GEAR | Weiss Field Watch
When considering American-made watches, the story up until now has been pretty grim. Elgin, which made the GI-issued A-11, shuttered in 1968. Hamilton, which also made standard issue military watches is now owned by Swatch. Bulova is now owned by Citizen. The list goes on. Even the U.S. Military is often outfitted with Chinese-made watches (like the Casio G-Shock due to a lack of any better American option). But the story took a turn recently with new American artisan watchmakers cropping up like Shinola out of Detroit and now Weiss out of Los Angeles, which launched on June 1st with their Standard Issue Field Watch ($795).
I met up with founder Cameron Weiss this week and never imagined I'd leave a coffee meeting so inspired. I knew he wasn't the typical business brand guy when I noticed his fingers were ink-stained from having hand-painted a bunch of watch dials days prior. I assumed we'd be taking a tour of some posh office or showroom, but he admitted proudly that he makes every single watch himself in the dining room of his L.A. apartment. I had to see it for myself. It's not that I didn't believe him, it was just hard to imagine such a polished, quality and technical item coming out of anyone's dining room. He and his wife Whitney (who runs the marketing) obliged and let me in their home, where indeed their dining room has been converted into a watch factory full of polishing machines, etching mechanisms, microscopes, and a slew of other machines that I couldn't possibly identify.
Weiss worked for Swiss watchmakers Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin before deciding he was going to go out on his own and start a watch company. With no investment capital other than his own savings, he set up shop and started building watches. I'm happy to report the American Dream is alive and well in a small dining room in Los Angeles.
Cameron can only churn out a maximum of 2000 watches per year, which keeps Weiss solidly in the coveted category of small batch (as a comparison Cameron told me Shinola made about 30,000 watches in their first two weeks). While the price point is very high when compared to a Timex or an aesthetically-similar simple watch, these are crafted with the quality and precision of a luxury watch—the backing is even left visible so one can see the movements and mechanics of the 60-part watch. The Weiss Field Watch is large (42mm), but not cartoonishly large; it looks as great on a woman's wrist as it does a man's. Weiss watches are available online, at Alchemy Works in downtown Los Angeles and Deep Pocket Jean Co. in Hermosa Beach. Each watch is made to order.