When you hear the word ‘watchmaking,’ which country comes to mind first? Most of you will probably say Switzerland, while those of you who are a little more knowledgeable about watches might think of Japan or Germany. But did you know that American-made watch brands used to rank just as high, and at times even overshadowed the competition?
That’s right; at one point in history, the famously precise Swiss looked to Americans for watchmaking inspiration. And to our great joy, American watch brands are making a comeback with a modern style and a fresh functionality. So next time you decide to buy a watch, consider taking part in the American watchmaking renaissance.
Brief History of American Watchmaking
Though the Swiss were famous for their high-quality and elegant watches in the 17th and 18th century, only the cheapest ones ever made it across the pond. However, Americans didn’t want to settle, and their dissatisfaction gave birth to the first watch manufacturers on this side of the ocean in Waltham, Massachusetts. That happened in the 1850s, at which point Waltham was the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution. It was no wonder then that large-scale watchmaking would find its home there.
Waltham Watch Company made the first 100% American watch in 1854. This company, along with the others that sprang up in Waltham, developed and used some of the most advanced metal-cutting tools and machines. In fact, American watchmaking was so advanced that when they heard about it, the astounded Swiss sent representatives to witness the process for themselves.
Instead of looking down on their new competitors, the Swiss learned from them. By the 1900s, American and Swiss manufacturers were on equal footing in terms of watchmaking technology.
However, wristwatches turned the tide largely in Swiss favor. When they rapidly rose in popularity after World War I, Swiss companies were quick to adjust, but Americans struggled. The Great Depression followed, and then World War II, and suddenly watches became luxury goods in the US. Even after the country recovered, watchmaking companies didn’t. The era of American dominance in large-scale watch manufacturing came to an end.
Best American Watch Companies
America may not be at the top of the watchmaking industry anymore, but there are still innovative brands out there that keep the tradition alive. Although some of the watch parts may be sourced from abroad, all of these companies manufacture their watches in the United States and take pride in being part of its long watchmaking history. Here are some of the best American watch brands!
Martenero seems to have hit upon the formula for success — classic design with a modern twist. With the motto “Tradition Refreshed,” this brand doesn’t strive to shake up the watchmaking world. Instead, it wants to place itself within it and enhance it.
Martenero was launched in 2014, but its watches look polished and timeless as if they came from a brand with a long-standing tradition. Most of them have a clean and refined look, perfect for both formal and informal occasions. Aside from the classic black, dark blue and silver models, Martenero offers red ones, as well as this beautiful nautical-themed watch.
Martenero watches will set you back between $500 and $700, depending on the model you choose. However, the elegance and reliability of these watches are entirely worth the price you will pay. And seeing that many of the watches on their website sold out, it seems that we aren’t the only ones who think so.
2. Weiss Watches
Here is a company with one goal in mind — creating a 100% American-made watch. With each new model, the percentage of domestic products that go into the making of its watches increases. But that’s not all — Weiss is also actively trying to revive some of the abandoned watchmaking practices in the United States. You can find out all about its manufacturing process on the company’s website.
Weiss watches are a bit on the expensive side, with its standard-issue watches selling at $1,150 and the executive-issue ones reaching almost $9,000. However, there’s no doubt that buying a Weiss watch means choosing a durable and high-quality piece. In addition, Weiss allows you to make monthly payments over three, six, and twelve months until you pay off your watch.
This Detroit-based company prides itself on its luxury and long-lasting watches. The watch production combines advanced technology and hand-assembly, which ensures that the watches are durable and crafted well. Shinola’s teams are well-versed in Swiss watchmaking methods and they are committed to constant improvement.
Shinola offers stylish watches for men and women, ranging from classic models to more colorful and extravagant ones. No matter what your taste may be, Shinola has something for you.
But although the company specializes in watches, it can also offer you a range of other accessories. Bags, jewelry, journals, clocks, and bicycles — whatever you choose, you can be sure you’re getting a quality product.
You will be struck by the uniqueness and freshness of this brand the moment you enter Devon’s website. The dark, futuristic design doesn’t strive for tradition in any way. In fact, even telling time on these watches might prove a little challenging. These models are a fashion statement rather than practical devices.
And this statement rang out far and wide when Devon became the only American brand to ever be nominated for Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. This recognition only inspired the company to be even more innovative and daring in its ventures.
So if you want to look like a stylish secret agent from the future, Devon is the right choice for you. But keep in mind that these watches are extremely pricey — you won’t find a model that costs less than $10,000.
Sometimes it’s best to stick to the tried and true, and in the world of watch brands, Kobold is just that. It left its mark on the American watch culture by making the famous Seal design. Seal has inspired countless watch brands and has been copied by numerous others. To this day, it remains a fashion staple and a classic.
But Kobold offers a lot more than just classic designs. You might be drawn to their sapphire watches, chronographs, and true artistic pieces such as Lynx Tahiti. Some watches even hide interesting stories behind their displays. For example, the Himalaya Everest watch got its name from the Mount Everest rocks that were turned into its dial.
For all their renown, you’ll find Kobold watches rather affordable. The prices sit comfortably around the $4,000 mark, with only the exclusive models going above $10,000.
6. RGM Watches
RGM stands for Roland G. Murphy, the founder of this unique American brand. The site doesn’t only offer watches for sale — you can also send your broken watch for repair, trade it in for a new one, or view past models. And if you’d rather not buy a watch, you can instead purchase belts, straps, and leather boxes.
But there is no reason not to buy one of the watches. They are absolutely gorgeous, with patterns and distinct designs engraved in the metal. Some models even have unique artwork on their displays! Why settle for a boring watch when you can have an RGM?
Since RGM boasts the title of America’s premier watchmaker, you can expect exquisite quality and a price tag to match. And that is precisely what you get. Most watches will set you back between $5,000 and $7,000, with some crossing the $10,000 mark. But since the brand is versatile, so are the prices — you can buy cheaper watches for $3,500.
As the name suggests, Autodromo derives its inspiration from cars. But the designer, Bradley Price, didn’t set out to represent just any sort of car — he wanted to express the golden age of motoring. With that in mind, he designed watches that bridge the gap between the past and the present.
Autodromo watches are minimalistic in style and small in size — they fit on the wrist like a bracelet. Most of the watches are darker or muted in color, but the Ford GT series stands out from the crowd. Ford itself commissioned this series and sold it along with the car. Ford GT models bring a racing vibe with their sleek dials and bold blues and reds.
With its motoring-oriented approach, Autodromo quickly became a favorite among car fans. And no wonder — its simple yet inspired design fits the car aesthetic perfectly. So if you love cars, this brand is a must-have!
8. Brew Watch Company
Brew Watch Company divides the day into two parts: coffee breaks and the time that you spend looking at your watch waiting for one. That’s why Brew set out to make the watch-checking period more enjoyable. And it did it by, you guessed it, making beautiful watches.
The founder and designer Jonathan Ferrer draws inspiration from coffee machines when making his watches. What immediately catches the eye is the slightly rounded square shape of the watches, and their warm colors. And there is a fun little feature for those who pay close attention. Namely, the watches have markers that highlight the optimal time for an espresso shot.
The good news is that since Brew is a smaller brand, its watches aren’t that expensive. You can get them for less than $400, which is quite a modest price for the quality you get!
9. Mercer Watch Co.
Hugh Mercer was a Scottish doctor who, after coming to the United States, became one of the closest men to George Washington. His death during the Revolutionary War became a rallying point for revolutionists. Two centuries later, near the place of his death, a watch company bearing his name was opened for business.
It’s no wonder then that a company with such a famous namesake achieved success. Mercer Watch firmly believes in the longevity of its products and puts quality above everything. The watches have a polished, clean look and rounded dials in different shades of grey, blue and black. You won’t make a mistake if you pair them with a suit, but you can also wear them when relaxing at home.
And Mercer’s strongest point is that you get quality and style at an affordable price. When on sale, these watches go for only $300, so make sure to check the site often!
10. Throne Watches
This New York-based company started its mission with an interesting goal — to make more time in a city that always lacks it. The team’s belief is that having a watch on your wrist instead of looking at the time on the screen allows you to forget time. Whether you agree with this philosophy or not, there is absolutely no doubt that Throne Watches makes checking the time more enjoyable.
Throne Watches’ products come with several different dial and band designs and colors. You can relish in matte black, glow with pure white, and show off the mossy green and elegant rose gold. The dials are big and round and the bands are subtle and comfortable. And if you’re a fan of chronographs, Throne Watches has those too.
Throne Watches may be worthy of kings, but its prices are acceptable for us commoners as well. The watches are divided in two price categories — the cheaper ones cost $295, and the more expensive ones $395. And if you already have a watch, you can buy a band separately — most of them come at a price of $75.
As you can see, the American watchmaking industry didn’t end with World War II. Though it might not be at the same level that it was at in the past, there are still brands that keep the tradition alive and set the standards high. In fact, there are many more than just the ones listed here!
So don’t let the time tick away — check out some of these American-made watch brands. You might become one of the many that fell in love with their style, precision, and elegance.