Aug 9, 2023

When it doesn't exist, sometimes you just have to make it. That's what a young pilot named Abingdon Mullin concluded after trying in vain to find a fully functional aviator's watch for women. "I'm 5 foot 6, a hundred pounds drippin' wet  it looked like a grandfather clock hanging off my wrist when I'd try on these other brands," she recalls. "So I got the idea that there needs to be something for a smaller frame in nicer colors, but still functional  something I could wear with a dress or with a flight suit, something I could beat up and wear someplace where I needed to impress. I was 22 years old, and I decided, 'Oh, let's start a watch company.' I never anticipated it blowing up the way it did."

With what can only be considered an insane amount of research and hustle, Mullin got the operation off the ground within a year  while gaining various flying certifications  launching two watches in 2007 that are still bestsellers, the Amelia and the Jackie. The secret to her success? Listening.

"A 40mm case size, automatic movements, sapphire crystals: these are things women do want, it's just nobody ever asked them," she explains. "You've gotta realize when you sell to women, it's a different conversation. For men, it's a primary piece of jewelry. For women, it's a secondary one."

All alone, the Las Vegas-based brand's focus has been on function first, whether that's GMT, a stopwatch, a compass, diving capability, etc., and the brand relies heavily on its devoted customer base, a.k.a. the Crew, for feedback during development.

"It takes about a year and a half when I come out with a new style," Mullin reveals. "We include whatever functions women want and then, we can make it beautiful. I don't release anything until it's beautiful. But that's the easier part, right?"

The brand has a big military following  it's sold at all the exchanges, in addition to Macy's and direct  so for a recent launch, the Jane, Mullin sent prototypes to a small focus group of women from tactical and outdoors fields. The result? A gorgeous $629 timepiece featuring an American quartz movement, day/date function, compass, luminescent index and hands and water resistance up to 660 feet.

Given that these watches are simply kick-ass, it's hardly a surprise they've also gained a following among men. "Our whole thing is that a watch doesn't have a gender," says Mullin, who as we chat is rocking two timepieces popular with men, the diving-focused Marina in Belize Black and the motoring-oriented Jordan in Boulevard Black. "You can't really call something a woman's watch or a man's watch. It's all about the wrist that it's on."

But there's no question that a larger goal of the brand is inspiring women to explore careers in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) industries. Along with Crew members speaking at schools, the Abingdon Foundation publishes Brilliant activity books that expose kids to these fields  and awards full-ride scholarships that send curious young women to events like Women in Aviation, CES, DEMA and SEMA.

"Not every time do they say 'I want to be a race car driver,' or a pilot," Mullin says. "They want to be an engineer or a designer, or they want to do something in that space that just speaks to them and don't really know where to start. So those opportunities are invaluable."

Not a bad little ripple effect for a company that started because one woman just wanted a watch with which she could fly.

 Original article can be found on Gear Patrol