Time Well Spent: Michael Sims ’03 and Gash Clayton ’03

The founders of the sophisticated sports watch company Hook + Gaff are settling into their success — and their product’s higher purpose.Michael Sims '03 and Gash Clayton '03

“Watches have been made since the late 1800s. There’re a few that have tackled the idea with one or two models, but they’ve never gone all in with this concept.”

The concept that Michael Sims is referring to is a watch designed specifically to alleviate discomfort while playing golf or casting a fishing rod by having a crown placement (the small knob on the side of the watch face that adjusts the time) on the left side rather than the right. This way, the crown doesn’t dig into the skin on the back of the left hand when it’s bent or in motion.

When Sims first came up with the idea, he was playing golf.

“I’m one of those weird guys who doesn’t take . off his watch when playing golf,” he laughs. “At the end of the day, I’d have a callus on the back of my hand from the traditional crown placement.” In the midst of juggling his insurance company in Anderson . and helping with his wife’s Chick-fil-A business in Columbia, Sims started researching watches for a solution. The idea for Hook + Gaff began to take shape in his mind, and he knew he’d need a logo, designs and other assets to move forward.

So, he turned to his college buddy Gash Clayton. Clayton, a lawyer by day and artist by night, drafted the sharp, red logo for Hook + Gaff in just a few hours, sending it back to Sims, who was immediately sold. The partnership only grew from there:

“We give each other opinions,” says Clayton, “but at the end of the day, there’s no argument over who makes the final call.” Clayton controls the company’s designs and brand while Sims oversees the day-to-day operations. After launching the company in 2013 with 300 Sportfisher watches manufactured in Switzerland, Sims and Clayton entered Garden & Gun magazine’s “Made in the South” competition. The watch didn’t make the cut, but it was included in the Southern magazine’s gift guide, which “really jumpstarted the brand,” Sims says. Now, Hook + Gaff is growing rapidly with stateside assembly and celebrity ambassadors like Carter Andrews of National Geographic’s Legendary Catch and Brad Leone of Bon Appétit.

Durability is Hook + Gaff’s bread and butter. “We knew that our [customers] were really going to put these through the ringer,” Sims explains. Materials like titanium, scratch-proof sapphire glass and Italian dive straps are staples in each collection. Despite their high-quality product, the question Clayton and Sims get all the time is, “What does your watch do that my smartwatch can’t do?” Their answer may surprise you: “To get away from technology, every once in a while, is a good thing because what you’re going to remember down the road is the time you spent with family and friends, doing things you love to do. … Our hashtag has become ‘Time Well Spent’ over this last year as we try to push that message.

“What is time well spent for you?”

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