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L.A. watchmaker Cameron Weiss thinks his time has come
By Daniel MillerStaff Writer
Oct. 14, 2014
After hand-finishing the stainless-steel case of one of his timepieces in a whirring industrial polisher, watchmaker Cameron Weiss carefully submerged it in an ultrasonic cleaning tank.
When all of the impurities had been blasted off the case, Weiss removed it from the machine — and knocked his head on a frying pan suspended from a hanging pot rack.
His cramped kitchen filled with a shrill metal clang.
These aren’t the tradition-bound halls of a Swiss watchmaking facility, and Weiss doesn’t have a graying beard, continental accent and loupe affixed to his eye.
His floppy hair, stubbled jaw and surfer’s cadence seem more frat boy than fussy craftsman. But for the last year, the 27-year-old USC dropout has been producing the only mechanical timepiece with “Los Angeles” on its dial (a detail not every watch enthusiast appreciates).
https://www.latimes.com/local/great-rea ... story.html
The Goal at Weiss Watch Company? To Look ‘American’
Cameron Weiss’s creations for the Weiss Watch Company can take more than 60 hours to produce. He has been tinkering with all sorts of things, from watches to boats, since he was a boy growing up on the West Coast.Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times
Jan. 14, 2019
On a typical weekday, Cameron Weiss spends as many as eight hours huddled over a weathered wooden bench, working with tiny tweezers and screwdrivers, methodically making timepieces by hand. Most of the mechanical models he creates take more than 60 hours to produce and will be sold by retailers like Barneys New York and Mr Porter.
While Mr. Weiss’s résumé includes positions at prestige Swiss brands, including Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, his unpretentious workshop is in an austere industrial complex in Torrance, Calif., nearly 6,000 miles from Geneva. It is the headquarters of Weiss Watch Company, the brand Mr. Weiss, now 31, founded in 2013 to offer the timepieces he had quietly been making for several years.
The watches may be quite traditional in design and production, but the office’s atmosphere is relaxed: Mr. Weiss, his long hair frequently pulled back, works with his wife, Whitney, who handles marketing. Their two dogs — Bennet, a German shepherd, and Jules, a chocolate Labrador — are usually at their feet. Their newborn, Genevieve, is sometimes there, too. Grant Hughson, an employee, oversees the production of parts like screws and winding stems. (The two men make the majority of Weiss’s parts, although some components, such as wire springs, are bought from suppliers in Switzerland and the United States.)
Weiss Watch offers iterations of a single sleek design that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the wrist of a World War II officer or a 1950s businessman. “I didn’t want it to be crazy and elaborate or anything like that,” Mr. Weiss said. “I wanted it to be simple, which is kind of my idea of what an American timepiece is. If you look at it, you go, ‘That looks American.’”
The design, the culmination of nearly a dozen styles Mr. Weiss played with before starting the company, is offered in either 38 millimeters, about 1.5 inches, or 42 millimeters in diameter.
“It’s something that, if it went away in a safety deposit box for a hundred years and then it came out, the person taking it out would actually want to wear it,” he said. The timepiece on his own wrist — the Weiss American Issue Field Watch, with a stark white face and clean black numbers, on a thick hand-finished leather strap — illustrated the point.
The watch sells for about $2,000, while several limited-edition versions have been introduced recently at $2,500. Other mechanical models (the Standard Issue, with a different movement and a canvas strap) start at about half that amount. “One of the questions I got from a lot from friends, younger people,” Mr. Weiss said, “was, ‘What’s a good watch for $1,000?’ I never really knew what to tell them. So that was the target price for me: I wanted to make something that I could say, ‘That’s a good watch’ and, as a watchmaker, ‘I like that watch, but it doesn’t have to be so expensive.’”
A Barneys New York executive would agree. “It spoke to someone who wanted something timeless, but didn’t want to, for lack of a better word, break the bank,” said Melissa Gallagher, a senior vice president and the divisional merchandise manager of men’s footwear and accessories, and home. “We have found that it hits the mark where someone can come in and see something that’s attractive and know that they’re getting a quality piece, a piece that is a little more timeless than a flashy gold piece or something they might get tired of quickly.”
The Weiss workshop is in an austere industrial complex in Torrance, Calif. Mr. Weiss and an employee make the majority of the parts for their watches.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times
Mr. Weiss has been tinkering with all sorts of things, from watches to boats, since he was a young boy growing up in San Diego and on Bainbridge Island, Wash., a ferry ride from Seattle. He recalled, for example, being about 5 when he took apart a waterlogged quartz watch and replaced its face with a photograph of himself. By the time he was 12, he had made his own skateboard.
“I thought it was completely normal,” he said. “My parents would tell people about it — like, ‘How’d you learn to do that?’ — and I didn’t learn, I just attempted. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it didn’t.”
Although Mr. Weiss spent a couple of years at the University of Southern California and then worked at a company that made underwater camera equipment, by early 2010 he had moved to Miami to attend the Nicolas G. Hayek Watchmaking School.
After graduation, he had jobs focused mostly on watch repairs at Audemars in New York and the Vacheron boutique that had just opened in Beverly Hills, so he also got additional training in Switzerland. The positions involved a lot of interaction with owners and helped Mr. Weiss hone the brand that he was working on after business hours. “I met a lot people and was able to learn what their frustrations were,” he said. “I learned what they liked and disliked.”
Weiss offers iterations of a single sleek design that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the wrist of a World War II officer or a 1950s businessman.CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times
Price was one of the biggest concerns: “That was when I started thinking, ‘Maybe I don’t have to move to Switzerland to start a watch company.’”
Instead, he started the business inside a large walk-in closet in the couple’s Beverly Hills apartment, and the first 10 watches were sold in a month. Gradually, the business took over the whole space — parts were cleaned ultrasonically in the kitchen; orders were packed in the living room — so the company moved to its current office in early 2016, and the couple moved to an apartment nearby. (Weiss declined to release sales figures.) That year, Mr. Hughson became its only employee; he had worked freelance on brand projects for a couple of years.
The brand has tended to appeal to a fashion customer more than someone with, say, a selection of vintage Rolexes at home. “Cameron probably does better with someone who isn’t per se a watch collector, but is sort of a more casual enthusiast, and maybe at the same time, is looking for something that’s more of an emotional product,” said Ariel Adams, founder of the watch website aBlogtoWatch.
In September, Mr. Weiss introduced a limited-edition watch, a collaboration with the Wisconsin footwear brand Allen Edmonds for its Artisans of Freedom program to promote American craftsmanship; earlier in the year, he partnered with the California-based surf clothing brand Birdwell Beach Britches to offer whimsical watches that its cartoon mascot on Weiss watch faces.
In addition to being carried by a selection of style-focused retailers, the watches are sold on the brand’s website, which the watchmaker said attracts customers from countries as far away as Japan and Australia, as well as Europe.
“I particularly enjoy it when we ship a watch to Switzerland,” he said with a smile.
A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 15, 2019 in The New York Times International Edition
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/14/styl ... ornia.html
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