From high-school dropout to $10m
TIMOTHY Caruana left school at 15. Today he runs a multimillion-dollar luxury watch brand worn by the likes of Selena Gomez - proving you don't need a uni degree to be successful.
But according to the southwestern Sydney native, creator of Christian Paul watches, the last thing he wants is for his kids to follow in his footsteps. "You obviously want more for your kids," he said.
"I hope my kids go on and study in uni, but I suppose the Catch-22 is I felt like I needed to set an example through my work ethic and this brand. I still believe I would have been successful, but you never know."
After leaving school in year nine, the now 33-year-old father of five tried his hand as a tradie and personal trainer, among other odd jobs. "I've done a lot of things as far as work and career but obviously being an early school leaver, that's a bit limited," he said.
"I don't look back with regret but try to look back and think why. I just didn't understand that the world was always going to be there waiting for me, I was just too eager to get out there. In hindsight, obviously there's no need to rush. The world's always waiting."
He spent six years working in e-commerce as a buyer for GroupOn and Livingsocial, working with up-and-coming brands "helping them with some ideas about how to grow in their space".
Eventually, tired of the one-and-a-half hour commute each day, he took a break. "During that break I decided I wanted to leave a legacy behind, something that my kids can be proud of," he said.
Mr Caruana founded Christian Paul in 2015, named after his son - the brand's logo represents the time his son was born, 11:25am. Growing up he'd always had an interest in watches and fashion, and he said during his overseas travels he realised there was a gap in the market for an iconic Australian watch brand.
With no traditional design experience, he believes his "unorthodox approach" is his brand's strength, taking inspiration from Australian culture, landscape and buildings. "I pride myself on looking outside the box," he said.
"The biggest differentiator for us is I don't come from a traditional watch background, I don't have family members that were horologists."
But Mr Caruana said he didn't realise before he got into the industry how competitive it was. "The actual retail space there are so many different dimensions," he said. "The Australian market as opposed to the French market, or Eastern Europe and Asia.
"In America it's all about bigger faces, but 43 millimetres might be too big in Hong Kong or China. The first thing was trying to learn the base and where I wanted to play in price points. That was probably the biggest challenge."
While 98 per cent of quartz watches are manufactured in China, Christian Paul uses a Japanese-made base requiring a lengthy production. "Our production time is 75 days," he said.
"Six of those is just what's called burning the watch it, having the watch at different angles to make sure it doesn't lose time. It's actually quite technical when you're putting timepieces out there.
"Our average price is $200 and we're giving two years manufacturer's warranty. You've got to really make sure you're putting quality products out there, because it doesn't take [many returns] to eat into your margin."
Since launching in September 2015, the company has generated more than $10.6 million in revenue and is now stocked in more than 530 stores globally including Myer, Glue and The Iconic.
Sales were given a significant boost in 2016 when Selena Gomez was pictured online wearing a Christian Paul watch given to her by a fan at a backstage meet-and-greet in Sydney. The singer later posted pictures of the watch to her fashion blog.
"It was pretty surreal," Mr Caruana said.