You may have noticed that we now label ourselves as "Assembled in America". However, it is more than just a label. When we first conceptualized Nodus, we had no intentions of doing any assembly in America or marketing ourselves as doing so. Initially, we had implemented a rigorous visual inspection that we thought would only occasionally require us to open up a watch to correct its problem. We assumed that the majority of the watches assembled by our manufacturer were going to meet our standards.
As we inspected the first batch of watches we received from our manufacturer, we quickly came to the realization that every single watch needed to be opened and taken apart for one reason or another (dust on the dial, smudges on the polished indices, misaligned bezels...I could go on and on). The truth is, most people wouldn’t notice the small imperfections that result from Asian assembly (sometimes even Swiss assembly). However, not only do Wes and I notice the most minute specks of dust or the faintest of smudges, but we simply do not feel comfortable standing behind a product that we know has issues, no matter how trivial they may seem.
Rather than sending all our watches back to our manufacturer right off the bat, we invested more time and money into establishing our QC procedure here in Los Angeles. We made a gamble on a hypothesis: if we could do all the assembly in-house, then we would save on the cost of returns and warranty, but most importantly, our customers would be happier with the level of quality they received. There is a lesson in entrepreneurship that we learned here as well. We learned that in order to survive, we have to be nimble, especially when trying to carve out a niche in an overly-crowded marketplace.
There is a stigma that has been attached to the term “Made in China”. Many people think that China-made products are inherently sub-par compared to products made anywhere else in the world. When you dig a bit deeper however, you will learn that not only can Chinese parts be of great quality, but that the real issue is simply in how it is put together. Regardless of where in the world the assembly takes place, passion and care must be put into the process. When it comes to watches, its all about the details and assembling in America allows us to pay closer attention to the granular details of our product.
Over the past two months, we’ve been extremely busy with QCing our watches and perfecting our quality control process. We have learned a lot since day one and have improved nearly every aspect of our inspection procedure since then. After disassembly, we inspect and clean all the parts, make sure everything is aligned, begin regulation, and if the movement passes regulation, it goes to the pressure tester, and finally, packaging. Every watch in our inventory has been disassembled, and more than half were rejected for various issues, which is something that would never have happened if we did not move our assembly and QC process to the US.
When any part of the production process moves to a place like Japan, Switzerland or the United States, prices tend to go up to reflect the cost of labor in those countries. However, our current pricing is reflective of our product without taking the American-assembly into consideration. The reason we chose to do this is because we wanted to stay true to our mantra–that our watches could be easily accessible and affordable. As you can tell by our QC procedure, we do this without compromising on our quality. A large part of it comes down to pride. We won’t stand behind a product that we aren’t proud of. This was a passion before it turned into a business, and we wanted to stay true to our core, the whole reason we started this in the first place, by putting the product and customer before anything else.
Edit: We are no longer disassembling our watches upon arrival in the US, but rather, receiving the components separately in order to optimize our QC procedure.
Cullen Chen is the co-founder/operator at Nodus Watches. He is a self-professed Seiko-holic and watch freak as well as an avid DIYer. When he is not assembling watches, he is grilling up meat, obsessing over cars, playing guitar, and enjoying fine beverages.