All-American apparel and portage manufacturers Filson have just announced their first watch collection, which shouldn’t be too surprising, for reasons explained below.
In case you’re not on the Filson band wagon (I am by the way, their 256 briefcase is my daily tote) the brand has been in the workwear game for the last 118 odd years, a few generations longer than your average ‘let’s jump on the Americana heritage trend’ brand. The mainstay of Filson’s lineup has been heavy gauge tin cloth and leather bags, as well as lumberjack-y outerwear.
So watches might initially seem like a bit of a stretch – a product far outside their core DNA. In a way they are, but in another they’re a natural extension. You see, for the last few years Filson have been owned by a group called the Bedrock Manufacturing Co, who also happen to own the feel-good Detroit success story Shinola. The two brands share a lot in the way of design aesthetic and brand values (hard work, top quality, made in the USA, etc), and so Shinola helping Filson make watches is a pretty natural fit.
The watches themselves are not particularly surprising. They’re very ‘Filson’ watches and on first glance I was reminded of that other great brand with a strong American heritage – Hamilton. Filson have come out of the gate with two collections, the Mackinaw Field (a utilitarian design type originally made for armed forces, and a style particularly associated with Hamilton), offered in time/date and chrono/date models in a range of finishes and dial variations, and the 44mm dive-esque Journeyman, offered in a GMT or Chrono. All watches are rated to 200 meters.
These initial collections are very sensible, commercial offering that fit well into the Filson outdoor lifestyle collection, and the linkages are only strengthened through the use of typically Filson materials such as bridle leather and tin cloth on the straps. And as best I can tell from images, the finish looks quite good, with nicely textured dials and case construction. And as these watches are made by Shinola (using their Swiss made, American assembled quartz Argonite movement) I have no doubt they’re well made, and the pricing, which ranges from US$ 600 -1000 is in the same ballpark as Shinola (a little high but justified through the assembled in America angle).
My question was never, ‘will Filson watches be well made?” – I had no doubt they’d make a quality product. The real question was always “Should Filson make watches?” On one hand, why not – Ralph Lauren is doing OK in this space, as are a handful of other fashion brands . But I do feel that the proposition from Filson is a lot more niche, and much of what the Filson collection is offering; reliability, a dedication to American production and a hardworking aesthetic is already offered by the Shinola brand. The only real difference to me is the addition of the venerable Filson name, and I remain to be convinced that the addition of this name to watches benefits a; the watches and b; Filson.
Check out the Filson watch collection here.