Michael Sims could’ve followed the path to professional golf.
That’s what eight of his former teammates at Clemson did. D.J. Trahan, Sims’ high school teammate and college roommate, won twice on the PGA Tour. Jonathan Byrd has notched five Tour victories. And Lucas Glover has three wins, including the 2009 U.S. Open.
But Sims had other plans when he graduated in 2003.
“I realized that I was not at Lucas Glover’s level,” Sims said. “So pro golf never really crossed my mind.”
Sims remained an amateur and entered the insurance business and later opened two Chick-Fil-A restaurants with his wife. (Each are approaching 10 years in operation.) But it was a side gig making and selling watches that warranted most of the engineering major’s passion.
“I was a tinkerer,” said Sims, founder of Hook + Gaff, a watch company that specializes in highly durable quartz sport watches for fishing, hunting and golf. “It was just natural for me to take apart my watch and figure out how to make it better.”
As a kid, Sims fished and hunted almost as much as he played golf. His watches almost always got beat up, too. Within a month, whether it was exposure to saltwater or contact with his golf irons, a brand-new watch no longer would be suitable for church or fancy restaurants.
Sims always knew he wanted to make a watch that could withstand the elements.
“It was just a matter of when,” Sims said.
Seven years ago Sims had some friends who were fishing captains and professional anglers test out his watches. The feedback he received was overwhelmingly positive.
“I knew that they would put it through the ringer,” Sims said. “I knew that they would let us know that we had something or didn’t have something. … They said, ‘You’ve really got something here.'”
Two years later Hook + Gaff was officially launched. The debut watch, the Sportfisher, became a big hit in the outdoors space. Sims hopes the Hook + Gaff Golf Watch, which released this year, follows suit.
Starting at $575, the Golf Watch comes with a white or blue minimalist dial. There are several strap options, too, including leather and dive styles.
But it’s one thing to look good. Sims says these watches can withstand just about anything on the course thanks to a durable, lightweight titanium casing that is resistant to corrosion and heat, and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal dial cover.
So instead of golfers taking off a watch and stuffing it in their golf bags during a round, they can just leave it on and not worry about damaging it. The watch won’t get in the way for right-handed golfers, either, as it features a left-side crown.
“It’s extremely functional for actually playing in,” Sims said. “If you were to play golf in a watch, this would be the one you’d want to wear.”
Sims already has secured a partnership with the South Carolina Golf Association, which has made Hook + Gaff its official timekeeper. The RBC Heritage at Harbour Town will also give out special-edition Hook + Gaff Golf Watches to its pro-am participants next season to celebrate its 50-year anniversary. The Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., has a members-only Hook + Gaff watch with its logo on the dial.
Sims has been pleased with the growth of what started as a side gig.
“We’ve had five – and really seven – years to come up with something that’s really durable and functional, and not only that, but it’s attractive in its design,” Sims said. “It’s going to look as new five years from now as the day you put it on.”