In “Talking shop with…” we sit down with the movers and shakers of the watch industry. Some have a prominent role, while others work more outside of the spotlight. With this series, we want to give you an intimate insight into the industry in all its aspects. First up is Chase Fancher, founder of Oak & Oscar, a young brand with a strong identity combined with a rather friendly price point.
Martin Green (MG): You left an unfulfilling corporate job to start a watch brand to find a better work life balance; how did that work out for you so far?
Chase Fancher (CF): I work harder and longer hours than ever before -but- I absolutely love what I do and get to make my own, very flexible schedule. My work life balance is one of the best parts of Oak & Oscar. I’m lucky to have the freedom to be with my family whenever I want, get errands done in the middle of the day and still focus on building Oak & Oscar. Of course, none of that 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 did 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 things that I loved. I wanted it to be personal, have a nice ring to it but not include my own personal name. Oak, which is the type of wood bourbon is aged in and Oscar, my dog’s name, represent two important things to me. I’ve always loved bourbon—the craftsmanship required to make a good barrel, the memories made with good friends and the celebratory nature of enjoying a special pour. As for Oscar, he’s my 9 year old furry side-kick. Dogs have always been a part of my life. In fact, my first word was actually my dog’s name as a kid and my family currently runs a dog rescue group out 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 get to spend more time with my family, dog, drinking bourbon all while playing with watches! Not bad at all if you ask me!
You are Chicago-based, which is very close to the town of Elgin, once the heart of American watchmaking. Do you consider your brand a continuation of this tradition? Kinda sorta?
My goal isn’t 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 one hell of a good deal. We use some of the best suppliers from around the globe and fully leverage their individual years of experience to maximize the quality of everything we do. As we get bigger, I’m finding that manufacturing some of our own parts on our own schedule and to our own tolerances is more and more important. So, we’ll see where it all ends up. The one thing I do know is that having our own in-house watchmaker and doing things the right way, not just the quick easy way, is exceedingly important to me.
You recently introduced an exciting new watch; how does the design and developing process of a new model take place at Oak & Oscar?
Designing and developing a new watch is always fun! The first place I start is asking myself: what kind of watch do I want to make next? Is it a chronograph? moonphase? diver? deadbeat? GMT? I want to know where it fits within our current lineup. From there we can then explore movement options which put significant constraints on the design. There’s no point in designing a watch for a movement that doesn’t exist! We are lucky to have a strong design language and can leverage this to make sure any watch we’re developing fits within our world. We then move on to prototyping and development to make sure it works in the metal. But I’d say one of the most fun parts of designing a new product is making sure -all- of the details are just right. The design is all in the details!
I heard that quite a bit of bourbon is poured at Oak & Oscar; is this true and if so, what is your favorite dram?
Last time I checked we had about 60 different bottles of bourbon / whiskey at the HQ! We love welcoming folks to the shop for some whiskey and watch talk—one of the best things about my job! As for my favorite pour? Man, that’s a big question! We did a single barrel bourbon pick with a local favorite, FEW Spirits, a few years back that is absolutely delicious. We gave most the bottles to our Owners (we don’t like the word customer…) during our annual Owners Weekend so only have a few bottles left. I’ll be sad when that’s gone. Otherwise, I’m a sucker for E.H. Taylor Single Barrel, Elijah Craig 18 year, Four Roses Single Barrel and Rittenhouse Rye.
What is your view on the current watchmarket?
Oh man. To answer this one best I feel like I need a pour of one of those bourbons I just listed…ha! To me, the watchmarket is an exciting place. It’s always evolving and never dull. I think what we know is that well designed, horologically interesting watches that are made by brands who 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 folks that are extremely knowledgeable and well financed (sometimes both, sometimes just one or the other…) is a bit crazy to me. Nothing wrong with it because folks can spend their money on whatever they want to but the social pressure of having the “it” watch (…I’m looking at your Tiffany Nautilus) is almost off-putting. That said, and I truly believe this, having more eyes on the industry can only be a good thing. When the Newman Daytona was all over the news I can only imagine it brought more collectors into the market at all different levels. That is a good thing because mechanical watches regardless of their age, price tag, heritage etc can be works of art appreciated by anyone. So, long story short, there’s a watch out there for everyone and that is a great thing!
What can we look forward to from Oak & Oscar in the upcoming years?
Easy: we will keep making awesome watches for amazing people and continuously respect the craft of horology, our design ethos and the passion to get out there and discover new adventures!
And a few questions I am asking all the people participating in a interview;
Favorite food: You can’t go wrong with a good taco…
Favorite place: Having lived there when I was younger and being an unabashed anglophile, London holds a special place in my heart. But, recently I’ve been more drawn to the quiet and solitude of nature. I’d say the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and any cold-water trout stream I find myself wading through might also be my favorite places…
Favorite watch: Always the next one I’m designing 😂 But in all seriousness, of our current line up it’s definitely the Humboldt GMT. Favorite watch of other brands? The original Skipperera by Heuer…love the colors, the quirkiness and the lore surrounding that piece.
More information about Oak & Oscar can be found here.