What do you get when you add a young man from Singapore, an entrepreneur, and a watch expert? Our featured gentleman, Mitch Krogman. As a young professional in Singapore, Mitch Krogman took style to new heights with his new watch company, Straits Foundry. We reached out to Mitch because he exemplifies the modern gentleman. Luckily, he sat down with our very own Austin Vela to do this interview. Today we will discuss Singapore, watches, style, and travel.
How’s life in Singapore?
Let’s say it’s hot. Life in Singapore is good. It’s very organized and clean, very different from what a lot of people think.
How is Singapore different than the United States?
It’s pretty similar to Royal Oak (Michigan). There’s a lot of young people. It’s a pretty happening place. It’s very walkable. With that said there’s not a lot of cars here. I mean there are cars, there’s traffic, but the majority of the population do not own a car.
That’s interesting. So bikes and public transportation?
Public transportation, it’s a little too hot for bikes. Getting to work without sweating is a real art.
I’d imagine. So are things different in a social aspect too?
People are very into what they’re wearing. Style is a big thing here. People seem to be very trendy. They have a lot of cash. Hence you have a lot of very expensive handbags. It’s a place for lookers. When people go out, they go out.
Would you say they try to make a statement with their style?
I would say so.
So you recently started a watch company called Straits Foundry?
Yes, I did.
What created your interest in watches?
It’s not a real sexy story, but it is what it is. The hardest part of this business is creating an interesting story. I don’t know that all the stories that you read about watch companies are true but who am I to say. I am an engineer by trade and studying around the Detroit area gave a lot of insight into the market. It was interesting when I was studying because everything went to shit. Sorry, excuse my language.
So I needed to get out of there. I went to grad school. After, I found out about Singapore, then came out here and worked for an e-commerce start up. E-commerce is interesting. There’s a lot of different business models, but there’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes. It all depends on the way you’re set up. I wasn’t doing a lot of engineering and design work which I had been doing recently. I’ve been in supply chain logistics. I’ve solved very challenging problems but none regarding product design. Product design as in building technical products, not mechanical or tangible products. So I started toying around with watches. Who doesn’t like a nice watch?
When it comes to designing a watch, you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. You can pretty much go to someone and say, “give me a watch. It should be white with blue hands.” And someone will make you watch. You will have a watch within a month. I found the design process interesting and having total control of what you’re doing. It’s a total learning experience. It’s a long-winded answer. I was in the right place at the right time.
Very insightful Mitch. Does your company build mechanical or quartz watches?
We build mechanical watches. However, we don’t build a movement.
The movement itself is a tinier project; it’s a big undertaking. We build the other components around the movement. We get technical drawings to know exactly where everything is and know how it sits within the case. Then go from there.
Do you prefer a simple or complicated watch?
Do you prefer the mechanical or the quartz watch?
What’s your favorite type of watch?
I like dive watches.
What’s special about the dive?
It’s a solid wear anywhere kind of piece. Waterproof to a high degree and they’re fairly rugged. But they’re also versatile depending on what you’re wearing, but they pretty much go with everything.
How would you say watches affect your style?
I would say not at all, and I put my clothes on when I wake up and then decide what watch I’m going to wear. I match my watch to my style rather than my style to my watch. So you want to know another watch trend?
The interchangeable bands like NATO straps are super hot, which would be the nylon straps. So those things are insane right now. And so that’s one way that you can match your watch with your outfit.
What does style mean to you? What is your definition of style?
There’s more to style than your clothes it’s about your personality as well. I think everything ties in together. You can be as fancy as you want or as casual as you want.
What are the future trends in the watch industry?
At Baselworld last year, Rolex made a statement about smaller watches making a comeback. In the past few years, you see people with large watches. You still have watches that are handed down, and you have expensive watches. You also have a lot of micro brands which is what my company is considered. With globalization and sites like Alibaba, you see more watch companies pop up.It doesn’t take a lot of cash to start a watch company. It’s an interesting time in the watch world. People are using crazy materials, which is definitely a big trend. But I don’t know what door that’s going to unlock. Maybe it’s a fad, maybe that’s where the watch world is going. I think the watch world is hard to innovate within.
Because it’s old-fashioned?
It’s very old.
What’s your opinion on smart watches?
Yeah, I think they’re more practical. Which maybe a pretty stupid thing for me to say. Everyone has a phone in their pocket, right? I don’t know how many life seconds you save by looking at your wrist rather than pulling out your phone. But there must be something there. I haven’t seen a smart watch that I have found aesthetically pleasing. This is where the designer watches come through.
Do you see the smart watch having the same face but with a more classic look?
There are some interesting companies out there. I forgot the name, but it’s a piece that clips onto the back of your watch. You can have a full-on traditional watch, but then you have this smart adapter that clips on the back. But that’s a hybrid thing.
What’s the best thing about Singapore?
The best thing is the food. It’s a combination of food, culture, and traveling.
Yes. Singapore is an ultra-developed area in the heart of many second world countries. There’s a lot of budget airlines around here.
Where have you been? What’re some of your favorite countries or locations?
Let’s do locations; I love Krabi, Thailand. Krabi has excellent rock formations jetting out of the water. Fantastic rock climbing. I like Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia. It was pretty amazing. It’s a crater lake. It’s underdeveloped and kind of hippie. If you want to do some mushrooms, you should go there. (laughs)
So Indonesia’s Portland? (chuckles)
Something like that. There are many different places. I was only going to be here for a year. So I made the most of it and traveled to all the big spots. Went to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Tokyo. Angkor Wat is cool. It’s in Siem Riep, Cambodia; it’s what Tomb Raider was modeled after. That place is epic and massive. Cambodia is one of the least developed countries in the area.
My only Cambodian exposure was Apocalypse Now, and I wasn’t very impressed. (laughs)
Yeah (laughs) When you first move here, you go to all the big places. But the longer you stay out here, the more you go to the more off the beat places. Those are some of the most memorable.
So why do you travel?
It’s interesting to understand different cultures, food, and have different experiences. Singapore is urban, extremely urban. There’s some great space, but for the most part, it’s much like a city everywhere. So being able to travel and get out is necessary sometimes.
I agree. So now for a few gentleman questions. Who’s your favorite Gentleman? It could be a celebrity or a mentor. You look at this person and say “This is a true gentleman.”
Let’s go with Steve Yzerman.
He seems like a nice enough guy. He had a lot of leadership, and he didn’t get in much trouble.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
An old fashioned. I did have a nice Tom Collins the other day too.
Is there are any style advice you would like to share with our readers before we sign off?
There’s nothing like a great t-shirt. A white t-shirt is very versatile (laughs). Always have a black suit and a blue suit in your closet.