I realized looking back at my recent posts that I have been living in the world of Pateks and Vacherons for a bit too long, so I wanted to bring myself and all of you back to Earth with a bit about a watch in my own collection, the Shinola Runwell. I know what you are thinking, he bought a quartz watch? What a traitor to the cause! Well first of all, I didn’t buy my Shinola, it was a gift from my Grandmother, so back off! Haha. While I did not really expect to like Shinola and I had thought of it a bit as a gimmick. It is after all a style-oriented watch “Made in Detroit” by a hip American company that people could feel good about wearing. That said I have been pleasantly surprised by the Shinola over the past few years, let me tell you why.
First off all, my personal Shinola is a 47mm Runwell, the first watch that Shinola produced. Since they began with the Runwell they have developed over a dozen different watch types (all generally in the $500-800 range) with a variety of dial and band styles. All told there are almost 1000 different combinations you could pick from. I really like that Shinola has chosen to offer such variety. They recognized that their market is most concerned with the look of the watch they are buying, and so they made sure they could cater, at scale, to a variety of tastes. The Runwell, at 47mm, is quite big and wears a bit bigger even because of the relatively thin bezel. The arabic numerals on the dial are bold and coated with impressively bright superluminova. The dial, combined with the wire lugs gives a retro almost railroad watch feel to the watch accentuated by the automotive feel of the Argonite-1069 and Detroit references on the watch face. All told this is a statement watch, but not in the way a big Panerai would be. It feels casual and stylish without coming off as opulent. I imagine this is exactly what Shinola seeks to portray with their brand, so well done there.
Okay, there is a little more to it than that. It is a Swiss Ronda quartz movement assembled in Shinola’s Detroit factory. Given this I think its a little disingenuous to describe this as an “American” watch, but the reality of the watch industry is that it is nearly impossible to not source parts from either Japan, China, or Switzerland and if you have to choose one I’m glad Shinola chose the Swiss.
What I like about it
Like I said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Shinola in the time that I’ve owned it. While at 47mm it is definitely larger than what I would normally wear it is quite thin and the down turned wire lugs do make it sit comfortably on the wrist. Adding to that comfort level is the fact that the Shinola leather bands are absolutely fantastic. One thing Shinola definitely can do is work with leather and the band was supple as soon as it came out of the box and feels great on the wrist. Also, as much as I am not a stylish person, I enjoy the overall look of the watch. There are some classic wristwatch tropes that most brands fall into (the dive watch, the pilots watch, the dress watch) and its nice to see and own something that really is a bit different. Finally, despite this being a quartz watch, I have been very impressed with the overall fit and finish. It has a screw down crown that feels very solid (often a weakness of quartz watches, among many) and the caseback is finished more nicely than many mechanical watches I’ve seen. Overall, despite this being a quartz watch, its clear Shinola put some real effort into producing a product that felt like it was of the quality the price would dictate.
What I don’t really like
First of all, its quartz, lets just get that out of the way. I, like most mechanical watch lovers I know, don’t really enjoy wearing quartz watches because you lose that mechanical history that is so fun to have on your wrist. You can also get a fine quartz watch for $30, so it seems a bit out of place to buy one for $500 (that said, there are quartz watches that cost a great deal more, including some that may make it into this series in the future). Other than that, this watch is big. While it does wear comfortably for a big watch there are times when it gets in its own way. Typing on a computer or holding a phone often makes the crown jab into your wrist which is not a new experience for anyone who has put a 47mm Radiomir on their wrist.
All in all I would characterize the Shinola as a pleasant surprise. While its size and stylishness are outside the realm of what I would normally wear it is a fun change of pace for someone who rotates through a number of watches. Would I spend $550 of my own money on it? Probably not, I would probably go out and by myself a Hamilton Intra-matic (which is basically the antithesis of this watch). That said I truly enjoy having it as part of my collection.