Alex McBride - Founder of The 5TH

The 5th watches may have ticked over your Instagram homepage from time to time, dotting elegant, clean watches for the millennial generation. Alex McBride is the brain behind the buzz of the limited release watches and sophisticated staples. Everyone’s checking the time to see when the next drop is out from the5th...

The 5th launched back in 2014 with a unique business edge. Could you tell us a little bit about how the5th works for people that may not know? 

When we launched The 5th we had 1000 watches. What happened was we sold basically all of those watches on day one of the business. But for us, production is three and a half months. We then had a problem of not having anything to sell for all this time. We had this amazing day one, but we won’t have any cash flow in the business for three and a half months. We said, “hey listen everybody, thanks. We sold out on day one, we are going to re-release on the 5th of next month but it’s going to be a pre-sale”. We released on the 5th of the next month the same amount of units but we said your product won’t arrive for three months. We released them on our site, and they sold out again. Then we upped the quantity for the next month and did 2000 units, and sold out again. We had built up this demand for the watches that we couldn’t fulfil because we hadn’t planned for it. 

 

My plan was to sell at least fourteen watches a week because I could live off that amount of money. It just kind of spiralled. Then we ordered more and doubled our quantity again and again and again. They just all sold out all on the one day. For our first year we had only ever sold for a total of thirteen days. That’s how it kind of started and we ran with that for the first two and a half years. What we do now – it is similar in a way. We have our core products that sell all the time, but our new products are limited to 500 and are only available on the 5th. When we release things, they do sell out really fast. We only release them in limited quantities. Now you can shop with us all the time because we have a lot of other styles that are available.

When you think about releasing limited runs of products, you think of high-end, luxury designers. What does exclusivity mean for you and your brand and what kind of power does that hold? 

I think exclusivity for the brand is about making the customer feel special. I don’t think that has to be through price. I think it’s more of you’ve got something that is hard to get and not everybody else has it. That’s what we try to provide those special models.

We provide our customers with something special. Something that is one of a kind; so that they can be proud of the purchase they’ve made. With the models that we sell everyday and are available all the time – those models are more everyday pieces. They’ll go with your outfit or they’re everyday pieces you know and love.

Did you ever think you’d be involved in fashion and accessories? 

To be honest, no. It just kind of happened.

What were you doing previously to the 5th? 

I worked in property development. I was a Development Manager at a company in Melbourne that does a lot of high-rise developments in Docklands. When I was there, my domain was working with a lot of artists on a lot of artist-based projects. I managed small art installations from $50,000 to $1million. Then, I managed big developments that were up to $130 million.

What was the dream job in your younger days? 

I’ve always been passionate about design, the power of design and the positive impact it can have on our lives. Both of my parents are architects, so I’ve always grown up around design. My brother is an architect and my sister is an artist. For me, I saw myself as the voice for designers. I wanted to bring to life their work. That’s what led me to property development. I’m going to create amazing developments with a number of artists and a number of architects. Then, do some really incredible projects. That’s where I thought my path would go in property development. Really, just doing some ground breaking projects that really pushed the barriers of design. That’s where I saw my path going in a way.

What does a watch signify to you? 

A watch does a few things. It connects you with an emotion and it always says something about you. It depends on which watch I’m actually wearing, what the watch actually means to me. For instance, I guess that’s how the 5th came about. My Grandfather came from nothing and built a really successful business. At the height of that business, he passed away and he left me his watch.

I guess when I wore that watch I felt like I could achieve what he achieved.

That’s what kind of gave me this drive. Every time I looked at that watch, it connected me with an emotion to drive me forward. That’s where I think the power of watches can connect you to really powerful emotions. If it’s say a partner giving their partner a watch – it can connect them to that. It has the power that can connect you to emotion’s unlike digital watches. That it’s more for connecting myself to my friends- I’m going to get my notifications. That connects you in a different way. It connects you to notifications, but it doesn’t connect you to a value or an emotion which can be powerful. Or, actually drive more of your internal engine in a way.

 

In terms of your clientele I think you’ve covered all bases. You’ve got the business chic-feel and then your outdoor watch range for the activate adventurers. There’s a real sense of duality. Why was it important to create multi-functional pieces?

We have always discussed this idea of being a lifetime brand. That is providing our customers with something they can grow with and that they can wear on different occasions. We listen to our audience as best we can and work out what we want. It’s just providing people with more choice. We have a lot of customers saying they want more waterproof watches because they want to swim and surf with it. We made a watch that is 100 metres water resistant, even though that’s a little bit outside of our traditional watch. We are traditionally known for doing quite elegant and classic watches. It was something that we did because we had that feedback from our customers.

There is a variety of collections that pay homage to different places around the world like Tokyo, Melbourne and London. How does travel influence your design process? 

I think that inspiration is all around. As a business, we are very open to new ideas, new ways of doing things and new ways of pushing things. We are very global in a sense where we work with lots of different people in a lot of different backgrounds. It’s very diverse. Containing [the concept] to a city allows us to delve into the inspiration that the city brings. It allows us to get to know [the city] and tell those stories. It’s very cool. It’s trying to provide a diverse array of stories about design and inspiration. That’s really why the cities are so important to us. They help us contain so many ideas we might have and provides that inspiration.

There is a variety of collections that pay homage to different places around the world like Tokyo, Melbourne and London. How does travel influence your design process? 

I think that inspiration is all around. As a business, we are very open to new ideas, new ways of doing things and new ways of pushing things. We are very global in a sense where we work with lots of different people in a lot of different backgrounds. It’s very diverse. Containing [the concept] to a city allows us to delve into the inspiration that the city brings. It allows us to get to know [the city] and tell those stories. It’s very cool. It’s trying to provide a diverse array of stories about design and inspiration. That’s really why the cities are so important to us. They help us contain so many ideas we might have and provides that inspiration.

In this day and age, as consumers, we all have such high standards. When you’re getting a product from the 5th it definitely is quality over quantity. How does fast fashion and seasonal trends effect your designs and your design process? 

It’s an interesting one. To start a brand these days is quite easy. To start a product, I should say. You can jump on Ali Baba and find a manufacturer. You put up a website and it’s all pretty easy. A lot of brands just chase the next trend – what’s coming, what’s coming. For us and for successful businesses I think, it’s about sticking true to yourself and not departing from that. It’s about being disciplined.

 

There are pressures to chase a seasonal trend or a colour or something like that, but in terms of our identity and our product range we have to keep that consistent with our brand. If it feels like it’s kind of outside of that then we’ve got to stop it. We don’t want to be a fast fashion brand; we want to be more meaningful. We say, we create watches worth waiting for. They’re hard to get, they’re exclusive, they make you feel special and that’s what we’re trying to create.

 

Having something that’s worth waiting for and worth keeping and looking after. It kind of plays against the seasonal trend and that’s a challenge in itself - to stick with what you do best. Try and get that seasonal influence in there if you can, but the number one, most important thing, is to be true to yourself.

 Where do you see the 5th in three years’ time?  

I think that we are on the brink of releasing some really exciting things in the watch industry. I think if our plans come to fruition, we will revolutionise the watch industry a little bit. Where do I think it could be? I think a very big global player of a brand that is challenging the traditional old-school Swiss watch brands. Further with a new way of marketing and connecting watches with the millennial generation.

Published on 4/07/2019 by Leonie Henzell CEO of beauty's got soul

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