recently I have been more attracted to the tranquility and solitude of nature. I’d say the Boundary Waters canoe area and whatever coldwater trout streams I find myself wading in might be my favorite spots too…
favorite watch: Always the next one I’m designing 😂 But in all seriousness, from our current lineup it’s definitely the Humboldt GMT. Favorite watch from other brands? The original Heuer Skipperera… I love the colors, the whimsy and the tradition that surrounds that piece.
More information about Oak & Oscar can be found at his website, here.