A Whole New D: Shinola


“Detroit could be a city anywhere, once very affluent and a very successful city and now on the rise again and I think that's a story everyone wants to be a part of.”
The story behind Shinola Watches is not a long one but so far very successful.
In less than a year on the market, the Detroit watch maker has sold more than 45,000 time pieces.
Each designed and built by hand in the Midtown neighborhood of Detroit.
“Its something that hasn't been done in over 40 years and we were really interested in doing it upscale and in a city where there was a manufacturing legacy and where we could make a difference,” says Shinola Marketing Director Bridget Russo.
Shinola could have set up shop anywhere in the country but the Dallas based investors found what they were looking for in Motown.
Russo says, “After visiting Detroit the decision was made. The people and the support we received was tremendous and really enabled us to come here and set up shop.”
“Detroit is just a great place to do business, its a competitive market as far as real estate goes its position across from Canada on a global international trade hub but it also has world class talent,” says James Martinez of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.
It was just a perfect fit.
“There's a lot of similarities of assembling a watch and assembling a car the difference is a watch is this big and a car is this big,” says Russo.
The building where they design their watches is the same one where General Motors designed the Corvette.
They took over this floor in 2012 with six employees, they now have more than 230, with 170 of them right here in the Midtown production facility.
Russo says, “By the nature of being here in Detroit we're also able to create jobs and so we are excited about the progress we have made thus far and the talent that we are finding in the city, we are expanding day by day.”
The talent to make more than just high end watches.
While expanding into leather goods, Shinola's other marquee products are bicycles.
“For us there were two categories we were passionate about, bikes at one point in America's history were made here and made well,” says Russo.
Why bikes and watches?
It seems like an odd pairing but they both hark back to an older time when things were handmade, handmade in America, handmade in Detroit and around the world people have shown they want something made by hand and they want it made in Detroit.
“In cities like London and Berlin and Paris even, Detroit has a cool factor people even though have never been find it edgy, cool you know its sort of the next Brooklyn if you will,” says Russo.
“It's a testament to the brand of Detroit but also the opportunity,” adds Martinez.
It's no hidden fact Shinola's products aren't for everyone.
The benefit of having a designer watch built in America comes with a price.
But across the consumer spectrum, people are becoming more likely to pay more for a local, high quality product.
A product they can be proud of.
“People wanted to be connected to a positive story so more and more people are asking those questions and you know they like to buy something they can tell the story behind.”