Food & Recipe | March 24, 2014
Weiss Watch Company
The Weiss Watch Company creates handmade timepieces, but you won’t find them with the seemingly industry-standard Swiss made label. Rather, Cameron Weiss trained to become a watchmaker but brought the process to a domestic level, creating first of their kind American made watches.
If someone asked you for the time, you’d likely whip out a cell phone or peek down at a digital watch. With so many devices on us and around us, it’s easy to take timekeeping for granted. The same was for Cameron Weiss. When he first got interested in watchmaking, it was the result of a casual trip to the mall. He had gone in to get a timepiece and wondering out loud about the process of making the mechanical watches. “The guy I was buying a watch from explained to me that there are watchmakers in Switzerland in shops in the mountains,” Cameron said, and the idea of such a profession got him so interested that a short while later, he was training in Switzerland among the most experienced watchmakers in the world.
Switzerland is known for their mechanical watches, with the label “Swiss made” being prominent for many brands. When Cameron first entertained the idea of owning his own business, he admits “I thoguht I’d have to set up in Switzerland... Swiss-made is a very strong label, I was unsure whether we could make a watch in the US that would be marketable at all.” The answer to his question of if “we change people’s minds on the Swiss made label” was largely influenced by him noticing a movement of consumers towards items “that have a craft or craftsman behind them”. Being able to put a face with a brand name was growing more important to clientele, which was the “groundbreaking” inspiration for him to stay where he wanted to: within the United States.
It is not that watches haven’t been made in America before. Cameron cited that “100 years ago, we had operations that were making 10,000 to 20,000 watches a week” and were among some of the bigger operations in the world. Cameron realizing that he could take the expertise he had learned from training in Switzerland, combined with his years under other major watch brands, and “be a part of rebuilding that [movement] and reminding people the interest in watchmaking”. The watches that Cameron makes aren’t the battery-operated ones that need to be replaced every five years. These watches are built in the “old school way of watching”. No batteries are used, just metal parts with a few springs where the goal is to “showcase the mechanical movement, which is very elaborate”. The presentation of the watch is to be “timeless... so we don’t take away from the beauty of the mechanism”. Cameron tells me that the way of building these watches is why someone can find “an old pocket watch from the 1900s” and when you wind it up, it can still work.
However, why invest in a timepiece when you can peek at your phone? Cameron answers that there is no denying that “digital clocks are all around us”, but that is why timepieces has to do more with “the style of having something of quality on your wrist rather than something cheap and disposable”. It all ties back into the shift of people wanting to know who is behind their product. Cameron notes that other watches don’t have “heart behind it and no craftsman” for people to meet or learn about. He believes that when people meet the creator of the product that it makes “a connection of knowledge, and even a friendship there”. If nothing else, he finds that knowing a craftsman is putting the hours and passion into a product “builds an appreciation” for the overall industry and craft. Cameron also points out that there is a collector mentality with some for the timeless watches. He compares them to people who collect classic cars and how it’s “not about being able to drive them, it is more to have them and tell people about them”. When someone sees his watch on their friends wrist, there is a story behind it and the product goes beyond just its functionality.
Cameron is excited for the changes that he is bringing to American watchmaking. He admits that there are some risks to making the watches domestically. His goal is to have all parts, including the tiny little metal pieces within the movement, made in the US. He points out that a risk there is he could have “just gone to a Swiss factory and they would have made it perfectly the first time”. However, his bringing the process locally and teaching people how to make “something from nothing” is far more rewarding than importing the parts.
When asked how he would advise other business entrepreneurs, Cameron says that he “always really wanted to have my own brand” and focused on that long-term goal. The biggest thing he advised was to “stay interested”. When he first went to that salesman to get a watch, it sparked his interest but he needed to keep researching to get to that next step. He got the professional training from the best in the world to bring to his niche he wanted to create. He pointed out that nothing happens fast (his training to become a certified watchmaker took a year) and that it is easier to “learn a lot from the people who are interested in the same thing”. He says to “keep your ears open” for more information. Being able to take an entire craft and do it domestically has allowed Cameron to stay with his family and start his own business, all while contributing to a movement that is increasingly focusing on American made products.
Credits // Author: Kelsey Klemme // Photos Provided By: Weiss Watch Company