Can you imagine a shoe polish company turning into a watchmaker that sells its “Built in Detroit” quartz-powered watches for $500-$1000? Well, Shinola, previously a maker of “America’s Largest-Selling Shoe Polish”, is just that company. After their brand was acquired by an investment group, the famous trademark suddenly appeared not only on watches but also on bikes, all sort of premium-priced leather goods, and even soft drinks. With this limited edition Shinola Wright Brothers (ref. S0100052), the Detroit-based brand starts a whole series of timekeepers paying homage to famous Americans who gave humanity the wings to fly.
Presented in a cushion-shaped case reminding those gorgeous timekeepers that were all the rage back in 1970s (it is particularly close in styling to the beautiful Heuer Camaro chronograph), the watch features an easily recognizable design of its classic-styled dial, as well as their traditional case back cover that could even be called “signature” if the brand was a little bit less obscure than it actually is.
The watch is powered by the same Argonite 705 quartz movement that animates a number of their other, less expensive timekeepers. It is based on the Ronda 705 blank movement (it, for example, powers the last year’s Victorinox Swiss Army Night Vision military-styled watch). The mechanism has a good reputation thanks for its simplicity that makes maintaining and repairing the caliber easy for a skilled hand. However, the movement is also delicate and can be easily damaged if your repairman doesn’t know what he is doing.
Each mechanism is assembled by hand from over 50 Swiss-made parts. Well, if that means that each mechanism is individually tested and inspected for flaws, then I can only say kudos to the Detroit-based company, although I would prefer the watch to be simply equipped with a time-proven ETA automatic or a hand-wound caliber.
However, it must be noted that there is a fat fly lying in the ointment. While the movements are Swiss and the assembly labor is local, the cushion-shaped steel case, the propeller-shaped hands, and even the synthetic sapphire crystal come from China. While I have nothing against the country, their factories have a reputation of attempting to cut corners wherever they feel an opportunity to cut them so, frankly, I wouldn’t be comfortable owning this timepiece knowing that something wrong may happen to it at the worst moment possible.
Still, the main element -the movement- is dependable and, if you happen to live in the United States, changing a cracked crystal could be fast and easy.
In its press release, the American brand states that so far they plan to make no more than 500 individually numbered watches. They will be presented in special wooden gift boxes and will be accompanied by some of the brand’s leather accessories.
If the MSRP of $1000 is not too much for you and you don’t think that a “real” watch must always carry the over-hyped “Swiss Made” inscription on the dial, you should definitely try one of these beauties and also support the struggling Motor City.
See also: Cimier Time Square Chronograph Automatic
Photos: Shinola Watches
Build Quality: 4.5/5
Value for Money: 3/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
Shinola Wright Brothers (Ref. S0100052) specification
Price: $1000 (MSRP)
Movement: Quartz, Caliber Argonite 705 (based on Swiss Ronda 705 ebauche), assembled in the US
Power reserve: 60 months
Movement decoration: Nickel-plated
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case: Stainless steel
Size: 40.00 mm
Lug width: 24.00 mm
Hour markers: Luminous
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Dark brown leather strap
Back: Solid, engraved