It’s easy to forget in this modern era, where Switzerland has dominated the watch industry seemingly since the beginning, that this was not always the case. The United States was at one point the watchmaking capital of the world, creating the most accurate and refined timepieces on Earth for much of the 19th century. Despite this proud, rich legacy of American horology, there has not been a truly “U.S. Made” (much like the term “Swiss Made,” this is a term with a distinct, albeit far more stringent, legal standard) timepiece since 1969 when Hamilton left its original headquarters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania to move to Switzerland. Now, for the first time in over 50 years, a brand is endeavoring to create a fully American-made timepiece, intended to showcase the full technical expertise and artistry of American horology. California-based boutique marque J.N. Shapiro has taken on this challenge, creating the first fully American luxury watch in nearly a lifetime (only the movement jewels, the mainspring, crystals, gaskets, the strap, and the hairspring are not currently produced in the U.S., with plans to begin in-house production of the jewels and hairspring soon) with an ornate, classical design that combines every aspect of the country’s traditional horology style with a truly world-class level of finishing and movement work. The J.N. Shapiro Resurgence is nothing short of historic, and backs up its impressive manufacturing efforts with an array of truly unique elements intended to put high-end American horology back on the map.
The J.N. Shapiro Resurgence’s classically American style begins with its 38mm-wide case. Our hands-on sample arrived in 18K rose gold, but this case is also available in 18K palladium white gold, tantalum, stainless steel, or a finish J.N. Shapiro refers to as dark zirconium. Much of this clean, compact case design is simple and traditional, with a narrow sloping polished bezel and straight chamfered lugs. It’s the mid-case where the design comes into its own, however. This central cylindrical segment is hand-finished with an engine turning pattern known as barleycorn, or grains d’orge. This classical geometric pattern gives the Resurgence’s case a plethora of winking visual highlights as the watch is turned, without sacrificing the classically restrained lines of the piece. In addition, it further ties the design into the roots of 19th century American horology, where similar patterns were common on pocket watches. It’s worth noting at this point that the watch we handled and photographed for this review is a prototype, and the crown (along with the strap buckle) featured in these images is not representative of the final product. J.N. Shapiro plans to pair the Resurgence with a more ornate, finely finished crown for production models. As one might expect, the Resurgence is fitted with a sapphire display caseback, sized to give an unobstructed view of the painstakingly hand-finished manufacture movement within. The brand does not list a water resistance rating for this watch, but this is far from a sporting timepiece to begin with.
The dial of the J.N. Shapiro Resurgence might accurately be called a mosaic. Each dial is made up of no less than seven separate layers, each individually hand-finished on a 100-year-old guilloché machine before assembly. This multi-piece construction not only gives the dial a handsomely terraced look with ample visual depth, it also allows for a variety of engine turning techniques to exist side by side on the same dial. Our sample’s dial is a stunning example of these mixed finishes at work. There’s a radial barleycorn pattern around the outer dial ring, while each of the concentric circles that make up the bulk of the dial surface are textured with the brand’s own bespoke “Infinity Weave” pattern, which offers an array of successively smaller ridges in multiple directions. Lastly, there’s the running seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, where the brands opts for a wavy, ornately detailed radial moiré surface. Combined with the applied, radially brushed rose gold chapter rings, there’s a dazzling amount of texture and visual detail to explore here, and this dial rewards deep inspection with new visual nuances at every turn. Nonetheless, there’s a classical simplicity to the overall layout that feels handsome and balanced on the wrist. Our review sample offers perhaps the most classical available dial layout – impressively three-dimensional spade hands in rose gold, matching applied Arabic numerals, and a frosted silver-white base dial hue – but like the case, J.N. Shapiro offers buyers a rich variety of options here. The dial can be optioned in deep charcoal gray, frosted silver with blued hands and silver-white dial hardware, navy blue with white gold dial hardware, and even purple dial hardware is available. In addition, if Arabic numerals are not to your taste, the Resurgence can also be optioned with applied Roman numerals and even Hebrew numerals.
J.N. Shapiro offers the Resurgence with a trio of manufacture movement options. All three are free-sprung and share the same basic architecture, with an old-school 18,000 bph beat rate and hacking seconds. The brand has offered no word as of press time regarding the power reserve, but it should likely be extensive given the size of the mainspring barrel and the slow frequency. Each of these movements are set apart with unique bridge designs, showcasing the traditional American horological principles behind the Resurgence. The sample we photographed uses a series of swooping, narrow bridges in sinuous French curves, topped by a complex wavy guilloché pattern known as damaskeening. Sometimes referred to as America’s answer to the Côtes de Genève, this ornate texture was a fixture of American luxury pocket watch movements in the 19th century, and its inclusion here is a further nod to the heritage that underpins the Resurgence. J.N. Shapiro also offers two other movement designs: one with an arcing half plate, and the other with a set of strikingly angular, squared-off bridges. Hand-polished anglage is a cornerstone of each of these options, adding a brilliant series of highlights to every exposed edge. The brand also applies bright, detailed perlage to the baseplate of each movement, and most impressively of all, each wheel on the gear train has rounded spokes. To the uninitiated, this may not seem like a major undertaking, but the effort and finishing involved in creating these spokes is immense. If damaskeening is not to your taste, J.N. Shapiro will also finish these movements with more familiar Geneva-style striping. To complete the watch, J.N. Shapiro mounts it on a classic black alligator leather strap.
America’s historic role as the global leader of the watch industry may be long past, but the legacy that the golden age of American horology left behind still makes a deeply compelling base to build a watch upon. The new J.N. Shapiro Resurgence delivers on the promise and artistry of that bygone era, creating not only the first substantially “U.S. Made” luxury timepiece in over half a century, but also delivering one of the most detailed and striking designs in the current boutique brand space. The J.N. Shapiro Resurgence is available for preorder now through the brand’s website, with expected delivery of the first models in late 2023. MSRP for the J.N. Shapiro Resurgence starts at $70,000 USD as of press time, with our review sample priced at $85,000 USD. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.