Former President Bill Clinton during an April 26 tour of the Shinola Watch Factory at the A. Alfred Taubman Center For Design Education in Detroit. (Todd McInturf / AP)
Shinola has gone from a vaunted Detroit-made timepiece to a bipartisan fashion statement for politicians.
Former President Bill Clinton revealed this week he bought 14 of the Detroit-made watches that retail starting at about $500 and gives them away as gifts.
Clinton got a tour of the Detroit watch manufacturer in April and was so impressed that he stocked up.
“I bought 14 of them that month,” Clinton admitted Wednesday at a Denver meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative when asked by a moderator.
“Oh, you really did?” the moderator said.
“Yeah, in two different runs,” Clinton said. “I bought five at Christmas and nine when I was there, and I just give ’em away and hope I make you more customers.”
Shinola CEO Steve Bock said Friday he’s thrilled to have Clinton’s support.
“We were incredibly excited and honored and privileged President Clinton visited us in Detroit,” said Bock, who declined to comment on what Clinton bought. “… He spent almost two hours with us. It was fantastic. We love the fact that he loves our watches.”
The public nod by the former commander-in-chief was the latest high-profile endorsement for the company that has become the symbol of the rebirth of Motor City manufacturing.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr wear Shinola watches and show them off to promote the Detroit company.
“For the governor, it’s all about the Made in Michigan label and all that signifies,” Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Friday. “It’s about jobs, it’s about the talent and craftsmanship of the workers who made it happen, it’s about Detroit’s and the state’s comeback, it’s about the renewal of a once struggling area of the city.”
The watches have become such a staple for business and political figures in Michigan, they have their own Twitter hashtag #showyourshinola.
The hashtag was born on Shepler’s Ferry last month when the state’s movers and shakers realized they were sharing the same taste in watches as they headed to Mackinac Island for the high-profile Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual confab.
Shinola sells watches ranging from a low of $475 for women’s “The Birdy,” to $550 for men’s “The Runwell” — which Clinton bought — to a high of $975 for “The Runwell Contrast Chrono.”
A week ago Friday, prominent Republican state elected officials brandished their Shinola watches as Snyder prepared to sign into law a nine-bill package that would provide $195 million to soften city pension cuts and protect Detroit Institute of Arts works as part of Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement.
Snyder noted he was using his Shinola watch to tell time as he signed bills. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, also lauded the Detroit watch maker and the legislation.
“Well, good morning, I’ve got my Shinola,” Richardville said.
In April, the Detroit-based company welcomed Clinton on a tour of its factory, located inside the College of Creative Studies campus at New Center. Clinton was in town to keynote a speech at the Michigan Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Dinner at Cobo Center.
Clinton remarked then: “At my age and with my eyes, I needed one with big numbers.”
He came away from the visit with a watch with a presidential seal. “I liked it because I thought it was elegant but informal,” Clinton said.
Shinola’s Bock said Clinton’s investment in Shinola will pay off.
“Our watches have a lifetime warranty. So buying a watch from Shinola gives you a watch that will be with you for the rest of your time.”
If you cost average the price tag per wear, Bock says, “it’s almost free.”