Daniel Caudill is ushering Detroit-based watch company Shinola into a new era of American design and manufacturing. Under Caudill’s leadership as Creative Director, Shinola produces American-made products ranging from watches, bicycles, and small leather goods of superior craftsmanship and character. We recently visited Caudill at Shinola’s headquarters in Detroit for an inside look at their trademark watches and unique design process, which continue to make the company’s success and public appeal soar. -The Stone Set
“I went to design school and studied merchandising, marketing, and design. My first job out of school was designing apparel and accessories before going to Adidas for six years. I left design and started styling for celebrities, photo shoots, and music videos. Then it was on to brand consulting. I’ve done a lot of different things in the design space. The most amazing part is that I’m able to use all of my skills that I’ve honed over the past 20 years every single day. Some days, it’s paperwork and organization. Others, it’s putting together product categories and store environments. I feel very lucky that I’ve had different things in my past that I’ve worked on and that they’ve come together for this job at Shinola.
Everything we are is because of our watch factory here in Detroit. Our first goal was to build this watch factory in the United States and to bring watchmaking back to this country. Everything can be done at scale and is done in this country. We launched with the Runwell, which is our iconic watch. We’ve since added colors, sizes, and we’re doing a Runwell Sport watch with a turning top ring. The line built out from there, and we always evolve it. Starting with an iconic piece allowed us to build a brand and establish a language of what we stand for.
Our design process isn’t very traditional, which sets us apart. I’ve never worked in an environment where collaboration is so welcomed. Most of the time, when you have too many cooks, nothing happens. But here, all the right cooks are in the kitchen. You can see this in our products, which we feel are superior. So superior, we actually require all of our retailers to visit our factory and headquarters before they can sell our watches. We are not a marketing driven company—we care about the craft. Having sellers understand our manual process has been key for making them brand evangelists.
Shinola is proudly made in the United States. When you hold one of our watches and understand how it’s made, the value is exceptional. The components that go into our watches are exceptional and the quality control just amplifies that. I am very proud to stand behind our product. The movement parts are Swiss and assembled in the United States. We can’t make everything here—it’s impossible. Our goal is that if we can’t make something in the United States, we seek out the best makers in the world, regardless of location.
New goods are always in the works. We recently launched pet accessories. A lot of people here, myself included, have pets and they’re such a large, important part of our lives. From a design aesthetic standpoint, I want products at home that look cool and are great quality, will last, and I can easily clean. These dog beds, leashes, and toys will last a long time. Women’s is also a huge opportunity. This brand has a masculine skew to it, but women’s is a way for us to differentiate ourselves as a classic American brand. We want women to own our watches for years and not turn around in six months and want a new color.
Personally, I wear a different watch every day. We have a strap replacement program and I’m the biggest customer. I love different colors and textures. I sometimes even carry a second one with me. I like to keep people guessing…you never know what strap I’ll break out!” -Daniel Caudill, Creative Director of Shinola
Photography by The Stone Set.