If you watched the Grammy Awards telecast this year, you might have noticed an unusual timepiece worn by rapper Snoop Dogg: a Geneva watch-face “blinged” with high-quality crystals and attached to a yellow and green striped sweatband. Rockers Billy Idol, Sheryl Crow and Ozzy offspring Jack and Kelly Osbourne have sported these 1970s-inspired watches, along with a host of other celebrities.
Three Los Angeles-based Arkansas entrepreneurs launched the watch line, Timebandits Watches: Jonathan Stephens (designer), Jacob Jones (sales and production head) and Paul Udouj, chief financial officer.
Stephens and Jones (of the Jones and Sons Jewelers family) are both from Little Rock. Udouj hails from Fort Smith.
In a telephone interview, Udouj said the company’s success is about being at the right place at the right time. “Sometimes you have the hit.”
Last December Stephens combined two of his interests — watch collecting and visual arts — to create the first watch-sweatband combo. He saw a void in the market for timepieces that were both “throwback and casual,” Udouj said. After he began wearing his creation to music video shoots, Stephens — a music video director and former photographer for the TV show “The X-Files” — was overwhelmed with requests from friends for their own “retro-future” watches. Stephens was introduced to Jones, a gemologist then working for DeBeers. The two decided to add some extra bling with crystals and gems, and the line became a success, especially in Japan. LBO, an Urban Outfitters-type store in Japan, awarded the company its new designer of the year award for hottest accessory.
The watches are sold at Fred Segal in L.A. and Neiman Marcus and Macy’s locations nationwide. By the end of the year, Timebandits Watches will be sold in 20 countries.
Success hasn’t made the trio forget where they come from — Udouj credits their Arkansas upbringing with their success. “We’re willing to work with people — we aren’t snooty,” he said.
Little Rock skater shop Section 8 (1400 S. University, 664-8815) stocks the Timebandits watch, but there was only one left when I called.
Udouj said the company is negotiating with Dillard’s to carry the line, perhaps by Christmas. The watches are in the $65 to $105 range. Stephens has other ideas for watches and apparel in mind, but Udouj said the trio is taking things slow. “It’s always important to take one step at a time,” he said.