Thursday, 2 January 2014

Shinola ... Where American is Made

In the age where most American luxury goods are produced in cost-effective countries (think China and Vietnam), Shinola has remained true to its heritage and value by keeping its products purely Made in the USA.

While Shinola (pronounced as SHY-NO-LAH) may not ring a bell among watch connoisseurs in this region due to the influx of Swiss and other European watch brands, plus its Japanese-sounding name may be easily mistaken for a Japanese brand, Shinola epitomises the quintessentially American luxury brand by reintroducing domestic manufacturing at a scale that can shape culture, create community, and deliver goods of the highest quality and built to last.
Though the brand manufactures luxury items such as watches, leather goods, journals and also bicycles, Shinola actually started off as a small-scale shoeshine manufacturer by the New York-based Shinola-Bixby Corporation in 1907. 

During the World War I period, Shinola’s business thrived and the company subsequently achieved pop culture status for the WWII-era colloquialism, “You don’t know shit from Shinola.”

Shinola remained as something of the past until it was revived in 2011 — not as a shoeshine manufacturer but a luxury watch brand — and took the fifth floor of the Argonaut building (where Detroit’s College for Creative Studies is located) as its corporate headquarters and watch factory. 

Furthermore, the foundation of Shinola’s watch factory in Detroit has enabled the city to be christened as the watch-making capital of AmericaWithin the fifth floor, 30,000 square feet of raw space is dedicated to the watchmakers.

In this state-of-art working space, Shinola watchmakers – all trained by its Swiss partner Ronda AG – hand-assemble the watches using the most advanced technology available to ensure the end result is a range of watches that are both beautiful and built to last. 

The watches, ranging from US$500.00 and up to US$1,100.00 apiece boasts complex assembly for each movement.

Utilising custom-made tools and optical magnification equipment to assemble the parts, the movement is tested at every step of assembly to ensure it’s performing to stringent specifications. 

Once the movement is tested, it gets attached to the dial, the hands are set, and it’s secured in a stainless steel case. Then the case gets closed and the back plate is attached.

Each fully-assembled watch undergoes pressure testing to check for an atmosphere-proof seal and proper fitting of the stainless steel case, gaskets, and sapphire crystal. 

Following mechanical testing and a close visual inspection, the watchcase is fitted with high-quality straps of US-made Horween leather or stainless steel.

The same goes to its other range of products such as bicycles, leather goods and journals. Only the best materials sourced from established manufacturers across America are used and every single piece is meticulously hand-crafted by dexterous artisans with some of them possessing up to 37 years of crafting experience!

Sleek and elegant with clean lines, Shinola watches are available in several ranges – The Runwell, The Runwell Chrono and The Brakeman for men; The Runwell, The Gomelsky and The Birdy for women. 

Apart from the main lines, Shinola also produced a series of limited edition watches called The Great American Series.

Paying homage to the Wright Brothers – the pioneer of the world’s aviation industry – The Wright Brothers™ Limited Edition watch.

The watch features stainless steel cushion case, black display with Super-LumiNova hands and indices for the dial and premium Horween leather strap in chocolate brown with cream hand stitching.

The watch is presented in a special custom gift box, with a certificate of authenticity, leather card wallet, leather carrying case, a hickory watch box, and includes a leather-bound coffee table book featuring photography from the Wrights' private collection. 

What’s more, only 1,000 pieces are made hence making it a sought after collector’s item. Also produced in a very limited number (just 25 pieces) is The Wright Brothers™ Limited Edition bicycle, crafted out of American-made lugged steel frame and fork with a jet-black finish, sleek bamboo fenders, and a bright headlamp. 

Adding more value to these sought-after collectibles is access to access to The Foundry, a private collectors club established exclusively for owners of limited edition Shinola goods. 

Membership perks include exclusive private events, an annual tour of the Shinola Detroit factory, and first access to limited edition watches, previews of upcoming products, and a members-only customer service specialist.

Watches and bicycles aside, rest assured newly converted fans of Shinola too will be tempted by its Curates collection – a series of artisanal articles. 

Items in the collection include a rare vintage American flag dating back to the 19th century that retails at a cool price of US$15,000.00, individually hand-cut and sewn leather football (US$135.00), and a game set made of individually pressed and sewn leather and white oak in a limited number of 30 pieces only (US$245.00).

Now, before you log into the website to place your order, kindly be informed that Shinola online store does not deliver to addresses outside the United States (with the exception of neighbouring Canada). 

However, if New York happens to be your next holiday or work destination, then visit their cool flagship store in Tribeca.

Located at the Franklin Street, the Shinola flagship store – second after the first one in Detroit - carries a bevy of handcrafted watches, leather goods, journals and bicycles, as well as collaboratively-produced items and carefully curated products. 

Within this cosy and welcoming retail space is The Smile Newsstand that serves coffee as well as a selection of books and magazines from around the world. 

Inspired by the artist Donald Judd’s library design in Marfa, Texas, the store’s interior features large white oak library table with brass lamps, customers’ chairs, a catwalk and skylight, while the exterior boasts restored original brick façade.

The Wright Brothers™ Limited Edition watch is priced at US$1,000.00 and the bicycle is priced at US$ 2,950.00. To locate the nearest Shinola store, visit Shinola official website at http://www.shinola.com/

*Photos courtesy of Shinola

Shinola New York City Flagship Store - 177 Franklin St., New York, NY 10013

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