While training to be a pilot, Chelsea “Abingdon” Welch spotted a gaping hole in the fashion industry.
Many of the male aviation instructors surrounding her wore their pilot watches with pride, using stopwatch and multiple time zone features to their advantage. When she went to look for one, Welch found nothing on the market for women.
That 2006 revelation marked the start of a new adventure for Welch, the creation of The Abingdon Co. For 11 months, she compiled watch designs and ideas for what female pilots wanted out of a watch. She sent the ideas to a manufacturer she found with the help of Alibaba.com.
“I am not from a watch background at all. I knew what I wanted it to look like,” Welch said.
She said she wanted her first watch to feature two time zones and a stopwatch, but that wasn’t possible due to the inner mechanisms. Instead she split the features in two and the Jackie and Amelia models were born.
Jackie is described as an elegant chronograph timer with a seaplane green genuine mother of pearl face. Sixty-four, twinkling cubic zirconia rivets sit on a classic stainless steel case with rotating bezel.
“They’re still our best-selling models today,” Welch said.
Abingdon watches are sold at Silver Rhino in the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, the Prop Shop inside the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport, SRS Aviation Shop at the OR Tambo International Airport and Banyan Pilot Shop in Fort Lauderdale.
Donald Green, who handles online sales for Banyan Pilot, said the shop has sold two Abingdon watches in the three months it’s carried the brand. He’s planning a big push for October and will be putting out an e-blast to advertise.
“People come in and they really like them,” Green said. “They really like the fact that it’s a ladies watch.”
Today, Welch lives on the Las Vegas Strip at Aria with her husband, working on her watch brand. As this is her first business, every step has been a learning experience.
“Business was not something I had trained formally to do. All the aspects of running a company, they’re fresh for me,” Welch said.
In October, her company will exhibit at the National Business Aviation Association trade show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. In addition to watches, Welch recently introduced aviation-esque women’s jewelry in solid gold. (Think paper airplane shapes.)
“I’d love to get into more accessories… and really become a luxury lifestyle brand for women who travel and are into really fun activities,” Welch said.
Look for those to come online next year. Welch also said she’s reaching out to local retailers, as she’d love to have a Vegas store carry her watches and jewelry.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.