This week Zach sits down with Michael Simms, the founder of Hook and Gaff Watch Company. Hook and Gaff is a wristwatch company that creates products specifically for sportsmen in the field. Simms recognized a need for outdoor activity-specific watches when he was playing golf for Clemson University in South Carolina and the crown on his watch rubbed against his wrist, over time creating a callus. He figured that other people must have a similar problem, and the idea of Hook and Gaff Watch Company was born. Since his Clemson golf days, Simms’s company has filled a unique niche in the outdoor world and enjoys the opportunity to give back to his community through his company.
Outdoor Sport Specific
Throughout the brand creation process, many people have told Simms that his watches would look great on anyone, from bartenders to business people. While he agrees, it is important to him to stick with his original target audience. The watches made by Hook and Gaff are made for the active outdoor gentlemen from start to finish.
During Simms’s time on the Clemson golf team, he noticed that very few golfers on his team wore a watch when they played in order to avoid the issue that he was having, of callused and irritated wrists. While knowledge of the time is not necessary for a golfer’s game, Simms enjoyed the style statement of wearing a watch, and it was essential for his other favorite outdoor activities, hunting, and fishing.
“[W]hen you’re loading the boat or you’re climbing in the deer stand...a lot of times you’ve got to know when first light is….so that’s been a real game-changer with our anglers and hunters because… they’re usually launching in the dark.”
With the question of optimal comfort and function for all outdoorsmen in mind, Chris thought the best answer would be to create a watch with a crown placed on the left side of the watch face, as opposed to the usual right side of the face, in order to stay out of the way of an active person’s wrist. Hook + Gaff watch wearers have given positive feedback on this feature, saying they often forget they are wearing the watch at all.
Taking the unique to outdoorsmen concept even further, Hook + Gaff watches are made with rubber and removable straps to accommodate for wearers cleaning a fish or dressing a bird while in the field. Rubber will not hold onto the odor associated with these activities as other materials so often do.
The creators of Hook and Gaff recognize that outdoorsmen have life activities that require nicer dress than sun shirts and camouflage pants, so they created the removable strap, allowing wearers to change the look of their watch along with their clothing after a day on the boat or in the field.
“It's wonderful for the heat, these 85, 90 degree... summer days. You're sweating in it, filleting fish in it. It's so easy to clean and then [the straps] are easily interchangeable. You can interchange and put on the watch. So you can put a gator strap on a watch and walk into a boardroom meeting, and then you throw your navy dive strap on it, and you... go snorkeling and trying to scoop up some lobsters in Key West the next weekend.”
It is safe to say that functionality and style are held at the same level of importance in the Hook and Gaff world!
“Time well spent” is an overarching theme in Michael’s business. Not only is it a great catchphrase for a watch company, but it applies to all aspects of Hook and Gaff. During our conversation, Michael reminisced about his childhood, the times he went fishing by himself as a very capable fourth grader, and time spent outdoors with family and friends, dove hunting, and golfing. Michael has a deep appreciation of the outdoors, congruent with many sportsmen and women who take part in their sport not only for the thrill of the cast or hunt but for the peace of the world outside. Hook and Gaff honor the goal of escape from everyday life by sticking with the analog clock as opposed to a digital design, giving wearers the ability to simply tell the time, rather than notify them of new messages and other distractions sometimes provided by smartwatches and digital watches.
“[W]e knew that we weren't going to do digital…. You know, we think that time well spent with your loved ones is kind of getting outdoors and escaping technology. So you're away from your phone. You know, you don't want your teenager scrolling through Facebook when you're on the boat, trying to catch a fish... you want to spend quality time with that person.”
“Time well spent” reaches a new meaning when applied to the people and organizations that Hook and Gaff work with and supports. Hook and Gaff serve as a sponsor for organizations like the Coastal Conservation Association and Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, who initiate conservation and sustainability and promote education and stewardship. One of Michael’s most notable experiences is the day that Hook and Gaff joined Operation WetVet on a fishing trip with several United States Veterans experiencing mental and physical impacts from serving overseas. Michael speaks fondly of the organization’s work saying,
“A lot of these guys feel like they're alone and they're these big, bad, strong dudes who can take out anybody but...they feel like they can't talk about that because...they wouldn't be viewed as that person anymore. Right. Um, there's a lot of guilt associated with people that they've lost over there too, so a lot of that just ties together...so it's therapy at sea, basically is what it is.”
Hook and Gaff donated a watch to each veteran and helped the organization give the men a great day on the boat. Michael recognizes the importance of spending time enhancing the lives of those around him and is extremely grateful that he has the opportunity to do so through his company. This sentiment is engraved into every watch. Michael’s love for the outdoors is the base of Hook and Gaff while his creativity and generosity are the building blocks of the company, altogether creating a fantastic brand set to stand the test of time!
By Katie Doyle
Staff Writer and Editor