America was once one a leader in watchmaking technology and home to some of the most famous watch companies in the world such as Ball, Waltham, Illinois, Howard, Elgin etc. The turn of the 20th century and 2 world wars led most manufacturers to go out of business and the remaining manufacturers to restructure their business models. Now in the 21st century, America is undergoing a large renaissance of American watch brands due to the rise of E-commerce and lofty overheads by many luxurious brands.
The revolution of Chinese manufacturing is also playing a large role in the rise of microbrands across the United States. Most Swiss brands even rely on China for their parts since the Swiss law states that only 60% of the watch production must occur in Switzerland to be considered “Swiss Made.” This has led China to become an industry expert in manufacturing mass-produced and high-quality parts from watch dials, hands, cases, lugs, crowns, etc. for almost every watch company in the world.
Consumers have benefited the most from China’s affordable parts and smaller watch companies known as “microbrands” are emerging to provide to the growing demand. Famous US Microbrands such as Pelton, Oak & Oscar, Halios, Weiss, Brew, Heitis, Mercer and Martenero are helping to lead the movement to produce high-quality and affordable American watches to consumers. Microbrands help fill the void between cheap and ultra-expensive watches. Their watch designs are bold and they typically take risks in design that many established brands refuse to take. Microbrands are usually much more engaging with their customers and interact with customers across social media platforms, sometimes taking recommendations from their loyal customers.
The rise of the internet, an established manufacturing watch ecosystem and the change of consumer’s preferences has opened the door for the comeback of American watch companies. Watches have also changed their designated purpose from simply time-telling to a piece of fashion jewelry. These positive trends and growing demand could provide the American watch industry a renaissance like never seen before. Sangamon Watch Company, founded in Springfield, IL, is honored to be a part of the US microbrand movement.