Fans of the limited edition collaboration between Dutch watch brand TW Steel and Musclemania Pro bodybuilder Simeon Panda have one woman to thank for this team-up: the wife of Jordy Cobelens, TW Steel CEO. “My wife was at a fitness expo and they started to talk about TW Steel. Simeon was very excited about the brand and said he would love to see what we can do. That’s where it all started,” Cobelens reveals.
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What followed from that fateful encounter was a long meeting between the man who was named one of Forbes’s Top Ten Fitness Influencers and the principals behind the Netherlands-based watch brand, which has made a name for itself by producing big, brawny timepieces that are not for the faint of heart.
They soon learned they had a number of things in common: a passion for pushing limits in business and entrepreneurship, an unapologetic goal-getting attitude, and the drive not to waste a single second of each day. “I was a wearer of TW Steel, for sure,” Panda says. “I check the time frequently; I’m one hundred percent time-conscious. I have to plan my day and make sure everything gets done, and still, I wish I had more time. Time is very important to me.”
Simeon Panda is a man who lives what he preaches. Slightly jetlagged on the afternoon of this interview after flying in from Germany, he still managed to squeeze in a 45-minute workout beforehand—an abridged version compared to his usual daily gym sessions which last between an hour to an hour and a half. But just because it was quick (by his standards, at least), doesn’t mean it was easy: “Today we have a tight schedule, so it can be done in a short amount of time. When I’m traveling I might not train for as long so I can condense it, but it might be a bit more intense.”
True to form, Panda’s collaboration with TW Steel has been dubbed “Crunch Time,” an echo of his personal get-up-and-go life philosophy. “Crunch Time basically says it’s time to work, whether that’s in the gym or with your career or whatever you’re doing. Getting your head down and getting to work—that’s what we’re trying to push. Progress is something that I enjoy, and that lends itself to the gym, to business. I just want to progress and do better, learn more, and excel in whatever I’m doing.”
Though the line officially made its debut just last October, one of the watches in the seven-piece collection is completely sold out (each model has a production run of just 1,000 pieces each). The dial’s distinctive black and white colorways are a nod to the beloved bears that share Panda’s last name. But asked for his favorite, and he points to the all-black TS13 model on his wrist—a last-minute addition he insisted on including. “Pretty much all the designs were done, but Simeon sent me a message saying, ‘Listen, I want to have an all-black version,'” Cobelens relates. “We threw that in there as well, and it turned out to be really great.”
Big and bold
These days, mechanical timepieces are facing stiff competition from the growing market reach of the smart watch category, many of which boast digitally enabled features such as sleep and stress tracking, heart rate monitors, and activity sensors in a bid to capture the fitness-conscious and wellness-minded. Panda, however, deliberately chose to veer away from that and create a more traditional watch instead, in keeping with his own fondness for chunky, eye-catching mechanical timepieces. “It’s a strong, bold design. The dial needed to be big, but not too big—big enough that it was bold and solid and made a statement,” he says. “With TW Steel, there’s a huge collection of watches. No one has to be limited to just one watch. I love the mechanical side of watches, so this chronograph… I’m drawn to that.”
But can a TW Steel Crunch Time watch stand up to a punishing, heart-pumping session at the gym? Panda says the answer is yes, and he has put them to the test. “They needed to be robust and they needed to be durable, because I wear the watches when I train. It’s shatter-proof, it needed to be strong, and it needed to have that in the design—it needed to look strong,” says the man who founded his own fitness empire that includes training programs as well as Just Lift and SP Aesthetics Sportswear, a line of gear for people who are serious about weight training, power lifting, and working toward their fitness goals. “When you’re in the gym, you’re going to be around metal, and I’ve knocked it on metal and it’s withstood the test.”
If it can survive a bump from this guy, you know it’s hardcore.
TW Steel boutiques are located at Alabang Town Center, Century Mall, SM Clark, SM Makati, SM Megamall, and SM Seaside Cebu. Also available at Chronos boutiques in Shangri-La Plaza and SM North Edsa. Log on to twsteel.com or follow @twsteel on Instagram.