WARREN – The kind words of a calm man have proved prophetic to Greg Thumm.
The man was Ned Parker, owner of Bowman Technical School in the heart of Dutch Pennsylvania, who Thumm said was a little shy guy who went out of his way to say something nice to a young college student.
“He said, ‘Son, you’re going to get very far in this matter. Your teachers say that you are a very good student and that this foundation will take you to places you never imagined ‘” Thumm said, remembering the moment.
Parker was there.
Thumm’s more than three-decade career in the fashion watch industry has taken him countless times to Asia and Europe to manage the supply chain, meet factory managers, travel to trade shows and using big box accounts.
He rose through the corporate ranks to lead one of the world’s best-known and beloved watch companies: Bulova.
The Warren native has returned home living on the same street since his youth and, along with his son, Greg, runs a fashion watch company – Thumm & Co. – in the back room of Thumm’s Bike and Clock. Shop – the company founded by his grandfather. and his brother, Augie, ran for years.
THE FIRST YEARS
“As a teenager I tried to find ways… I guess I didn’t think of it that way at the time, but every child wants to be closer to their father at some point. And rather than go fishing or anything of that hobby, my dad would collect clocks and watches, which set me on the path to wanting to be a watchman, ” said Thumm.
“He collected watches that were worth collecting, and since I was virtually penniless, I bought wristwatches because nobody wanted old wristwatches in the 1970s. And so in through that, I ended up dropping out of Ohio State and going to watchmaking school ”, he said.
It was in the summer of 1978 when Thumm said he told his father he did not want to return to Columbus. It was a decision made by the support of Elder Thumm and a chance for the son to put to use the mechanical skills he had developed while working for his father at the bike shop.
To be four years younger than Augie did Thumm “Man low on the totem pole” do the job of straightening the frames, responding to the wheels, and cleaning the hubs, “But that made me a good mechanic. “
At Bowman in Lancaster, Pa., Thumm excelled in the 32-month course and graduated to open a jewelry store in the Masonic Temple building at the corner of Pine Avenue and East Market Street.
This lasted until 1983, when an encounter with a potential thief caused Thumm to rethink and close the store.
Then the Gruen Watch Company called.
CAREER IN THE WATCHMAKING INDUSTRY
Gruen, once one of the largest watchmakers in the United States, had contacted Bowman looking for candidates. Thumm’s name was what Bowman gave.
He was interviewed and was offered a position the following week as Technical Director of Gruen to oversee manufacturing quality assurance. Gruen was a wholesaler who made his own products in Switzerland and Hong Kong.
“What they found was that there had been a lot of issues after the watches were produced that they thought they could have gone away if they knew the correct instructions when they were made. “, said Thumm.
Less than a year later, Gruen offered to move Thumm to Hong Kong to help him design the products before production, which he did – with two children in diapers.
Two years at Gruen led him to a position at Chung Nam Watch Company. Around 1992, homesick and after the death of his father, Thumm said: “I thought if something came up that would bring me home, I would definitely check that out.” “
It made. And he did.
A management reshuffle in Gruen prompted an appeal. He returned to the senior position of Senior Vice President of Product Development and was able to return to the United States.
A year later, Fossil began to gain momentum in the industry.
“So one night I was drinking poop at home and I said, ‘I wonder if I emailed the CEO of Fossil what would happen’ said Thumm.
Thumm sent the email after convincing a friend of Gruen’s to pass on the CEO’s address.
The gist of the message was, according to Thumm: he introduced himself, noted that he was running the Kenneth Cole watch brand, which started at $ 0 but grew to $ 64 million roughly, and he’s just coming. also to launch Tommy Bahama watches.
“Ten minutes after sending the email, I get an email from him saying, ‘When are you coming to see us? “” said Thumm.
He arrived in Dallas – using his own frequent flyer miles – at 6 a.m. a few days later, was interviewed, offered the job, and returned home at 6 p.m.
Thumm worked for Fossil for eight years.
A convivial lunch with the President and other high-level executives of Citizen, who had not yet purchased Bulova, “but the cat was out of the bag that something was going on” with the watch company, transformed into a job offer.
“I told them, if you really want to change Bulova, you have to have someone who knows how to create a brand image through design and not some other imitation of that…” Thumm said to make watch designs similar to others.
According to Thumm, a man present at the lunch who then took over the presidency said: “Greg, you are an aggressive general, and you would make a good leader for Bulova. And I said, ‘Yeah, I would. I know that.’ But the problem is, bean counters tend to put bean counters in charge of businesses and therefore those bean counters never want to put their little finger in uncharted waters of risk. “
The only way to make it work, Thumm recalls, is to give it full control.
The executives accepted. He was offered the post of President of Bulova in November 2012.
During his three years there, he created a curved watch movement, caseback, dial, and glass that allowed the watch to curve around a person’s wrist. He also relaunched the Accutron collection from Bulova.
The business has gone from renewing inventory twice a year to four times a year.
When he retired from Bulova, he came to his son, also a watch lover, with a proposal: “Let’s build a brand that fits into the new world of retail where our main consumer is a millennial and a Generation Z consumer. We are going to market it to them… The goal is to sell a micro-brand store that’s so value-for-money that you don’t have to have heard from us in a long time to say it’s a hell of a watch for the price. “
So Thumm & Co. was born in 2019 with the industry knowledge and connections of the old Thumm and the education, brand experience, third-party sources, software and e-commerce knowledge of the most. young Thumm.
The young Thumm, a communications and marketing graduate from Southwestern University, spent three years after graduating as a Global Events Manager representing Bulova’s partnership with Manchester United Football Club in England. Subsequently, he held positions in several marketing and advertising companies.
Their goal: to build a reasonably priced watch that will stand the test of time.
“It was really the carrot at the end of our stick” said old Thumm. “We wanted to create a very sensible and cool watch brand that has all kinds of features and benefits that no one puts into that price. I could never go public… never sell to Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dillard’s because that extra cost charge would make my retail items $ 200 to $ 499 and up.
Thumm is self-financing the company and enjoys a good reputation and previous commercial success for over 35 years in the fashion watch industry. This means that the few suppliers that remain “are already up to the chin in labor” will always do his product when he calls on them.
Thumm & Co. offers three collections of ladies’ watches and two collections for men, each with details drawn from lessons Thumm has learned in the industry.
For example, the bezel, the top ring of a watch, is ceramic, which means the color passes throughout. The metal strap has been designed so that the links will never collide, which means that it will not pull or pull on the hairs of the arms and the watches have a butterfly buckle, not a clasp, which tends to cling to clothes.
The leather strap is genuine leather on the top, but hypoallergenic rubber on the back which is impervious to sweat and other substances, Thumm said. It’s the same material Apple uses for its Apple Watch.
For women’s pieces in particular, mother of pearl is a real shell which is dyed to match the tone of the bracelet. Plus, all straps are dyed to match the handbag trend for the next three years.
Thumm has given himself three years to break even. Business is going well, he said; Thumm & Co. sells every day and is patient.
“I didn’t do this to put in my children’s mouths” he said.
He did it because “I don’t want to go out at sunset without giving the consumer my version of what it should be. I want to offer the client something that no one else does and I do it through the experience of things that few people have had the chance to do.