Interview with Tribus watches co-founder – James Ward

Today we are gonna talk with one of the three brothers/co-founders of the brand Tribus Mr. James Ward. You also can read the full review of their latest timepiece called TRI-02 GMT 3 Timezone!

  • Introduce yourself

I’m James Ward, Co-founder and Managing Director of TRIBUS. I started the business alongside my two brothers, Jonathon and Jake, with the help of our dad Chris. I’m Liverpool born and bred, so I’ve grown up amongst all the sport, music and art that this city to offer. There’s not really another city like ours anywhere, and I’d say that it played its part in how we wanted TRIBUS to be: unconventional, unapologetic, dedicated.

  • What started your watch passion?

No surprises here, but it would be through my dad. Because of his work we always had that proximity to the industry, hearing about the latest designs and developments, but even before that he was often bringing different clocks and watches home. Being up close and personal with engineering like that obviously gives you a sense of the skill involved, but things went up a level when dad took me to Switzerland. Getting to see watchmakers working away with such care and precision at their bench really hammered home what an artform watchmaking is.

  • What makes a good wristwatch to you?

We all love a good character in Liverpool and the same applies to our watches. If they’re not going to stand out, then what’s the point? We focussed on adding unusual colours to the range and people have really responded to that. But it’s also important to balance aesthetics with performance. Early on we made the decision to really push the Swiss aspect of our watches – they’re all hand-built at our facility in Lugano, Switzerland. Our core range of chronometers are all COSC-certified too, placing them in the top 6% of Swiss-made watches for accuracy. Again, if they’re not accurate, what’s the point?

  • What watches do you have in your personal collection? And maybe you could list them or tell an interesting story about a particular one?

The first proper watch I got was a Tag Heuer Formula 1, then when I was 18 I got the Tag Carrera Calibre 5, I think that Tag brought a lot of youth to the Swiss watch industry and certainly provided some inspiration when we were creating TRIBUS.  Then when I was 21 I got the Rolex GMT- Master II, which has now been discontinued so sits proudly in my collection.  Then one of my favourites is the Rolex Explorer II, however I did change the bracelet to an orange rubber strap, looks really cool. I also added one of ours, the TRI-05 303 Squadron P8331 Limited Edition. We were able to source a section of Spitfire P8331, which crash-landed in France in 1941, thanks to our partners at Laguna’s Spitfire Legacy. P8331 was part of 303 Squadron, a Polish fighter squadron that shot down the most enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain. Without them, who knows what position we might’ve been left in? After the war, 18,000 Poles were denied a place on the 1946 Victory March through London. Scott and the team at Laguna’s Spitfire Legacy are dedicated to raising awareness about the Polish war effort, using Piotr Laguna, the pilot of P8331 on the day it was shot down, as a focus. Proceeds from the TRI-05 are being used to fund the restoration of P8331 to airworthy condition, along with sending two historical aircraft to Poland so that today’s Poles can learn about their ancestors’ involvement in the war – many of them have no idea!

  • Who is your ideal customer?

Everyone! But if you like a watch that sets you apart from the crowd whilst showing you appreciate fine Swiss engineering, come and join us.

  • Tell about what you like to do outside of watches. Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I’m a big sports fan, which isn’t surprising considering the part of the world I’m from. I enjoy a good away trip – you can’t beat a good European night with your mates in cities like Munich or Barcelona. Live music is also a thing of mine, attending the UK’s first gig in over a year was special for the city and everyone involved.

Inspiration-wise, I enjoy pushing boundaries and exploring how we can express and differentiate ourselves creatively. Part of the fun is breaking away from what people expect – conventions are there to be broken. There will always be people out there that don’t agree with what you’re doing, but if you’re expressing yourself and are passionate about what you’re doing, then there’s nothing to apologise for. I’m doing this because I’m passionate about it – I’m not doing it for anyone else.

  • How do you see your watch brand in the future?

Our future plans are very much based upon what we do in the here and now, so at the moment it’s a case of trying to express our love of what we’re doing, whether that’s showcasing the Swiss engineering involved or the more creative aspects that set our brand apart.

  • Are there any other new watches coming out anytime soon?

Yeah, we have a number of designs in the pipeline as we speak, and we’re always toying with different colour combinations too. I think the moment you stop moving forward is the moment things start to get stale. There’s a few collaborations that we can’t announce yet either, but watch this space…

  • What was the hardest part of creating a watch company?

Starting any business during a worldwide pandemic isn’t ideal, but for us it definitely threw a huge spanner in the works as the Swiss shut down all manufacture for a few months just as our first designs were ready to reach the prototype stage! Aside from that, finding your unique voice that differentiates you from your competitors is the most important challenge.

  • Any suggestions to someone who wants to make their own watch and sell it?

Build relationships with suppliers and customers, know where your componentry is being sourced, and have faith in your designs. Don’t design by committee – make something that reflects you, not anyone else.


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