At Prestige, the essence of our content is defined through chronicles of local bourgeoisie, the places they frequent and the happenings that revolve around them. We relish in the lavish lives of society’s crème de la crème, and as such, are naturally no strangers to the proverbial silver spoon. What strikes us most, however, is when we come across individuals who — rather than simply keeping the spoons tightly clamped in their mouths — take it and use it to dig a path to something even greater. In this series, we talk to three such second-generation successors — CEOs and MDs who have spearheaded their family businesses to become leaders in their respective fields. Among them is Narun “Note” Thamavaranukup.
Meeting Note, few would suspect that he in fact has a background in Science. Going from that to heading a luxury timepiece business seems like quite a stretch — a fact not unbeknownst to Note himself. Now the managing director of PMT The Hour Glass, if you informed his past self that he’d be helming his family’s business, he probably wouldn’t have believed you. Having grown up without any desire of taking on the reigns of his family’s fine jewellery business, Blue River, he decided to pursue both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Science from Oxford University. This was followed by a stint as an investment banker in Hong Kong for three years, before he decided to return home. Since then, he began to oversee the family’s venture in watch retailing — Prima Time (PMT), founded in the early 1990s. How did he take a small retailer with barely 20 staff members, and grow it into the official retailer of over 30 of the worlds finest timepiece brands it is today? Prestige had a chat with the 38-year old entrepreneur regarding his thoughts on foresight, motivation, and fulfilling dreams. Here’s what we learned.
Without tradition and innovation, there is no future.
To us, science and luxury watches are two wholly different things altogether, but to Note the two worlds actually have a lot in common — they lie in the minute details. “I’m a scientist so I’ve always had a passion for innovation,” he tells us, “I think that watchmaking is a blend of micro-engineering, maths, design and emotion. I’ve always liked the product since I was young because I like things with stories and a history. I believe in tradition and innovation and that if you don’t have both, there is no future.”
Be there for your family.
For someone with a stable career plan overseas, what motivated Note to suddenly drop what he had and come back home? His family. He tells us how it was his father’s battle with cancer that called him to return. “After my father passed, all I could think was that I should be present to support my family emotionally during that difficult time, so I moved back and decided what to do next.”
It’s not a disruption, but an opportunity.
When he first joined PMT, the retailer only imported five brands, and even then it was considered an achievement to just break even. Fast-forward to today, and PMT has become PMT The Hour Glass — official retailer for over 30 of the world’s finest timepiece brands, including the likes of Rolex, Patek Philippe, Hublot, Ulysse Nardin, IWC and Omega, to name just a few. The team has grown from 20 to 200, and sales have increased tenfold. When asked how he even began to push the company so far beyond what it initially was, Note shares an anecdote of how he met his future business partner after sharing a table with a stranger over breakfast during Baselworld. Rather than seeing them as a competitor, he chose to form a partnership between PMT and The Hour Glass from Singapore, pushing the company forwards to become one of Thailand’s leading specialty luxury watch retail groups.
The anecdote says a lot about Note as a person. While part of his success could be attributed to the growing watch industry, a lot of it is also due to Note’s own foresight — a quality that has proven instrumental in helping the company adapt in this age of digital transformation. “Today, our customers are very discerning and perhaps know even more than our sales team,” he explains, “we must improve our service to be top-notch, with the staff being able to compare not only between different models but also different brands in order to offer more value. We study and keep in touch with e-commerce, but we don’t see it as a disruption. The industry was disrupted 50 years ago when a battery-run watch could tell the time the same way as a mechanical timepiece.”
Don’t get pulled down by things you can’t control.
Always keeping an eye on the future, Note sees the importance in both the strategic planning of his company, but also in curating and shaping his organisation’s service culture. His goals? To create a luxury company that people want to work at. He insists that a big part of achieving this is staying on the positive side. “If you don’t, you might as well not do it at all. If you are positive, people around you and your staff will be too, and it motivates them. It’s all about how you pick yourself up or learning to concentrate or worry about things you can control. What you cannot, you must let go… because that emotional attachment will only bring you down.”
When you’re surrounded by luxury, find what keeps you grounded.
While much of the conversation is centered around his business and his various work-related responsibilities, Note also has his own set of favourite past-times. To take a break, he enjoys travelling with his family, and trekking — sometimes to seclusive destinations such as Antartica and Vietnam. “It’s two birds with one stone, really, because I get both exercise and seeing new things.”
He tells us the traveling isn’t just to wind down, but to find inspiration. “It’s not just about resting, as it puts you out of your comfort zone — and that’s what brings new ideas. Being in the luxury business, sometimes you need to do this to keep yourself on the ground.” Another thing he finds rewarding is seeing the impact he brings to the lives of his customers — for Note, a simple smile from a client can go a long way. “I love it when we fulfil their dreams, because I am aware we are not selling watches, but dreams, aspirations and status. When we see their smile upon delivery of the watches, we feel happy to be a part of an important story in their lives.
Read more about Note and the other two second-generation successors Jatuphat “O” Tangkaravakoon and Tipa “Mol” Nawawattanasub in the June issue of Prestige, available in all leading bookstores in Thailand.
Photographer: Vatcharasith Wichyanrat
Stylist: Panchanitch Rattanawilai
Stylist’s Assistant: Nichabul Thamyutsakul
Makeup: Punwisit Sukarom and Noravich Techarattanasirikun
Hair: Kampanat Wongsalung
Editorial Coordinator: Rattanachai Chaipornsantikul