One California watchmaker sees his recently launched private-label business as potentially more lucrative than his namesake watch company.
Cameron Weiss, who started and runs Weiss Watch Co. Inc. in Torrance, Calif., is offering a supplier division called Pinion Precision Technology that could link fashion brands and others interested in selling watches with U.S.-made watch movements.
“I know that as I was starting my company, there was nobody to go to in order to find parts in the U.S. because I really wanted to make as much here in the U.S. as possible,” Weiss said. “So I had to figure out how to do something like this [facility] and get everything running, design all the parts and really build the expertise. Having said that, it just seemed like the perfect option to go into parts manufacturing for other people that might have the idea or they might have the design, but they don’t have anywhere to go to get that part.”
Thus, Precision will be able to make either watch components for companies like Weiss Watch that already has the assembly capability, or produce a complete watch for companies without the expertise or skilled labor to assemble the timepieces on their own.
Weiss said Precision has started preliminary talks with some companies, but declined through his spokesman to provide further details.
He also thinks the watch manufacturing business will eventually eclipse that of Weiss Watch Co. — which has sold a “few thousand” watches since it was founded in 2013 — for a few reasons. First, he’s banking on the expected wind-down in supply of movements from Swatch Group’s manufacturing business Eta to other companies. But also, there’s the simple fact that the business would be able to produce a broader set of designs beyond the simple look that defines the Weiss brand.
“It’s going to be a much bigger business than Weiss simply because of the fact that Weiss is much more for simple design,” he said. “The design aesthetic I like is classic, mechanical winds, whereas with other designs, another designer might have an eye for something much more technical [and] much more complex that might be a totally different product than something we would make for Weiss.”
It’s an intricate process making a mechanical watch, which involves about 150 pieces. Up until Monday, Weiss had been selling watches with parts sourced from Los Angeles and Switzerland. But the facility in Torrance and the right machinery in place now allows for the company to produce a mechanical watch fully made of U.S. parts, which is called the CAL 1003 mechanical movement sitting in the company’s American Issue Field Watch, of which 50 were produced and are sold in the Weiss online store for $2,500. The movement’s set to be phased in throughout the rest of the company’s collection.
Weiss watches are sold in 35 stores, including Barneys New York and most recently went in Nordstrom.
Weiss bootstrapped to start the business, launching with a batch of 10 watches that sold within a month all through the company’s web site. Prior to starting the business, he attended a two-year program at the Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School’s Miami location and went on to work in Switzerland and New York for Audemars Piguet. He went back to Switzerland to work at Vacheron Constantin and returned to the States to help the company open its Beverly Hills watch repair studio.
Weiss counts three company employees in Torrance. He’ll eventually create an assembly line that would allow new employees to learn the steps of watchmaking sequentially by mastering one part before moving on to the next. Sourcing the right talent can be difficult, Weiss said.
“It takes a particular person that not only can do that style of work, but is also interested in it and able to stay focused,” he said.
For him, the focus stems back to his childhood when, even then, he said he liked watches. It’s that same interest that continues to create momentum for the business today.
“I like the fact that it’s like a little machine on your wrist and you can have it with you all the time,” he said. “That was always my biggest interest in it and kind of what led me down the path of learning about mechanical watches.”