SevenFriday collectors aren’t your everyday run-of-the-mill watch enthusiasts. More often than not, the man who wears a SevenFriday on the wrist already owns several timepieces from mass market brands and is looking for something different. And different is perhaps the best way to describe the SevenFriday culture and all that surrounds it.
We were privileged to experience this first hand when we were invited to attend the 2017 edition of the SevenFriday Games, the fourth time the brand has done it, to understand the allure around SevenFriday.
Held in Chiang Mai, Thailand this year, the Games wasn’t your typical brand meet. We had previously spoken to Daniel Niederer, the founder and CEO of SevenFriday, and being at this year’s games helped us understand his reluctance to being compared to the big brands. The Games were the perfect example of its unbridled spirit.
The people who usually participate in the Games range from staff of the brand, members of its distribution chain, to friends of the brand. Not media. In essence, people who work with SevenFriday professionally more than anything else.
Another point to note is that the participants never or rarely attend the Games on a free ride. Almost every person invited has paid their own way, with folk hailing from Switzerland, Mexico and Italy. They’re there because they wanted to be, not because they were paid to do so. It’s proof of just how much people want to be associated with the brand.
In past Games, SevenFriday had produced exclusive commemorative timepieces, where the proceeds of sales often went to a charitable cause.
This year, instead of a watch, guests could purchase a limited edition bracelet and sunglasses set. 100 per cent of the proceeds went to Child’s Dream, a Chiang Mai-based non-profit organisation that gives regional children in need an opportunity to pursue a life they could never get otherwise by supporting them through education and professional training.
As Niederer put it in his opening speech, “We want to leave wherever we go better than when we first came.” The Games, itself being a competition between teams filled with guests, were judged by the founders of Child’s Dream.
What exactly did the Games entail then?
First, enthusiasm. Two weeks prior to the actual trip, I was invited to a Whatsapp group chat of folk I’ve never met, a daunting task for an introvert. Our team leader, a distributor of SevenFriday in Mexico, urged us to learn the Haka for a team cheer event (that we performed miserably).
Secondly, physical feats. Previous SevenFriday Games saw teams kayak across lakes and clock miles on treadmills. My physically inept body trembled at the mere thought of these but this year’s Games toned things down a tad, with more orientation-inspired challenges like a tug of war and three-legged races, all done in the name of good fun. Teams were made to cross a rope bridge as well as challenge one another in a Thai food cook-off. The second part of the Games saw teams try their best at learning the ropes of elephant training.
As a member of the team that didn’t win in the end, I’d like to stress that the competition wasn’t as important as the camaraderie we formed. The winning team got its members’ names engraved on the SevenFriday Games cup that will be at the brand’s HQ for generations. As was tradition, the team poured liquor into the cup (a large one, or as Niederer put it, the most over-the-top one we could find) and downed it during the closing night celebrations.
An event like this isn’t necessarily a great marketing tool – it’s closed off and not exactly publicised in the same way that other brand events usually are. But there is a certain charm to that.
Like most SevenFriday events, be it the SevenFriday Live series (its music gig that’s akin to Fred Perry’s Subculture event) or its SevenFriday Spaces across the world (boutiques that function a little more like cafes), the SevenFriday Games and its ilk are a matter of keeping your close ones even closer, much like an annual family reunion.
It was hard not to be swayed by the common spirit of over a 100 people having fun in the name of SevenFriday. It’s usually hard to develop a genuine lifestyle around a brand but we reckon SevenFriday has definitely aced it.