When you think of handmade watches selling for several thousand dollars, you imagine them being made in Switzerland or other foreign countries, so you may be surprised to hear that one luxury brand is being manufactured right here in the good ‘ol USA. Would you believe in Kansas City?
Niall is a tiny but ambitious startup that crafts watches by hand using American-made parts with Swiss movements. The resulting luxury timepieces sell for around $4,000 each. WatchReport writer Don Evans will be doing an in-depth review of Niall watches shortly, but here’s a short introduction to this new brand and how it was born in the USA.
In an interview with TechCrunch, Niall founder Michael Wilson, a former marketing executive who learned the art of working with metals from his father, explained how he turned his love for fine watches into a business.
“All of this started from a passion for watches paired with a background in manufacturing and entrepreneurship. As we explored what it would take to build a watch, we were disappointed to find so many watch brands were shipping all the production to China/Germany and simply white labeling their products.”
Learning a bit about labor costs gave Wilson insight into how they affected the price of a luxury timepiece. “After reading an article in the Economist we learned the average Chinese watch costs $2 to make – while the average Swiss watch costs around $685 to make. This opened our mind to how the market currently worked and how there was need for a little industry shake up.”
While Niall watches use movements imported from Switzerland, the majority of the parts are sourced from across the U.S., places like Pennsylvania for screws and cases, San Francisco for crowns and New York for bracelets. The watches are finished at a spring works factory located in Kansas City. Of the final watch, Wilson says, “It’s elite and it’s American.”
Wilson is certainly to be applauded for choosing to make his watches here in the U.S. with American labor instead of sending more jobs overseas, so let’s hope he gets some nice tax breaks and perks like that. According to TechCrunch, the Niall watches sport an understated face with distinctive back-slung lugs and recall the looks of models made by Audemars-Piguet or Hublot. Prices will start in the neighborhood of $3,950—and that’s a pretty high-class neighborhood.
While “Made in the USA” is a great slogan, will the sometimes-snobbish potential buyers for a watch costing several thousand dollars spring for a timepiece without a fancy “imported” label? Is “elite” and “American” considered being incompatible by the customers for luxury watches? Hopefully, the market for expensive watches is big enough for a new all-American entrant.
Stay tuned for Don’s comprehensive look at the Niall brand, and let’s hope that this new watch has the potential to become an American classic. Wilson sums up his feeling about the Niall brand thusly: “The watch itself is strong, simple and bold.”