Warrens Thumm continues to tinker with the time | News, sports, jobs


Employee photo / R. Michael Semple Greg B. Thumm, President of Thumm & Co., a father and son’s own boutique fashion watch company in downtown Warren, shows a selection of the company’s watches. Thumm, former President of Bulova, founded the company in December 2019 with his son Greg. It is operated in the back of Thumm’s bike and watch shop, which the elder Greg’s grandfather founded and is run by his brother Augie Thumm.

WARREN: Kind words from a quiet man turned out to be prophetic to Greg Thumm.

The man was Ned Parker, owner of Bowman Technical School in the heart of the Dutch state of Pennsylvania, who, according to Thumm, was a bit shy guy who went out of his way to say something nice to a young student.

“He said, ‘Son, you will get very far in this business. Your teachers say you are a very good student and this foundation will take you to places you could never have imagined. ‘” said Thumm, remembering the moment.

Parker was spot on.

Thumm’s more than three decades long career in the fashion watch business has taken him countless times to Asia and Europe to manage the supply chain, meet with factory managers, go to trade shows and call large customers.

He worked his way up the corporate ladder and ran one of the most famous and respected watch companies in the world – Bulova.

Born in Warren, he has lived on the same street since his youth and runs a boutique fashion watch company with his son Greg – Thumm & Co. – in the back room of Thumm’s bike and watch store – the business his grandfather started and his brother Augie has run for years .

EARLY YEARS

“As a teenager, I tried to think of ways … I guess I didn’t imagine it that way back then, but every child wants to get close to their father at some point. And instead of going fishing or whatever that pastime was, my dad collected watches so that I was on my way to become a security guard. “ said Thumm.

“He collected watches that were worth collecting, and since I was practically penniless, I bought wristwatches because nobody wanted old wristwatches in the 1970s. I left Ohio State and went to watchmaking school. “ he said.

It was in the summer of 1978 when Thumm said he had told his father that he did not want to return to Columbus. It was a decision with the support of the elder Thumm and a chance for the son to use the mechanical skills he had acquired from his father in the bicycle workshop.

To be four years younger than Augie made Thumm “Low man on the totem pole” the work of straightening frame, realignment of wheels and cleaning of hubs, “But it actually made me a good mechanic.”

At Bowman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Thumm surpassed the 32-month course and graduated to open a jewelry store in the Masonic Temple building on Pine Avenue and East Market Streets.

That lasted until 1983, when the encounter with a would-be robber caused Thumm to rethink and close the shop.

Then the Gruen Watch Company called.

CAREERS IN THE WATCH INDUSTRY

Gruen, formerly one of the largest watch manufacturers in the USA, had contacted Bowman looking for applicants. Thumm’s name was one of Bowman’s.

He conducted an interview and was offered a position as technical manager from Gruen the next week to oversee quality assurance in manufacturing. Gruen was a wholesaler who manufactured its own products in Switzerland and Hong Kong.

“They found that after the watches were made, there were many problems that they thought they could have started if they had the correct instructions to make them.” said Thumm.

Within a year, Gruen offered to relocate Thumm to Hong Kong so he could help develop the products before production, which he did – with two children in diapers.

Two years with Gruen took him to a position with the Chung Nam Watch Company. Around 1992, homesick and after the death of his father, Thumm said: “I thought if something comes along that will bring me home, I’ll definitely take a look.”

It did. And he did.

A restructuring of the management at Gruen resulted in a phone call. He returned to the senior position of Senior Vice President of Product Development and was able to return to the United States

A year later, Fossil began to pick up speed in the industry.

“So one night I had a drinky-poo at home and said, ‘I wonder if I email the CEO of Fossil, what would happen?” said Thumm.

Thumm sent the email after convincing a friend of von Gruen to pass on the CEO’s address.

The gist of the message, according to Thumm, was: He introduced himself, found himself running the Kenneth Cole watch brand, which started at $ 0 but grew to $ 64 million in wholesale, and he also just had Tommy Bahama watches on Brought to market.

“Ten minutes after I sent the e-mail, I get an e-mail back from him in which he says: ‘When are you coming to see us?'” said Thumm.

He arrived in Dallas – with his own frequent flyer miles – a few days later at 6 a.m., was interviewed, got the job, and flew home at 6 p.m.

Thumm worked for Fossil for eight years.

BULOVA

A friendly lunch with the chairman and other senior Citizen executives who had not yet bought Bulova, “But the cat was out of the bag that something was going on” with the watch company, converted into a job offer.

“I told them that if you are really serious about transforming Bulova, you need someone who knows how to create brand equity through design, not another deal-making copy of it …” Thumm said he would make watch designs similar to others.

According to Thumm, over lunch a man who later took the chair said: “Greg, you are an aggressive general and you would make a good leader for Bulova.” And I said, ‘Yeah, I would. I know that.’ But the problem is that bean counters tend to put bean counters in charge of business, and so these bean counters never want to stick their little toe in uncharted waters of risk. “

The only way to get it working, Thumm recalls, is to give it full control.

The executives agreed. In November 2012, he was offered the post of President by Bulova.

During his three years there, he created a curved movement, case back, dial, and glass that enabled the watch to flex around a person’s wrist. He also revived Bulova’s Accutron collection.

The company went from twice a year to four times a year.

NEXT CHAPTER

After retiring from Bulova, he came to his son, who also loved watches, with a suggestion: “Let’s build a brand that fits into the new retail world where our main consumer is a Millennial and Generation Z consumer. We’re going to market it to them … the goal is to sell a boutique micro-brand that is so great value for money that you didn’t need to have heard of us for a long time to say this was a hell of a good watch is the price.”

So Thumm & Co. was born in 2019 with the industry knowledge and connections of the older Thumm and the training, branding experience, third-party sources, software and e-commerce knowledge of the younger Thumm.

The younger Thumm, who graduated from Southwestern University with a degree in communications and marketing, spent three years as a global event manager, representing Bulova’s partnership with Manchester United Football Club in England. He then held positions at several marketing and advertising companies.

Their goal: to build an inexpensive clock that will stand the test of time.

“That was really the carrot at the end of our stick” said the elder Thumm. “We wanted to make a very sensible, cool watch brand that had all sorts of features and benefits that nobody in this price range would consider. I could never go public … never sell to Nordstrom, Macy’s, Dillard’s because that additional cost burden would cost my $ 200 retail merchandise $ 499 and more. “

Thumm self-financed the business and benefits from a reputation and previous commercial successes in more than 35 years in the fashion watch industry. That is, the few suppliers that are left over are those “Are already at work up to the chin” will still do his product when he calls it up.

Thumm & Co. offers three watch collections for women and two collections for men, each with details from the experience Thumm has learned in the industry.

For example, the bezel, the top ring on a watch, is made of ceramic, which means the color goes completely through. The metal strap is designed so that the links never collide, which means it won’t tug or pull the arm hair and the watches have a butterfly buckle, not a clasp that tends to get caught on clothing.

The leather strap is real leather on the top, but a hypoallergenic rubber on the back, which is insensitive to sweat and other substances, said Thumm. It’s the same material Apple uses for its Apple Watch.

Especially with women’s pieces, the mother-of-pearl is a real shell that is colored to match the strap. Also, all straps will be colored to keep up with the trend in handbags for the next three years.

Thumm gave himself three years to break even. Business is going well, he said; Thumm & Co. sells every day and remains patient.

“I didn’t do this to put it in my children’s mouth” he said.

He did it because “I don’t want to go into sunset without giving the consumer my version of how it should be. I want to offer the customer something that no one else does, and I do this through the experience of things that few people have been able to do. “

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