2012 saw an on-line explosion of crowd-funded projects through sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. People with an inkling of an idea were getting funding to make their product, game, book or movie, and watches were not at all left out of the fun. While many have been digital watches with an array of functions, there have been some more traditional mechanical watches to hit these sites as well. Some have been successfully funded and, sadly, others have not. Adding to the list of mechanical watch hopefuls is Hager Watches, who is attempting to launch their Swiss collection using the aptly named CrowdFunder site.
Hager is not entirely new to the watch scene, having been established in 2009 in the US with the goal of creating a high quality, affordable mechanical watch. They feel they achieved this goal with the Classic Commando, a mil-sub styled watch powered by the Seagull TTY2806 movement. The watch chips in at under $300 and has received positive reviews from a number of the watch forums. In terms of delivering on their promise it seems Hager is off to a good start. But now, they want to do something different.
The next step for Hager is providing high quality Swiss made watches at an affordable price. In their attempt to achieve this Hager has a funding goal of $134,000 on CrowdFunder. They are looking at three different models offered in two different finishes (stainless and black DLC). Prices for the watches range from $600 for the Hager Professional to $1,400 for the Hager Skymaster Stealth Chronograph, and, at present, these watches are available only on the CrowdFunder site (which only makes sense as the whole effort of the campaign is to get these watches built).
The way it is worded on the campaign page, however, it is unclear if the watches will be available directly from Hager after the close of the campaign (assuming they meet goal): “The watches that are being offered here are exclusive offerings discounted at a special price and only available in this campaign on Crowdfunder.” In any case, from the images on the site the watches look sharp, nothing ground breaking, but at least some nice aesthetics and clean designs.
The first of the offered models is the Hager Professional, a 42mm, 200M water resistant diver. According to Pete from Hager, the watch is powered by a HR 24 Swiss made automatic movement, which is produced by their partner DEPA. Pete told me that DEPA will be making special customizations to one of their base movements for Hager. The movement will have 21 jewels, 36 hours of power reserve and beats at 21,600 vph. I personally am not familiar with DEPA movements but am glad that Hager apparently found a partner to help them with their goal of producing affordable Swiss watches.
The second watch, The Traveler, is a GMT watch again powered by another customized DEPA movement, this time the HR 28. The base watch has all the same specs as the Professional in terms of size and water resistance. The GMT on The Traveler works as a GMT should: the 24 hour hand is used to track your “home” time while the 12 hour hand can be independently adjusted to your local time.
Rounding out the collection is the Skymaster Chrono, an ETA 7750 based mechanical chronograph. Again, same case specs as the other two watches: 42mm diameter, 22mm lugs, 50.5mm in length and 14.5mm thick. All three watches are available in stainless case and a DLC finish. It appears that all three also use the same case and bracelet, which seems a smart move to keep manufacturing costs down. Personally, I’d be happy owning any of the three based on what I have seen so far. If you want to get in on things now, pricing is as follows:
- Professional: $600 stainless, $750 DLC
- The Traveler: $900 stainless, $1,050 DLC
- Skymaster: $1,250 stainless, $1,400 DLC
Hager’s plan, should they make the initial funding, is to have the watches be Swiss made, so the movements and assembly will be all done in Switzerland.
Interestingly enough, it does not stop there. Hager has its eyes set on becoming the next major United States player in the luxury watch market. In fact, the heading of the CrowdFunder campaign page is, “It’s Time to Support a Resurgence in American Watch Manufacturing.” However this comes at more than the $134,000 price tag; $1.5 million to be exact. Hager feels that is the amount it will take to get actual watch manufacturing going in the United States, including in-house movements. In fact, they expect to be able to develop and manufacture movements that are of equal standard as those submitted to the COSC within five years. Although this is mentioned in the CrowdFunder campaign it seems clear that these funds will not come completely from this effort. It will take Hager some time and investors to get the American manufacturing off the ground, but the CrowdFunder project is a good start.
(One note I did find odd is in their presentation slide deck, they state “America no longer manufactures in-house watch movements or American Made luxury watches that compete with the Swiss.” There are other companies doing this, RGM obviously comes to mind, and Shinola out of Detroit is working on producing an in-house watch movement as well, the Argonite 1069, although it is quartz. There are others doing work and perhaps Hager was more looking at the subjective “affordable” view.)
The goal of revitalizing the American watch industry is worthwhile in the eyes of a watch enthusiast and I sincerely hope Hager is able to do it. The current campaign to build their line of Swiss watches is a good start, although it may be a bit premature to call this an “American Watch Manufacturing Renaissance.” It is going to take a big movement from the American watch community and a fair bit of investments from outside parties to reach that $1.5 million goal. Nevertheless, I wish them all the luck, and if you are at least interested in what Hager is doing, be sure to pop over to their CrowdFunder page.
by James Enloe