Once upon a time, not so long ago, the United States was known for its innovation and craftsmanship when it came to watchmaking. But as more quartz sport watches were imported from overseas and luxury brands became more in demand, the American watch industry suffered and shrank. By the turn of the century, it was all but nonexistent.
Now, a handful of independent brands are getting a foothold in the horological world. And as you might imagine, the watchmaking industry is not a field one breaks into easily. It takes a brave soul to venture into such a notoriously snobby world based on history and provenance. But these up-and-coming brands are rekindling the American tradition of telling time. We've outlined six standouts that are building their watches here in the United States. After all, life's too short to wear a boring watch. Choose something that's unique and represents your style.
After years of working for a range of more mass watch brands such as Movado, Jonathan Ferrer founded New York-based Brew Watches in 2015 and launched the brand via Kickstarter. The idea came to him while doing some freelance design work in a café, his place of peace and creativity. With a simple and utilitarian aesthetic borrowed from both mid-century design and high-end Italian espresso machines, the watches are elegant and understated with a 24-jewel automatic movement and a domed sapphire crystal. The PVD-coated stainless steel has a cool, contemporary vibe that looks and feels like it should cost three times as much.
$495 by Brew
Before launching his own brand, Cameron Weiss worked as a watchmaker for a handful of luxury Swiss watch companies. But he always had a dream of restoring the prestige to American watchmaking with his own range of timepieces. And Weiss Watch does just that by blending classic horological techniques and modern technology. Weiss designs and builds every piece by hand in Los Angeles, using heirloom quality materials. The high-end mechanical Swiss movement inside features a slick, sweeping second hand and durable shock protection system. It's all the quality and precision you'd expect from a luxury watch—there's even a sapphire crystal backing, so you can see the movements and mechanics of a watch made from more than 100 individual components. Dubbed the "Standard Issue Field Watch," the styling of the timepiece is reminiscent of vintage military watches but the size has been beefed up to a more modern 42mm stainless steel case.
Standard Issue field watch,
$950 by Weiss
Oak & Oscar
Oak & Oscar was founded in 2015 by Chase Fancher, who left his unfulfilling corporate job in order to find a better work life balance. The Chicago-based company sweats all the right details. The popular Jackson chronograph is a manually wound, flyback chronograph with a 60 hour power reserve and a stacked register at 3 o'clock that tracks both minutes and hours. The color-matched date wheel features a bespoke numeral design. And instead of a standard watch box that will be relegated to the back of a drawer, each watch comes in a handsome Horween leather and wool watch wallet. The sturdy modular design is inspired by vintage car manuals and makes easy work of packing up timepieces for storage or travel.
The Jackson phonograph,
$2,850 by Oak & Oscar
Vortic Watch Co.
This Colorado-based company puts a unique spin on traditional American watchmaking by restoring vintage pieces with an American-made strap, 3D-printed cases and crystals made from ultra durable and fingerprint-resistant Gorilla Glass. Vortic's founders were inspired by the time before the United States got away from watchmaking in the mid-1900's—when we produced millions of beautiful, high-quality pocket watches that became heirlooms that were passed down to generations. So if you're looking for a vintage watch that runs well or have an heirloom of your own that is ready for a new life, they can convert and update your granddad's old watch.
$1,495 by Vortic Watch Co.
Since 2014, John Tarantino's self-described micro-brand Martenero, has been crafting buzzworthy watches from his studio in New York and selling them direct to customers online. The accessibly-priced mechanical watches have a classic style with easy readability that deftly toe the line between dressy and casual. The Marquis model, for example, has a monochromatic look that features an understated dial construction that's deceptively complex. The outer ring on the perimeter is made of a second layer of brass, which combined with the applied hourly indices, creates a strong layering effect on the dial.
$595 by Martenero
When Shinola launched back in 2013, their first order of business when they setup shop in General Motors' old Detroit headquarters was to develop the infrastructure to produce their marquee product: the Runwell watch. The handsomely rugged timepiece was (and still is) hand-assembled from nearly four-dozen Swiss made parts. They took 30,000 square feet of their new building and shaped it into a state-of-the-art factory. They then partnered with a well-known watch movement maker, Ronda AG, to train local craftspeople in the precise art of watch making. The Runwell continues to be a best-seller, but the brand has recently branched out into a sleek set of automatic dive watches.
The Lake Superior Monster Automatic,
$1,450 by Shinola