Shinola defends ‘Built in Detroit’ claim

Detroit-based luxury lifestyle brand Shinola has defended its claims about the origins of its watch parts.

It has been forced onto the back foot after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) watchdog in the USA compelled two U.S. companies in the past month to change their watch labels and marketing claims to better reflect how they don’t meet the strict “Made in USA” standard that requires “all or virtually all” of a product be made in States. One of these companies was Niall, as WatchPro reported last month.

The issue centres around the ‘Built in Detroit’ tagline that Shinola uses on all its watches, as well as previous statements from the company that components of its highly precise watch movements are all Swiss-made.

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As a result of a Free Press inquiry last week, Shinola revised its consumer disclosure section on its website to add that the components are also from Thailand, where it admits that about one third of the components come from.

The quartz movement components come from Switzerland-based Ronda AG, which has factories in Switzerland and Bangkok. The dials, hands, crystals and buckles are all made in China, according to Shinola’s website. Only the leather and rubber watchstraps are manufactured in the U.S.

The FTC’s hard line on marketing claims about the origin of American goods affects Shinola particularly strongly, as it’s played on its ‘Where American is made’ advertising slogan so much since the brand’s inception in 2011. All advertising and store displays are designed to emphasise the American roots of the brand, which is why an FTC spokeswoman recently said that Shinola’s ‘Built in Detroit’ tagline could be tantamount to a ‘Made in USA’ claim that requires the strict sourcing rule.

Shinola has emphatically rebuked the suggestion that its claims are misleading, instead pointing to the fact that it has invested great time and money marketing a rebirth in domestic manufacturing centred in Detroit.

“This is building. For us, it’s not assembling,” said Shinola President Jacques Panis. He said of Shinola’s use of the phrase ‘USA Movements with Swiss Parts’ that they’d be “working through how that’s going to go moving forward,” indicating that there will be imminent discussions and negotiations between Shinola and the FTC.

The Shinola case is another example of how tricky it can be to manufacture watches in the USA, where the guidelines on what can be claimed to be made in the country are a lot tighter than the Swiss equivalent.

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