In honor of July 4, I thought it appropriate to take a look back at our most American posts of the year thus far. Overall, it’s been another solid year in the slow but steady “renaissance” of American watchmaking, and we’ve been here to cover it.
The Best American Watches of 2019
“American made,” especially in the context of watches, can be a hard term to pin down; it’s part marketing ploy, part statement of origin. And it’s not without controversy. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that Shinola’s “Where America Is Made” slogan was misleading, as was the “built in Detroit” designation on its watches. To legally bear a “made in the USA” label, “all or virtually all” of a product must have been made in America. While assembled in Detroit, Shinola’s watches used Swiss movements from Ronda (Shinola is partially owned by Ronda). Like makers of other goods, the watch industry was put on notice: to be made in the USA, the product would have to satisfy the stringent “all or virtually all” standard.
I’m also inclined to mentioned that Movado Group, a historically Swiss brand, now has its headquarters in New Jersey. So while the manufacturing of its watches takes place primarily in Switzerland, there are surely some suits in the U.S. branding the crap out of those Museum and MVMT (which Movado recently purchased) watches.
In this article, I look specifically at what components of the watch are truly from America: the movement, the case, the assembly, etc.
Shinola and What It Means to Be Made in America
In this post, I take a step back and ask what it means to be “Made in the USA,” at least according to the U.S government, or more appropriately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency tasked with promoting consumer protection.
Thanks to Shinola, we have a pretty clear idea of the threshold a watch must cross for a company to be able to label it “Made in the USA” or something similar. In June 2016, the FTC held that Shinola “overstated the extent to which certain Shinola-branded products … are ‘made’ or ‘built’ in the United States.” This forced Shinola to change its advertising and claims of origin on its products. Shinola had been using the slogan “Where American is made” on many of its products, and added a “Built in Detroit” designation to its watches for good measure. This wasn’t really a surprise, as a year early, the FTC had warned Shinola that its “Built in Detroit” slogan was misleading consumers given that critical watch parts came from overseas.
For apparel or accessories (including watches, as this case taught us) to bear the "Made in USA" designation, the products must originate in the United States or be only “one step removed” in the supply chain. According to the FTC, "Made in USA" means that "all or virtually all" of the product has been made in America. This is an extremely high bar: all significant parts, processing, and labor must be from the U.S — there should be only negligible foreign content.
Timex Goes ‘Made in America’ with Its American Documents Series
Of course, just a few days after I write about my favorite “made in America” watches (above), everyone’s favorite American-based brand releases its own Made in American collection. But that’s what Timex has done with its new American Documents collection.
For Timex to release a collection of watches that proudly declares they are “Made in America,” right at the 12 o’clock, is no small feat. Even with a pesky modifier below, “Swiss Mov’t”, it’s still something worth talking about. The Timex American Documents collection is a series of four watches, all in steel, with four different dial options — white, grey, midnight blue, and black (the black dial version comes with a steel or gunmetal-style case). All come with a Swiss-made (Ronda) quartz movement and are priced at $495.