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Young alumni stories: Architectural entrepreneur builds watch brand

Cite Magazine
Online exclusive

After being unable to find a style of watch that he liked, David Tomić decided to take matters into his own hands, launching his company, WHY Watches, to great success.

David Tomic holding his watches
(Photo credit: Lloyd Catando)

While travelling around Europe in late 2015, architectural science graduate and watch connoisseur David Tomić had an ambitious plan to buy a new watch in every city he visited, but found that what he liked was either too expensive or not quite the right style.

This disappointment did, however, bring about a silver lining ­– an idea that he couldn’t shake. In order to own the affordable, stylish watches that he wanted and avoid further disappointment, Tomić realised there was an option left open to him: he could take a risk, start his own watch company and design his own watches when he returned to Perth.

Over a year later, and two months into its launch, Tomić’s WHY Watches has received a strongly positive reception, with online purchases coming from not just Australia, but Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Malaysia, New Zealand and South Korea.

“The feedback has been amazing these past couple of months,” reveals Tomić.

“We recently signed a contract to supply watches to The West Australian, which will be retailed on their West Benefits website at no additional cost to the customer, just a loss in profit to us, as we don’t want our prices to be any higher than they need to be.”

Applying the skills in creativity and design that he learnt during his architectural science degree, Tomić ensured that his watches emphasise their three-dimensional faces and shadows, and that their signature hands have a window to show the date no matter the time, in order to avoid a flaw he often saw in other watches where the date was covered.

David Tomic holding an architectural model, with one of his watches in focus.

(Photo credit: David Tomić)

“For me, architecture is about considering every detail, even if it will go unnoticed,” says Tomić.

“Architecture might not have anything to do with watches, but the skills I’ve learnt are being ultilised in a lot of what I’m doing. I’ve designed everything from the case and the lugs to the dial and the hands by myself. The only part that I’ve not designed is the movement inside the watches.

“As for the manufacturing, the straps are outsourced to a company in Hong Kong, whilst the watches are outsourced to another in China. They arrive in different packaging and are then assembled according to the customer’s requirements here in Australia, by me.”

Building a company from the ground up didn’t come without its challenges, however, which included procuring the supplies, communicating with the manufacturers and creating and promoting the WHY Watches website. He also had to juggle his time as managing director of WHY Watches with returning to Curtin to begin his Master of Architecture studies and undertaking work experience at an architectural firm in Subiaco.

But once he set his mind to it, Tomić believed he could achieve his goal.

“I believe my strongest personal and professional attribute is the ability to dedicate myself, never considering the norm and always going above and beyond,” he muses.

“I hoped that success would come eventually, but I knew it would never come overnight.”

Now that the dust is beginning to settle after the launch of his company, Tomić plans on building good domestic relationships with his customers and ensuring that the WHY Watches brand is seen as reputable, all while completing his master degree.

“2017 will see the end of my university life, but not the end of WHY Watches,” he says.

“I’m aspiring to work as an architect and continue to build my watch brand simultaneously. I know that one career could never keep me entertained: I’ll always like working on multiple things and ensuring that my ideas never go to waste.”

Find out more about WHY Watches

Why did you choose to study architecture?

“I have always been passionate about architecture and the creativity of the field. It teaches such a diverse range of skills that can be adapted to anything,” says Tomić.

“The undergraduate course began to teach the fundamentals and how to go about being an architect, but we didn’t yet learn an important skill that every architect has to learn: paperwork. That’s where the master course has really impressed me.

“The master degree is a lot more practical and has taught me skills that I have been able to use in the real world. Even though the work is still mock, the process of submitting a development application report, for example, feels very real.”

Find out more about the Bachelor of Applied Science (Architectural Science) and Master of Architecture.

This story is part of Curtin’s Young Alumni Stories series where we celebrate the achievements of Curtin graduates 35 and under. Learn more about the Young Alumni Program.

Graduate snapshot

David Tomic

Name: David Tomić

Studied: Bachelor of Applied Science (Architectural Science) and Master of Architecture

Graduated: 2015 and 2017

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