Besides making supremely handsome, high-quality timepieces, Detroit-based Shinola is committed to the admirable goal of reviving America’s watchmaking industry—and revving up the Motor City’s economy in the process.
Continue reading for a Q&A with Shinola’s Creative Director, a look at our favorite Shinola watches, and a video depicting the intricate handiwork that goes into every one of Shinola’s USA-made masterpieces.
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Why did Shinola choose to set up shop in Detroit?
SHINOLA CREATIVE DIRECTOR DANIEL CAUDILL: We made the decision to move to Detroit two years ago, because of the city’s great history, deep manufacturing roots, and amazing creative talent. We’re proud to call Detroit home, and are committed to continuing to grow our company here.
Could you tell us about the special challenges of working in a bankrupt city?
For Shinola, it’s business as usual. Our goal is to continue to do our part to help the economy in Detroit. We currently have 174 Shinola employees, with 144 based in Detroit—and we’re still growing. We strongly believe that Detroit is the best city in the US for Shinola to be based.
Many luxury watch brands associate themselves with leisure and the finer things in life, while Shinola draws on Detroit’s industrial heritage. Do you hope to combine a vintage and industrial aesthetic with a modern and refined one?
Shinola is a modern American luxury brand. American style is casual—and comfortable. It’s approachable. For Shinola, luxury is all about quality. It’s about simple, modern design, combined with quality manufacturing. From a styling perspective, we can be inspired by classic design, but our approach and ultimate goal is to make a product that feels modern.
How did you come to Shinola? Does your past work on music videos, and at apparel companies, influence what you’re doing now?
I was introduced to Shinola through a friend. I started working early on to put a look and feel around the brand. I have a varied background, from product development to styling award shows and music videos. I feel like I pull from all parts of my experience every day.
The Shinola factory is in the Argonaut building, which was built by General Motors. Has the building’s industrial history informed the design of these watches?
The engine that drives our watch is the Argonite movement. It’s named after the heritage-rich building that houses our watch factory—the Argonaut—where GM’s legendary design teams produced countless industrial innovations. We hope to embody that spirit in our own designs, and drive the industrial legacy forward with every product we create.
The ‘Brakeman’ watch is named after locomotive brakemen of the early 1900s, and is inspired by watches of the same era. Could you tell us more about the design and the inspiration?
The Brakeman features a classic cushion-case design, with absolutely nothing soft about it. Built with all premium materials, it appeals to a wide range of customers with a shared interest in high-quality products and an obsession with detail—because no detail is overlooked.
What is Horween leather? What makes it special?
Horween is one of America’s oldest tanneries—still undertaking the full production process in-house. They’re based in Chicago, and still use hand-based techniques, requiring highly skilled craftsmen throughout every step of the process.
Why does a watch company also make bikes and leather goods?
It was as simple as knowing some of the world’s most talented craftsmen and design experts in each of these categories. We knew we could make quality watches, bikes, and fine leather goods using resources that were predominantly from the US. We plan to grow into new product lines the moment we know we can develop the highest standard of quality using US-based experts and materials.
Do you have a favorite Shinola product?
The new Chronograph watches. They are seriously beautiful. There’s one in grey for next spring that I’m waiting for, it’s an amazingly beautiful watch.
What will it take to revive America’s high-end watch industry?
We are on our way to reintroducing domestic manufacturing at scale. Building our state-of-the-art watchmaking factory in Detroit was a pretty amazing feat in itself, and we will continue to see that evolve.