Watchmakers like Louis Neiil, the co-founder of Louis Neils Watchmakers, are making watches in his Portland, Oregon, shop.
Now, he says he’s happy to share the work he’s done with a global audience.
Watchmakers have become an increasingly important part of the modern watchmaking industry, with about 40% of the industry’s output now made by workers in factories, and about 20% of all watches sold in the United States are made by these apprentices.
“A lot of people are just taking the time to do this, and they’re learning about the craft and about what it takes to do it well,” Neiils says.
“They’re getting their hands dirty.
I’m kind of a big believer that it’s a great way to learn about your craft.”
Neiilles shoes, with their black leather straps, are made in a special workshop that has to be cleaned every time they’re worn.
But that’s not the only time the shoes are cleaned.
When Neiels first started making his shoes in 2012, he was just a small-time maker making custom-made shoes for the Portland shoe company that he founded in the late 1970s.
By 2014, he had been making shoes for five years, and he was getting paid $300 a week for doing that.
But when Neielsen started making shoes in Portland, he didn’t think that would be enough to support himself.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do. “
It’s hard to keep going.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I was kind of scared of what might happen if I quit, or what would happen if my company collapsed,” he says.
That’s when Neils decided to try something new.
“When I started, I was really focused on making something that was different, something that I would be proud of,” he explains.
“And then after that I thought, ‘well, what if I started making things that I could share with the world?'”
That’s how Louis Neiland started making watches.
“If you watch a lot of watchmaking, you see that you can make something with minimal materials, and it’s just a matter of what materials you can use, how many different things you can work with, and then the craft itself,” Neiland says.
Neiland’s first watch was a watch that he called the Loonie, a watch he created out of two different leather straps.
The Loonies were a lot more expensive, but they were also very high-quality.
They were handmade in Oregon, and Neiland worked with a local watchmaker named Dave Smith to make a watch for him.
He wanted something that looked good, and that he could wear for weeks without noticing that it was missing something.
So he started selling the Loons at his watchmaker apprenticeships.
“What we were seeing was that people were actually interested in this,” Neillis brother-in-law Matt O’Leary says.
O’Learys business partner Mike Stover, a former watchmaker himself, is a longtime watchmaker apprentice, and O’learys watch, called the Fools Mark, is now sold out.
“We’ve had to go through quite a few watches, but when we finally made the first one, we were so impressed with it that we just had to sell it,” Stover says.
He says that’s a sign of a good watchmaker.
“These people know what they’re doing, and I think they do it better than anybody else,” he adds.
“The quality of their work is amazing, and if you can see that they’re not just making watches, then they’re really good at what they do.”
Stover is still a watchmaker and says he doesn’t know how many of the watches that Neils has sold have been returned, but he does know that he’s made several more.
Watchmaker apprentices are not just about the money, Stover adds. “
That’s the best thing about watchmaking,” Stoffer says.
Watchmaker apprentices are not just about the money, Stover adds.
It’s also about the apprentices being challenged.
“Watchmaking is a craft, and you’re learning how to do a lot and doing a lot at the same time,” he said.
“You can do a very basic watch, and when you go back and look, it looks pretty good.”
Watchmaker mentors have been taught to make watchmaking work, so many watchmakers are using that to their advantage.
“Our apprentices learn how to make the materials they need and how to build a watch, so they can take their knowledge of watch making and apply it to different kinds of work,”