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Bruneian Founded Watch Start-up Strings Together Tennis And Time

Brunei’s first watch entrepreneur Keeran Janin, with his brand Avantist, makes limited-edition watches that contain strings from nine-time champion Martina Navratilova's 1987 Wimbledon-winning racquet.

  • Avantist 7

    Avantist 7

  • Avantist 1

    Avantist 1

  • Avantist 5

    Avantist 5

  • Avantist 8

    Avantist 8

    SLIDESHOW: Avantist is a new Bruneian founded and owned company, with investors from Brunei and Singapore, that designs and develops watches with a unique twist.

    Tennis and timepieces appear to go hand in hand. The sport requires split-second strokes and relies on timekeeping as a function, while the horological industry taps into the precision, grace and style athletes convey on the court for their next big marketing campaign.

    Brunei’s first watch entrepreneur Keeran Janin, through his brand Avantist, solidifies this perfect match by marrying luxury watches with a length of string from old tennis racquets.

    And these are not mere filaments from just any rickety racquet. The new Swiss watch marque has managed to embed a length of string from the very racquet used to win Czech-born Martina Navratilova’s Wimbledon singles title in 1987 for their first limited-release series.

    Two years in the making, from concept to its release, the Martina Navratilova Wimbledon 1987 watch by Avantist features the string, showcased in an attractive dial, set beneath a sapphire crystal. It gives every timepiece a story of human achievement, and for wearers an opportunity to own that moment in history, says Janin.

    “I want [owners] to feel inspired every time they tell the time,” says the CEO and founder of Avantist. “Navratilova is a woman who defied all odds, escaping communist Czechoslovakia when she was a teen to go on and become one of the greatest athletes of all time. For owners, when you need inspiration or encouragement, or when you're under pressure, you can simply look at your watch and be reminded of what [Navratilova] achieved and know that if she could do that, you too can overcome any challenge. It's like having her there with you saying: You got this."

    Janin’s likely got this too. As a serial techpreneur, making his first million through a mobile content platform selling ringtones, wallpapers and games to 3G phones in an era way before the iPhone, he is no stranger to building on new concepts. The 34-year-old says: “I was at the Australian Open in 2015 and watching the stringing room, I noticed that players kept the same racquets throughout the tournament but had to re-string them after every match — with old strings being thrown away in the trash!"

    Keeran Janin

    Keeran Janin

    Martina Navratilova

    Martina Navratilova

    The idea of getting hold of those vital strings, especially used by living legends to win iconic matches 30 years ago, and putting that into a timepiece was something Janin thought would appeal to both tennis and watch fans. Due to the limited amount of strings from the racquet, Avantist claims only 30 watches, made of titanium, can be produced. Each Swiss-made piece is priced at a whopping £8,000 (S$14,600) and retails at Singapore and London.

    Born in Brunei, Janin is a part-artist, part-engineer and says his country is a unique place to grow up in. The tiny nation, with a population of only 500,000, is no doubt blessed with important resources. “Right ‘till just a few years ago, most businesses, in terms of dollar value, was centered around serving the oil and gas industry and these businesses were very localised. But today, with oil prices at a low, it doesn’t look like they'll be coming back up anytime soon. Hence, venturing out is now a necessity for entrepreneurs [in Brunei] to succeed.”