American watch manufacturing is about to undergo a renaissance.
Though other watches are assembled in America, like those in Shinola’s line, a watch can only be referred to as “Made in America” if “all or mostly all” of its parts are sourced from the US.
Weiss Watch Company, a small, entirely self-funded startup watch workshop in Los Angeles, created the landmark CAL 1003 movement.
The CAL 1003 is an authentically Made in America mechanical movement made from almost all US-sourced parts. (Only the hairsprings and the jewel bearings — two tiny but important components — are still coming from Switzerland, according to the Los Angeles Times).
This is the first time in roughly 40 years a mechanical movement has met the FTC’s standards to be called authentically “Made in America,” according to Weiss. The company worked closely with the FTC to ensure it was able to actually stamp the letters “USA” on the gold-plated movement.
To celebrate the achievement, Weiss released a limited-run watch using the new movement: the American Issue Field Watch. Just 50 units were made of the $2,500 certified Made in America watch, which became available on July 4th. It sold out quickly after.
All of this is the brainchild of 29-year-old Cameron Weiss, a man with more experience in the industry than his young age might indicate. He’s a watchmaker with certification from Swatch’s Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School, and had worked with some of the Swiss greats, spending time as a watchmaker at both Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. He launched Weiss Watch in 2013 from his apartment in LA, starting off hand-making watches with only a few US parts.
Now the goal is for a whole line of Made in America watches. Weiss has no intention of stopping there, however. Weiss, along with a business partner, launched recently
Pinion Precision Technology, a supplier division. The young entrepreneur is planning on using highly technological manufacturing to sell certified US-made movements and watch parts to other watchmakers in the US looking to build Made in America watches.
Weiss sees a big opportunity for American watch parts after the Swiss Swatch Group announced they are shutting down their parts division in 2019. In fact, Weiss told GQ that the company already has a contract to sell parts back to one of their Swiss suppliers.
“One of my goals throughout this whole process was really to rebuild the watchmaking industry that once existed here in the US,” Weiss told GQ. “If you can do the manufacturing as well as the assembly, then you actually have more control to create unique products. I’m really hoping that this is able to bring back the watch industry to the US, and we should be able to see some unique timepieces coming from US brands.”
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