Checking In On The State Of American Watchmaking

Niall One Series

I’m telling you, the winds of change are blowing strong. Watchmaking is no longer just a Swiss endeavor. The Germans and the Brits are showing their stuff big time these days. But it’s not even just a European undertaking.

No, those changing winds are blowing to America. More and more significant watch companies are setting up their design and assembly shops on the shores of the New World. Well, not only on the shores, but out in the breadbasket of our great Nation. Every once in a while it’s good to take a look around and see what’s going on.

And just what is going on here in America, horologically speaking, these days? When we recently took a look around, we noticed three companies in particular: Niall, Oak and Oscar, and Stevral.

Stevral, a boutique dive watch brand based in Stilwell, Kansas (just south of Kansas City), was started in 2008 by fellow watch fans Steve Laughlin and Ralf Schreiner. For several years they produced watches under the brand name Benarus, and also produce watches with the brand name Raven.

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The Stevral / Benarus Moray 42mm

The new brand name is the corporate name they’ve used since the beginning, and is an amalgamation of Laughlin’s and Schreiner’s first names. In fact, at the time of this writing, the Stevral name was so new, there were no hi-res images of watches bearing the name.

Stevral offers a strong tool/ dive watch look for their watches, all of which are produced in small batches of roughly 100 pieces. They’re currently leveraging the Panerai large cushion case vibe with their upcoming release, the 42mm CuSn8 bronze Moray. This is a frankly awesome looking piece, offered in several dial variations.

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The Raven Defender

Stevral will also begin shipping the Raven Defender this spring. The Miyota 9015 powered, dual crown Defender has a distinct special ops feel to it.

Chicago-based Oak and Oscar first came to my personal attention via Instagram, before I knew they were working on a watch. So, at least in my eyes, the brand got its start the best way possible, born of the passion of its founder, Chase Fancher.

The Oak and Oscar Burnham

The Oak and Oscar Burnham

Fancher’s vision for Oak and Oscar is focused on being as American as he can possibly be. His debut watch is the Burnham (named for Chicago’s signature architect and urban planner, Daniel Burnham).

Granular detail is the name of the game for Oak and Oscar. Witness the unique design of the Burnham’s numerals and the counter balance of the second hand which perfectly frames the logo on the dial once each minute.

Niall is the brainchild of co-founders Michael Wilson and Mark O’Renick. Wilson holds the title of CEO while O’Renick handles Marketing. These guys have both manufacturing and marketing in their blood, And horology is their passion. Check the statement above their photos on the Niall website:

“The shared belief in the power of mutually beneficial relationships and creative collaborative change drives the quest to re-invent the future of American Watchmaking.”

That’s what these guys are about. They’re going about the reinvention of American watchmaking – through collaborative innovation. In fact, it’s worth taking the time to really go through Niall’s website. But pour yourself a cup of coffee first. There’s a lot there. Company history, philosophy, thoughts on innovation and manufacturing process, and numerous quotes from both founders.

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The Niall GMT

And oh yes, the watches. Three lines, plus Limited Editions.

Niall manufactures everything but their movements in the US (the movements are from Eterna). Cases, dials, crowns, glass (Corning’s Gorilla® Glass, by the way), gaskets, screws, straps, buckles. Everything. All in.

They are indeed continuously defining for themselves what it means to be ‘all in.’ Where granularity is the watchword of Oak and Oscar, collaboration and innovation are the basis of Niall’s growth and innovation.

So those are three American watch brands that have captured our attention lately. Kansas City, Chicago, and Kansas City. Maybe people should quit flying over fly-over country and stop in to see what’s cool and new in American watches.

 

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