Soon after her failed experience buying her own watch, she was having dinner with some of the women in The Ninety-Nines before Christmas and they were all talking about what they wanted for the holiday. “One woman said she always wanted a pilot’s watch that was made for women. And when you look at the marketing there was no pilot’s watch aimed toward women. There’s only around 50,000 women pilots in the United States – 6% of pilots are women.” And although The Abingdon Co. is doing well and serving many customers, Abingdon at first said “I really should’ve done some market research before starting my own watch company, but I just jumped right in.”
So, these pilots went around the table discussing how none of them could find a good watch, and Abingdon further explained that “it’s not just watches. It’s uniforms that we have to cut to fit us and headsets that always have a seal leak. None of these things are made for women.” Eventually Abingdon asked the others, “Ladies, if I could figure out how to make a pilot’s watch would you all help me design it?” She went on to set a deadline for herself to get this done, and in the full-on Abingdon gung-ho nature, it had to be done soon. Eleven months.
“I looked at all the things pilots need in a watch. And I’m talking about function here. Not vintage style aviation watches. Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful, but you can’t have a pilot’s watch that’s automatic. There’s no way I can wear that because it just won’t work for me on a flight deck when there’s something more functional out there. There’s a difference between pilots and people who love aviation. A functional pilot watch needs to have a stopwatch, a GMT, needs to be quartz, have luminosity, and be easy to read.” Soon after Abingdon reached her deadline and came out with the first two Abingdon Co. watches: the Amelia and the Jackie. One was a GMT and the other a chronograph.
Since then, Abingdon has gone on to serve so many women with her watches, well beyond pilots. “The wonderful thing that a watch does, that nothing else can really do for you when you wear it, is it’s a constant reminder of what you can be and what you can do. Some we get to commemorate a point in time, just like I wanted one to commemorate becoming a pilot. I have a customer who bought one of my watches and told me she had this watch through a break-up with her boyfriend of ten years, moving to another country and starting a new job, and her Marina dive watch reminded her that she’s part of a group of strong women. And you know, something like that just gives you the shivers.”
The only watches Abingdon owns that are not her brand’s were gifted to her. One is a Bulova Lady Lindy, and the other is a watch The Ninety-Nines once made and gifted to her.
Reflecting on my conversations with Abingdon has convinced me that there isn’t anything too far out of her reach, and that if something is possible to do that it can, in fact, get done. For goodness sake, how many people can say that they went to buy themselves a milestone watch, and when they couldn’t find it they built their own watch company, and have it be so successful that it’s still thriving seventeen years later? The Abingdon Co.