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February 12, 2016

Craftspeople
Watches

Making Moves — Shinola Watch Assembler Craig Steele talks about changing industries

Craig Steele (center) with Wendy and Johnny (L to R). Photograph by Christian Witkin
Craftspeople
Watches

February 12, 2016

Craig Steele joined our team as a Watch Assembler last year after spending ten years in the foodservice industry. Detroit was a second home for him growing up and he’s excited to now work here in the city and put his passion for putting things together (and taking things apart) to use. Read more about Craig's story below.

What changes have you noticed in Detroit compared to when you were a kid?

There are definite memories of growing up and hearing how great Detroit used to be because my parents and grandparents had seen and experienced the really good days, and then they also saw the fall. Growing up I saw the worst, and to be around to see it bounce back the way it is now is really special. It's more than just a place to go see a baseball or hockey game or a show, you can actually see the change and feel the positive attitude in the city.

What did you do before you started working at Shinola?

I worked at IHOP before this for 10 years. I was excited to move into a different industry and try my hand at something else. I think in an alternate universe I would’ve been in a band. I started playing guitar when I was super young.

What was it like transitioning to the watch factory — did you ever picture yourself building watches?

It wasn’t hard transitioning to not dealing with customers all day, I was super excited and just focused on trying to be the best I could be. I’ve forever been a tinkerer and I used to take apart everything as a kid, even stuff I wasn’t supposed to like my dad’s stereo equipment.

That grew into me knowing how to fix things on my own. Even not working here, I think that’s one of those great abilities that everyone should have and that natural inclination really helped me in the long-run.

Inside the Watch Factory watch assemblers sit at the green desks.

What is your favorite part about working inside the watch factory?

I love knowing that I’ve worked on every single caliber we have in there. I’ve had my hands on some type of operation for them all. That’s definitlely part of the pride factor, is knowing that if you go somewhere and someone’s wearing a Shinola, there’s a good chance that I had a part in making that watch. I love teaching people.

I will explain and demystify the processes and teams of people that go into making every watch. These are real people who are really working, and it’s definitely a unique skillset that we’ve all had to learn.

Putting together the coil operation on the movement line in the watch factory.

What is one of your favorite memories since you started working here?

I had just started here and Willie was telling me about the watch operations in Switzerland and how many watches they wanted to produce that year and the semantics of it all, and I was shocked because at the time when I started there were maybe only 15-20 people on our side of the line. I looked at him and I said, ‘You want to produce how many watches this year?’, and to me it was just this outrageous number. I quickly realized how small of a number that was compared to the millions of watches that Switzerland makes every year. To me, that’s still one of those crazy things that blows my mind.

This interview is part of a new series called JOBS that highlights the people that make Shinola tick. Find their stories here on The Journal or on our Jobs page

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