Shinola Watches & Factory Tour Detroit

Shinola Watches – Made in Detroit?

With over $18 billion in debt, an area of 140 square miles, and empty skyscrapers and decaying houses all over the city, Detroit has earned the nickname “America’s Warzone”. One company claims to bring manufacturing back to a plagued motor city.

This company is Shinola. Not too long ago, the Gentleman’s Gazette Team (Sven Raphael Schneider & J.A. Shapira) were invited to visit the watch factory, and we accepted.

When we stepped off the plane in Detroit, it became painfully obvious that this wasn’t exactly a tourist attraction. Rundown buildings, homeless people on many street corners and most of the once-funky boutique shops are nothing more than an empty building with the occasional mannequin head collecting dust on the floor.

We checked into our hotel, the Westin Book Cadillac, and it became evident that if Shinola has done anything right, it’s their marketing. With a room view that overlooked the river, all you had to do was look down to see a massive Shinola advertisement branded on the side of another building. The hotel lobby had Shinola bikes and a few leather goods, and you can find their public watches all over the city of Detroit. GG reader, Jeremy, gave us a fantastic city tour on Sunday, that showed us the beautiful architecture of Downtown Detroit, as well as the river promenade. He took us the to Detroit Institute of Arts, and showed us the city Grosse Pointe, which has huge mansions and is so very different from Detroit itself.

Shinola, despite being a young company, has grown leaps and bounds. With flagship stores in Minneapolis, Detroit and New York, Shinola watches are also sold at merchants such as Barneys New York, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Mr. Porter. That’s in addition to another forty independent watch dealers.

Shinola has always advertised themselves as “Where America is Made” and “Built in Detroit”, but we knew that they shipped most of their parts in from overseas, so now it was time for us to find out how much of that marketing slogan was really true.

Who is Shinola?

Originally, Shinola used to be a brand for shoe polish, which was founded in 1907, and based out of New Jersey. In 2001, the rights to the name Shinola was acquired by Tom Kartsotis, the founder of Fossil watches, where he served as a CEO from 1984 to 2000. During that time, he grew a company that started out making cheap fashion watches in Hong Kong, to a $6.3 billion watch business with global recognition. Today, Fossil is managed by Tom’s brother

Owned by Ronda & Bedrock

In 2003, Kartsotis founded the Bedrock Manufacturing Company, LLC, a Dallas based venture capital firm that focuses on entertainment, digital, and consumer products. Today, Shinola is owned by the Swiss Ronda AG and Bedrock, who has filed for trademark rights over the Shinola name for a range of items such as shoe polish, watches, cosmetics, handheld electronic devices, jewelry, leather goods, clothing, toys but also sporting equipment. This might be a good indicator to see where Shinola is headed. In addition, Bedrock acquired Filson a few years ago, bought controlling stakes in Original Jams and Mollusk Surf Shop (both are surf brands), and made minority investments in accessories maker, Clare Vivier, and designer label, Marissa Webb. In 2011, they also acquired a minority stake in the retailer Steven Alan.

Interestingly, despite all these major involvements, it seems to fly under the radar. For example, the website www.bedrock.com simply has a login form and apart from a linkedin profile there seems to be hardly any realiable information that one can find.

The other part owner, Ronda AG, is a swiss company specialized in Quartz watches that also provides parts for the watch movements of Shinola watches, and movements for certain Fossil watches.

So why Detroit?

Capitalizing on a downed economy or helping to revive a once bustling metropolis, it’s tough to decide where Shinola privately stands on this. There is no doubt that they’ve helped Detroit and are giving people jobs, but was that really the initial thought? When Shinola bought the shoe polish brand rights in 2001, they put out a survey asking people how much money they would spend on a pen made in China, US and Detroit. Take a wild guess which had the highest return.

The Company & Jobs

Located in the  former Argonaut Building, home to the College for Creative Studies, Shinola created a 30,000 square foot floor for offices and manufacturing facilities for watches and leather goods. Currently, Shinola employs a total of 309 people, 84 of which are in watch manufacturing and 50 in leather manufacturing with 10 more in warehouse distribution. The other 165 people are split up into design, sales, IT and, most importantly, marketing. Every successful company needs good marketing, and so it doesn’t surprise that less than half of the people are actually in manufacturing. At the end of the day, their motives don’t matter. What really counts is what they do, and they undeniably creates jobs in Detroit – it seems like they provide more marketing and sales jobs than manufacturing jobs, but jobs nonetheless.

How much Detroit is in a Shinola Watch?

The majority of Shinola revenue is generated by watches with bikes and leather goods playing just a minor role. Considering Shinola is often associated with “Made in Detroit,” it deserves mentioning that we have not seen a single piece of advertising or marketing material that claims exactly that. Instead, you see words like built in or assembled in and while this may sound like it’s all the same to a layman, legally it is not.

First of all, Shinola is not a watchmaker in the traditional sense where one watchmaker creates a watch from start to finish. Much rather, Shinola watches are assembled in an assembly line, and at this point, Shinola only employs two actual watchmakers. So every watch model is different and it has different parts. For example take a look at these two watches:

  • Runwell with 1069: Each movement is made of 40 pieces from Switzerland assembled in Detroit, then 21 extra pieces (including the casing and glass from China) to make the watch.
  • Runwell Chrono Sport with 5050.B: Each movement is made of 103 Swiss pieces, which are assembled in Detroit and another 21 extra pieces (including the casing and glass from China) to make the watch.

In 2014, Shinola claims to make about 150,000 to 170,000 watches. So if 84 watch assemblers work 50 weeks a year for 40 hours and you make between 150,000 – 170,000 watches a year, it takes on average  59.3 – 67.2 minutes about per watch to assemble it. Now that’s very efficient, isn’t it?

Now, salaries for Shinola watch assemblers start off at $11, which is above the minimum wage, and it grows from there to $11.50 after about 45 days, and once hired directly by Shinola, the rate goes to $12, with employees being eligible for medical, dental, vision, short-time, long-term disability, life insurance and 401k.  That means, on average every Shinola watch has about has about $13.44  of manufacturing cost in it. If you add the same amount for the leather strap and double that to include all benefits, you realize that the manufacturing value of Detroit in a Shinola watch seems to be about $50. Without benefits it’s more like $25.

All these calculations are based on numbers provided to us by Shinola. Overall, the numbers seem rather disillusioning. Of course, you have to add on the cost of material, facility, Marketing, Sales… and the profit margins in the watch sector are traditionally high. Shinola had to lease the building, buy machines and create something new and had to invest a lot of money. On top of that, it creates jobs for all the other related sectors like marketing, sales, and so forth. However, most of the parts come from abroad, so that’s not even supporting the American economy that much. At the same time, bear in mind that the average price of a Shinola Watch is over $500, and goes up to $1200, which is often justified by the fact that it is “built in Detroit”, alluding that you help people in a rough city. And, in fact, you still do help them after all, maybe just not as much as you thought you did.

The Tour

First off, we really enjoyed the tour, and it was impressive. Initially, our biggest hesitations with Shinola were that they were using deceptive marketing practices. One thing I appreciated on the tour was the honesty. One of the quietest factories I’ve ever been in, Shinola employees aren’t allowed to talk to each other, one assembly worker told me. Confirmed with our tour guide Olivier, they do everything in their power to maintain a pristine and clean environment. Talking of course, causes saliva to leave the mouth occasionally, which can be detrimental to the watch. Starting in the watch factory they took us through each of the steps of assembly and some of their quality controls. Each watch is double and triple checked to ensure it works flawlessly and is finally signed off by one of the two watchmakers in the facility.

The equipment is top of the line, most of the testing machines automatic so new employees don’t need to learn how to test by hand. Still, they seem to do quite a bit by hand, building the Lego blocks of the watch until it’s complete.

In fact, it appears to be nothing more than an assembly line, taking the Ronda movement and encasing it. So long as you can tighten a screw and have patience to do a monotonous job each and every day, odds are you can get a job at Shinola. In fact, even their watchmakers aren’t overly exceptional. While the two in-house watchmakers have undergone education in horology, they’re still new to the craft which makes it difficult to push a top drawer product on limited experience. Of course, maybe it’s not their goal to create top drawer products, and they can produce whatever watch they want. Obviously they found a market for it!

The Marketing

In our opinion, the marketing of Shinola was much more impressive than their manufacturing.

Not everything that says Detroit is made / assembled / built in Detroit

First of all, everything is branded as Detroit, even though it may not have anything to do with Detroit. For example, take the leather goods.

At the moment, Shinola only produces 3,000 straps a month in Detroit, that’s 36,000 in 12 months. However, they produce 150,000 – 170,000 watches, which means the vast majority of straps has to be made somewhere else, more specifically from from Hadley-Roma in Largo, Florida. The upper leather comes almost exclusively from Horween in Chicago, the lining from Italy and it is, in fact, Made in the U.S. but not in Detroit, which is part of the reason people are willing to pay more. It’s the same with all other leather goods, because currently only a small number of watch straps are made in Detroit. The other leather goods are only designed at their headquarters but then made at other companies like Filson, which is also part of the Bedrock umbrella.

Shinola’s Defintion of “Built By”

Every Shinola product has a serial number which is either engraved on the product or certified on a metal card that you get with the product. Upon our arrival, we both received a Detroit city map in leather, both of which had a card that stated “Built By” “Eric Scott”. J.A. also received a watch from Shinola, and the card stated “Built By” “Stefan Mihoc”.

To us, it seemed like this product was mostly made by that one person, which is like quality products were made in the past – by one person for one customer. However, it turned out this was way too romantic. The same day, Sven Raphael Schneider spotted the Shinola leather goods in the lobby of the hotel, and the card stated again “Built By” “Eric Scott”. When he asked to meet this ominous Eric Scott who built all of these products, it turned out that Eric Scott is a company from Missouri that produces all these leather goods for Shinola.

It wasn’t very different with the watch. Before, we thought Stefan Mihoc made the watch but after our visit we know that watches are assembled in an assembly line by people who earn $12 an hour. We were told that Stefan Mihoc is, in fact, one of the two watchmakers at Shinola but we didn’t meet him because he was out that day. In any case, every of those 150,000 Shinola watches this year will have a card that says “Built By” “Stefan Mihoc”, which we find rather deceptive.

Casings come engraved with serial number and built in Detroit Logo right from China

Casings come engraved with serial number and built in Detroit Logo right from China

Made in the U.S.A

While their bread and butter is certainly their watches, they also about 1,000 bicycles a year with price tags from $1,950 and up . At first glance, everything looks nice, according to Alex Stchekine the frame is made by a Schwinn family member in the U.S and that’s what you see in the video below. Obviously, that is fantastic! But upon closer inspection Sven Raphael Schneider realized that a lot of parts like brakes, shifter, leather saddle, bell, and so forth, were all Asian. When we spoke with a Alex Stchekine in Detroit, he told us that all bikes are assembled in Detroit but he flat out admitted that “only the frame, fork and spokes come from America”, with every other major part coming from “Taiwan, Asia  and India”. Even the leather saddle isn’t made by Shinola. On the Shinola fact sheet on their website, you can find a paragraph about origin of components. For Bicycles it looks like the following:

Frame and fork manufacturing—Wisconsin, USA

Complete bike assembly—Michigan, USA

Wheelbuilding—California, USA

Frame tubing—Mississippi, USA

Rear dropouts—Michigan, USA

Headbadge—Rhode Island, USA

Chainstay plate—Wisconsin, USA

Spokes and nipples—Colorado, USA

Decals—North Carolina, USA

Other small parts—Asia and Europe

As a consumer, it seems like the majority of the components are made in the U.S., but if you take a second look, you realize that Decals (the Shinola font in the frame) is listed as made in the USA, while tires, brakes shifters, rims… are all just listed as “Other small parts” in one line. If you count the parts, there are more foreign parts in this bike than American ones, but that’s not something mentioned in the video. Of course, bear in mind that just like with watches, it is difficult to find American bike parts. Nevertheless, a bike that mostly consists of foreign items, which are then assembled in the U.S. is presented so it looks like an almost exclusively American made bike, when in fact a lot of vital bike parts are not from the U.S.

The Leather Goods

As a part of our tour, we also saw the leather manufacturing facilities. Upon our arrival, we both received a little city guide. When we entered the leather factory, the machinery used was all imported from Italy. Our tour guide, a former employee at Louis Vuitton, took us through the floor, showing us how each leather strap is made and giving us the chance to see it in progress. The leather comes mostly from Horween, and is of high quality. The workmanship of the straps is neat, and the stitching is equally solid. The edges are edge painted, but not folded, because that would be too difficult for the young team of leather workers at this point in time, most of whom had never worked with leather a year ago.

The problem is that hardly any of the leather products are made in Detroit at all, despite advertising the company as being Built in Detroit. Currently only 24% of the straps needed are made in Detroit, the remaining 76% coming from Hadley-Roma in Largo, Florida. All larger leather goods are either made by Filson, Eric Scott or other companies, even though they are designed in Detroit. The good thing is that Shinola actually trains people from the street to create something, which is excellent. Of course, the training lasts just a few months before they start to work, whereas an apprentice in Europe has to complete a 3 year apprenticeship before they can call themselves craftsmen, but overall it’s better to do something than not to do anything and Shinola is certainly doing something. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it will take time to produce more leather goods in Detroit, though some of them will probably continue to be made by companies like Filson, because they are also under the Bedrock umbrella.

In terms of design, Shinola leather goods are somewhat modern, rough and geared towards the jeans, flannel shirt and tie wearing hipster with Red Wing boots. The edges are just cut, and often not edge painted, which is certainly a look some people want, and if they sell the goods, all the power to them. Looking at it from the angle of a true craftsman though, Shinola leather products are simple, without folded edges and simply rough. If you wear suits a lot, this aesthetic is probably not what you are looking for, but Shinola definitely has a niche in the market.

The Shinola Runwell Chrono 41

Before we visited Shinola, they provided J.A. Shapira with a Runwell Chrono 41:

I’ve been wearing the Shinola Runwell Chrono 41 watch on my wrist now for a number of weeks. It’s a hefty watch at 41mm – very thick and chunky, but it’s aesthetically pleasing if you like denim, Red Wing boots and flannel shirts, and not so much if you prefer to wear suits and jackets.  The “Shinola Detroit-built” Argonite 5021 quartz movement, hand assembled from 85 Swiss-made components is basic but made of better quality materials than most Japanese movements with EOL technology for battery life. Unfortunately, the high shine stainless steel scuffs easily and is tough to buff out, although, Shinola offers a lifetime warranty on the watch, so I guess I can’t really complain. At the same time, the brand is very young so we see how much  the lifetime warranty is worth in 10 years from now because lifetime warranties are only valid for the lifetime of the product, not the lifetime of the owner.

All in all, Shinola makes a decent daily wear watch. However, I think the marketing practices are somewhat deceptive. The price is too high for the watch; it should be priced at $425 in my opinion.

In the end, we think that Shinola is a sitting pot of gold. They have the ability and desire to make an exceptional time piece. They just need to be slightly more humble about it and figure out a way to introduce mechanical movements. That or they need to cater to the same clientele as Fossil.

In fact, it really seems as though Shinola is just the name of the brand, similar to the original Rolex watches which originally served as a wholesaler for movements that were placed inside the watch and rebranded. Ronda, a Swiss based quartz movement provider makes all the movements for Shinola and ships it to Motor City where they are assembled into watches.

Is ‘Assembled In’ the same as ‘Made In?’

When we talked to the CEO of Shinola after our tour, Sven Raphael Schneider asked Steve Bock, the CEO of Shinola, if the slogan “Where American is Made” wasn’t more accurately named “Where American is Assembled”. Bock replied that it sounded better and that it was the same thing, but we at the Gentleman’s Gazette disagree with that evaluation. If someone assembles Ikea kitchens in the USA, that doesn’t make the completed kitchen Made in USA. The research, development and all things attached remain in other countries.

Shinola has a headquarter with a manufacturing space, and while a small number of leather goods are made there, the watch production is simply an assembly line of foreign parts. In that sense, Shinola is really no different from Hyundai that assembles their cars in the U.S., except that it doesn’t make cars. It’s a product thats parts are all made overseas and then someone takes screwdriver and puts it together following directions. That’s not what I, personally, and all people we know would assume when they hear Made in the U.S. Of course, one has to be fair in the sense that Shinola cannot source all the watch parts they need for a watch in the U.S. today, because they simply don’t exist. So either they would have to make them in the U.S. or import them from overseas. At this point, it looks like they choose the second option.

Other Products

We’ve all heard the phrase “jack of all trades, master of none” and that seems to ring through with Shinola. It all started with Shoe Polish, and it is still made private label for them, but the core is now watches, but you can also get leather piggy banks, pet post cards or dog beds. One might wonder how long it takes before Shinola incorporates cat videos into their marketing strategy. Going forward, based on the trademarks on file, we may find Shinola jewelry, toys or clothing soon.

Conclusion & Outlook

Shinola is an interesting brand to watch. Their marketing works well, even though we find it a bit deceptive sometimes. They move quickly and constantly work on new things, such as a limited edition pocket watch that will be released soon. The whole concept of Detroit seems to be working very well for them, and they have a good impact on the city, though at the end of the day, they want to make money just like any other company out there, and that’s perfectly legitimate. If you like their watch design and are happy with Quartz movements, you get an average watch but it seems like you pay a bit for the lifestyle and nimbus of the brand. Personally, we think the watch is overpriced and the design is a bit too chunky for our tastes. The leather goods are mostly not made in Detroit and of good and rather good average.  We have not tested the bikes, and hence, we can’t judge, but based on the price, you should expect nothing less but perfection, and maybe a bit more honesty about the origin of its parts.

It will be interesting to see what products Shinola will add to their portfolio going forward, but it seems to us like it is Shinola’s goal is to create a globally operating brand that sells people the idea of products made in Detroit. Only time will tell how Shinola progresses, but we are sure you will hear from the company again. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing, is up to you to decide.

This article was written by Sven Raphael Schneider & J.A. Shapira

You can find the watches and products at www.shinola.com

If you want to learn more about the Made in… debate, checkout this article.

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Shinola Watches - Made in Detroit?
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Learn all about Shinola Watches, whether they are really made in Detroit, how many parts come from abroad and where their bikes and leather goods are made.
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Gentleman's Gazette
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50 replies
  1. Martin says:

    I have looked at their website and all the watches they assemble look pretty average to me. You have seen most of the designs (at least to a certain extend) in one of this shady Chinese shops or on ebay. Can’t say anything about the quality as I haven’t seen them in reality. Oh, and they offer candles that smell American with a $50 pricetag. Must be a supreme candle I’m sure, but I’m not so sure if I want to have the smell of Tribeca in my living room! http://www.shinola.com/shop/supply/supply-gifts/shinola-candle.html#color=SHINOLA%20CANDLE

      • Brenda Kilgour says:

        Most of what claims to be from Detroit (certainly cars, but most especially people) isn’t. Which is why their choice of the brand name Shinola is so amusing. Look up the phase “the difference between s— and Shinola,” and you’ll get the point.

        On a related note, I appreciate the content in this story, but if you are publishing for an English-speaking audience you really need to master the language. There are more grammar and syntax errors here than I could count.

      • Lincoln Phillip says:

        Raphael, I find the tone of your GG article to be quite terse. I moved for NYC in 2004 to Rochester Hills a suburb of Detroit, before Shinola emerged as a brand. Shinola is not a referendum on Detroit and your critique of their products read as cynical. I am wearing my Audemars Piquet ROO as I type this and while I do not presently own a Shinola watch, I am sure I will as soon as I get around to it. I find that people are always ready to be critical of American cars (I am a car dealer) and particularly these days Detroit, New York was near bankruptcy in the 1970’s and face financial collapse on numerous fronts before then. See link below. Detroit is a city with lots of promise and Dan Gilbert is betting on that, you mentioned the DIA too bad you didn’t get to the Detroit Athlethic Club another gem. I do not want to go too far off topic but the pseudo snobbery is very off putting don’t join the un-educated masses and look down your nose at anyone. I lived on CPW in NYC and sold my apartment to come to a great town and while I love the Yankees more than any other team in professional sports, Detroit is now my home and probably because of the condescending tone of your article I will run out to buy a Shinola and support them with gusto.

        http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCcQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2006%2F12%2F31%2Fnyregion%2F31default.html&ei=nLJGVNzkFO3LsATx5ILoCg&usg=AFQjCNHAHztJF209N6p6HCVVp-WOnxYEBQ&bvm=bv.77880786,d.cWc

        • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

          Lincoln,
          Our goal is to educate people. All we did was to write down our impressions and opinions, so you can form your own. Just because I wouldn’t buy a Shinola watch doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. We are critical in general and have high standards but that’s why we exist in the first place. We don’t force anyone to read what we write and we are happy about critical comments ourselves. So if you tell me what exactly you found terse and condescending I will take a second look at it but general remarks such as your’s are not very helpful
          I think it is great that you moved to Detroit and I hope it will return to its old glory, this report was just our impression – that’s all.
          We saw a lot more in Detroit than we wrote in the article, but it is already very long and it was about Shinola in the first place, not Detroit.
          That aside, we have an American car and we are happy with it.

        • Brenda Kilgour says:

          On the contrary, I would assert that it’s the good folks at Shinola who are the cynical ones, playing up the Deeetroitness of the products which doesn’t really stand up to examination, and is likely a way for someone to receive some generous tax credits from the desperate and none-too-bright city and state leadership. Shinola is to watches what Kid Rock is to hip-hop, a savvy marketer of urban grit with a designer pad in Malibu and Tamara Mellon on his tattooed arm.

  2. Joe says:

    A lot of goods are made this way. Defining what “Made In…” means is tough, as even “American” cars are “built” (assembled) from globally sourced parts. Sometimes the best parts can be obtained outside the USA and put into an “American” product. This is our world today. Shinola is not so much being deceptive as playing that card to the limit. I don’t really have a problem with it. On the other hand, I think Gentlemen today wear watches for many different reasons… Style, certainly. As a conversation piece, yes. As a collectible, absolutely. So does a young company with inexperienced people using good equipment and parts fit in with any of those and other motivations for wearing their watch? I’m sure it does. So I won’t say anything negative about what their doing or their products and yet will not be running out to buy one. I wear an ORIS on my wrist because I like their purely mechanical movements, made in-house by experts who’ve been doing watches for a lot longer than a few weeks. I like their history, their wide variety of styles and all this with very reasonable prices compared with many other fine Swiss brands. Maybe they aren’t the best and most coveted. Maybe that’s a good thing for me. I don’t think it’s always important to wear a widely recognized brand or something that costs more than a house. It’s important to me to have a style I like in a mechanical watch, and an automatic mechanical watch is my preference. I won’t be buying an Apple Watch, although I am a huge Apple fan. I won’t buy a Quartz watch either. If I purely want to tell time, I’ll pull my gold iPhone 6+ out and ask SIRI to tell me what time it is. Telling time isn’t the point.

    • Jonathan says:

      Sorry, that’s not true. There’s a legal definition for products “made in”the USA, and its much more strict than “built,” “assembled,” etc. If a product says it’s made in the USA, without qualification, it’s made in the USA. There are plenty of genuinely american products out there. Sounds like Shinola watches aren’t one of them.

  3. Shelley says:

    I’m a huge fan of your site! A Detroit native and lifelong Michigander, I’ve just launched my own menswear-inspired line for women. It is sites like Gentleman’s Gazette that are a constant source of inspiration for my young label. I’m sourcing my blazer and t-shirt fabric from Italy, my custom brass buttons from the Waterbury Button Company in Connecticut, and manufacturing in Chicago. My patterns and samples have all been made in NYC. If I could source my cashmere and virgin wool in the US, I would. I completely agree with your article, Made in the USA – But What Does It Mean?. As I was looking to source my raw materials, there were far too many mills and reps that would not even take an appointment with me or had such high minimums that I priced out of the process before I could secure an appointment. And quite frankly, the prejudice of being from Detroit/Michigan was another great obstacle to overcome – just to have people return a phone call or confirm a meeting.

    Nevertheless, my goal is to truly manufacture in Detroit but like Shinola’s bike parts or their leather sourcing, I’ve found sourcing of talent and raw materials extremely challenging. And while I’m sure that the talent exists in Southeast Michigan, what we don’t yet have are the basics of a fashion manufacturing district all located in one general location, e.g., pattern makers, digitizers, fit models, industrial equipment, etc. However, it is slowly coming together in Detroit. With the recent launch of the Detroit Garment Group’s industrial sewing certificate, I’m hopeful that within the next 12 months, I can truly say Made in Detroit, at least for my tees. For now, in full disclosure, it is Made in the USA.

    Love how you keep it real!!

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      I hear you Shelley, it is a huge challenge and we always go for quality and a lot of great things are not available from the U.S. so if you want to use them, you have to import them, that’s fine totally fine, we just don’t like the labelling as Detroit.
      All the best do you and I hope you make it work. Made in the U.S. is very respectable to begin with!

    • Jam says:

      Thanks for this comment Shelley. Very insightful. I too have been wondering about the “Detroitness” of Shinola’s products, and knowing that it’s very difficult to source certain quality products in America is eye-opening.

  4. Jim Smith says:

    If 84 watchmakers work 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week for 50 weeks they will work a total of 168,000 hours. So, it takes approximately 1 hour to assemble a watch. Is that efficient?

  5. Tim says:

    Bicycles have been made over seas for almost 50 years. Schwinn starting outsourcing in the Seventies. I believe the frames are made by Waterford, which Richard Schwinn owns. There really never was any kind of US makers of drive train parts out there. It was always Campagnol, SunTour and Shimano. So that really is an American bike.

  6. Patrick says:

    My father used to use the phrase, ahem, “you don’t know $h/t from shinola”…..apparently he has been justified. It seems as if making a lot of money on an average device but an outstanding marketing campaign is the goal with this company. That adage is what has gotten Detroit, and unfortunately most of US manufacturing in the wasteland it is. Thank you for a very honest review.

  7. Joe Frances says:

    I think these are pretty nice watches from a purely aesthetic point of view. Some even bear a passing resemblance to the ultra-luxury Radomir by Panarai. The only problem (and it’s a big problem for watch enthusiasts) is that they have quartz movements, and therefore have little or no inherent value. If they made a manual, mechanical watch of some quality, I would buy one in a heartbeat. A mechanical watch is collectable and has market value. Oris is doing a great job with its mechanicals by limiting production and thereby keeping values up. I have sold several watches for more than the price I paid initially.

  8. Isaiah Janes says:

    Very interesting point Sven you made with “If someone assembles Ikea kitchens in the USA, that doesn’t make the completed kitchen Made in USA. The research and development and all things attached remain in other countries.”

    I am still looking to pick up a Shinola watch soon and I am actually visiting the Horween Leather Company November 14th. If you would like me to take some photo for you on a follow up piece on Horween I am happy to help.

  9. Nick Young says:

    Nice read, thanks for the insight. As a company trying to produce 100% U.S.A. products with 100% U.S.A. parts and materials I know how close to impossible it is…and sadly I have also come to realize the price point makes or breaks your sale. It is terribly hard to compete. So I could assemble my product out of imported parts here in the U.S. for cheaper but then I would be deceptive to say Made in the U.S.A. Unfortunately, most people don’t know S_ _ T from Shinola, and it seems this company is banking on it.

  10. Alan Kirshner says:

    Dear Mr. Schneider,

    The following is a thread I started on AAAC titled: A Blogger/Merchandiser with Integrity

    We shall see what the response will be.

  11. Dexter says:

    Hi Sven,
    Thank you so much for your article . It’s so refreshing to read a real, independent article which is NOT an advertisement in disguise. . In this case, it’s pretty informative and Shinola doesn’t have to blush from their products . Leather is really leather ( unlike chinese plastic shit with a ” real leather ” written on it) , the watch has a good design and a good rough look, so it should appeal to some people and not to other . . like every product on sales today…You emphasize perfectly the wrong side of marketing/advertisement of modern companies . Theatricality and deceptions are powerful agents to the uninitiated , but thanks to you we are initiated .

  12. Commonwealth says:

    I’m trying to reconcile you repeatedly calling them deceptive, yet admitting that they willing and openly gave you all of this information for your article.

    If you analyzed any other watch maker this way in this price point you would find things made in china and elsewhere, including most “swiss made” watches. All of this microscopic examining of Shinola leads me to believe they are doing something right.

    Also, when you were starting off as a writer/gentelman’s critic, did you ever stretch the truth of your experience? Dress up beyond your means? Did you then grow into your aspirations?

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      If you read properly, I was calling their marketing slogans deceptive. People are happy to provide us with all the information we ask for because they know our reach and want to benefit from it. Shinola is well aware that not everybody may like it but they understand the old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
      Please be a bit more specific about Swiss Made and the brands you are referring to, and provide some facts to back up your claims. Unlike built in the U.S. the term is regulated by law and you can read yourself what that means (in short, the standards are very high). If a new watch says Swiss Made, it is way more Swiss than any Shinola watch is American.
      We always described things as we saw them and that has never changed. One can obviously dress in a way that people think more highly of oneself, but in my opinion, these are two very different things because there is no codified standard of what one can wear based on an income level. Much rather it is the viewers imagination that creates the impression. In Shinola’s case the brand promotes the American Built aspect, which is deceptive in my opinion.

      If you are fine with it, that’s great. We just describe things as we see them and you can draw your own conclusions, whatever that maybe.

      ps: I found the Hamtramck story of the city in the city for tax purposes rather interesting!
      pps: We will apply the same scrutiny to all manufacturers.

      • Commonwealth says:

        I’m fine with it because I know it is industry standard in this price point to have things made in China. Nothing wrong with that. China has some very high end factories. Read the link you sent closely….it leaves ample room for things to me made outside of Switzerland. So your assumption that “way more” is made in Switzerland is not accurate, and I’m sure as more American watchmakers come on line, more things will be made there.

        Does Shinola lay on the marketing a little thick? Maybe. But in dollars they i’m sure are spending much less per watch than some respected Swiss brands with enormous advertising budgets. I’m not going to ‘out’ these swiss brands or the factories, but all I’m asking is for you to be fair in your critique of all brands without turning a blind eye to the Swiss.

        • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

          Regular readers of GG know that we are all about quality and that you can get great products from China and terrible ones from the U.S. At this point though, Made in U.S. generally warrants a higher price tag.

          If you read the document, you will see that they have something like a 50% rule across the board. So a movement can only be swiss if it was assembled in Switzerland, if quality control is in Switzerland and if at least 50% of the value of the parts comes from Switzerland. On the other hand, a Shinola watch has no American parts, except for the strap…Case from China, glass from China, movement from Switzerland (so the same Swiss laws apply). So 50% is “way more” than Shinola.
          In a globalized economy, it is very difficult to source everything from one place, and that’s fine, but if you stipulate your Americanness then it’s just fair to point out the facts. Same thing about Switzerland, and at the moment a Swiss Made is legally defined, whereas Built in America is deceptive in my opinion.

          Interesting how you are sure about so many things but you fail to back it up with numbers. Of course you are entitled to your opinion but since you don’t back it up with facts, I can’t take you seriously.

          • Jonathan says:

            “made in america,” as opposed to built/assembled, does actually have a specific meaning. It’s actually a 70% minimum domestic parts content to label something made in the USA without qualification, according to the FTC.

            • Jonathan says:

              Actually, apparently the 70% rule that was going to be brought about never became law and it’s still “all or virtually all” US components for a product to label itself “Made in USA.”

  13. Commonwealth says:

    Sven, With all due respect, I enjoy your blog, but you are a victim of the very marketing practices you are rallying against here. “Swiss Made” watches absolutely can and do use china made cases and crystals. 50% VALUE, not weight. Of course higher end brands use more swiss made parts, but most $500-$1000 “swiss made” watches find ways to use china made cases and crystals. The swiss just tend to hide this fact and are not as open about it. I’m not trying to get into a facts and figures argument, just asking you to maybe visit a factory in Switzerland in this price range to justify your argument, if they let allow you that sort of access and transparency, which they probably won’t.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      A watch from Shinola has 0% American parts, because the strap is not part of the watch. A Swiss Made Watch has a 50% Value requirement. If you read the law in full, you see that the rule also applies to the case. So if the case says Swiss Made, at least 50% of the value has to be from Switzerland. If the case doesn’t say Swiss Made, then it is likely not from Switzerland but from somewhere else. The law is very clear about it.
      Why would one ever want to use weight to determine the value of something?A tiny gold part is worth way more than a much heavier steel case.
      I think this will be the last comment from you I will answer to because you don’t present any facts and make general statements without providing anything but your opinion, which is obviously tainted. In Switzerland there is a law about it, so that’s much more transparent than in the U.S. in my opinion.
      I have no doubt we will have the chance to visit some other watch factories in Switzerland in the future.
      You have not justified your point of views with any facts, so far, so I look forward to that!

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