Vortic watch and shotgun with shells in

Considering ourselves avid fans of watches of all styles and pedigrees, we here at Bespoke Unit wanted to show some love to American watch companies.

With Switzerland’s hegemony in the luxury space, the premium watch brands presented here can easily be called underdogs, yet we believe they deserve your attention.

Indeed, the USA has a rich horological history that merits exploring. Therefore, this guide will present a recap of America’s watchmaking history and some of the best American watches still in production today.

We’ll be exploring and showcasing the USA’s watchmaking prowess via the following topics:



Best American Watches

  1. Vortic Watches
  2. RGM
  3. Autodromo
  4. Devon
  5. Martenero
  6. Shinola Watches
  7. Weiss Watches
  8. Brew
  9. Kobold Watches
  10. Oak & Oscar

If you simply want to discover our featured top 10 best American watch brands, feel free to use the links above to jump around. Alternatively, scroll down to get started with a brief history lesson on American watchmaking.

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American Watchmaking History

Vortic Watch Co. - The Boston Model On The Wrist

The luxury watch industry has long been dominated by Manufacturers based in Europe, namely Switzerland and less so Germany. And with good reason! Some of the greatest innovations of the watch world, such as the chronograph or the tourbillon, were contrived in France and later perfected in Swiss territory.

Yet the landscape at the end of the 19th century was much different. Industrialization had transformed the United States into a manufacturing powerhouse, and when the same methods & guidelines were applied to watchmaking, the industry was changed forever.

The first to industrialize watch manufacturing were Aaron Dennison, David Davis, and Edward Howard, who would go on to found the first American Watch Brand, the Waltham Watch Company, in Waltham, Massachusetts. Interestingly, their business plan was inspired by what they observed when they toured the Springfield Armory.

Waltham Watch Customer Service Dept

The goal was clear. Each component of the watch was to be manufactured by an individual machine, as this would accomplish two goals:

  1. Mechanization of the process
  2. Interchangeability of components

The components would then be put together by an assembly line of workers who didn’t require nearly as much training as traditional watchmakers.

American Vs. European Watch Manufacturing

Comparatively, European watchmakers were sourcing hand-crafted pieces from all over and fitting them together under one roof. Meanwhile, the folks at Waltham were machining every piece in-house and en masse.

Before the end of the century, Swiss manufacturers were already implementing similar machines in their own factories. American watch companies would enjoy decades of success, even though the once-lagging Swiss and British manufacturers were making up ground.

Yet, American watch brands failed to maintain their lead. World War I saw a transition to wristwatches that American manufacturers were not so quick to adapt to. The Great Depression dealt the next jab. World War II would bring the final blow, as many factories were forced to pivot their production to aid the war effort.

Early Timex Watch Factory

Early Timex Factory. Images: Timex & Timex Group

Through the tough times of the second half of the 20th century, there was only one American watch brand that would survive. The Waterbury Clock Company, later renamed the United States Time Corporation (AKA Timex), endured mostly due to the cheap nature of its product.

The popularity of inexpensive quartz watches invented in the 1970s would wreak havoc on the global industry, putting most American watchmakers and watch brands worldwide out of business.

The Best American Watch Brands

Unfortunately, in the present day, there are virtually no brands that survived the past century without moving at least some (if not all) components of manufacturing overseas. Yet, this has not prevented new brands from spawning across the United States with the goal of shining a light on American watchmaking.

A common thread in their marketing campaigns is American heritage and centuries-old tradition, of which there is plenty when speaking about the once-revolutionary American watch industry.

This fact, coupled with an ever-increasing demand for made-in-USA goods, presents fertile ground for the following American watch brands to thrive.

1. Vortic Watch Co.

Vortic watch overlay with pocketwatch

Of all the American watch brands we bring you today, Vortic Watches are probably as close as you will get to a watch truly “made in the USA.”

They begin with vintage American pocket watches. These are fully restored by American watchmakers while still maintaining the original dial, hands, and movement. Their titanium or bronze cases are 3D printed in New Hampshire and then shipped to their Fort Collins, CO, headquarters to be milled and assembled. The remaining components, including the crown, double-domed sapphire crystal, strap, case inserts, and casebacks, are all manufactured throughout the US.

Vortic like to highlight that each of their watches is unique, a claim often seen in the watch space, yet we believe it to be genuine. A quick look through their online shop will make you a believer, too.

Indeed, every dial is distinctive from the last. Even if the design is similar, each antique pocket watch lived a different life, producing different levels of wear and patina. Even after being restored, the watches retain unique characteristics and personalities that are hard to get with any other watch brand, either made in the USA or not.

P.S. Paul Anthony actually owns one of these! Check out his picture-packed review of the Vortic American Artisan Series

2. RGM Watch Company

RGM Watches Pennsylvania Tourbillon Dial Details

The Breathtaking Pennsylvania Tourbillon Dial. RGMwatches.com

Roland G. Murphy is an American watchmaker through and through. Classically trained in Switzerland, he founded RGM in 1992 with a wide breadth of watchmaking and watch restoration experience.

Since inception, Murphy has applied his skills and knowledge to re-plant the seeds of grassroots American watchmaking. In fact, the first US-made serial production tourbillon is attributed to RGM.

The brand is also recognized as the first American watch company to design and manufacture their own movements since Hamilton Watch Co. closed its doors in 1969.

A boutique watch company, RGM nevertheless maintains production models with a base price just north of $3000 while offering a more bespoke experience for their higher-end pieces like the infamous Pennsylvania Tourbillon.

Produced completely in Lancaster, PA, the made-to-order Pennsylvania tourbillon leaves little to be desired compared to similar complications manufactured in Switzerland. It’s also made with the same time-honored materials and methods like German silver and black polished steel.

The highlight has to be their handmade tourbillon cage, though – a feast for the eyes of watch nuts everywhere.

Shop RGM Watches On eBay

3. Autodromo

Autodromo Chronograph on Driver's Wrist

Autodromo Vallelunga Chrono. Autodromo.com

As suggested by the name, Autodromo watches invoke a clear influence from cars, particularly those in the so-called “golden age of motoring.”

All of their pieces are designed in-house, with vintage cues and minimalist themes being evident throughout their diverse model line. Autodromo watches have become so intertwined with the automotive community that, in 2018, Ford commissioned them to design a wristwatch to sell along with their Ford GT Supercar.

Autodromo Group B Series 2 Orange Dial On SteelAlthough admittedly a greater watch enthusiast than a gearhead, I have been keeping an eye on Autodromo for quite some time. Their Group B series, which draws aesthetic inspiration from the Group B rally cars of the mid-1980s, has always piqued my interest.

It’s not easy to accomplish the look of the integrated bracelet without looking like a Genta copycat, but Autodromo has managed it rather successfully.

Their titanium & steel cases possess sharp angles, a protruding sapphire crystal, and muted-tone dials with bright indices and hands. A bold combo indeed that achieves an exceptional look at affordable prices.

Shop Autodromo On eBay

4. Devon Watches

Devon Watches Tread 1 Time Belt Wristshot

Devon Tread 1 On The Wrist. Devonworks.com

For those craving to stand out from the crowd while still supporting American watchmaking initiatives, look no further than Devon Watches.

The Pasadena, CA-based company has managed to penetrate the often snobbish watch industry with a shot out of left field. Their electro-mechanical pieces are like no watch that has ever been seen before, and according to their founder Scott Devon, this was always the objective.

The Devon Tread line of watches, with its innovative Time Belt System, embodies ingenuity and is a clear deviation from traditional watchmaking. While battery-powered and rechargeable, their timepieces contain mechanical elements that cycle a series of belts to display the current time front and center, yet still in an analog fashion. As if their initial concept wasn’t daring enough, Devon has also previously introduced a Star Wars version of their Tread 1 line. This insane combination of new age horology with fantasy is certainly something to behold, though not as easily worn, with its 61mm case diameter.

Shop Devon Watches On eBay

5. Martenero

Martenero Edgemere Reserve Collection Dial Options

Edgemere Reserve Dial Options. Martenero.com

Based out of Brooklyn, NY, Martenero has been steadily garnering attention (and wrists) in the micro-brand space.

Their mantra, “Tradition Refreshed,” looks to incorporate the modern aesthetic into the age-old watchmaking tradition. Most importantly, they aim to do this at an accessible price point, an objective often discarded by fledgling watch companies.

With all of their current models sitting comfortably under the $700 mark, many of them even under $500, we would argue that they’ve been prosperous in their endeavor.

In the early days, Martenero offered a BYO (build-your-own) experience on their site for their introductory Ace and Founder models. The consumer could select the dial, hands, and strap combinations to their liking.

While you can still pick from various dial options with more recent models, the customization options have been pared back, perhaps for the best. While the wearer of a watch should have some say in how their timepiece looks, Martenero’s vision establishes the brand’s identity. And by looking at their recent Edgemere Reserve models, this vision is truly sharp.

Shop Martenero On eBay

6. Shinola Watches

Like some of the other brands mentioned here, watches are not the only products that Shinola brings to the table. Along with his & her’s watch model lines, Shinola also offers bags, jewelry, and bicycles.

But to understand the essence of Shinola, one must glance past their virtual storefront and into their story. Looking back to 2012, within the walls of an abandoned building in rock-bottom Detroit, Tom Kartsotis saw opportunity. It would be in that building where the massive state-of-the-art Shinola watchmaking facility would be built.

Shinola Watchmaker Assembling Watch In Detroit

Shinola Watchmaker Assembling A Timepiece In Their Detroit HQ. Image: Shinola.com

Sticking with the “Made In Detroit” motif, it only made sense to staff the facility with locals as well. To achieve this, Shinola partnered with Ronda AG to offer advanced training to their local teams in the art of movement and case assembly.

This does indeed entail that their watches are not 100% made in the USA; the number of American watch brands genuinely claiming this can probably be counted on one hand. But it does exhibit a commitment to quality, and if it’s anything like their pledge to rebuilding a community, Shinola will continue releasing robust and trendy timepieces for decades to come.

Shop Shinola On Amazon
Shop Shinola On eBay

7. Weiss Watch Company

Weiss Gauge Watch Light Green Dial Closeup

Weiss Watch Co. Limited Edition Gauge Watch With Light Green Dial.

The Weiss Watch Company, founded in 2013 in Los Angeles by Cameron Weiss, is another one of the few American watch companies that have proclaimed “100% made in the USA” watches their mission.

While they are not there yet, it’s safe to say that they’re getting close. With each model release, they have successfully increased the amount of domestically sourced products that go into each of their wristwatches.

The problem encountered by Weiss Watch Co. and other American watch brands with similar objectives is the lack of US-based suppliers for many of the specific components that go into watches and watch movements.

The demand for these components whittled to nothing over the last century, and the suppliers operating critical watch factory machines went with it. The few remaining players were left looking overseas for cheaper solutions.

Luckily, tides have recently started to shift, and home-grown is becoming more desirable. This newly created niche opens a void to be filled and paves the way for future newcomers to build entire US-made watch companies on.

Browse Weiss Watch Shop

8. Brew Watch Company

Brew Watches Retrograph Blue Dial Lume Picture

Brew Watches Retrograph With Blue Dial. Brew-watches.com

The Brew Watch Company comes out of NYC with some inspiration that I (and probably most of the US) hold dear to their hearts – a bold cup of Joe.

Despite the fact that they got their start on Kickstarter, Brew watches have now become established in the micro-brand community of watches made in the USA. The company’s founder & designer, Jonathan Ferrer, touts inspiration from industrial espresso machines. One look at their chronographs and you’ll see it too.

The cases have a rounded square profile and are presented in steel. The dials are characterized by symmetrical chronograph subregisters, also with rounded square contours and minimalist hour & minute indices.

The detail-oriented will also notice individual graduations for the first 35 seconds of chrono runtime – ensuring precise timekeeping for the ideal extraction of an espresso shot.

Shop Brew Watches On eBay

9. Kobold Watches

Kobold Everest Limited Edition Dial Texture

Everest-Rock Dial On Kobold Everest LE. Koboldwatch.com

Kobold is another brand making strides towards the rebirth of watchmaking in the United States.

Its founder, Michael Kobold, learned the craft from master watchmakers in Germany. Yet Kobold’s objective was always geared towards the resurrection of American watchmaking, and the brand’s evolution clearly highlights this intent.

In 2004, they authenticated their mission with significant R&D investments. Only two years later, they would release their first model to be assembled in Pittsburgh, PA, with European components. Fast forward eight years, and Merry Oaks farm is inaugurated as the first watch case manufacturing facility in the US for over 50 years.

Michael Kobold’s own summit of Mt.Everest, along with a series of cameos in feature films, helped garner even more attention for Kobold watches. The Kobold Phantom featured in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and 2012 saw the release of a model possessing a dial made of rock from Everest’s summit. The spirit of exploration has now become synonymous with the brand, as has their line of rugged and eye-catching sports watches.

Shop Kobold Watches On eBay

10. Oak & Oscar

Oak Oscar Jackson Chrono Blue Dial Suede Strap

Oak & Oscar Jackson Chrono Blue Dial Variant. OakandOscar.com

The Chicago-based Oak & Oscar watches came to be when founder Chase Fancher found himself in a bit of a rut in his life. Unsatisfied with his current employment, Fancher set out to pursue his passion for watches and product design.

While he admits that his goal is not specifically to produce “Made In America” timepieces, Fancher rectifies his objective to manufacture high-quality, desirable watches with American heritage. Well, the proof is in the pudding.

Oak & Oscar’s first two models, the Burnham and the Sandford, both sold out. The Jackson Chronograph, one of their current offerings, has also been wildly successful.

It boasts a dark grey or blue dial with contrasting subdials and splashes of signal orange throughout. The steel cases, housing robust Swiss automatic movements (Eterna), extends the muted color theme.

A high-quality Chicago Horween leather strap puts the final touch on this chrono, ensuring that age and wear will only make this timepiece more sightly


Shop Oak & Oscar Watches On eBay

Hamilton Watch Company & A Promising Perspective For US Watch Brands

Hamilton Watch Co Lancaster Factory

Hamilton Watch Co. Lancaster Factory In PA. Image: Hamiltonwatch.com

We’d be doing a disservice to the history of American watchmaking if we failed to mention the Hamilton Watch Company.

Even though the original US-based manufacturer went out of business in the late 1960s, the Hamilton brand was rebirthed in Switzerland at the beginning of the 21st century.

The contemporary collection of timepieces now boasts the Swiss Made pedigree, yet their heritage of American watchmaking still reigns as the inspiration for their designs.

Hamilton got its start in the late 1800s in Lancaster, PA, producing pocketwatches renowned for their quality and accuracy. This notoriety would earn them the pockets of railroad personnel, aviators, and the men of the US Armed Forces. When wristwatches gained popularity, Hamilton followed suit.

In the 1930s, Hamilton watches would first make an appearance in films, forever forging the relationship between the brand and cinema that persists to this day.

Hamilton would enjoy many decades of success, particularly with iconic models like the asymmetric Ventura and the Pulsar, the latter being considered the world’s first digital electronic watch.

But luxury wristwatches would fall out of favor, particularly with the introduction of cheap quartz watches. Very few brands, even those based in Switzerland, would survive the dreadful quartz crisis.

Shop Hamilton On Amazon
Shop Hamilton On eBay

Looking Ahead for Hamilton

Today, Hamilton still enjoys their flourishing association with Hollywood, appearing on the wrists of lead characters in the blockbusters ‘Interstellar’ and ‘The Martian.’ They’ve also expanded into extreme sports by becoming the Official Timekeeper of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

Hamilton Sponsors Red Bull Air Racing

Red Bull Air Race Sponsored By Hamilton. Hamiltonwatch.com

Only time will tell if the brand will ever make a return to the US. Judging by how much watch brands revel in (and market) their heritage, it seems plausible. Growing tendencies in the industry also seem to point in this direction. And if trends indeed begin as tendencies, we may see this happen sooner rather than later.

Do you agree with the watches on our list? Any personal favorites we may have missed here? Let us know in the comments below!

Further Reading

Hungry for more horology? Check these out:

"Bespoke Unit perfectly summarizes 200 years of American watchmaking history. I'm looking forward to seeing what the featured brands bring to the table in the upcoming years."
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