Silas Walton

Silas Walton

British

Founder & CEO of WATCH XCHANGE (Luxury Goods)

MSc Strategic Management , Class of 2013. Previously at University College London

I am the CEO & Founder of a startup in London called WATCH XCHANGE. We’re an online, specialist platform that assists clients wishing to buy or sell, rare/vintage, or high-end, pre-owned watches.

We particularly focus on the independent watch market - a largely neglected space, principally made-up of small Maison, or individual watchmakers, manufacturing between 10 and 300 watches a year. These watches typically retail for between £20,000 and £150,000. 

Our business is currently trying to innovate both digitally and in our wider strategy, in a niche market, at the tail end of the digital economy.

Broaden your horizons

Around 2012, I found myself looking for a post-graduate program that would successfully complement the practical skills my legal education had afforded me, whilst giving me a solid foundation in key, high-level business concepts.  This was where the MSc in Strategic Management at HEC Paris came in.

A one-year program at one of the best business schools in the world, geared towards preparing ambitious young graduates for jobs at top tier management consultancies struck me as a great compromise between everything I was looking for. I didn’t have the experience needed to apply for an MBA, nor did I want to spend three years in further studies. I felt that if I was able to study classes in finance, management, accounting, negotiation, private equity, business strategy and e-commerce (my specialization at the end of the year) this would give me a lot of what I needed, to no longer feel pigeon-holed into a legal career, and open my eyes to a wider world beyond.

An intellectually stimulating environment

Whilst all that is true, the most valuable aspect of my studies at HEC Paris were the people I was able to meet, engage with and learn from. Working with brilliant, ambitious people on a daily basis completely changes you. It makes you feel unbound by conventional thinking. It encourages you to seize opportunities, believe in yourself, believe in the value of taking calculated risks, not be afraid of failure and recognize the value of surrounding yourself with people smarter, more able and more determined than yourself, in everything you do.

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Whilst at HEC, as part of a team, I got to carry out a leveraged buyout of a company in the CAC 40 (admittedly only hypothetically!), launch several digital startups, learn how to negotiate with some of my most hard-headed colleagues (I’ll give you a clue – it’s all about value-claiming with them) and a whole myriad of other experiences. I also had a fantastically enjoyable social life. All in all, one of the best years of my life!

How did HEC help me achieve my career goals? Well within six months of graduating, I had written a business plan (a skill I learnt at HEC), pitched it to investors (practiced at HEC), raised finance and launched my company – that was all in mid-2014. Somehow we’re still going! Thanks to HEC, I realized that to have a chance at success, you need as many smart people advising and working with you as you can get. Equally, much in the spirit of its motto “The more you learn, the more you dare” - I realize I’m still learning new things every day.