From a young age, George Shalhub took an interest in watches, intrigued by their unique mechanics. Now at 25, he has built Avant Garde, a company specializing in high-end luxury products from watches to sunglasses to jewelry. He commutes between Miami and Berlin, where the business is based.
The three-year-old company has made more than $8 million in revenue over the past 3 years and acclaims notable clients such as Grammy-winning reggaeton artist Faruko, Grammy nominee rapper DaBaby and “Shark Tank” star investor Kevin O’Leary.
“One of my memorable client experiences would be when I met professional French soccer player Paul Labile Pogba at his home in Turin Italy and we had dinner together,” Shalhub stated.
Shalhub meets with clients to personalize their experience by meeting with them during large orders. While doing business with Pogba, he watched the French club Juventus play along with the footballer and his childhood friends.
“I’ve always been a mechanics guy,” Shalhub said. “Mechanical watches have a lot of parts to them almost like a small engine.”
“I’ve always been into business because my dad is an entrepreneur,” Shalhub explained. “He came to the United States when he was 16 from Lebanon with only $40 and by the time he was 24, he owned two gas stations and started a car parts company.”
Shalhub was born and raised in Key Biscayne. As a child, his father gave him an old mechanical watch. This sparked his imagination.
“This watch from the ‘80’s worked perfectly after just shaking it,” he exclaimed. “And I can just put it on my wrist and it works.”
He explained that the concept of having a device that works timelessly, especially today, when digital products constantly need upgrades, made him fall into the rabbit hole of watches and their mechanics.
Shalhub studied finance and economics while attending the University of Miami. He continued his hobby throughout his college career by buying and selling watches.
“I wasn’t thinking of making it a business,” he stated.
During the pandemic, people were concerned with inflation. Shalhub noticed that watch-making companies were outperforming the S&P 500.
“At the time watches were exploding and doing triple of what the stock market was doing, so people started asking me what to buy,” he said.
As he was giving people advice, he became well known.
“Watch enthusiasts and collectors started reaching out to me.”
By senior year, he had begun to develop his business, Avant Garde, and put forth more emphasis on his work once he graduated in 2021.
The focus was the buying and selling of watches, having them serviced, refurbished then sold to clients. The company became an authorized dealer, with brands such as Jacob & Co, and Montblanc. Some popular brands the company carries are Rolex, Avanti and Patek Philippe.
As the brand grew, it transitioned into Germany due to 90 percent of the clientele being European. Shalhub created the business module to be more remote.
Purchases can be made on the Avant Garde website, and more information can be found on their Instagram. An office lounge is located in Germany where private meetings are available.
Into the second year of the company, Shalhub began to collaborate with his now partner, Carla Pfluger, who brought her jewelry design ideas to the company. Giving clients the opportunity to access unique and custom pieces, she has brought in more female clientele, bringing up women’s sales from 10 percent to 40 percent.
Highly engineered sunglasses were added in by Shalhub nine months ago, with a revenue of a quarter million dollars. The lenses are indestructible yet lightweight, mainly made from titanium. 80 percent of their turnover has been bespoke orders, making it unparalleled to the customer.
The jewelry and sunglasses are 100% German-made inhouse by skilled artisans, including all parts. Only precious materials and stones are used to create the products.
The concept behind the jewelry and sunglass lines is inspired by different cities around the world. Currently, they are advertising their European collection.
The prices for the items vary but the average cost per watch is $30,000, jewelry sales average between $11,500 to $12,000 and sunglasses average at $800.
Shalhub sees the future of the company being more of its own brand.
“I think eventually we’ll make our own watch line, and also get more into consulting,” he stated.
Avant Garde is also a consultant, the company is currently contracted by Amazon Germany to better compete and further expand their marketing.