Built in Detroit

In the heart of the Motor City, Shinola is offering a vision of the future that features American-made goods.

The United States has a long history in watchmaking, but the halcyon days when American watch companies were producing timepieces for the masses are long gone.

Shinola–which opened a watchmaking facility in Detroit last year–is poised to change all that. Located in the heart of the city, the company turned 3,000 square feet of raw space into a state-of-the-art factory within the College for Creative Studies in the Argonaut building. This historical structure seems the perfect home, offering both a tangible and symbolic juxtaposition of Detroit's storied past and anticipation of its future.

“We spent a considerable amount of time considering which city to choose, and we did a lot of research and talked to a lot of folks,” explains Heath Carr, principal of the Dallas-based Bedrock Manufacturing, the company that owns the Shinola brand.

With its long legacy of manufacturing, Detroit won out, and the city is now as inextricably tied to the watches as the watches are to it. Every piece that exits the Shinola manufactory is proudly marked “Built in Detroit” on the case back.

“We are focused on a quality product, and we believe ‘built in Detroit' will be a little disruptive in the marketplace,” Carr adds, emphasizing that “disruption” in the right hands can be a catalyst for positive change. Bedrock Manufacturing is a manufacturing and strategic development company with a portfolio of American brands, including Filson, and Jams, in addition to Shinola.

Swiss Partners

In partnership with Ronda AG, the Swiss quartz movement manufacturer, Shinola employs about twenty-five people, most of whom call Detroit their hometown. Swiss watchmakers were brought on site to teach the intricacies of watch and Argonite movement assembly to the staff, and the end result is a palpable team-spirit enthusiasm that seems to transcend the product.

While touring the pristine, lab-like space, one senses that there is a larger mission at work–one of hope for a city whose unemployment rate hovers above ten percent. This bold move by Shinola may indeed start a trend and impact Detroit's future and beyond, making “Made in America” a not-so-rare hallmark of quality and tradition.

A Dream

Master watchmaker Stefan Mihoc, who hails from Romania, says that working for Shinola is a dream come true.

“I feel so fortunate and glad to be part of this project,” he says. “I've spent time in Swiss factories, and our factory matches Swiss standards and specifications with perfect precision.”

Mihoc, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1996, learned the art of watchmaking at his uncle's side in Romania. He worked as a machinist for ten years in the United States before opening his own watch repair shop. And now, with a full cadre of workers and an on-point company to support him, he anticipates the future doing what he loves most.

The Watches

The all-quartz watch collection includes five basic steel-cased designs with bracelet, mesh or Horween leather strap options; they are priced from about $475 to $800.

The debut piece is the limited edition Runwell, which sold out quickly. A chronograph will augment the collection in the fall, says Carr, who foresees the watches–in addition to being sold online–in watch and jewelry stores worldwide. With a 2013 production goal of 45,000 watches, Carr says he hopes to reach an annual production of 500,000 within the next several years.

But Shinola–named for the quirky American shoe polish manufacture popularized during World War II–is about more than watches. The company also offers bikes (also assembled at the Detroit manufactory), journals and other leather products.

The bicycles include an 11-speed Runwell and a three-speed Bixby, and with their price tag of $1,000 to $3,000, they are sure to lure more than a few cyclists with their American-made charm and bright colors.

In the spirit of the company, the leather goods include MacBook envelopes and iPad cases, as well as handbags, coin purses and wallets, all made from leather by Horween, one of America's oldest tanneries. The journals are produced in partnership with Edwards Brothers Malloy, a Michigan-based paper mill.

Shinola's mission is to bring high-quality product manufacturing back to the U. S., and in doing so, invest in its work force. So, when you think about it, a Shinola watch actually serves double duty: it not only looks good on the wrist, it makes you feel good inside.

In Store

Leading Watch Retailer, Tapper's Jewelry, is an exclusive independent establishment in the Detroit area and has a special relationship with Shinola and their American-made product. Mark Tapper of Tapper's Jewelry shares his thoughts on Shinola:

“We are excited to be the exclusive independent dealer of Shinola watches in the metro Detroit area. Detroit has a long history of ingenuity in manufacturing and the addition of a watch brand to that long list of contributions is of great significance to those of us in the jewelry industry. I may have to test drive one of their bikes too, just for fun!”

Source: IW Magazine

Posted on 6/18/2013

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