From Issue Three of the Gear Patrol Magazine.
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Last June, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought down the hammer on Shinola, the biggest name in American watches, ruling that their slogan “Where American Is Made” was misleading, since the work they did in America was primarily assembly, rather than manufacturing. The FTC’s decision reinforced a stringent set of rules surrounding the label “Made in the USA.” The watch industry, put on notice, would henceforth follow the rules, just like makers of leather goods, cars and wrench sets. If watchmakers wanted to call their product “American-made,” it had better be “all or virtually all” produced in the US.

This high standard doesn’t line up with the rest of the watchmaking world. To be “Swiss-made,” for example, parts equal to 60 percent of the cost of a watch’s movement need to be made in the country; the other 40 percent of the cost of the movement, as well as the case, dial, etc., can be foreign made, as long as the watch is assembled and inspected on native soil. Hypothetically, a big-name, big-budget watch from Switzerland could have a sexy, exacting, partially Swiss-made movement housed inside a case made in China and using a dial made in Vietnam.

Today, not a single American watchmaker can accomplish a “Made in the USA” watch by the FTC’s hard-line, “all-in-the-US” definition. Very few can even come close. The reasons why stretch back to WWII, when America lost the best watchmaking industry in the world due to a manufacturing shift for the war, and the Swiss — because they were neutral in that war — became the titans they still are today.

Despite this unfair playing field, there are still great American watch brands popping up throughout our country. Many are flourishing. In 2016, Weiss, a California-based brand, released a movement with parts made mostly in the US. And brands like Niall, Kobold and RGM have been making their own parts here for years now. Though the FTC’s hardline may sting, the high bar it has set may well help American watches catch up to their Swiss counterparts — a return to the days of old.

In the meantime, it’s time to widen your definition of what makes a watch “American.” Some companies not manufacturing in the US are being transparent and sharing their good reasons for not doing so. (This includes Shinola, which has corrected its marketing language since its brush with the FTC, and remains a key player in convincing consumers that they should own an American watch.) Of those, the reputable bunch are designing their watches themselves, and many are assembling their watches in the US, too. And at the very tip of the spear, a handful of domestic watchmakers are manufacturing American cases, dials and even movements of exceptional quality.

So here they are: watches made by Americans (with the help of China, Taiwan and Switzerland) for Americans. Pick one up for $300 or $30,000. Know what you’re buying, and why, and be proud of giving America one more watch to its name.

Editor’s Note: For the sake of transparency, we asked each watchmaker to provide details as to country (and when possible, city) of origin for the main components of each watch. The watches here are presented roughly in order of price, from least to most expensive, and paired simply for visual aesthetic.

Nick Harris Watches; Throne

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Nick Harris Watches Orion: 1
“The Orion project is going to help me survive watch school. When people invest in an Orion, it’s a pretty direct investment into the horology industry . . . I’d love nothing more than to create one hundred percent American-made watches, but you can’t do that without experience, knowledge and capital. We all have to start somewhere.” – Nick Harris, Founder

Diameter: 38mm
Movement: Seiko NH35 automatic
Case: 316L steel
Design: Nick Harris and Kyle Rymarchuk
Parts Manufacturing: Guangzhou and Hong Kong, China
Movement Manufacturing: Japan
Assembly: China
MSRP: $495

Throne Watch 2.0
“Our primary goals were to design a watch that could be dressed up or down, and wouldn’t send the message of ‘I bought this because I just got my first seven-figure bonus check.’ We grew up in the music, design and hospitality worlds, so we designed a watch for people like us.” – Zack Sears, Creative Director and Co-Founder

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: ISASWISS 3571 3 register quartz chronograph
Case: 316L stainless steel
Design: Zack Sears
Parts Manufacturing: Shanghai, China (case, crystal), Hong Kong, China (dial), US (straps)
Movement Manufacturing: Switzerland
Assembly: Brooklyn, NY
MSRP: $550

Shinola; Martenero

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Shinola Runwell 47mm
“We believe in the art of American manufacturing, creating watches that are built in Detroit with Swiss and imported parts. As many of the materials we use are not available in the US, we work with best-in-class partners to source top-quality components for all our products.” – Daniel Caudill, Creative Director

Diameter: 47mm
Movement: Ronda AG Argonite 1069 quartz
Case: 316L stainless steel
Design: Shinola design team, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: China (case, crystal, dial), Taiwan (dial) Detroit, MI and Key Largo, FL (straps)
Movement Manufacturing: Switzerland
Assembly: Detroit, MI
MSRP: $550

Martenero Marquis
“We were trying to design something dressy that didn’t feel too stiff or formal. It’s a difficult line to toe but I think we were successful . . . Asian watch manufacturing, if you find the right suppliers, is very high quality. Assembling in the US allows for another level of quality control.” – John Tarantino, Founder and CEO

Diameter: 38mm/42mm
Movement: Miyota 9015 automatic
Case: 316L stainless steel
Design: Martenero, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: China (case, dial, crystal), US (straps)
Movement Manufacturing: Japan
Assembly: Brooklyn, NY
MSRP: $595

Hager; Smith & Bradley

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Hager Commando Professional
“We started with an ideal: to create an affordable automatic watch at the highest quality possible for those who have never owned one; and, ultimately, to build an American watch brand that creates jobs for our community and allows us to compete globally. We’ve reached the first goal and are working on the second.” – Pete Brown, Founder

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: Miyota 9015 automatic
Case: 316L marine grade stainless steel
Design: Hager, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: Les Brenets, Switzerland (case), Kowloon, Hong Kong (dial, crystal, straps)
Movement Manufacturing: Tokyo, Japan
Assembly: Hagertown, MD
MSRP: $600

Smith & Bradley Ambush PVD
“This watch shows the different elements we can combine with a lot of technical engineering. The bezel is the best in the industry, the elements flow well and just work together without being big and bold. Most elements I design are with function in mind first.” – Jerommie Smith, Co-Founder

Diameter: 44mm
Movement: ISASWISS 9012A digital analog
Case: 316L stainless steel PVD coated
Design: Jerommie Smith, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: Shanghai, China (case, crystal), Hong Kong, China (dial)
Movement Manufacturing: Switzerland
Assembly: Winter Park, FL
MSRP: $645

Detroit Watch Co.; Weiss Watch Company

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Detroit Watch Co. 1701 Series Multi Function
“Our manufacturing partners have been excellent in keeping our expectations . . . We provide exclusive models with original designs at very competitive prices. Our service is direct and personal, and the few timepieces that have come back for service or repair are usually on their way back to the owners in forty-eight hours.” – Patrick Ayoub, Founder

Diameter: 44mm
Movement: Miyota 9100 automatic
Case: 316L stainless steel
Design: Patrick and Amy Ayoub, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: Shenzen, China (case), Pforzheim Germany (dial), Germany (straps)
Movement Manufacturing: Japan
Assembly: Detroit, MI
MSRP: $895

Weiss Standard Issue Field Watch
“With each new release of the Field Watch, we are further developing American component manufacturing to produce a practical and sophisticated heirloom. We first launched our Standard Issue Field Watch as an entry-point model, which has allowed us to create more USA-made components for future models.” – Cameron Weiss, Founder and CEO

Diameter: 42mm
Movement: ETA 6497 handwound
Case: 316L stainless steel
Design: Weiss Watch, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: Los Angeles County, CA, American Canyon, CA, Anaheim, CA, Brea, CA, Yorba Linda, CA, Cypress, CA (dial, case, crystal) St. Paul, MN (straps)
Movement Manufacturing: Sonceboz, Sainte-Croix, and Grenchen, Switzerland
Assembly: Los Angeles, CA
MSRP: $950

LÜM-TEC; Vortic; Oak & Oscar

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LÜM-TEC Combat B18 Bronze
“After almost ten years building LÜM-TEC watches and handling production for over fifty other private brands, we have our suppliers on a very strict quality standard. By assembling in Ohio, we can control the quality of the final product one hundred percent.” – Chris Wiegand, President

Diameter: 43mm
Movement: Miyota 9015 automatic
Case: CuSn8 bronze case, sourced from Ohio
Design: LÜM-TEC, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: Hong Kong (case, straps), Taiwan (dial), Switzerland (crystal), USA (seals, gaskets, final case finishing)
Movement Manufacturing: Japan
Assembly: Mentor, OH
MSRP: $1,095

Vortic American Artisan Series Springfield 019
“I personally designed the set of three parts that are custom turned for us in Montrose, Colorado. The system had to be standardized to fit hundreds of models of antique pocket watches . . . We hope to remind everyone that the United States used to be the world superpower of watchmaking.” – R.T. Custer, Co-Founder

Diameter: 51mm
Movement: Illinois Watch Co. movement, made circa 1925
Case: 3D printed titanium case, medieval pewter finish
Design: R.T. Custer, in-house (case, internal engineering, straps)
Parts Manufacturing: Pittsburgh, PA (case), Springfield, IL (dial), Los Angeles, CA (Corning Gorilla Glass crystal), Montrose, CO (Crown/Sleeve/Stem, case screws)
Movement Manufacturing: Springfield, IL
Assembly: Fort Collins, CO
MSRP: $1,395

Oak & Oscar The Sandford
“I’m proud that folks say the watch has its own unique character and design, but fits in with both vintage and modern watches . . . I’d love to be part of the conversation surrounding a resurgence of high-quality American watchmaking forty years from now.” – Chase Fancher, Founder

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: Soprod C125 automatic GMT movement
Case: brushed 316L stainless steel
Design: Chase Fancher
Parts Manufacturing: Hong Kong, China (case, dial, crystal), Leo, IN (straps)
Movement Manufacturing: Les Reussilles, Switzerland
Assembly: Mentor, OH (LÜM-TEC), and Chicago, IL
MSRP: $1,850

Niall; Kobold

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Niall Super Panda
“We envisioned building a timepiece that a master watchmaker in Switzerland would disassemble and respect for the quality of our work . . . While we are very proud to be making some of the most precise components in America, we also respect the tradition of Swiss watchmaking.” – Michael Wilson, Co-Founder and CEO

Diameter: 40mm
Movement: Eterna 3903a automatic
Case: 316L stainless steel
Design: Niall, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: Kansas City, MO (cases, bezels, crown, crown tubes, gaskets, bezel and dial) Los Angeles, CA (Corning Gorilla Glass crystal), Miami, FL (straps)
Movement Manufacturing: Grenchen, Switzerland
Assembly: Kansas City, MO
MSRP: $4,950

Kobold Soarway Diver “Seal”
“When Kobold began making components in the US, only one other American watch brand existed. Today, there are over fifty companies trying to emulate Kobold’s success. In 2012, Kobold became the first American watch company to produce its cases in-house.” – Michael Kobold, Founder and CEO

Diameter: 43.5mm
Movement: ETA 2892 A-2 automatic
Case: 316L stainless steel
Design: James Gandolfini, Michael Kobold, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: Pittsburgh, PA (dial, case)
Movement Manufacturing: Switzerland
Assembly: Pittsburgh, PA
MSRP: $4,650

RGM

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RGM PS 801 EE
“We like to build watches the old way, classily beautiful and, unlike most things in this modern world, built to last. We have three different movement calibers we make here, and we are working on a few new ones for the future.” – Roland Murphy, Founder

Diameter: 43.3mm
Movement: RGM 801 handwound
Case: 316L steel
Design: RGM, in-house
Parts Manufacturing: Lancaster, PA (case), Switzerland (dial)
Movement Manufacturing: Lancaster, PA, Switzerland (mainspring, jewels, pinions)
Assembly: Lancaster, PA
MSRP: $11,900
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A version of this story appears in Issue Three of the Gear Patrol Magazine, 320 pages of stories, reports, interviews and original photography from five distinct locations around the world. Subscribe Now: $39