An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

“Surround yourself with supporters and people that get it. Remove toxic people from your life.” Building something, like a business, takes everything you’ve got. Distractions and energy drains will kill opportunities for success.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Wilbur.

Jason Wilbur is an award-winning designer with decades of creative and technical experience in a broad range of product categories, including timepieces. Along with his leadership in pioneering new realms in the world of design, he is the founder of the eponymous WILBUR brand. From the rarified world of automotive R&D to advanced car design and experimental timepieces, Jason Wilbur is hell-bent on Designing the Future. By any means necessary.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

At a very young age I became intrigued by everything mechanical, especially things with gears. I grew up in New York but spent a lot of time at my family’s farm in Vermont learning how to fix and figure things out on my own. I would assemble my own tools, build my own machines, and draw architectural plans for the treehouses I would construct; my brain was just wired differently.

In high school, my focus shifted towards art. I knew the artists were the ones who lived in a state of revolution, rather than a state of evolution, and I always knew those were the roots I was born from. Stemming from a family of musicians, artists, and scientists, creativity and unique ideas were never devoid in my household. Moreover, living in New York City allowed for me to immerse myself into things that inspired me, like contemporary art that challenged convention, unique architecture, street art, and culture.

In college, my interests were physics, engineering, and entrepreneurship however, I knew that design/art would allow for a path with more creative freedom. I didn’t have a specific plan; I just knew I wanted to create exciting and challenging things. I majored in Fine Art and Graphic Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where amongst many fields of study, they have a well-respected art and engineering school.

After a few years of working in the design industry, my love for cars and machines drove me back to school. I attended Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena — an institution known as the best school for car design in the world. Through my work with ACCD I received an internship at Porsche, designing everything from cars to watches to powerboats. After that, I accepted a car design job with Honda R&D working on both production and concept cars. I was the lead designer on several key Honda cars, including the Honda FC Sport, The Honda Sport concept, the NueV (electric urban vehicle), and created over a dozen internal future vehicle concepts.

My expertise in design and advanced car development inspired me to create WILBUR, but I learned more about watch design from breaking the rules than following them. My approach quickly moved further from the traditional “ways to design a watch” and more toward my experience with advanced vehicle design methods to inform my watch designs.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The luxury watch industry itself is a conservative industry. Luxury watch brands out of Europe often play it safe by designing watches or creating new collections that tend to look like one another. And, that’s okay — there’s a huge market for it and I love to see those brands be successful! But following someone else’s lead is just not my style.

Throughout the course of my career, I’ve come to learn that people, brands, companies aren’t willing to take risks, or are even intimidated by creative concepts and outlandish designs because they know that after some time, it’s going to garner traction and they will have to play catch up sooner or later. With WILBUR, I am intentionally being disruptive and willing to risk it all — ultimately, I am working to redefine what luxury means.

The word luxury, in and of itself, has lost its sparkle. It’s such a commonly used term that someone can slap a good looking logo on a fine piece of product or material and as soon as the next celebrity wears it, it’s automatically considered luxurious.

WILBUR is being disruptive by creating its own standard of what luxury is. We are going against the grain of what traditional luxury standards have been pushing for so long. We are working to create the next American luxury empire, without the uppity attitude it tends to carry. We’re a luxury brand made for outlaws, rulebreakers and rebels. We’re certainly not for the faint of the wrist.

American design has not been respected for a long time and I am working to change that perspective with every WILBUR watch created. WILBUR timepieces are high concept sculptures that happen to tell time. We follow no industry formula for what we create. Our products are not for everyone; we create only for the limitless few, not the masses. We design and make ultra rare high-concept pieces like the LEO with in-house designed movements and complex execution as well as “Daily Drivers” like the Launch Edition meant to merge high-concept design sensibilities with the simplicity (and audacity) of a simple Japanese movement. In addition, our Speed Shop versions offer opportunities for experimentation with futuristic R&D techniques or ultra-limited editions to mix things up.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well I’m not sure if it’s the “funniest” but, I know my wife and I both share a chuckle looking back at some of the positions we were in while trying to bring WILBUR to life. For example, I remember when the LEO, a new watch design I am launching this winter, was just a thought nearly eight years ago. I had an investor interested in this specific design who assured me that if I could make the LEO a reality, he would invest. I was excited and willing to spend my last penny to bring WILBUR to fruition; I literally started selling things out of my own house and even my motorcycle. We really needed the money, we were doing desperate things like counting coins out of our couch and dipping into our 401K’s. I even flew to Switzerland to find suppliers in person to help make a tangible model to showcase. When I reconnected with the investor to show him the first ever WILBUR watch, he shared that he had moved onto a different focus and was no longer interested. My heart sank to my stomach, I didn’t know what I was going to tell my wife. But one “no” wasn’t going to stop me — I have that “Everest Syndrome,” where I just keep going and going until I reach my end goal regardless of the obvious dangers. I also know what I bring to the table and I know WILBUR is going against the grain and redefining watch standards. I knew that I designed this watch to represent WILBUR and this is basically how the LEO came about. It has been a crazy journey, to say the least and it certainly holds a special place in my heart.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Throughout my journey, I have had so many mentors but the most powerful have been my teachers and professors. Growing up, I almost always had trouble in school — I couldn’t sit still, my mind and body were just wired that way. It’s like I needed to be doing something, or building something versus reading out of a book or following a lecture. Some teachers often reported, “Jason is disruptive in class.” However, the ones who understood that I was on a mission to do something different showed me the power of support and guidance and pushed me to break the rules to find my calling. It’s truly rare to find people willing to take a personal risk for your benefit. I am lucky to have found this honorable trait in many of my teachers along the way.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Creatively speaking; if you set out to be disruptive, you will be destructive. If you set out to create something new based on your own rules, your success — if it comes, will be called disruptive. From a business standpoint, a whole industry rarely benefits from a good disruption; it’s usually a new company that refuses to follow old and outdated industry rules and truly focuses its efforts on customer values. Real value comes when the disruption benefits a group of customers that have been offered a modern and relevant value from an otherwise antiquated industry. Online video streaming disrupted the video rental market for example.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. “Surround yourself with supporters and people that get it. Remove toxic people from your life.” Building something, like a business, takes everything you’ve got. Distractions and energy drains will kill opportunities for success.
  2. “If it’s not a bit difficult, it’s probably not worth it.” Real things take effort, if something is too easy, there’s a sign you are missing something.
  3. “Exploration, not imitation, is the key to innovation.” Risk taking creates exciting journeys and unique outcomes. Not all efforts end the way they are planned but if the journey allows you to grow and learn along the way, you can’t lose.
  4. “Ignore the noise.” There are always going to be haters when you follow your dreams. You need to learn to take relevant feedback yet, filter out the toxic and unhelpful clutter.
  5. “One step at a time.” Building a business or launching a new endeavor can be scary if you try to digest the scale all at once. Just start — then you can finish.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Apart from other things I have in the works, WILBUR is launching two new watches this year.

First, the EXP (Experimental) which is designed and built in the USA with a Swiss-made movement. Every single aspect of the dimensions for this watch are smaller, not shrunken, just smaller — making it a more wearable timepiece. I designed the EXP with super 3-dimensional sculpture that can be appreciated from all angles — I learned this from my car design background, it has to look good from top, side, back, etc. One of the first things I do is take the watch off and show people how it looks architecturally. I take it off my wrist because the wrist is just a place to store the watch, it has to be appreciated off the wrist. The main design concept was to create chassis-like architectural structures that make up the watch case, making for an extremely technical feel. This limited-edition watch has a 9-part modular Exo-Chassis Case (most watches have 2–3 max), sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating, 3-D hand finished details with a transparent glass dial base, and a “suspended” dial with movement structure. Limited to only 100 pieces, the EXP will be available this Fall.

Second, the LEO (Low Earth Orbit), created to serve as the pinnacle for what the WILBUR brand represents. Born from “Dreams of Machines” the LEO’s American mechanical sculpture holds nothing back and challenges the convention of traditional luxury watch designs. The LEO offers a concept of cryptic symbols or puzzle pieces, that on their own are unrecognizable, but when the pieces come together, they create a familiar hour numeral under a space frame-like structure that resembles a machine destined to orbit. Designed in-house and made in Switzerland, the LEO is hand finished and made up of an 8-part modular design, sapphire crystals with anti-reflective coating, titanium, WILBUR Engine One Automatic Jump-Hour Movement, separate discs for minutes/hours, JW1 movement chassis, and a JW1 Rotor. This small-batched limited-edition watch will be available for purchase in the winter exclusively through invite-only.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Yes, one of my favorite books is, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Anyone on a significant journey in life should read this book. There’s a quote within this book that speaks volumes to me: “The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you don’t know which way to go — go uphill.” My goal in life is to spend my time doing meaningful things, not easy things. If I find myself lost, I don’t look for the path of least resistance, I look for the path that takes me up. I may never get to the top but at least I’m climbing mountains.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement and leave something good behind for the most amount of people, I truly feel that everyone should teach at some point in their life. And I don’t just mean in an educational setting, but in life. Try and teach someone something new — help another person push the limits. Not only is it empowering, but by teaching someone something new or foreign, you are helping someone inspire creativity and build a new knowledge that they may not have had before.

How can our readers follow you online?

WILBUR Instagram: @Wilburwatchco

WILBUR Facebook: @Wilburwatchco

WILBUR TikTok: @Wilburwatchco

WILBUR Website:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Jason Wilbur Of WILBUR On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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