Gordner: Shinola Misses the Point With Marketing of Special Pocket Watch

November 30, 2014, 10:11 PM

Jillian Gordner attends Groves High School and is the author of a satirical blog,  Current Event Comedy.

By Jillian Gordner

Detroit became home to the newest, Made-in-America brand Shinola in 2013 when Tom Kartsotis, founder of Fossil, revived the name of the former shoe polish company and created the trendy, up and coming watchmaking business that it is today.

In addition to sleek watches ranging  from $400 to $2,700, Shinola offers pricey key chains, wallets, bicycles, journals and purses. With the holidays coming up, we’re all looking for something to make that special person in our life smile. But for some homegrown Detroiters, buying a Shinola watch would likely break the bank and result in their water being shutoff.

Shinola has become successful capitalizing on Detroit’s working class, gritty image. It sells these days.

Conversely, that’s exactly why critics are bothered: The company is marketing Detroit’s image while selling pricey products that most Detroiters can’t afford. That disparity is particularly notable at a time when the city is emerging from bankruptcy and is trying to recover from the embarrassment of the highly publicized water shutoffs. 

Which brings me to the latest bothersome move by Shinola to capitalize on the Motor City’s image.

The company has just come out with a new watch called "The Henry Ford Pocket Watch." Enticing commercials for this new product feature a Model T spinning round and round as viewers gaze into the glory of American ingenuity and passion. Mind you, this was the car, first produced in 1908, that enabled the masses access to a new and exciting product, that up until then, only the wealthy could afford. 

The striking pocket watch has Henry Ford’s signature in the side and the words “Built in Detroit” scrawled across the back in all their homegrown glory.

However, if you look at the serial number, you’ll see a number out of 1000, because that’s how many they’re selling. Each watch is being sold for $1000, and you better order soon, because only one thousand lucky people will get to have the coveted piece.

It just seems a little odd, if not outright disconcerting, that Shinola chose to capitalize on the image of the Model T to sell a product that is aimed at the elite, rather than the masses for which the Henry Ford car was created.

Perhaps, at some point, Shinola will take Henry Ford's lead and produce at least one watch that the local masses can afford -- even if it's only sold as a limited edition.

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