Mar 17, 2024 - News

A 27-year-old from D.C. just launched a luxury watch brand

Thomas Fleming smiles with 2 watches and a jacket

Entrepreneur to watch, Thomas Fleming. Photo: courtesy of Fleming

New luxury watch companies don't start ticking every day — let alone one from a 27-year-old Washingtonian.

Why it matters: Thomas Fleming, who splits his time between D.C. and Pebble Beach, Calif., may be new to the horology scene, but collectors have awaited his upstart brand Fleming that's been three years in the making.

State of play: Fleming just launched with a limited-edition dress watch that starts at $51,800 off the "interest list" — where potential buyers can invest a 25% deposit for direct sale.

  • It's part of the independent brand's boutique business model, offering less than a dozen timepieces per month from revered Swiss collaborators.
A luxury watch with a gold face
The Series 1 platinum. Photo: courtesy of Fleming

Zoom in: Time (and tennis) enthusiasts will recognize the heavy hitters behind Fleming's new Series 1 Ghost watch, including big names from Switzerland's exclusive "Watch Valley" where Fleming went door-knocking to start his company (as advertised, "Swiss precision fused with American ambition").

  • Swiss watchmaker Jean-François Mojon and his team at Chronode are behind the movement, while luxury manufacturer Comblémine hand-decorates each dial with dramatic touches.
  • Norwegian tennis star Casper Ruud is also on the team as brand ambassador and co-developer of the Series 1 Ghost—a light, versatile off-court-elegant sports watch.

The intrigue: Fleming's team has been fairly hush-hush about the launch — a total of 41 production watches in rose gold, platinum, and tantalum that will never be produced again.

  • Roughly half of the watches have been pre-allocated by collectors, while the rest are available by direct inquiry only.

What he's saying: "It's all highly specialized. There are only a very few people that can attain the level we're trying for, or know the techniques," he tells Axios.

Tennis star Casper Ruud in a gret t-shirt and Fleming watch sitting on a leather couch
Tennis star and watch collaborator Casper Ruud. Photo: courtesy of Fleming

Flashback: Fleming, a Potomac School grad, wasn't always a watch fan. His dad gifted him a plastic Timex Ironman when he was little, but its alarm went off in assembly. "I was super embarrassed. I don't think I wore a watch again until I was 18," Fleming tells Axios.

Between the lines: Fleming's digital aversion continues today. His watches are sleek, time-only pieces — a popular subset of the luxury market that channels Old World elegance over modern bells and whistles.

  • And while Fleming didn't plan for an eponymous brand, it's fitting given the venture is entirely owned by the young horologist with investments from his family.

Zoom out: This isn't Fleming's first foray into brand building. The Stanford University grad began developing a natural soft drink line called Atmos his senior year, at the same time he was posting photos of his favorite watches on Instagram — a passion project that connected him with other collectors.

  • Fleming's pivot comes with the help of his girlfriend, Grace Rood, who's the brand's chief financial officer. His younger brother John, and James Kong, chief operating officer and art director, are the only other full-time employees.

What's next: A dive expedition to Tonga with a group of artists, filmmakers, and scientists to explore reefs before access is limited to the public — and, of course, develop a scuba-chic watch in the process.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Fleming has three full-time employees (not two), including James Kong, the chief operating officer and art director.

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