One of the key decisions for professional sportsmen nearing the end of their career is the direction they should take after they hang up their boots. It can seriously imbalance you, if you reach the end of your playing days and suddenly find yourself missing purpose and identity away from the game. For many, however, they begin to shape their own destinies as early as they can, often when injured or on downtime. Take Ollie Goss for example. Struck down with numerous injuries whilst playing rugby union for Yorkshire Carnegie, he’s not rested on his laurels. Instead, he’s turning one of his biggest passions into a potential avenue of work post-pitch-career; as a wristwatch salesman.
“I’ve just kicked it off really,” he says, enthusiasm burning in his voice. “It’s been a bit of a hobby for me really. I love watches, my dad got me into them. I had a few meetings down in London, saw a couple of guys, sent a few emails and just chatted with people who were interested. Being twenty-eight and having gone through so many different injuries – ankle, knee, shoulder, the whole business – you realise it’s not going to last forever. So I’ve started to put stuff in place, started to think ahead. And it’s more than being a way of earning a living, it’s a way for me to learn the lessons in life that I’ll need when I retire from playing. With something I’m this passionate about, I felt it would supersede the experience I would gain from a normal business degree. It would give me the skills – marketing, social media, tax – that perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise sunk in on a standard course where I was disinterested.”
Ollie still has plenty of fuel in the tank left before he takes up his new pleasure on a full-time basis. Yorkshire Carnegie wound up in a promotion dogfight during the 2015-16 season, with hopes that they can find themselves going one step further next year and securing a return to the Aviva Premiership. However, he’s clearly ardent in his love for watches as he discusses the intricacies and heritage of various models and brands; it wouldn’t be a stretch to term him a connoisseur, as such.
“In Swiss watches, you’ve got a lot of different offshoots, and the legacies they leave are what makes them appeal to the connoisseur. For every individual, it’s a case of having a sit down and seeing what sort of things they like, what brands they know of, the strap choice. A lot of it is about aesthetics; you need to find the general style you like, and eventually you’ll be left with five or six choices. The brand and image of a watch says a lot about you as a person. To others, it could just be a silver watch; to me, I could recognise it as a six-figure purchase, or something that little bit rarer.”
He gesticulates to his own. “For me, another key element is the timing of the purchase. This is a late seventies model, which my dad bought when he became commissioned in the army. He later passed it on to his dad, and I inherited it when he passed away. There’s an important sentimentality behind it; it’s the watch my grandfather wore when I was born, and it’s the watch I will wear in eight weeks when my child is born.” He pauses to glance at it again, hooked on a leather strap around his wrist. “You can’t inherit an engagement ring but you can inherit something like this and the legacy that comes with it. They’re the sort of things that you never lose. It commemorates moments.”
His stints on the sidelines – Ollie only played nine of thirty-five games last season – has allowed him to hone his skills, and he says that he truly feels comfortable as a watch specialist. To test him, I asked him to match a watch to me on a handful of details, and he was able to reel off five or six different options within a minute, complete with specifications. It’s an impressive skillset that I admire and one that will stand him in good stead for when he eventually hangs up his boots.
“If you come to me and you tell me the makes you like, the budget you have and the aesthetics you desire, I’m able to immediately pinpoint a handful of options, including alternatives, just from that,” he explains when describing his methods. “There’s only a finite number of differences; and then there’s the additional gravitas of the name. You can pay a hell of a lot of money for something purely because of its brand. That’s not to say you shouldn’t; they are recognisable and respected brands for a reason, and that reason is generally craftsmanship. But there are some really interesting independent watchmakers that are out there that should be considered. It’s finding whatever meets the specifications I’m given. It’s not necessarily about the business; in buying a watch, it’s about the connections, it’s about being able to shake someone’s hand and know that you can trust them intimately.”
The fire within Ollie is testament to his spirit and determination. His drive to forge a new career path in his future portrays a man confident and proud of his own abilities, one who has channelled his doubts into new ventures and been able to create something from it. He is a good man; and with time, he might even be a greater salesperson.