Shinola Watches, Imported from Detroit

The spiral is depressingly familiar: Competitive pressures keep wages down, low wages mean products must be priced low, low-priced products keep wages down... Hence we have low-paid big box store workers selling products on Thanksgiving to people seeking door-buster prices because their own wages are low, and better-paying manufacturing jobs have all been moved offshore.

Can manufacturing in America make a come back? Will people pay for it? There are some "green shoots" indicating "maybe". Motorola is doing final assembly of its X smartphone in Texas (to make fulfillment of personalized cases feasible), and The Atlantic reported on GE doing more manufacturing State-side again (to improve manufacturing and engineering collaboration).

Shinola (yes, named after the shoe polish) is a company based in the battered city of Detroit, and their headline product is their line of watches which are built in Detroit itself. They have trained a dozen or so workers to assembly the quartz movements that go into the watches (this isn't just assembling pre-fab components, as is the case with Motorola's X).

I love the idea of what Shinola is doing, and I'm quite partial to the Runwell in matte black finish in 41mm diameter (pictured above). I don't know that I'm quite ready to make the leap however, as at $600 this is a pricey for a quartz watch. But the reviews are positive - very good build quality, timekeeping is fine. And there seem to be a lot of people interested in seeing this type of industry thrive in the US - Shinola's been selling out every round of introductions in a matter of days, and have secured distribution at several high end national retailers.

Shinola is also making bicycles and leather and paper goods in Detroit.

Shinola is also making bicycles and leather and paper goods in Detroit.

Adam Richardson