DETROIT -- Detroit, long known for manufacturing cars and trucks, may soon be known for producing elegant watches too.
In recent weeks, Bedrock Manufacturing of Dallas was setting up a production line for its Shinola brand of watches in leased space.
It's the beginning of a manufacturing line that Bedrock's operations manager Heath Carr said will include upscale bicycles and leather goods such as journals.
Last month, five trainers from Thailand and several recently hired Detroiters were assembling the intricate, Swiss-made components of what will become Shinola watches.
Mr. Carr said retail sales will follow. Shinola will market the watches online and at two retail stores, in midtown Detroit and in New York.
Ambitions run high. Mr. Carr said he hoped the Detroit location would produce at least 500,000 watches a year.
Watchmaking, once a thriving American business, virtually disappeared from the United States a half-century ago. Mr. Carr said he and other Bedrock managers were brainstorming where to create a U.S.-made watch and Detroit came to mind.
The effort is part of a growing trend for small companies to make handcrafted products in the United States. "Made in Detroit -- that means something," he said.
The watches will retail for between $400 and $800. Shinola's high-end bicycles will be assembled and sold from a Shinola retail/assembly space in Midtown, a lease for which is now being negotiated. Shinola hasn't set a price yet for the bicycles, but Mr. Carr estimated that they would cost about $3,500.
All the products -- watches, bikes, leather goods, and more -- will be assembled in Detroit.
Noting that watch components are imported from Switzerland and elsewhere, Mr. Carr said Bedrock hopes to spark a cottage industry of new suppliers in Detroit. The watch cases, for example, are made from U.S. steel but fabricated in China.
"We hope that somebody takes the space across the street and says 'I can supply some of your components,' " he said. "Our goal is to get this all made in America."
Shinola is an international effort. Bedrock is partnering with Swiss watchmaker Ronda to establish the space in Detroit. Olivier DeBoel, head of manufacturing for Shinola, is a native of Belgium who worked for Ronda in Thailand.
Of the 10 trainees assembling the watch mechanisms, all did something else before being hired by Shinola. Willie Holley, 25, of Detroit worked in security. LaKishka Raybon, 34, of Detroit was a caregiver.
Courtney Hayes, 23, of Detroit was a nursing home activities aide. "First time I'm doing something like this," she said. "But it's new and challenging, and it's exciting at the same time."
As Mr. Carr and other Bedrock managers were looking for space, staff members from the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. showed them the College for Creative Studies A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education in the New Center area -- a site that once housed General Motors' famed design team.
And the name Shinola? Decades ago, it was owned by the maker of a shoe polish that is no longer produced. In a brainstorming debate over names for the brand, someone used a salty old saying that included "Shinola."
"It was at that moment," Mr. Carr said, "we realized we had our name."