Shinola Watches of Detroit | Profile

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Who Are They?

Shinola was an historic brand of shoe polish immortalized in a slang term popularized during World War II. The brand name was purchased by VC firm from Texas in 2011 to begin manufacturing a range of products, including wristwatches, in the United States. Their watchmaking factory is located in the Alfred A. Taubman Building in Detroit, Michigan.

Why do they exist?

The driving purpose of the brand is to bring manufacturing back to America. After years of outsourcing and the loss of manual jobs, Shinola was an opportunity to show that highly-skilled American labor could produce quality goods at the right price. Their Detroit headquarters are an obvious choice as a center of historic American production as well as the perfect location to bring opportunity to a community that has suffered in the recent economic depression.

What do they make?

Shinola actually produces a variety of American made goods including wallets, bicycles and leather-bound journals. But, their watches have been what caught people’s attention; there has been no mainstream manufacturer of watches in the USA since the Second World War and aside from some niche operators, all ‘American’ watch brands are owned and operated by global (i.e. Swiss) companies.

Offering several different models – The Runwell, The Runwell Chrono and The Brakeman for men, as well as The Birdy and The Gomelsky for women, each watch will set you back anywhere between $500 and $900. All their watch straps are manufactured in Florida by Hadley-Roma, a company with over a century in experience in handmade strap-making.

Shinola do currently import their watch-cases and movements from Switzerland (from manufacturer Ronda) so whether you consider their watches ‘American-made’ is up for debate, but what is beyond question is the prestige and quality they’ve added to American manufacturing by a training a whole new generation of watchmakers.

What do people say?

“…now there’s Shinola, a fine, handmade watch company that set up shop in the city limits with the purpose of, well, selling fine, handmade watches. Oh! And bringing back the pride of manufacturing. And doing it in Detroit, where we drew the blueprints of American manufacturing.” – Forbes.com

“There isn’t anything scrappy about Shinola, but you couldn’t possibly know from walking into its impressively spacious storefront that the building was purchased by Bedrock for $14.5 million in 2011.” – NYTimes.com

About the Author:

Joe wrote about luxury asset trends for Borro Private Finance.