Archive for November, 2014

Industry News, November 2014

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Niall: A New American Watch Brand
                                                           By Donna Hardy

Niall WatchNiall is a startup watch company in Kansas City, Missouri. It uses a Swiss-made automatic movement—either an ETA 2824-2 or a Selitta SW200—but the case and all other components are sourced in America. Niall (pronounced Nile) is the brainchild of Michael Wilson, a former marketer whose father owned a fabrication shop where he learned to cut and shape metal on industrial equipment. Niall’s debut watch, the Niall One, costs $3,950, which is in line with Niall’s American competitors, such as RGM and Xetum.
     Niall’s website ( says their quest is “to build the next great American luxury brand.” Wilson would like to build something of equal status to Hamilton, which he calls “the last great American watch company.” He also hopes to develop his own mechanical movement timepieces someday.
     According to, “The watches themselves are evocative of Hublot or Audemars-Piguet, but the handsome back-slung lugs and the understated face are unique to the brand.” For now Niall is producing only men’s watches with black or brown leather straps, but they hope to produce women’s watches in the future.For the crown, Niall uses a push-down crown system that they call “Airlock.” The Airlock crown has a set of three gaskets that keeps the watch locked and sealed from elements such as water and dust. Niall worked with Corning to create crystals with shatter- and scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, the product Corning originally created for iPhone touchscreens. Wilson and a partner, Barron Link, assemble the watches themselves in their small business quarters in Kansas City.
     Niall is a recent addition to that group of American watch brands on the forefront of a return to watch manufacturing in the US. Other American brands include Minuteman, Kobold, RGM, and Shinola. 
     “US watches are the wave of the future,” says Gary Borel, vice president of Jules Borel & Co. “Swiss is the best, but there’s no reason we can’t restart this industry in America.…We’ll have American-made movements, no question about it.”Escapement

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A Message from Our AWCI President, November 2014

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014


Fred T. White, CMW21, AWCI President

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
~John F. Kennedy

One day King Solomon summoned his goldsmith because he wanted a special ring made. Upon arrival, the goldsmith asked, “What can I do for you, old wise one?” The mighty king responded, “I want you to make me a grand ring, one like no one has ever seen before. Make it of the finest gold you can find. I want it engraved with the most prophetic statement you can think of.” What a charge to be given to the goldsmith. He thought, “Wow, what can I as a goldsmith do to honor such a mighty person as King Solomon?” He gave it a lot of thought. After hours of thinking, he came up with “THIS TOO SHALL PASS.’’ 

In the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s, America was the premier watch manufacturer in the world. They made watches by the thousands from 1852 till 1957. American Waltham Watch Co. made 35 million watches from 1867 to 1956. Elgin produced 55 million. Hamilton, from 1893 to 1942, produced almost 4 million. After 1942, they changed their numbering system. They continued to make watches until 1969; their last model was the 992B. They stopped manufacturing at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and so ended the era of watches produced in the US. “THIS TOO SHALL PASS.’’
     During the heyday of American watchmaking, the Swiss were getting on the bandwagon with watches whose names sounded American-made, such as Hampton Watch Company [not Hampden], Rockville Watch Co., H.W. Co., or W.W. Co. These fooled many customers into thinking they had bought an American watch. The Swiss started making better-quality pieces, and so they made an inroad into the US market. Bulova, Gruen, Omega, Font, Felsa, A. Schild, ETA, and many other brands and ebauches came into being during those years. Parts were readily available, both genuine and generic, from your local material houses. After World War II many people went to watchmaking school on the GI Bill. This produced a flood of watchmakers in the marketplace, and as a result, watchmakers cut their prices so drastically that it was hard to make a living.
     In the 1960s the Accutron and the electric watch came out, and then the quartz watch made its debut. That was the end of watchmaking to many craftspeople, so they left the trade and sought other ways to make a living. Those who stayed with it found that the quartz watch needed repair, and there still was Uncle Joe who liked his watch that ticked, and the family heirloom that needed restoring. And they found that they could charge a fair price for their labor.
     With the manufacture of so many cheap quartz watches, many people said it was the end of the mechanical watch. “THIS TOO HAS PASSED.” The mechanical watch has made a strong resurgence in the marketplace. Thus the need for a watchmaker who is qualified to work on these timepieces is stronger than ever. The parts issue will be with us until the demand from the customer is so loud that it starts to hurt the sale of watches. In time “THIS TOO SHALL COME TO PASS.”