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At the Ready: The Tale of One City, Two Arsenals, and the Humble Wristwatch

Imagine that the world as we know it suddenly grinds to a standstill. Change comes almost overnight, halting everything—and for who knows how long…

It’s no longer difficult for us to imagine the kind of upheaval that happened during World War II. We’re in the middle of a global event not unlike it—only we’re fighting an invisible enemy. But that’s all the more reason to take hope from the real stories of courage and innovation shown in those tumultuous times.

Inspired by an unstoppable city and built to honor everyday folks taking on a monumental task, The Shinola Runwell Field Watch was made to celebrate the hand-riveted hope Detroit built when the world needed it most. Now, more than ever, that legacy resonates: When the call comes, be at the ready.


One year before America entered World War II, FDR addressed the country in a December 1940 fireside chat known as “the Arsenal of Democracy,” calling upon citizens to build planes, truck, tanks, and weapons to support Great Britain and the Allied forces against Nazi Germany. 

There was no other city that accepted the call quite like Detroit.

By that time, Detroit was the epicenter of manufacturing. The city had perfected the art of churning out automobiles thanks to the Big Three: Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford Motor Company. A can-do spirit was already baked into the DNA of these iconic automakers—a testament to visionary leaders and steadfast workers—so when the moment came, the auto industry was perfectly positioned to accept the challenge, despite never before making what became required of them. A.J. Baime wrote, “Car companies were taking on jobs that they had no experience doing, and hiring workers who had never fabricated a bicycle pedal, let alone a piece of a tank or a machine gun shell.”

But instead of dwelling in the fear of the unknown, there was no time to waste.  The country needed war tools—and the automakers were committed to making it happen.

There were significant manufacturing marvels accomplished by the U.S. during wartime: tanks, amphibious trucks, four-wheel-drive troop transporters, flame-throwing armored cars, and jeeps—but military aircraft production has been hailed as the true gold standard for what our country could do when it mattered the most. Willow Run, the plant created specifically by Ford for the production of B-24 Bombers, could build one per hour by the summer of 1944. It used to take an entire month.

Chrysler produced over 20,000 tanks in less than four years. Detroit’s Packard plant made 55,000 Merlin engines. General Motors manufactured aircraft engines, fighter planes and torpedo bombers, aircraft propellers, tanks and tank destroyers, trucks, millions of artillery shells and more.

Many smaller manufacturers joined the Big Three, and in the end, 25% of all war materials were made by Detroit companies. Even the Detroit-based radio maker Detrola answered the call, building military radios, electronics, and land mine detectors. The city made such a difference in building the arsenal that many agree WWII couldn’t have been won without it.


None of this would have been possible without manpower—and womanpower. The draft took the majority of the male workforce, while the number of people needed for war manufacturing increased. Because of this, those who were once restricted from equal opportunities to well-paying jobs now filled the plants, including Black Americans, Latinx, little people, the disabled community, and women.

The “Rosie the Riveter” icon rose to fame as women from a variety of backgrounds traded in their domestic duties for jobs in the factories, proving that they could do the same work as men. When it came to answering the call and being at the ready, Detroiters rolled up their sleeves regardless of race, creed, or gender.

The enormous manufacturing accomplishments by the home front gave the Allied powers a steep advantage over the Nazis. On May 8th, 1945, the battles in Europe stopped—and after the surrender of Japan several months later, World War II finally came to a close. Detroit had shown the grit it took to overcome even the toughest challenge—not for the first time, and not for the last.


2020 has brought a new fight. Once again, Detroit is at the ready. Manufacturers are making dramatic pivots to produce ventilators, protective equipment, and more in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March, GM and Ford announced plans to begin ventilator production, and Fiat Chrysler has pledged to make more than one million masks a month to donate to healthcare workers. Detroit small businesses and manufacturers have also jumped into the fray, true to the spirit of the city. Clothing makers are sewing masks and protective equipment, and businesses are rallying around essential workers.

To Detroiters, it’s just what you do. To historians and journalists, it’s called “The Arsenal of Health.” Already, leaps and bounds have been made in vaccine science and public health measures. As Detroit knows, then the going gets tough, it’s time to break through.


When change and upheaval test the limits of human resilience and ingenuity, we rise to meet the challenge. Innovations that are commonplace to us now were pioneered during WWII. Manufacturing at scale exploded. Assembly lines became more advanced and efficient during wartime production, making the future of the auto industry—and manufacturing in general—possible. Military innovation influenced consumer goods like the SUV. Even the humble timepiece went through a major evolution.

Before WWII, pocket watches were the rule, not the exception. But as officers in the field kept time, they discovered that fumbling with a pocket watch was simply too risky for modern warfare. The solution? Watches strapped to the wrist. WWII (and the ensuing years, when soldiers returned home) popularized the now-ubiquitous wristwatch and caused an uptick in so-called Field Watches. These highly functional watches prioritized accuracy and durability above all else. They had to maintain precision through intense abuse and be legible in all kinds of harsh conditions.

Shinola watch designer Greg V. explains that for field watches, every aspect is about function: “It’s time only, no date. The idea is that the fewer things that can go wrong, the better.” The Shinola Runwell Field Watch is a tribute to these simple watches of WWII—not a precise replication, but a modernized version. Part of the thought process was inspired by the incredible pivots manufacturers made during that time. Greg and the team asked, “What if the government came to us and said, do a military version of what you’re doing for watches?”

The Runwell Field Watch design is the answer: innovation by way of simplification. It’s the next step in the evolution of the signature Runwell—a watch that always finds a way to pay tribute to the city that made it. In this case, to Detroit’s resilience. No matter the challenge faced, Detroit is the city that sets the world in motion.



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The Runwell Field Watch
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From Trash to Treasure: Introducing Sea Creatures

What is “ocean bound” plastic? How do you turn a pop bottle into an heirloom timepiece? And what’s a “squircle,” anyway? All these questions and more answered in our deep dive with our first-ever ocean plastic watch: Detrola Sea Creatures.


Since we hand-assembled our first Runwell with the finest materials in Detroit, Shinola’s mission has been to make non-disposable, heirloom-quality goods that are built to be lived in, worn out, and well loved. That’s who we are. But that’s not all we do. 


Every day, the people of Shinola establish and enrich deep roots in our communities. Whether that comes through partnering with American makers, celebrating the vision and voices of Detroit, or telling stories that need to be told, we hold ourselves accountable to making a difference where we can locally and nationally.


This World Ocean Day, we’re going global. 



Every minute, one truckload of plastic waste ends up in the sea. This disruption of our oceans affects every single living creature on this earth, on land and in the sea. The earth’s resources, climate, and ecosystems are what inspire and empower us to make. Without materials to craft, the creative hands of artisans and designers are left empty.


These resources deserve protection. Our protection. Inspired by the hauntingly beautiful art installations made of single-use plastic retrieved from the oceans, we asked ourselves: How can a watchmaker make a difference in the story of plastic on this planet? 


In looking for an answer, we turned to the foundation. All watchmaking begins with raw materials: Stainless steel, leather, titanium, resin, jewels and precious gemstones. There, turning over every leaf in the search, we discovered a way of turning mankind’s trash into treasure.





This World Ocean Day, Shinola is proud to introduce Sea Creatures. We crafted this unique sport watch’s case and strap from #tide ocean material® granules and yarn, an innovative and sustainable upcycled material made from 100% ocean-bound plastic waste. 


#tide ocean plastic material is made from ocean bound plastic collected on shores across the Indo-Pacific for fair and equitable wages by community members, including former fishermen and women whose livelihoods have been disrupted by plastic pollution. Before it can reach the ocean, the single-use trash is recovered and given a new story.



Sorted, cleaned, and shredded, it’s then transformed in Switzerland with proprietary methods that result in a pure, beautifully clean raw material with endless possibilities, from injection molding to woven fabrics.


Sea Creatures are living proof that single-use plastics can—and should—have a second life.


Just not in the ocean.





We won’t make something unless we can make it well. That goes for ocean plastics, too. No ordinary watch, Sea Creatures are designed with intention and innovation at every step. What we leave behind becomes our legacy, and we can’t wait for Sea Creatures to flourish for years to come. Let’s dive into the details.


Featuring the Argonite 715 Movement, Detrola Sea Creatures are Shinola through-and-through. If protecting the oceans is a movement we can get behind, then so is our very own Detroit-assembled movement. Made to last for generations, you’ll always know when it’s time for high-tide.


Certified water-resistant at 10 ATM (100 feet), Sea Creatures are built to handle adventure, whether that be on land or in the shallows.



Three-dimensional details abound, all made possible by the ingenuity made possible by the #tide material. Waved ridges, a submarine hatch-inspired case back, and the organic “squircle” case shape—an organic blend of a square and circle not possible with more rigid materials like metal—is a tribute to the real sea creatures we seek to protect. True to Shinola, everything has a story—from the water droplet on the seconds hand to the thick blue SuperLumi-Nova inspired by bioluminescent underwater critters.

This is the story of Detrola Sea Creatures. Made from ocean bound plastic. Assembled in Detroit with Swiss and imported parts. Built to last for generations to come.

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The Legacy of the Station Agent

Before there were smart watches, there were smart people wearing watches.

At the height of travel by train in the United States, station agents were the timekeepers of the railways. These men and women were renowned and respected in their communities—oftentimes they were given authority and high standing. In the U.K. and abroad, they’re known as Station Masters or Station Mistresses.


It’s no wonder. At the beginning of rail travel and shipping, timeliness and safety were intertwined. A delay or inaccuracy could be deadly. Timekeeping was forever changed by the infrastructure of train travel. Before the railways, local time in England could be 20 minutes different from one side of the country to the other. Railway time was established in 1846 to smooth out the discrepancies, and station agents were expected to adhere closely to this high standard of timekeeping.


In order to reduce mistakes, station agents were issued with dependable, high-quality, and accurate watches. Railway watches were—and are still—highly valued and sought-after. Their use was so critical that they were kept in pristine condition and were tested twice every month. Even with advancements in machinery that increased accuracy, more modern railroad watches were still expected to be tested every six months and cleaned every year. Features included prominent sub-second dials, highlighting each second with precision. Station agents checked their watches daily against the train depot’s “standard clock.” 


In the United States, the General Railroad Timepiece Standards were established in 1893 as a way to uniformly set the high standard for a station agent’s timepiece. As technology progressed, size and style rules changed. In the 1950’s, wrist watches were approved.


Today, there are supercomputers, algorithms, and smart watches. But in the Union Pacific Rules for railroad operation, the having an accurate watch is still considered vital. Crew members are required to have a watch—one that must meet the core standards that haven’t changed over 125 years. It must be in good working condition and reliable; it must display the hours, minutes, and seconds; and it must not vary from the correct time by more than 30 seconds. 


Station agents around the world know that every second counts. To honor that, the Station Agent Runwell Automatic is our first Runwell Automatic with a sub-second dial. This evolution of our flagship watch is inspired by the men and women who know the value of every single second—and who need a watch that can keep up. The Station Agent is our tribute to these timekeepers and their timepieces. 

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Leading Lady: Shannon Washburn President Of Shinola

When Shannon Washburn started her freshman year at Texas Tech University, she had one career goal: to be a college basketball coach.

“I played basketball my whole life—from fourth grade through high school. I’ve always loved being a team player,” says Shannon.

She had two state championships under her belt and a fierce love for sports, but another passion captured Shannon’s attention during her studies: fashion. While she didn’t end up on the courts, she still—in a way—gets the “coach” title, helping rally teams within Shinola as the newly named president.

“There’s a real sense of excitement and renewed energy from my point of view and I think that exuberance and that belief in what we’re doing here is what’s really going to carry us forward,” she says. “We have to get strategic and above all, we have to execute at a level that’s deserving of the Shinola brand.”

Working most of her career in retail and then transitioning to the product development side and beyond, Shannon has garnered experience in many various aspects of business over the course of her career, drawing inspiration from women she saw in leadership roles along the way.

“They were extremely strong and focused,” she says. “They had a sense of themselves, but they also allowed the team to take ownership.”

It’s that guidance and leadership that Shannon says helped her learn how to manage.

“Moving into a management role, it’s about the big picture, but it’s really about the people who are going to get the job done and being present and attentive to your team,” she says. “Everyone likes to have a clear idea of the expectations—and when they do, they are able to execute at a much higher level.”

Before Shinola, Shannon was a force in the retail world, becoming a buyer for Dillard’s and then moving to Fossil where she stayed for 14 years.

“I was able to do a lot of really cool things. I started out in sales, managed the product development team for 10 years and then my last role was managing an international business—it allowed me the opportunity to travel globally and learn a lot,” says Shannon.

Then in 2012, an unexpected opportunity sprouted in Detroit.

“I really wanted to do something I was passionate about. I was excited about the opportunity and working with a great group of people,” she says.

Shannon joined the watch product development team at Shinola, bringing a wealth of experience with her.

She eventually moved to the Detroit area in June of 2015, calling it the “best move” she’s ever made.

She loves the city, particularly when she’s spending time on the weekend at Grey Ghost sipping on a Better Luck Tomorrow cocktail or hanging out at Eastern Market. It’s the growing momentum that keeps her fascinated.

“I love that there is so much going on right now in the city of Detroit,” she says.

During the week, she’s laser-focused, taking time in the early morning hours to review email and the previous day’s sales at a relaxed pace before the workday begins.

“It’s about being in the moment,” she says. “When I take that 30 minutes to breathe, my days are better when I get to the office.”

When she’s not working, don’t be surprised if you find Shannon on a quest for the best Spanish coffee in metro Detroit, volunteering at Detroit schools or spending time with her family and friends. She says they are the people who helped her rise to success in her career. 

“It’s their support that’s helped me get here, they’ve made a huge impact on my life,” Shannon says.

Despite her many successes, there is still a major opportunity ahead: the future of Shinola. For that, Shannon says she has a game plan.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got the right people, we’ve got a vision and now we just have to get it done.”

Spoken like a true coach.


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