Ever since Shinola was first introduced and “Built in Detroit” mattered in the watch industry, we here at Revolution have been waiting for the brand to introduce a mechanical watch.
Now, they have, in an intriguing package of a 300-meter water-resistance diving timepiece, called the Lake Erie Monster.
I visited the Detroit-based operation of Shinola shortly after the brand was open for business, and I was impressed. Their operation was well set up and, in addition, Shinola was helping to revitalize an iconic American city.
But, of course, my question to them was, “Will you ever assemble a mechanical watch here?”
And their answer was, “We don’t really know. We are focusing on our quartz watches for the moment.”
So, doing a mechanical watch was certainly on their radar, but they were waiting for their movement partner, Ronda, to develop the right movement, while they set up the expertise in Detroit.
“At the end of the day, you and everyone else has been asking when Shinola was going to release a watch that had an automatic movement in it,” admits Jacques Panis, president, Shinola. “It’s taken time to develop. Ronda has been working on this for many years and they released the automatic movement at Basel in 2016. It makes sense to work with Ronda given what we have already accomplished with them, setting up the watch factory here and building the movements here.
“The movements come complete to us here and we put them into the watches,” he continues. “All of our automatic watches are tested to meet ISO 6425 dive watch standards. They are not certified ISO, because you need to have a third party do the certification. We couldn’t find one to do it in Switzerland in the time we needed, and there is no one in the US that can do it.”
So, for the moment, the watch is not officially a dive watch, but it ticks all the right boxes. And, the watch head, with the movement inside, is tested for water resistance in Shinola’s Detroit watch assembly operation.
You can rest assured that the Lake Erie Monster is not the last mechanical timepiece Shinola is planning, but it certainly is a great start.
“I am not going to get too in-depth regarding our plans, but we will have an evolution of the automatic in our line,” Panis says. “We see a future for automatics here in Shinola. There is a demand for this.”
Why start with a dive watch, which ups the complexity of production?
“We’ve had a very strong demand for dive watches given where we are based, on the shore of the Great Lakes,” Panis details. “The history of diving here, and the history of Shinola in Detroit really worked well together. This timepiece really speaks to our commitment to provide quality products with a timeless aesthetic and to tell an amazing story of craftsmanship and innovation. We are delivering something fantastic to the market with the Lake Erie Monster.”
Shinola made waves when they announced that all their watches would offer a lifetime warranty, and Panis confirms that the lifetime warranty will apply to the automatic, with the caveat that the watch has to be regularly serviced by Shinola to qualify.
As I was finishing up my interview with Panis, I asked him about Basel, where Shinola has been a staple for the last several years. Turns out, Shinola is joining other brands who are giving Basel a pass this year. “We see everyone anyway,” he says. “Given the challenges that so many companies have today with retail and on-line, and competing with Apple, which is capturing a lot of people’s disposable cash, why spend those millions of dollars on the booth and the teams and the entertainment? It makes more sense to invite people here to Detroit to see what we are doing.”
Yes, it does make sense. But, then, so does just about everything else about Shinola these days, including the introduction of the Lake Erie Monster.