Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|December 8, 2020|11 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Watch It! The Caveman Cometh

Stubborn and determined: two words that make Ghana’s would-be luxury watch king tick-tock as he navigates untrodden territory, in the land of his birth, hoping to secure the wrists of the rich.

To say 31-year-old Anthony Dzamefe is a serious young man is probably a bit of an understatement. Maybe deadly serious when it comes to business and you might almost be there. His bearded, rocky, jaw tells of a man determined to be there this time next year– come COVID or high water – fighting for his business dream in new venture in Ghana. He has pinned his hopes on Caveman luxury watches in the hope that the rising prosperous class will pay hundreds of dollars for a tailored timepiece on their wrist – Caveman? More of that later.

On this day, in a small office in East Legon above a busy street full of hooting traffic in Accra, Dzemefe is on the move. He bobs between his showroom, a wall full of glistening, chunky, watches, to the back room where a small crew armed with screwdrivers and cutters assemble the watches and cut the straps from sheets of leather.

“I want to rub shoulders with the global giants in the watch industry. I know we can get there I have no doubt about, it at all,” says Dzamefe breezily.

There are signs that this confidence is being repaid; every now and again diplomats and the travelling rich drop by to buy a handful so they can take a bit of Ghana with them overseas.

It is a business built on the will of Dzamefe forged in his small home city -Ho, in Volta province, in eastern Ghana population 170,000 – and tempered on the tough streets of Accra – population 2.5 million. He has named one of his brilliant blue watches in honour of his birthplace – Volta Blue.

Growing up in Ho didn’t lend Dzamefe much direction but taught him a bit about making money and the hazards if you don’t.

“My mother was a trader in fashion. My father worked in customs. I never had a clear picture of what I wanted to do, honestly, I never liked watches. I stumbled upon this; my story is a weird one.” he says.

“One thing shaped my life was watching my dad. He was usually happy, when financially stable. Any time my dad had financial problems the mood around the whole house changed for the worse. When he came in everyone dashed into their rooms. I had questions in my mind from that time. One time I went to spend holidays with my uncle in Tema by the sea and saw a very big contrast in moods. My uncle was a judge Justice Senyo Dzamefe. He was quite wealthy and the mood in their house compared better to mine. It was an emotional time for me when I saw him being a friend with his children, whereas my dad was the one we all ran away from. I watched how happy he was with his children – they were happy. When I saw that, I felt that my home should be like that I should not let financial hindrance effect children.”

Working in his mother’s shop helped Dzamefe learn how to sell and meant trips to Accra to buy stock.

I never had a clear picture of what I wanted to do, honestly, I never liked watches. I stumbled upon this; my story is a weird one.

- Anthony Dzamefe

“I would always be at the window of the bus looking at the nice cars and the billboards. I was starting to have dreams,” he recalls.

“I would see people driving the latest BMW cars and wonder how they could afford those cars. I would always watch, wonder and plan how to get there somehow.”

Stubbornness may be Dzamefe’s windscreen, but fighting back from humiliation is surely his petrol.

It all began with a day job at an Accra hotel. He was in marketing a, a fairly comfortable part of the hotel business, until there was a dispute with his boss over his knocking off time.

“Things went downhill. I am really stubborn. All the way from school I was rebellious and stubborn. If rules didn’t make sense to me, I was going to break them…I would always stand tall to my teachers, very strong willed, always challenging the status quo.”

As punishment, his employers put Dzamefe into a uniform and sent him down to the airport in Accra to stand for hours every day to holding a cardboard sign over his head trying to persuade travellers to stay at the hotel he used to do marketing for. It got even worse, there were renovations at the airport and Dzamefe and his fellow cardboard holders were put out on the street.

“I though now we are at the roadside! When I was there, I thought of achieving and proving that I was bigger than that place.”

Then came the taunts of his peers at college and work.

“People would point fingers at me in class, there was ridicule among my peers. Even my peers at my hotel – when I walk in, everyone starts laughing: “Airport man, what are you doing here?”

Dzamefe suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous hotel jobs, until one day a purchase of a watch, as he dressed up for a seminar, changed his life. The watch was $25; too expensive he thought. He found two similar watches for $10 on the internet and sold them for $15 each.

That $10 profit sparked more than three years of selling thousands of watches through car windows in the traffic jams of Accra. He became a roadside watch repair expert and yet none of the watches he sold were made in Ghana; all imported. It made Dzamefe think.

Meanwhile the street selling led to even more teasing and questions from friends and family including his mother, who wanted him to stop and get a job in a bank.

“It was very difficult the challenges were from my mum and peers mostly ridicule because selling in traffic and carparks in people’s offices Many times I would go to someone’s office to sell watches. They would start to advise me saying why don’t you stop this and go and look for a job?”  he says.

“I learned from the streets that the job didn’t have to look white collar to make money. I learned other people were not going to see the bigger picture – the person who carries the vison is the only one who sees the bigger picture.”

Naturally, Dzamefe used this another tank of fuel to drive him on; by 2017, he was making $1700-a-week by selling imported watches, but he wanted desperately to make his own. He found a shop that made the watch bodies and ordered 50 that took four months to make. He then apprenticed himself for two months– for free – to a bootmaker at Accra’s sprawling Kantamanto market in Accra, so he could learn to cut leather for the watch straps.

In 2018, Dzamefe’s dream dawned. He opened his small watch making operation in Accra that today employs 22 people making about 180 watches-a-month turning over $7000 each month. His projection is to reach $10000-a-month in 2021.

Export orders are coming in from the United Kingdom, the United States and China mainly from Ghanaians living abroad. Diplomats and the like also come in a and buy handfuls of watches so they can give away a slice of Ghana on their travels.

“I think there was some sort of sentiment and attachment as this is the first time a Ghanaian watch brand has emerged,” says Dzamefe.

“There is a big global market and I am open to any profitable partnership. I am still in the growing stage.”

And the name Caveman?

“It came from watching Discovery channel where they were finding cave relics and fossils. It was curious how people at that time, with no technology, created things lasted for thousands of years. One of the notables was the Egyptian pyramid people are still debating how they are built. I wanted to create a brand that captured durability and ingenuity.”

And his mother?

“She’s happy now.”