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Locke & King: Time for Change

When the nascent coronavirus pandemic took hold in early 2020, most of us simply hunkered down to wait it out, baking sourdough bread and hosting happy hours on Zoom. Hamiltonian Ryan Moran, on the other hand, decided to use his time differently.

“Creating a watch brand had always been in the back of my mind,” Moran says during a recent chat at CoMotion, the downtown co-working space of which he is a co-founder. A lover of men’s fashion in general, Moran has a fondness for watches in particular, because “they, unlike other articles of clothing, can also tell a story: Why you wear one, or why you were given one.” Creating a watch brand that is also rooted to the story of his hometown was important to Moran, with “Hamilton being an industrial and manufacturing city.” After COVID dealt his career in the tourism industry a harsh blow – he was let go from his marketing role at Niagara Parks – Moran had some time on his hands, and as a hobby, began creating a business plan for the long-imagined company. It wasn’t long before Moran realized: “I can do this,” and Locke & King was born.

It is named after Moran’s childhood Strathcona stomping ground.

Hamilton has its grit, but also has a certain level of refinement that it’s not always given credit for,” Moran muses. He began creating designs for Locke & King’s inaugural watch – one with style that would combine Hamilton’s enviable traits of strength and elegance – and worked with local graphic designer Shaun O’Meila to fine-tune the distinctive brand logo. In terms of creating the watch itself, “I’m not a watch-maker,” Moran says with a smile. 

He spent the next year “putting the puzzle together,” researching and sourcing each of the components that would result in a watch that had the style he envisioned and, true to the city that influenced it, would be built to last a lifetime. During the summer of 2021, Locke & King’s first watch release, the James – named after one of Hamilton’s most iconic streets – was unveiled on social media.

With its round face and supple leather strap, and available in three colours, the James would be at home on any wrist. “I wanted it to be a traditional-style watch,” Moran recalls. “A classic Victorian-style railroad watch that draws on the inspiration of James Street.” A closer look at the watch face itself reveals yet another story of the city that he loves. “The ring on the inside of the face draws inspiration from the clock at City Centre, the original clock that would have been at City Hall,” Moran explains. “This clock, in one tower or another, has been looking over James for nearly 150 years.”

Choosing an automatic movement for the timepiece was a conscious choice for Moran, due to Hamilton’s history with gears. Inside the case, the pendulum, springs and gears are powered by the wearer’s movements, a centuries-old timekeeping method to keep a watch wound. Moran describes this movement as a “workhorse,” and this resilience is essentially writing the first chapter of the Locke & King story. 

Photo by Jon Evan for HCM

“Take care of it, and it will last forever. It was made to be passed down.”

A watch being wound by motion is a fitting representation of Locke & King’s motto: Onwards and Upwards. This message is fitting for a brand that was launched to considerable interest as the world literally stood still, has produced an accompanying line of stylish stationery, and is planning its next watch release this spring. This confidence in the face of global adversity is not surprising coming from Moran, who describes himself as optimistic and having an “everything will work out” mentality. 

He extends that optimism to Hamilton itself: “It has always been a generally hopeful city despite some of its hiccups across time,” says Moran, “and is always working towards something better.”  Locke & King Online