Shinola brings watch dial production to Detroit

Lauren Abdel-Razzaq and Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Shinola, the luxury Detroit watch and bicycle maker, will begin producing its own watch dials sometime next year out of its flagship retail store in Midtown.

The company will hire between 10 to 14 new workers and has already begun training about four on the printing process to create dials for “The Runwell,” one of its most popular models. Shinola is bringing in craftspeople from the long-established Taiwanese dial-making company BAT Ltd. — from which it previously imported dials — to teach workers how to complete the meticulous process of making them.

The second stage will begin in January, when employees will begin stamping and painting dials. The first watch with a Detroit-made dial will be sold sometime in 2015, once the workers have been given enough training to master the craft, said Shinola president Jacques Panis.

“We’re just extremely excited about making watch dials another component to the watches here in Detroit,” Panis said in an interview. “It’s a very important step toward making a watch with 100 percent American-made components.”

The watches are all assembled in Detroit, but a majority of the parts come from other parts of the world. The watch cases come from China, the rubber straps come from Minnesota, the movement pieces are made in Switzerland and the leather straps come from numerous sources, including Detroit.

Altogether, the new factory is allowing Shinola to localize more of its production, said spokesman Heath Carr.

“Our long-term goal is to create Shinola watches that are predominantly American-made,” Carr said in a statement. “This development also gives Shinola the opportunity to be part of workforce development in the local community.”

The company has been preparing a 2,000-square-foot area for dial production at its Midtown store. A glass-enclosed workroom will allow visitors to watch the process. It will eventually expand the store sometime next year to make room for the new dial-making area.

“We’re screen-printing dials, so you’re working with paint,” Panis said. “It’s something that requires a steady hand and a solid eye and attention to every little detail. This is an art.”

Panis said it’s unclear if making more of the watch in-house would affect prices. Most watches sell for around $500.

Shinola has been working to expand its offerings. Last month, the company honored Henry Ford with a limited-edition pocket watch, part of the Great Americans series that honors iconic Americans.

Shinola moved into Midtown in 2013 when it opened its headquarters in the Taubman Center at the College for Creative Studies. The flagship store is located at 441 W. Canfield in the Willys Overland Building; Shinola bicycles are assembled there.

In addition to the retail stores, Shinola partnered with Mosey's Midtown Detroit Inc. to create a dog park at the corner of Cass and Canfield, as well as a green alley project. The brand has donated a number of clocks to Detroit and erected them at sites like Cobo Center, Ford Field, Belle Isle and Eastern Market.

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