Shinola Watch Review
The American Dream. It’s been pursued by many over multiple generations, and not always with success. For a long time, the manufacturing history of Detroit was one of the greatest examples of the American Dream coming to life. Families could earn high Middle-Class wages, save for a quality retirement, own a home, raise kids, and live a great life.
Then the Great Recession hit in 2007. It kept going until 2009 and it gutted many facets of American manufacturing – especially the auto industry. Detroit as a city ended up filing a Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013. In some ways, the financial future of Detroit as a city is still up for grabs.
Yet in the midst of this chaos is a growing watch brand: Shinola. They have made “Built in Detroit” to become more than just a marketing effort. It has become a real way to support the people of the city while getting your hands on a unique timepiece.
What Is the Story Behind Shinola Watches?
Shinola is considered to be a luxury lifestyle brand and it is based in the United States. In addition to watches, Shinola also builds bicycles and leather goods, along with other specialty items. It’s a recent addition to our industry – the brand itself was founded in 2011 by Tom Kartsotis and is currently owned by Bedrock Brands, which is a Texas Investment Group.
If the name is familiar, it is because Shinola used to be a popular shoe polish that went out of business in 1960.
The first watches introduced by the Shinola brand hit the market in March of 2013. The first edition offered 2,500 watches and was available in two different sizes. These initial watches sold for $550 and the 47mm size sold out in just one week. A second limited edition watch was introduced in October 2013 and sold equally well.
Now a number of watch models are available, with particular attention paid to the Signature Series limited editions for popularity. Many of the watches are also offered in conjunction with their bicycles for cross-product marketing purposes.
Is a Shinola Watch a Good Timepiece to Wear?
Considering the construction of many models in the various collections produced by Shinola, the quality is outstanding compared to the price point. Most of the registered designs feature an all stainless steel case, though there are a few models that feature titanium. Many Shinola watches feature sapphire crystal and have some level of water-resistance built into them.
Ronda AG provides the movements for Shinola watches. It’s the same movements that are put into some of the popular Fossil models that are offered for sale today as well. On the surface, this sounds wonderful. In reality, it must be pointed out that a vast majority of the designs offered by Shinola have a quartz movement.
Yet there is no denying the fact that part of the price which is built into the Shinola brand is the “feel-good” idea that you’re helping Detroit. At the same price point of a Shinola watch, you can purchase a mid-range European mechanical watch from several different brands: Stowa, Archimede, and Laco – just to name three of them.
In a direct comparison, Shinola watches are comparable to the design and movement of Tissot watches. If you love the backstory and want to wear it on your wrist, then this is a fantastic brand for you to support. If you’re looking for a specific watch with good quality and a proven history of sales, you could potentially save $200 or more by purchasing a Tissot or a similar brand.
What Is the Reputation of Shinola Watches?
Shinola has flagship stores in Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York. You’ll also find them available through merchants like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and Nordstrom. There are also 40+ independent watch dealers that have been authorized by the brand.
Yet Shinola is not what you would describe as a “traditional watchmaker.” They are assembled on an assembly line instead of using the start-to-finish approach. The brand itself only employs 2 watchmakers [from 2014 data]. Every watch model is different and will have different parts. This means each watch can have the potential of being different in quality and wearability.
Here are some examples of this.
- The Shinola Runwell Chrono Sport. This timepiece has a movement made up of 103 Swiss pieces and 21 extra pieces from China, including the crystal and casing. It is then assembled in Detroit.
- The Shinola Runwell 1069. This timepiece features a movement of 40 pieces from Switzerland and 21 extra pieces from China.
- The Shinola Argonite 5021. This timepiece features a movement of 85 pieces from Switzerland and 21 pieces from China.
You’ll receive better quality materials in a Shinola watch than you will find in a standard Japanese movement watch. There are also battery-reduction technologies included in the watch.
Then there’s the fact that the assembly line method makes it very efficient to make a watch. It takes about 1 hour for Shinola to make each watch, which means there is less than $30 of manufacturing labor in the watch – double that, perhaps, to include oversight from one of the watchmakers on staff.
Every watch is also double- or triple-checked for quality standards.
Still – the fact that Shinola watches come with cards that say they were built by a specific person takes a notch out of the reputation of this brand. They are built by an assembly line, not a single individual.
How Are Shinola Watches Manufactured?
Shinola watches are actually assembled in the United States – Detroit, to be exact. Many watch companies have started and grown into multi-million dollar companies because they were able to find design and assembly resources in China or the greater Asian/APAC region. Not Shinola.
This brand took a different approach. They brought jobs to the rust and weeds of a major US city that was struggling to survive.
“We don’t think American manufacturing ever failed for being too good. Our worst didn’t come when we were at our best. It happened when we thought good was good enough.”
In the heart of Detroit sits a 30,000 square foot factory inside the College for Creative Studies. It’s located within the historic Argonaut building, which was once part of the manufacturing complex that General Motors had brought to the city. Each watch is meticulously hand-assembled and is built on a foundation of modern movements and technologies to create a one-of-a-kind watch.
Shinola watches did use to say “Where American is Made” on each model, but this was ordered to be stopped in 2016. The FTC discovered that although every Shinola watch is assembled in the United States, all of the material costs used to make certain watches is “attributable to imported materials.”
To become part of the assembly process, all Shinola workers must undergo extensive training with Ronda AG. You can even see what goes into the making of a Shinola watch with this video that takes you directly inside the factory. Keep in mind, however, that this means each watch is built by multiple people instead of one individual.
Is There a Warranty Which Comes with a Shinola Watch?
Shinola states that every product they make is designed to last a “lifetime or longer.” To back up this design claim, every timepiece offered by this manufacturer is guaranteed for life under their limited warranty offer.
All components of the watch are covered by this warranty except for the buckle, leather strap, and battery. Should something stop working on the watch because of defects in materials or craftsmanship, then the watch will either be repaired or replaced free of charge. If the exact model of the watch is not available for replacement, then an equal-value watch of a similar style will be offered instead.
To make a warranty claim, consumers must offer a copy of their receipt or the completed warranty card sent with the watch to provide a proof of purchase. Shinola also requires a $25.00 service and handling fee to be provided for all warranty and repair services – and this fee is subject to change.
For more information about this guarantee or to seek assistance through customer care, current Shinola owners can follow this link: https://www.shinola.com/customer-service/general-resources
What Are the Prices of Shinola Watches?
Shinola watches target the high mid-range fashion consumer with their designs and price points. An entry-level Shinola watch will generally be priced around $500. Many of the collections offered by this manufacturer are priced between $750-$1,000.
There are also several models that are priced in the $1,000-$2,000 range, including The Black Blizzard, The Shirley Fromer, and The Cass.
If you’re looking for a higher-end watch than the previous examples, The Canfield with Diamonds is a perfect example. It has a suggested MSRP of $2,800. All current models offered by Shinola are priced for less than $3,000.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Owning a Shinola Watch?
#1. Shinola watches offer timeless designs. Shinola makes a beautiful watch. This is for certain. They are attractive, feel good when sitting on the wrist, and many models have a built-in durability that will allow you to wear them on a daily basis.
#2. You actually get to help people by buying a watch. Jobs can be hard to find in Detroit. When you visit the city, it’s clear that the same financial securities that were present a generation ago are no longer there. Homes are rundown. The homeless population seems to be growing. By purchasing a Shinola, you’re helping this factory continue to build watches.
#3. Shinola watches have high-level support for the brand. In April 2016, President Barack Obama presented a custom Shinola watch to UK Prime Minister David Cameron as a gift in a case that featured the Presidential Seal. Former President Bill Clinton is known to have purchased over a dozen Shinola watches. Several other politicians have also supported the brand, which is then reflected personally when the watch brand is worn.
#4. The warranty offered is one of the best in the industry. Shinola offers a comprehensive limited warranty that is less limited than most other watch manufacturers. Although wear and tear aren’t covered (and rarely is), many more components of the watch, including exterior components, are covered and that is rare for our industry today.
#1. There’s a difference between “American made” and “American assembled.” You are definitely helping Detroit when you buy a Shinola watch. But you’re also feeding into a clever marketing scheme. Before starting this brand, a survey was commissioned by Kartsotis about how much people would pay for products from China, the US, and specifically Detroit. The highest price point came from Detroit.
#2. They are ultimately a quartz watch. Swiss-made quartz watches are at the same price point of some Shinola watches, but much to the dislike of most watch collectors. A common comment goes something like this: “If you want a quartz watch, then buy a cheap Casio. If you want a good watch, invest into a mechanical.” And you could do that with the price of a Shinola watch.
#3. They don’t make for a good watch with the suit and tie crowd. Shinola watches are more about Denim and Flannel instead of suits and ties. They are a casual fashion watch brand, with a hint of luxury, but they aren’t generally workable for professional wear.
#4. Shinola watches do sometimes scuff a bit. The stainless steel cases of a Shinola watch do tend to be fairly durable. They also tend to scratch fairly often with an impact and that kind of damage isn’t necessarily covered by the lifetime limited warranty.
Could a Shinola Watch Be Right for You?
If you’re looking for a fashionable daily wear watch, then you will find that the average Shinola watch review will recommend this brand for most consumers. The marketing practices of this brand may seem somewhat deceptive, especially with their “Made By” cards and “Made in America” phrasing, but there is no denying the transparency of their factory processes or desire to help Detroit either.
The prices of these watches are high, but that’s worthwhile to those who wish to support this version of the American Dream. If that’s you, then you’re going to love a new Shinola watch.