Shinola expands in Detroit with leather manufacturing, second watch assembly line


Dozens of workers wearing white lab coats, hairnets and Crocs are hunched over tiny watch parts at Shinola’s state-of-the-art factory in Detroit’s New Center.

They are assembling the exceedingly popular and stylish Shinola watches, which range from $475 to $975.

ShinolaThe Detroit-based company just opened a second assembly line and next week will begin manufacturing leather-based products like watch straps, wallets and iPad cases in the same building, on the fifth floor of the College for Creative Studies A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education.

Shinola recently hired 30 new employees to help manufacture the leather products.

Shinola assembled about 50,000 watches last year and expects to manufacture 150,000 this year.

Related: What is in a Shinola retail store? Take our visual tour.

“It’s quite exciting to be able to grow like we want to and provide good jobs to Detroiters,” Shinola President Jacques Panis said Thursday. “We really are just trying to keep up with the demand.”

Two years ago, Shinola had just six employees. Today it has 247, most of whom are in Detroit.

ShinolaPanis said the factory has the capacity to assemble 500,000 watches a year – a rate the company hopes to reach in a year or two.

Given the company’s almost immediate global success, it’s not that unlikely. The watches are sold in Barney’s, Saks, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. One big fan of the watches – former President Bill Clinton. Even Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has one.

Angela Davis, 37, said she loves the watches not only because of their classic style, but because the company is making them in the U.S.

“It’s so cool to have a watch that’s made in Detroit and is helping create jobs,” Davis said.

In the fall, the company plans to begin selling pocket watches that will pay homage to Henry Ford.

ShinolaShinola makes much more than watches. In Midtown, employees assemble bikes that range from $1,950 to $2,950.

In addition to watches, leather goods and bikes, Shinola also sells candles, books and American flags.

“We’re so happy to be a part of the positive change in Detroit,” Panis said. “This is a great city.”

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.