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The Shinola name has come a long way from its origin as a Rochester shoe polish maker to its modern rebranding as a Detroit lifestyle brand. With a stated mission of reviving American manufacturing, the company makes everything from leather products to bicycles — but watches are at its core. It's gone from an association with a certain old-timey expression to one of the hippest watchmakers around.
Resurrecting the once flourishing but since defunct American watchmaking industry is today a mantra of many a microbrand upstart and even larger companies like Timex. Shinola, however, deserves at least some credit for having fueled that idea (and perhaps even influenced other national watchmaking revivals such as those seen in Britain and France). When Fossil founder and former chairman/CEO Tom Kartsotis started the (modern) company in 2011, it went on to receive national attention and even support from politicians who approved of its efforts to revitalize Detroit and, by extension, American industry.
Combining a familiar American name (best known for the 1940s-era expression that one "doesn't know shit from Shinola") with Detroit's image of manufacturing pride, investment in the local community and much modern marketing savvy has proven highly successful. The brand employs locals and is known to assemble its watches and other products in Detroit, but its use of foreign components and American branding has also invited some criticism and controversy. Shinola's quartz watches use a movement it calls the Argonite, which is "hand-assembled in Detroit with Swiss and other imported parts." Its mechanical watches mostly use common Swiss movements from Sellita.
In the end, you're getting solidly built watches (and other products) with plenty of talking points — not to mention some retro looks that evoke America's past. Below is a breakdown of Shinola's primary men's watch collections and standout models.
The Runwell is Shinola's flagship product (not just its flagship watch) and its most populous watch collection. The above model represents it well with a simple, three-hand quartz movement and 41mm diameter, but the collection includes different sizes (Shinola watches tend toward the large side) and variants such as chronographs and those with small seconds subdials. The Runwell Sport is a chronograph that features consistent design elements like the Runwell's wire lugs but has a sportier vibe with a rotating bezel.
Diameter: 41mm; 47mm
Price: $595-$1,500 (including the Sport)
The Runwell Automatic gets its own entry because it stands out as the Shinola watch for watch enthusiasts: It's got the brand's recognizable look but is powered by the trusty Sellita SW200 automatic movement. As per our preference, we've highlighted the 39.5mm version, though the majority of models are a bold 45mm wide.
Diameter: 39.5mm; 45mm
The Detrola is Shinola's most affordable line and uses quartz movements and plastic (TR90 resin) cases, whereas other Shinola watches are mostly made in stainless steel. They're casual and fun in often playfully colorful styles and prominent-wearing 43mm cases. There's also a single, anomalous 38mm model.
Diameter: 38mm; 43mm
The Sea Creatures dive watches are also technically within the Detrola collection despite a rather distinct look and purpose. That's because they're made of plastic — but not any plastic: their 40mm cases use recycled ocean plastic, and so do the straps. They're available in five variations.
Though Shinola has a number of dive watches, the Duck's concept is very specific: it's made for surfing on the Great Lakes. (Sounds cold.) But rated to 200m of water resistance, you could use it for just about anything you'd otherwise use a dive watch for, including daily wear on dry land. The collection is focused, with a cohesive design and 42mm cases executed in a range of dial, bezel and strap combos.
With a squarish case, the Guardian is Shinola's only non-round watch. It's also by far the brand's most vintage-feeling watch, with wire lugs and a shape that recalls dress watches of decades past — though it of course retains the brand's stylish and playful sensibility. Somewhat flying under the radar — non-round watches can never expect to enjoy the popularity of more traditional styles — it's also the smallest collection, with only four models available at present.
With no relation to Seiko's famous diver, the Shinola Monster is the brand's only collection that's dedicated solely to automatic watches. It's also the home of most of the brand's highest price points for watches. Above is a capable dive watch with 300m of water resistance running on a Sellita SW200 automatic movement and measuring 43mm wide in stainless steel. The most affordable models come on rubber straps, but bracelets will cost more and bronze or titanium cases will run upward of $1,600.
Many Shinola watches are on the larger side, but the Vinton is the smallest the company makes. At 38mm in steel, it's also one of the most affordable collections, priced just above the Detrola. With a handsome, everyday appeal, these are some of the brand's most traditional-feeling models, but they're well executed and offer the Shinola experience in an easy-wearing package. An automatic model would be cool, but they're currently only offered with the brand's Argonite 715 quartz movement.
With wire lugs and a classic feel, the Canfield very much fits in Shinola's general aesthetic and approach — read: they look a bit like they belong in the Runwell collection. In fact, Shinola breaks the collection into regular Canfield and Sport. Most Sport models feature a chronograph and are amply sized at 45mm, but there are a couple at 40mm, as well as both three-hand and chrono models at 43mm.
Diameter: 40mm; 43mm; 45mm