“We want to do something radically different,” said Michael Wilson, the CEO and founder of Kansas City watchmaker Niall, on Thursday. The watch in his hand was his proof: the new One.M, a watch made mostly in America, out of a single block of carbon fiber, that sells for under $2,000. It’s the brand’s most affordable watch. “I want people to say, ‘Man, how did they do that for that price point?'”
It’s a fair question to ask. Carbon fiber — especially when used for the entirety of a watch — calls to mind high-tech, high-price timepieces like Richard Mille, who recently made a 20-gram watch for tennis player Rafael Nadal to the tune of $850,000. Wilson lists the One.M’s competitors as the Linde Werdelin Oktopus Double Date Carbon (97 grams, $13,800), Bell & Ross BR 01-94 Carbon Fiber (no weight listed, $9,800), Oris Williams Chronograph Carbon Fibre Extreme (dial-only carbon fiber, $2,900), and Graham Chronofighter Superlight Carbon (99 grams, $11,500), all of which use mechanical movements and target a luxury audience.
Instead, Wilson conceived of the material in a bid to get his watches on the wrist of the Kansas City Police Department. “They needed a watch under a $2,000 price point, that was also super-light and met other requirements,” like shock, EMP and heat resistance, he said.
The One.M meets those demands at 29.7 grams, thanks to a Swiss quartz movement and a case and dial that are entirely made of a single block of American-made carbon fiber with a ceramic coating to protect against deep scratches. Just like Niall’s other watches (e.g., the Eterna movement–driven, steel-cased GMT and Super Panda), almost every piece is produced and assembled in the US, other than the movement and the stem that connects the crown. For the first time, this will include the NATO strap. Buyers can customize the finish of the screws in the bezel and the color of the seconds hand and can choose between a “Stealth Black” or “True Blue” dial.
Wilson believes it’s the next step in his young brand’s injection into the American watch conversation. “My intention with this watch is that there’s going to be a lot of debate. With an $1,800 watch, [consumers] are going to say, ‘Oh, but it’s quartz.’ Someone else is going to go, ‘Yeah, but it’s carbon fiber,’ or ‘Yeah, but it’s American made.’ It’s meant to create a little controversy.”