Title Image


The Rise, Fall and Rise of American Watchmaking: J.N. Shapiro of California

One should be excited over the prospect of not what J.N. Shapiro of California is now, but what it represents – glimpse of what American watchmaking can be again

Let’s first address the elephant in the room, J.N. Shapiro watches are badged with a “California” name plate but the movements are supplied by Uhren Werke Dresden. Conceived, designed and manufactured entirely in Germany, J.N. Shapiro’s movements are not American but in this instance, one should be excited over the prospect of not what it is, in so much as what it represents – a glimpse of how American watchmaking can compete once again.

The Dresden calibre features a “floating” mainspring barrel which in concert with the modern petticoat bracket and orientation by means of conventional positioning pins deliver a unique visual spectacle, giving clear view of the six-shank gear train, unlike your other run-of-the-mill, stock movements used by other American watch brands. That said, everything else is 100% American.

Movement is a German manual-wind Uhren Werke Dresden (UWD) caliber with 19 jewels, 21,600 vph and a power reserve of 53 hours. The 18kt yellow gold serial number plate was made in California, and it is beveled and hand engraved by Artur Akmaev. The movement features a floating barrel, a balance wheel with eccentric regulation. Sunburst pattern on the crown wheel and ratchet produced by hand. Open construction with individual wheel brackets. Additional fine regulation via regulator system. Incabloc shock-resistant balance wheel mounting. Seconds stop operated by pulling out the crown.

The dial is composed of seven different parts, each individually machined. Every surface is engine-turned or circular grained by hand. There are four engine-turned patterns on the dial. The barleycorn, created on the rose engine machine, is outside the chapter ring. The circular ratchet pattern separating the minutes and hours was also created on the rose engine machine. On the inside of the chapter ring is the basketweave, one of the most difficult engine-turning patterns.

This dial features a solid 18kt rose gold seconds ring and name plate. Everything else is made from silver. The engine-turned sections have been frosted white using the same techniques as A.L.Breguet.

Dressed with an American made leather strap by Stone Creek or Arizona and with prices starting US26,000, what J.N. Shapiro represents, is the potential of what it could be with support and awareness of a nascent genre of American watchmaking mostly forgotten.