Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Few Minutes With MeisterSinger's John van Steen

While we are roughly at the half-way point of our 90 day essay on time and MeisterSinger, I thought it might be worthwhile to spend a few minutes with one of the key people behind the brand, the Director Sales and Managing Director, John van Steen -
Courtesy of John van Steen
Tempus Fugit - What was your first watch? Was it a gift? Is there a story behind it?

John van Steen - My first Watch was a Seiko Quartz when I was 12 or so. It was a gift from my parents upon leaving primary school.

TF - When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

JvS - I grew up in the town of Hoofddorp which is a suburb of Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Up until I was 12, I wanted to be a professional soccer player (like most boys) until the moment I realized that I wasn’t good enough, and after that my goal was going into business.

TF - Where did you go to school? What did you study?

JvS - I went to school in the city of Haarlem (which is, by the way the inspiration for name of the neighborhood in NYC Harlem, like the Dutch City  Breukelen which is the origin of Brooklyn) where I studied Wholesale Business at the Business school. After that I started working at the age of 20, I regret till today the fact that I didn’t go to University.

TF - How did you get involved in the watch business?

JvS - More or less out of a hobby. I wanted to start my own business back in 1999 and my hobby/ interest was watches.

TF - What brought you to Meister Singer in the first place?

JvS - As said, I started my own company in The Netherlands back in 1999 distributing brands like Eberhard & Co , Titoni and Nomos-Glashütte. I remember quite well when I was at BaselWorld 2003 I saw a German watch brand in a small booth which had watches with a single hand. That intrigued me, it intrigued me so much that I wanted to know more and started a conversation with the Founder Manfred Brassler. From that moment I became the distributor in The Netherlands and 10 years later in 2013, I became Sales Director of the brand. In 2019 I became Managing Partner. By the way, the original Dutch company (Time Company) btw is still in business and I still own it.

TF - I might, in fact, have been the first MeisterSinger customer in San Francisco when I bought the cream dialed one-handed Unitas model from Seregin's back in 2003. Obviously a lot has changed since then. What have been some of the biggest challenges for MeisterSinger?

JvS - Congratulations with that purchase and thanks for the trust. You must be one of the first US customers for our brand. Of course a lot has changed in the world for us as well. I think in terms of quality we moved from amateur level to professional and we’re now represented in 39 countries all around the globe. Our biggest challenge is getting our story / philosophy to the final consumer. Having said that, once that story is told, it hits the heart and we’ve got an ambassador for life. It seems that every single MeisterSinger wearer embraces our way of looking at time, which seems extraordinary, but is in fact the only logical way to do so, especially in these current crazy times we live in. So in order to get more and more connected to the final consumer for our message we invest in videos on YouTube for instance and invest in training methods for our retailers. We’re a small company so it doesn’t always go as fast as we want, but we’re getting there step by step.

TF - I realize that it is hard for a parent to choose their favorite child, but what is your favorite MeisterSinger model?

JvS - That is not hard for a parent, it's impossible! However although they are all my babies I must honestly say I’ve got some favorites - 
Courtesy of MeisterSinger
the No.03 since it’s the pure MeisterSinger.
Courtesy of MeisterSinger
The Perigraph for the extraordinary date function.
Courtesy of MeisterSinger

The Lunascope with one of the biggest Moon phases in the industry. 
Courtesy of MeisterSinger
And of course the Circularis with our own movement with a power reserve of 120 hours. 
Courtesy of MeisterSinger
If you would force me to mention only one it will be the Circularis with our own movement since it combines watch making skills with the purity of a single-hand watch.

TF - What other watches/watchmakers interest you?

JvS - I hold many brands in esteem, but will mention Mühle-Glashütte for making daily beaters with a real high quality for affordable prices (btw did you know we did a mutual project with them; The German reunification watch in early October this year?), Eberhard & Co since that was the brand I started with and which put me on a good path and taught me a lot about the business, and Armin Strom since I like the way that  both of the owners Serge and Claude are standing in life and doing their business.

TF - What is the best market for MeisterSinger?

JvS - The best market is our local market Germany followed by The Netherlands, France, Belgium , Austria and overseas USA, UAE and India.

TF - As you are from Holland originally, any tension in the office when the Dutch take on the Germans in football?

JvS - "Don’t talk about Football with a German" is something I learned quickly ; ) 

They think Franz Beckenbauer -
Courtesy of
was a better player than Johan Cruyff, can you imagine? 
Shamelessly borrowed from the worldwide info-web
But honestly what I admire about German football is the fact that they always fight till the very last second and that’s something we all can learn from.

TF - If you weren't doing this, what do you think you might be doing?

JvS - I really don’t know, but one thing I know I would be an entrepreneur. Perhaps something with bicycles since that is my favourite hobby nowadays.

TF - What advice do you have for the next John van Steen out there?

JvS - Enjoy whatever you’re doing since life is too short to waste on something you don’t like to do. What a lot of people forget is to enjoy the little things in life; they are always hunting for something and once they reached it they start hunting for something new without enjoying the moment. Enjoy, be happy and live.

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