On December 16, 2021, John bought this hundred year old watch. Originally, it was a pocket watch created by the South Bend Watch Company (the closest city to where he lives). But someone had converted it into a wrist watch.
He found the skeleton-ized watch on eBay in Ukraine and brought it back home — a few miles from where it was born in South Bend, Indiana. A century old and it traveled half-way around the world and back. Naturally, everyone he ran into in South Bend was like "That's pretty cool."
Surprisingly though, what immediately followed was a question... "How can I get one?"
John had no idea. So he hit the internet hard and tried to find anything he could on South Bend watches.
About a month in, he found a second South Bend wrist conversion, this time by someone in the states (Frett Clockworks to be specific). The watch was freshly serviced and even featured a gorgeous blue-ing technique for all the screws on the movement back.
A few weeks after that (thanks to twitter), he stumbled on another local, Joe Molnar, who had acquired a South Bend wrist conversion. They met up to talk watches at Fatbird (yes the wings were great).
By this time, several people knew that John was in the South Bend watch rabbit hole. And they were also keeping their eyes out for them. Thanks to JJ Lyphout, John snagged another one on reddit for Steve Smith, his good friend and long time business partner. It turned out to be another conversion by Frett Clockworks.
It turns out its really quite simple. Movements use to be shipped to jewelers separate from the case. When someone wanted to buy a watch, they'd first pick their movement and then the case. The jeweler would then combine the two for the customer to take home.
Because this was the process, casing and un-casing a movement needed to be quick. The whole process is a couple screws and a pop of the stem. That's the easy part. The hard part these days is finding movements that run well and dials without too many blemishes.
Figuring out the casing dramatically sped up the process. Now it was just a matter of finding movements and buying cases. That's when John's nephew Nick (who was also into watches) started buying and converting as well.
He wore his first conversion (pictured below) to his senior prom. Pretty baller. He even has "290", the grade of the watch, tattooed just above his knee. Talk about committment to the brand!
We've officially restarted the company — South Bend Watch Co, LLC.
We don't have any plans to takeover the world, but we are hoping to:
- continue connecting people with hundred year old watches.
- create modern, fun merchandise for South Bend enthusiasts.
- revive watchmaking in South Bend, Indiana.