Weiss Watch Company Announces a New,
Entirely US-Made Caliber
During the last year Donna Hardy, managing editor of the Horological Times, has reported on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) investigations into many of the American-based watch brands that have made claims about being “Made in the USA” or “US Made.” As a result of the FTC’s investigations, many brands have been forced to remove these slogans from their marketing materials, brand logos, and even the watches themselves. The FTC has been very vocal about the requirements for claiming a watch is truly “Made in the USA.” To summarize some of the language they used in their reports: all or “virtually all” parts that are essential to the watches’ function must be manufactured in the US.
Cameron Weiss of Weiss Watch Company in Los Angeles chose the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day, to reveal a project that had been rumored to be in the works for quite some time—a new mechanical watch caliber with nearly all the movement components manufactured in the United States. Using in-house equipment as well as subcontracting to several local machine shops to help with the work, Weiss Watch Company claims to have successfully produced all the parts for a functioning watch caliber, except the hairspring and jewels. Weiss was already producing the cases, dials, hands, and straps for his watches in the United States, along with final finishing and assembly of completely Swiss-made movements. When the announcement was first made, there was some obvious skepticism as to the viability of this accomplishment, taking into account the difficulty of manufacturing components such as the balance wheel, pallet fork, escape wheel, and mainspring. Weiss decided to host an online question-and-answer via Reddit AMA (ask me anything) on July 6 to personally confirm the details of the announcement and answer any questions that people may have had.
The Caliber 1003 is the product of reverse engineering the ETA 6497 and producing the movement components to a tolerance, minus the layout of the bridges and mainplate, so that they are virtually interchangeable with their Swiss counterparts. That is actually part of the plan Weiss has laid out—to help supply the industry with needed spare parts once the Swatch Group has discontinued the distribution of individual movement components. He claims to already have a contract with a company in Switzerland that is ready to place an order once the production is up and running. To accomplish this, Weiss has launched Pinion Precision Technology, a separate company with business partner, Grant Hughson, to act as the supply arm of the movement and spare parts distribution of their manufacturing efforts. They also plan to sell complete movements to other American brands as well as unfinished, blank ebauches. More calibers are in the works with plans for original movement designs.
The first run of movements will only be available in the American Issue Field Watch. A limited edition run of 50 watches is currently available for pre-order on the Weiss Watch Company website. The $2,500 price tag is considered to be extremely reasonable for the level of US-based manufacturing that went into this watch. This is partly due to what some are calling the “lack of finishing” done to the movement plates and components. Weiss’s response to this criticism is, “Our version is a more American way that doesn’t require additional machinery or add steps to the manufacturing process.” Weiss also says, “We’re trying to recreate a simple utilitarian finish that is more affordable while still providing all the functional benefits of something similar to a Geneva stripe.”
To avoid the problems some brands have encountered in not complying with what is actually considered American-made by the FTC’s standards, Weiss has been working closely with the FTC every step of the way to ensure that the watch is properly represented as a “Made in the USA” product. Weiss stated, “We’ve had an open line of communication with the FTC during the planning stages of the new CAL 1003 movement to make sure we satisfied the claim for USA made” and “The Swiss content in our CAL 1003 movement is considered negligible by FTC standards, and it is virtually all USA made.”
Aaron Recksiek is an independent watchmaker in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is a graduate of the 2008 WOSTEP class at the Lititz Watch Technicum.