Fine Timepiece Solutions Brings Movements Back to America

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Believe it or not, America was once a major player in watch manufacturing. In their day, brands like Gruen and Waltham showed the rest of the world what serialized watch production was all about. American brands manufactured entire movements from the ground up, and innovated and competed on the global playing field. Then a mix of the quartz crisis and mismanagement saw the end of American watch manufacturing. In the years since, the enthusiasm for watches has returned, spurning the creation of the US microbrand scene, as well as some larger commercial enterprises.

Manufacturing in the US, however, has remained a challenge with only a small handful of brands making strides. Grassroots in many respects, these efforts are valiant and exciting, but are often met with challenges. The biggest being a lack of watch-specific infrastructure, followed quickly by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s 2016 ruling that for a watch to be designated as “Made in America” the entirety of the watch must be manufactured here, from the case down to the springs. While a qualifying standard is needed, this is the most extreme standard in the world, and unfortunately does not correspond with what the industry is currently capable of doing.

But soon, that might change. Enter Fine Timepiece Solutions (FTS).

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Based out of a repurposed elementary school in Fountain Hills, Arizona, FTS is trying to provide a solution to the movement problem by making their own line of calibers, which are available for sale to brands. This is a big step, as previously American brands have pursued manufacturing for just their own ends. Nothing wrong with that, but for the American-made watch industry to take off again, suppliers that can be used by all are needed. That’s FTS’ goal, and this isn’t a hypothetical or something that is a few years down the line. They are there, now, making movements that are ready to sell.

Our mission is to empower America to once again become a competitive leader in watchmaking. – Kunal Naik (CEO)

Multiple years in the making, FTS isn’t operating in a silo either, rather they have support from one of the largest watch companies in the world. Titan Industries of India, part of the $100 billion TATA group, is the fourth largest watch company, and FTS’ technology partner. American’s might be saying, “Titan who?” And in fairness, the company does not do much business in the US, but they are a major global player and make some pretty interesting stuff, like the Edge, the thinnest ceramic watch in the world. More importantly, their guidance is huge as they have the experience and capabilities to really help push FTS’ growth.

Kunal Naik, CEO

This is very evident in FTS’ first line of calibers. Dubbed “Ameriquartz,” a trademarked name, FTS has produced 16 quartz calibers ranging from a simple two-hander to a moonphase to a world timer. Before moving on, a couple of important things. Yes, currently FTS is only manufacturing quartz movements. The reality is, it’s the easier place for them to start and get established, and on an industry level, quartz is still dominant. Second, FTS movements are currently not fully made in the US, thus they can’t have an unqualified “American-made” badge. They are working towards this goal, but are currently made of a mix of domestic and imported parts.

Worldtimer Caliber 7299

While that, unfortunately, does mean that a fully American-made watch with an Americaquartz movement won’t be available tomorrow or likely for a little while, they are actually ahead of their own schedule on this front. Currently, FTS is working with a US-based tech company to manufacture arguably the most important parts stateside, the ECB and coil, as well as various smaller components. Time and investment will allow them to reach that 100% goal, which is something they are truly eager to reach.

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Back to the movements. The 16 calibers not only offer a nice new range for brands to choose from, but also some interesting technical features. For example, at the top of every minute, the movements check their own accuracy and adjust accordingly. This makes them extremely accurate, even for quartz. Their movements are available in a range of widths to suit different design concepts, and each has multiple hand-height options. Additionally, the movements feature full metal construction (save the ECB) for added durability and jeweled bearings. A 5-year warranty is standard on their calibers for US customers, and spare parts are readily available.

My 34 years of high-level watchmaking experience enables me to improve on the existing designs of many manufacturers, thereby creating a highly improved movement that is very robust, easy to assemble, easy to service and is accurate. – Manuel Yazijian (CTO)

In a very smart move that a lot of US-based microbrands will likely find interesting, FTS is also offering assembly services. This is not just for customers of their movements, but any brand that would like to assemble stateside. An often under-discussed but vital part of the process, the assembly can make the difference between a good and a bad watch. A watch with dust under the crystal or a fingerprint on an applied marker, a watch with a bad seal or a misaligned bezel — that’s all assembly, and it’s also a part of earning the “American-made” badge.

Pointer-date Caliber 7023

In a sort of FTS meet-the-world event the other week, I was introduced to the company and got to see the facilities. A group of charming and enthusiastic people, the FTS team are very excited about what they are doing. They have the right attitude, but also the right approach and industry experience. Housed within a 69,000 sq.ft facility with massive expansion capabilities, they have their offices, but more importantly, two state-of-the-art clean rooms. As in, tooclean for me to go in — I had to view the room from a glass entryway. Massive HEPA filters line the ceilings, and the whole place is positively pressurized to keep dust out. We also got to drive dune buggies in the desert, but that’s another story.

While there is a long road ahead of them, FTS seems poised for great things. Taking the American-made aspect out of the equation for a moment, having another movement provider out there is always a great thing, as it will give more options to brands to choose from and more variety for consumers. Since FTS isn’t just remaking existing designs (i.e. they’re not ETA clones), but rather are taking a modern approach to their calibers, they are offering movements with a technological edge that will be of value. Add in the assembly services and they have a compelling business that is needed in the US market. The pursuit of an unqualified “Made in the USA” badge, which I believe they will achieve, is icing on the cake. As for mechanicals — well, they were careful not to say anything too concrete, but they are clearly looking into it.


Fine Timepiece Solutions

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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