Shinola And The Perfect Enemy Of The Good

Talk about the best-laid plans of mice and men. Brother Bark, Danger Girl, Bozi, and I stepped out of the main hall at Cobo to find some lunch, escape the noise of the Detroit Auto Show for a moment, and give my left leg a moment’s worth of peace. When it’s cold outside, the titanium screws in my tibia contract at a different rate from the bone in which they’re set. Putting weight on the leg turns up the volume on that annoyance. I used to have a lot more metal in my body than I have now — when I was nineteen I had my right femur pin removed a bit early so I could try my hand at a Superclass BMX “career” — but I’m not quite as insensitive to pain as I used to be, either.

As I limped by the Shinola booth set up in the hallway, Bark and DG decided they needed to take a look at what the company had to offer. Forty-five minutes later, we had four watches for three people. (Bozi was out smoking a cigarette the whole time.)

My new Shinola 47mm Runwell Contrast Chrono is the most Chinese watch I’ve owned in a very long time. There’s a lot of agitation in the watch-fanatics community about Shinola, and the two most frequent criticisms have to do with the very high price (for a quartz fashion watch) and Shinola’s claim that this assemblage of Chinese case, Swiss movement, and Floridian strap is “Built In Detroit”.

To the first complaint, I have no answer other than to say a $750 Shinola with a $15 Ronda quartz movement is a much lesser sin than a $25,000 Hublot with an $150 ETA 2924. To the second, however, I have a detailed and heartfelt answer that, in my not-so-humble-opinion at least, has implications that extend far beyond the realm of hobby watches into everything from politics to morality.


The case against Shinola, which has been laid out in styles ranging from elegant to merely aggressive, boils down to the following:

  • Shinola is not a plucky starup; it’s the side project of a “near-billionaire”.
  • The original Shinola brand had nothing to do with watches, extension cords, journals, or luggage.
  • Shinola is a watch assembler, not a watch manufacturer.
  • Most of the value in a Shinola watch is added overseas.
  • Most of the parts on Shinola bikes are Asian.
  • Although many parts of Shinola products are American-made, very few are actually created in Detroit.
  • The whole thing is basically an exercise in “bougie crap” and cultural appropriation in which a Texas venture-capital corporation trades on the image of hard-working Detroit people of color.
  • Shinola is profoundly inauthentic.

I put the last bit in italics because it sums up the rest. Shinola’s critics would have you believe that the company is selling overseas junk that has been “black-washed” by associating it with the ruin-porn hardscrabble appeal of Detroit. This is overstating the case and tilting at straw windmills all at once. True, Shinola was born when its founders realized that the “made in Detroit” label was actually more attractive to customers than a “made in the USA” label. But where is the harm in that? Furthermore, the relative pragmatism of Shinola’s founding has been long since overshadowed by the rather extraordinary commitment of its founder; he has put over $100m of his own money into Shinola, which currently operates at a loss.

In a perfect world, Shinola would have sprung from the ground as a fully-formed, 100%-USA-content watchmaking facility. But to do that would have required far more than the $220m investment used to launch the company. There is no such thing as an American-made watch movement and there has not been one since Hamilton gave up on Stateside production decades ago. Not even the “USA” movement in the new Weiss is fully American — the hairspring and jewels are still Swiss, while the movement itself is basically a publc-domain copy of a Swiss ETA workhorse.

Like it or not, pretty much every new watchmaker to arrive in the past hundred years ago has relied on external suppliers. This includes Rolex; the first Rolexes were assembled from existing parts, and many of history’s most famous/valuable Rolexes use an ETA or Zenith movement. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to criticize Shinola for using Swiss movements in the first few years of its operation.

The use of Chinese cases and components is less admirable, but Shinola had to start somewhere and at least the parts involved are of more than acceptable quality. In the past year, the company has opened an in-house facility to make dials for its watches. Presumably, the cases will be next, as Shinola has repeatedly stated its intent to increase locally-sourced content wherever possible.

As fate would have it, yesterday I also attended Honda’s press conference where they celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the decision to build cars in the United States. Those early “USA-made” Accords were little more than knock-down kits. By 1995 or so, many of the major systems in the Accord and Civic were made in the United States. Today, more than ninety percent of Hondas sold in this country are made here and the average domestic content of those cars is well about seventy-five percent. The only major component that Honda doesn’t make here: manual transmissions, which to my personal sorrow are on their way to irrelevance anyway.

But none of the above will be any surprise to my readers (and there are a lot of you) with experience in production and product logistics. America lost its manufacturing in slow, gradual steps. Shinola is trying to reverse that at high speed. Part of that, somewhat ironically, involves hiring specialists from Switzerland and Taiwan to teach American workers how to assemble movements and make dials, the same way that Americans used to teach people in the “Third World” how to run a farm or build a factory.

We will have to go slowly. Last week, in a book review, I mentioned the Bhagavad-Gita: A man must go forward from where he stands. He cannot jump to the absolute; he must evolve to it. This is true for little things like weight loss and learning a foreign language, and it’s true for big scary things like mass manufacturing.

The problem, if there is one, is that much of modern society is highly acquainted with instant desire gratification, whether it comes in the form of “sign and drive” financing or Amazon Prime delivery or matching on Tinder. We stand on the shoulders of giants and interface with the world through abstractions. The least among us have become Eloi who depend on the unseen Morlocks. You press the gas pedal on your car and you trust that a computer will prevent the engine from stalling and a computer will keep the wheels from skidding and yet another computer will tell you where to make the next left turn. You order an absurdly cheap Lightning Deal on Amazon and you don’t think about the dismal factory where it was made or the concentrated hell of the distribution center where the workers don’t have time to use the bathroom or the UPS driver who has been working overtime for a year now.

I suspect that the future is going to strip us of these misapprehensions one painful bit at a time. We will all become more conscious of resources as they dwindle. Currencies will equalize, water will seek a common level. Your labor will be worth less; goods made elsewhere will cost more. The process by which capital has crushed labor, a process that began in Ned Ludd’s day but which will reach its apex with the autonomous restaurant and the expert-system lawyer program, must eventually reduce most of us to the status of bystanders.

In the meantime, however, most of us are still floating in a dreamland. And part of that dreamland involves ignoring the advice of the Gita. We are more than willing to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. This mindset is not the opposite of chabuduo; it’s a fellow-traveler that keeps you from doing anything because it’s not up to impossibly high standards. That mindset criticizes Shinola for not providing a $600 watch that is made from start to finish in the United States. It assumes the following choice:

  • A $600 watch made entirely in the USA;
  • A $600 Shinola that is not.

The problem is that the $600 American watch doesn’t exist. The real choices are:

  • A $600 Swiss fashion watch that most likely includes a bunch of Asian components;
  • A $600 Asian fashion watch;
  • A $600 Shinola made by a company that employs hundreds of Americans, many of whom are learning skills that were long lost to people in this country.

Looked at it that way, the choice is obvious. For me, at least. I’m proud to wear my Shinola and to support the Americans who were involved in its design, manufacture, assembly, marketing, and retailing. If another company beats Shinola to the goal of a 100% American fashion watch, I’ll shop with them instead. Until then, I’ll heed Lord Krishna’s advice; I’ll work on evolving to the absolute. One day at a time, one hour, one minute, one second, marked by the Argonite-5030 movement, built in Detroit*.

* of Swiss components

82 Replies to “Shinola And The Perfect Enemy Of The Good”

    • George Booth

      I have an – empty – can of Shinola shoe polish from the 1950’s. Picked it up at an antique store since my father always used to say that so-and-so didn’t “know shit from Shinola”. So now I do.

  1. Mike

    America didn’t lose its manufacturing. It’s lost its labor intensive manufacturing, for sure, but there’s a lot of highly automated manufacturing still being done here. The real value of American manufacturing has increased by 50% since NAFTA came into being, for example. It just the kind of manufacturing that doesn’t employ as many American workers (i.e. the manufacturing is actually more productive).

  2. rpm1200

    I’m seeing a really weird effect when reading this post in Feedly. Every time italics start, there is an irrelevant Spam link to “iacircle.com” including an SEO phrase before the italics. Example:
    “Shinola is a watch price autodesk autocad lt assembler, not a watch manufacturer.”

    On jackbaruth.com directly, this is not happening, the post looks fine. Is it in your RSS feed or is there an issue with Feedly itself? Never seen this happen before.

  3. Bigtruckseriesreview

    I’ve lived in China for over 2 years while attending Fu Dan University for Mandarin and Business classes.

    America’s factory labor being outsourced has literally decimated this country and led to rising crime, reduction of our middle class and a substitute for PRISONS over factories for areas that have nothing else to “create jobs”.

    The reality is that even LOW-END manufacturing creates opportunities in middle and upper management – not to mention stores and businesses catering to those factory jobs – as well as housing and wealth building in that area.

    I demand a government (and president) that looks out for AMERICANS FIRST. Call him a White nationalist, call him a racist. Call me a Black nationalist. I don’t care.

    As for my watches:

    Citizen EcoDrive Skyhawk AT
    Citizen EcoDrive Black Eagle AT
    Omega Speedmaster Pro
    Brietling Emergency
    AppleWatch

    • jz78817

      view my reply to you through these lenses:

      – I usually agree with Jack
      – I sometimes disagree with him
      – on occasion he says something which makes me raegquit and flip a table

      but for the most part, I respect that he takes a pragmatic approach to things. e.g. his point here where a $600 watch employing some Americans is better for us than a $600 watch built in a Suzhou sweatshop.

      You, on the other hand, seem to relentlessly want simple solutions to complex problems. Yes, the decline in American industry from the ’70s through the ’90s was the backdrop of urban decay. But it was hardly the only (or even the most significant factor.) One of Detroit’s biggest turning points (and I say this as someone who was born and lived in the city, still lives close by, and most of my time spent in the city nowadays is not in the Dan Gilbert/Mike Ilitch downtown oasis) was the 1967 riots. The popular suburban narrative is that people were rioting because the (then mostly white) Detroit Police raided a blind pig. There was a lot more to it than that:

      http://www.freep.com/longform/news/local/michigan/detroit/2016/12/29/detroit-riot-william-scott-race/95675688/

      besides, it’s not like 1967 was the first, there was a previous one in 1943.

      and, consider the name of the facility where Jack and his cohorts bought their watches. Cobo Center. Named after Mayor Albert E. Cobo, who ordered the razings of black neighborhoods such as Black Bottom (not named for the color of residents’ skin) to make way for the new Interstate Highway System. and much of those neighborhoods gave way for I-375, which is a one-mile spur connecting I-75 to Jefferson Ave.

      A one fucking mile long “interstate.”

      yeah, so. yeah. defend that. even today, with the marked increase in traffic, I-375 has no reason to exist. And it had no reason to exist back then either.

      • Bigtruckseriesreview

        “You, on the other hand, seem to relentlessly want simple solutions to complex problems.”

        If your solution is complex, then you must be trying to appease some special interest somewhere.

        As long as Americans come first – everyone else takes a backseat. I could give a damn. I’m an American.

        I am an American Nationalist.

        I DON’T CARE who has a problem with it.

        China can have our leftovers.

        India can have our leftovers.

        AMERICA COMES FIRST.

        These TRAITORS and foreign interests that have undermined this country are about to be DEALT WITH.

        • Mopar4wd

          “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong ” HL Mencken

          You can usually make some majority or at least plurality happy, but not taking into account the effects on the remaining population can be a grave mistake. It was also the mistake the globalists we are talking about made. They decided that on average, global trade benefited the majority of the world population, which in many ways it does, but they failed to see the effects and subsequent political uprising of the worlds existing middle class. Which is now clearly visible in politics around the world.

          • Disinterested-Observer

            “Quite frankly, I measure the benefit to Americans far more than the detriment to the slums of China or India.

            That’s not my problem”

            Well said. I am not a citizen of the world, I am a citizen of the United States of America.

  4. Arbuckle

    The Watch People do seem to really hate on Shinola. However, “WIS” are also hopeless autists with little power or influence outside of their internet realms.

  5. Athos

    I had a look at their website and even considered getting one once… until I found the locals are making some cool ones with Citizen sourced movements. Check Melbourne watches.

  6. Kevin Jaeger

    I really like the idea of Shinola. Anyone trying to run a business like that employing people in America’s most broken city is doing God’s work. I hope they succeed.

    When I needed a new wallet I intended to get one at their store in Midtown, but I have to say I thought their stuff was overpriced for what it was. Yes, I very much like the idea of a Detroit business adding as much value as possible in Detroit and their leather products are very nice.

    But I got the feeling that what they were really selling was a package of virtue signalling – like organic food to hipsters. I’m not into virtue signalling myself and in any case that specific type of virtue signalling has zero value in my corner of West Quebec.

    I hope the company does well and I hope that one day I can buy their products without some kind of hipster premium on it.

  7. Wulfar

    I gave up on the watch stuff several years ago. Seem it had become overly pretentious instead of about a person wanting a quality product that one could pass on for other generations. Basically waving their privates in the air to proclaim how much they could spend. Still love watches and have my original Heuer Monaco, couple Panerais (including one with a Zenith El Primero and an A series), a couple Anonimos (which I really liked until they collapsed) and some older stuff. Will definitely give Shinola a look and glad to hear someone is bringing a lost art back to America. Even if its one step at a time.

  8. stuntmonkey

    Better this than the incredibly tacky Chase-Durer (Beverly Hills!) “Pilot” watches…. bit to “American” there.

    To digress, for less than $600USD you don’t have to settle for an Asian fashion watch. You can have a proper watch from a reputable watch company:

    the Orient Star Classic.

    Doesn’t even hit the $600USD mark but it’s attainably “authentic” in the way that JDM Seiko and Seiko sub-brands usually are.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      That’s fair. You can also get a decent Oris, Raymond Weil, Baume et Mercier, and a few others at that price level.

      A while ago I paid $209 on Jomadeals for a Victorinox automatic. Sold it almost immediately to a friend who admired it. That was a great watch at a great price.

    • ZG

      I recently picked up an Orient Mako USA II for under $300 and I’m quite pleased with it. Automatic movement, made in Japan and and attractive (IMO) design.

  9. Dirty Dingus McGee

    Working in and around industrial manufacturing facility’s for my entire adult life, there are several stumbling blocks to bringing back a decent manufacturing base here. One is regulation; Even if there isn’t a body of water within a 10 mile radius, a wetlands study has to be done, Then there is an air quality analysis, a study of the impact on infrastructure, and quality of life studies for the surrounding area. This before you can even start the process of building a facility. The second biggest stumbling block is finding quality employees. I attribute that to the elimination of vocational training in high school and a corresponding focus on everyone attending college. Don’t get me wrong, a college degree is useful for people who can and will use the knowledge effectively. However vocational training was the backbone of manufacturing thru the years. There are still plenty of jobs available in manufacturing, there just are no trained people coming along to take those jobs. I know folks in their 70’s who work part time, continually training folks for some of these jobs. The majority don’t stay in these jobs because there is no office and desk involved. Never mind that they could in theory make more in 5 years than a low/mid level supervisor, there isn’t the “prestige” in their job. A third thing is price point/quality. A lot of our work is in the steel industry. Currently, Chinese steel is of a higher quality than domestic steel. Why? Chinese company’s all have state of the art equipment, while U.S. company’s are using 10-30 year old equipment. They don’t have the regulations, or the wages that are paid here, and can therefore offer better product at a lower price.

    Before someone bows up about my comment on the regulations, I like clean air and water just as much as everyone else. However there needs to be some common sense applied to the enforcement of these regulations. The days of a company willfully dumping toxic waste into the air and water are well behind us. It wouldn’t last but a few days before that company was closed down.

    TL;DR, train people for these jobs, ease up on the over regulation of company’s

    • Felis Concolor

      Nothing will red pill a man faster to government bureaucratic and regulatory overreach than going blue collar and trying to run a business for himself.

      I propose a much more effective standard regarding a wetlands study: simply call Ducks Unlimited and check with them if your project is going to affect their livelihood, letting their response be the go/no-go indicator.

      • Mopar4wd

        Regulations are a funny thing. I agree there are to many, but we don’t have a great system in place to roll them back. Also the amount created by business themselves is incredible. Lobbyists for big companies often make the regulations longer in order to add exceptions for themselves and create barriers for entry to markets.
        But even on a smaller scale there are non governmental non profits that create rules for themselves that are constantly added. In the auto world for example there in SAE, in the home world there is NFPA these are distributed as industry created guidelines but the are often incorporated in to local and federal rules once created. The members of these organizations include reps from many of the companies that will find themselves regulated.
        Then for small business you have NIMBY people which based on my experience here in CT have driven zoning and wetlands more then any environmental agency ever could.

        We have met the enemy and it is ourselves.

    • One Leg at a Time

      I work in Consumer Packaged Goods, and I visit between 10 and 20 facilities per year. I completely agree on two of three points.

      Over-regulation is a bane on industry in any form. Interestingly enough – that is one area where federal agencies seem to defer to those of the states. The (obvious) effect is that we are seeing an exodus from heavily regulated states, to those with a more “manufacturing-friendly” regulatory environment.

      You could not be more right about workers, and technical aptitude. Even in manufacturing-rich areas, parents still want their kids to go to college. (It not only “provides and education” but it allows for junior or junioress to defer adulthood for another four years.) The downside is that there are a limited number of jobs that require non-technical degrees. There are more that will accept a non-technical degree (read BA/BFA), but the multitude of those jobs are customer facing, service related, in retail (with the associated lack of prestige) or (will eventually) require graduate work.

      I think that means that most ‘smart’ kids (let’s call them the upper two-thirds of the bell curve) are discouraged from spending early adulthood learning a skill/vocation. When Toyota opened their Georgetown, Ky plant, they actually had to partner with the local high schools and community colleges to ensure that graduates would be qualified to work at the plant.

      About 75% of our plants have open maintenance positions that pay well above the local average (even before overtime), but we are unable to find qualified people to fill them. The same applies for open supervisory positions, with the added issue that most college grads (qualified or not) have no interest in manufacturing or working off-shift.

      As far as Chinese goods – I agree on cost (suppliers often have machine components at less than half the price of OEM), but disagree on quality (those same components have a significantly higher failure rate – I have seen breakdowns at 10% of the expected life cycle).

      • Dirty Dingus McGee

        Just for clarification on my Chinese quality point;
        By no means do I think Chinese FINISHED PRODUCTS are superior. As you noted, most are crap that are a waste of landfill space. I was only referring to supplied steel, as I’m quite familiar with that particular industry. Domestically sold steel processing equipment from Chinese manufactures is cheap junk, that if you can get 10 years use out of you have done good. The best processing equipment still comes from the U.S. or Germany. However, a good bit of the steel used in the manufacture of this equipment does, whether the builder knows/is willing to acknowledge, does come from China.

        • Airquotes

          What about specialty knife steels? As far as I know most of the high end steels like S30V come from the US and Japan while the cheap stuff comes from China like 8Cr13MoV.

          • Dirty Dingus McGee

            Ok, further clarification; Specialty steel, and various non ferrous products, are not included as it’s considered a “niche” market for better than half of the product lines. Some are more mainstream than others, but account for less than 20% of the total market. I’m referring only to the sheet, plate and structural markets.

    • jz78817

      Yet another blowhard who thinks “common sense” means “anything that agrees with what I already believe.”

      After all, Feinstein and Schumer just want “common sense” gun control.

      • Dirty Dingus McGee

        If your “common sense” barb was directed at me, I couldn’t give 2 shits what you think. Every post you make here seems to want to denigrate someone else’s viewpoint, if it doesn’t match yours.

        I’ll bet you’re a lot of fun at a party.

  10. Dave L

    Regarding Hublot, I believe you meant ETA 2892 or Sellita SW300. Either way their watches are hideous and while I’m on the topic of LVMH, I hope Biver can rescue Zenith.

    If I’m spending in the $500 range I’m looking at JDM Seikos- the Presage line has some stunners.

    • Yamahog

      JDM seikos +1. You can get one of the gorgeous seiko direct drive watches with a pseudo moon phase complication. It’s amazing how much quality you can get in the $300-$600 range from Seiko.

    • fvfvsix

      I bought my father a SARB065 “cocktail time” for Christmas. Fantastic watch for the price. I’d start there.

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        Keep me posted on how he enjoys it. I came within one click of buying a Cocktail Time when it was on Massdrop.

        • fvfvsix

          To be honest, he’s not much of a watch guy. He’s got a few off-brand quartz pieces and a Casio or two. The gift was part of my strategy to get him accustomed to stuff that wasn’t designed to end up in a landfill within 5 years. I figured that every gentleman needs a watch that looks good with professional attire. The Cocktail time fits the bill nicely. He was very appreciative; but unfortunately, Seiko doesn’t have the cachet that an Apple watch would in his world.

          In full disclosure, I did have the watch shipped to my house from Chino watch… so I couldn’t resist opening the box (in my defense, I did reverse the straps – the long side comes standard at 12:00, which I find weird) and snapping a few photos before I sent it on. It is really nice in the metal, and the dial has a very subtle blue hue to it. The winding action feels pretty similar to the 4R36 in my Seiko monster (nothing special). The one thing I didn’t expect is that the 6R15’s rotor has striping, which is a nice touch at $388. If you are thinking about picking one up, go ahead and do it.

  11. Widgetsltd

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, for the product to be marketed as “made in the USA”, “all or virtually all” of the product must be sourced and assembled in the USA. Interestingly, there appears to be no such requirement for the marketing use of the phrase “built in USA.” Products that are assembled in the USA but have significant imported content are often marketed in this way, rather than with the more wonky phrase “assembled in the USA of US and imported parts.”
    https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/complying-made-usa-standard

  12. ComfortablyNumb

    Shinola is one of the most authentic companies out there. They are a microcosm of Detroit, so the accusations of coat-tailing on Detroit’s image are weak at best.

    Detroit 2.0 started as a marketing exercise. The city never left, but generations of investment bankers and city dwellers never gave it a second look. It wasn’t until recently, when fake nostalgia and “grit” became in vogue, that people really started noticing Detroit again. First it was a curiosity, driven by ruin porn. Then, a new frontier, full of potential. Investment money started pouring in. Twenty-something DINKs started paying ridiculous prices for lofts in rundown warehouses. Restaurants opened. At some point, the growth became (at least partially) organic.

    Same thing for Shinola. First was an appeal to nostalgia, using a brand that was firmly planted in the American vernacular (by virtue of the “shit from Shinola” saying). Add a healthy dose of venture capital, overprice your products just a bit to create some exclusivity, and voilà! Shinola becomes an established brand, paving the way for organic growth and expansion.

    So if someone wants to roast them about putting “made in Detroit” on the box, fine. I don’t prefer Chinese stuff either. But don’t accuse Shinola of being disingenuous. Those watches you bought are genuine Detroit. Thanks for your support.

  13. DeadWeight

    Watches, as an endeavor to be built, over time, in increasing % content, in at least a partial attempt to teach craftsmanship and fabrication skills to young Americans, seems to be an odd choice of a product to center around, and so do bicycles, luggage, etc.

    Why not more advanced, more necessary, price inflexible goods, machinery, robotics, equipment,’etc.?

    I’ll leave it at that.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Everybody’s got to do something. The existence of Shinola does not prevent somebody starting a competitor to Boeing or FANUC or the various container-ship builders.

      • DeadWeight

        We should have far more aggressjve state and federal tax incentives to start high value-added manufacturing (e.g. optics, nanoprocessors, digital 3D printing, high tech composites and metallurgy, viral/bacterial resistant/defeating molecular engineering, green tech to reduce plastic ending up in oceans/landfills, extracting pure water condensate from atmosphere, increasing energy density in batteries, super magnetic energy conversion, energy efficient cleansing/recycling of gray and brown waste water, etc.).

          • DeadWeight

            But Iraq War 2.0: Revenge of the Son & Military-Industrial Complex, will only end up costing between 4 and 7 trillion USD, in strictly financial terms, for U.S. Taxpayers, AND LOOK AT ALL THE GOOD IT DID, WITH FEW CIVILIAN CASUALTIES AND A STABLE, PEACEFUL MENA THAT IS REMINISCENT OF THE NEW MARSHALL PLAN!

            (Obvious /sarc obvious)

        • Yamahog

          Yeah, no kidding. The big city up the river from me has given out like $20 million in loans to help Somalis rapefugees start businesses – to date the only successful one has been a restaurant. They lost about $19.7 million.

          I wonder what $20 million could have done for more ambitious, successful people.

  14. -Nate-Nate

    Good, thoughtful article and most of the comments too .
    .
    Myself I prefer mechanical watches and bought them until no longer available .
    .
    I find $600 for a wristwatch to be absurd, I now wear a $5 Chinese made “Waltham” watch that’s out lasted several $10 replacement bands .
    .
    Quality is a good thing and supporting a local American company is good too but us Blue Collar folks can’t afford to be fashion conscious when the gas bill needs to be paid first .
    .
    $600 buys a lot of food or tools to make money with, parts for that aging shitbox car/truck dripping oil out by the curb etc…
    .
    -Nate

    • everybodyhatesscott

      I have a $200 dollar watch called the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Every time I try and wear a wrist watch, the darn thing drives me crazy.

    • Mopar4wd

      Yeah with median household incomes around 55k most of us are limited to how much purchasing we can do based on ideals. I try but man it gets expensive for certain things.

        • mopar4wd

          I know right, actually my incomes a little higher. But the nationwide household (not individual) median is around 55-59k. I remember back working with my hands and thinking 60k hell with that you could buy anything you want. (note this was not that long ago about 10 years) of course now I’m the sole income for a family of 5 which is part of it.

          • -Nate-Nate

            Dig it ~
            .
            When I was a young man I heard ‘ $35K/year ‘ and thought the very same thing ! =8-) .
            .
            C’est La Vie, non ? .
            .
            -Nate

  15. Yamahog

    It seems to come down to what do you think Shinola is –

    A mechanism (or brand) for an oligarch to separate the proletariat from its money under the auspices of ‘made in America’?

    Or a company that’s trying to do its best and walk the path towards a made in America watch?

    Figure out which one applies more and then figure out your sentiments.

    Though it begs the question – what $600 purchase makes the largest, positive impact on the American economy? It might be a month of a Tesla Model S lease.

    A side note – I wish that America could weaponize its national autism reserves and make something like a Grand Seiko or Carl Zeiss competitor. But alas, our autism seems to be a more trololz variety – it’s just good for getting golden shower fanfiction published by the CIA.

  16. hank chinaski

    Liked.

    Serious question, since my wrists are bare: Is a shmancy watch more likely to get you laid or rolled?

    Unrelated, 2 good pieces from Tacos.

    • fvfvsix

      Unless it’s a Rolex Datejust with a fluted bezel, most everybody (criminals and pretty women alike) are unlikely to notice what’s on your wrist.

      Signed – a guy who would rather wear a Lange Saxonia than a Datejust.

  17. Martin

    I was given a Runwell Shinola watch as a birthday present a few years ago. At the time I was just starting to be interested in watches, and the Built in Detroit aspect really appealed to me. But I didn’t really understand at the time how much of the watch was sourced overseas, and only got a clear picture after wearing the watch for a year or so. It was a little disappointing, but it was really my own fault for not knowing enough to even ask the question. After a while I came to the same conclusion you did, Jack, and stopped worrying about it.

    I still wear my Shinola regularly, and like it quite a bit. I had a good experience with their customer service, too, which goes a long way with me. I probably wouldn’t buy another one from among the current available styles, and my interest has shifted towards JDM Seikos (I’m wearing one on my wrist as I type this). But if they came out with something new, especially with more USA content, I would buy another no question.

  18. Tyler

    To pick up Dingus’s thread… The American workforce has some responsibility here. There are, truly, lots of decent blue and blue-ish jobs to be had that require fairly minimal training and education. But they are not only unglamorous but also often physically located outside major metro regions (not necessarily remote from, just outside of), and they almost all require that applicants show up sober and with a basically non-felonious criminal record. And by and large you’ve just disqualified most of your candidate pool from the git.

    I know, I know, anchor institutions abandoning communities and government criminalizing drug use arg arg arg. Plenty of blame to go around. I’m just saying, it’s hard to expect employers to flourish when the local workforce refuses to work further out than the exurbs or to kick the smack habit.

  19. Mopar4wd

    Many consequences can be Forseen. You just need you eyes open. While we should have an American first policy, going so far as to harm the rest of the world to our benefit would be a poor idea. If we go all in on the idea of shinning beacon on a hill, where we become the monarch of the world there are many advantages but many pitfalls as well. The world is a grey place, if we hold back the rest of the world to our benefit I doubt it will be long before the surfs of the world become angered.

      • jz78817

        Oops this was in response to Big truck. Also yes I used the wrong serfs

        eh, you’d just get a response of randomly capitalized jingoism which wouldn’t have much relevance to what you said anyway.

  20. DirtRoads

    Same shit, different shinola. Or did someone say that already?

    You must get a LOT of clicks, Jack. I can’t imagine walking by a booth and walking away having spent $3000 on four watches on a lark. I don’t care where they were made.

  21. Ronnie Schreiber

    The process by which capital has crushed labor

    “The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit.” – Sam Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor.

  22. DeadWeight

    Watches are vestigial as useful instruments, supplanted by other devices in numerous forms, with very few exceptions.

    Watches as timekeeping devices, used in everyday circumstances, are nearly completely wealth and/or value (virtue?) signalling ornaments.

  23. Airquotes

    I really enjoyed this article. There is actually one completely american made watch movement, from RGM:

    http://www.rgmwatches.com/

    As far as I know the in house movements are an original design and not a copy of an existing swiss movement. I could be wrong though. You definitely pay for it. Prices start at 10k.

    There are also many small micro brands making watches in America and Canada, using Swiss, Japanese, and Chinese movements. Some do case and dial work in country, others contract out to China. I’ve bought a few of these watches and they are great values. For less than $1000 you can get a watch with great finishing and dial work and a swiss movement. MK II is a good example but his prices are higher then many other micros.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      How did I forget RGM? I’ve read a half dozen articles in the watch press about them.

        • -Nate-Nate

          I can see that, notice I only chose that one to wish I had….
          .
          I just can’t see $10K for a wristwatch .
          .
          Remember : I use a watch as a timepiece primarily although I do have my aesthetic likes .
          .
          I’m just envious now is all .
          .
          -Nate

        • Airquotes

          Yup. There is something about enamel dials. One day I’ll get one of the Seiko enamel dials, as that’s about the limit of what I can afford.

        • mopar4wd

          Looking at the custom watches, it’s amazing how restrained they are. Of course if your willing to wait for something in my experience you tend to be a little classier.

  24. Midnight DeSoto

    Thanks for this thoughtful look at a complicated question. I’ve had my Runwell (#0000037) for several years and am well pleased. Groaned a little at the hyper-ceremonious packaging, but I really like the look and the idea. The expansion into bikes didn’t tweak me– Wright brothers say precision manufacturing is precision manufacturing– but the baubles and branded iPhone cases make me wonder a bit who’s zooming whom.
    Wear it with pride. I may not know shit, but I know what time it is!

  25. tresmonos

    Check out Weiss. I am patiently awaiting their ‘cheapest’ go at their USA made ETA knock off movement.

  26. Rod Jones

    Why do you guys even want to wear a watch? IMHO they are obsolete, they are uncomfortable, and they get in the way. These days everybody has a smart phone that keeps time better than any watch made regardless of the price and your phone can do more watch functions too. Maybe guys wear them to impress others by how wealthy they are but to me thats absurd. Im wealthy but I dont like displaying it because Ive always considered anyone who feels the need to try and convince others of how much money they have to be insecure and phony.

    My two cents worth

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      For some people — I’m one of these people — it’s just an expression of the affection we have for machines. And if you’re in a race car, it’s easier to read than an iPhone that shouldn’t be in the car with you anyway.

      For other people, it’s the only acceptable piece of jewelry for a man to wear, so it’s a chance to have something shiny and nice.

      And yeah, there are the folks out there who want to bludgeon you with their wealth. Wearing a Richard Mille or something like that immediately marks you as one of the elect.

  27. -Nate-Nate

    Amazingly Rod ;
    .
    Some of us still wear wrist watches to keep time, we don’t _all_ have a shiny fancy i-thing .
    .
    Besides analog watches are handy to time initial engine breakins, distances traveled on the fly, know aht time it is at a glance etc. .
    .
    Nothing fancy/rich/virtuous about it, just simple .
    .
    -Nate The Simpleton

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