Today, very few watches are wholly manufactured in the United States—even those that are assembled domestically usually have their internal components manufactured elsewhere.
That’s something Fine Timepiece Solutions USA, a new Arizona watch manufacturing startup, hopes to change. In fact, the company wants to make Fountain Hills the new watchmaking capital of the United States.
“Right now there’s approximately 200 American watch brands, and hardly any of them do anything in America,” said Kunal Naik, CEO of FTS USA. “What we’re trying to do is offer them more sources to find components and movements in America itself.”
In addition to assembling and testing completed watches, Naik said FTS USA fabricates what are known as watch movements—essentially the “engine” of a watch—and attempts to sell these components to large watch manufacturers. He claims there are only a handful of major movement manufacturers in the world, and “really none in America that focus and sell to the brands.”
Despite only recently opening, Naik said that FTS USA currently assembles approximately a thousand movements per week, and that they have the capacity to eventually manufacture up to four thousand movements per day.
Technicians currently build movements from a combination of American and imported parts, but Naik said FTS USA plans on exclusively using American components within twelve months.
One of the bigger challenges FTS faced while launching, Naik said, was finding the right talent.
“We’re in a country where these skill sets really don’t exist as much as in other countries,” he said.
That’s a key reason why FTS USA hired Manuel Yazijian, a Certified Master Watchmaker with over thirty years of experience. Yazijian said he moved from California to Fountain Hills specifically for this job, where he helps train new technicians with the skills needed to precisely assemble watches.
“It means a lot to me because I felt like, for the longest number of years, all we’ve done here in the States is do mostly service,” Yazijian said.
Yazijian teaches new entry-level technicians how to assemble, inspect, and test the watches and movements that FTS produces. Technicians applying to the company don’t need to have prior watchmaking experience, but Yazijian said strong attention to detail and manual dexterity is a must.
Yazijian said that despite the prevalence of smartphones, there’s something to be said for the simplicity of a modern watch, and that there is plenty of room for growth in the watch industry.
“We’re on our way to putting a dent in the American watch manufacturing industry again,” he said.
FTS USA assembles their watches out of leased space in a building owned by East Valley Institute of Technology in Fountain Hills. Naik said the building will allow the company room to grow as it expands, and that Fountain Hills is a “perfect fit” for the company.
“We didn’t want to be somewhere industrial,” he said. “We wanted to be somewhere where, if you look out our windows, it’s a real sort of sense of zen here that we’ve tried to create for the employees.”
This strategic partnership between EVIT and FTS is being applauded by the local business community. “This partnership will focus on both expanding the economy of Fountain Hills as well as developing educational opportunities in watchmaking by initiating a full training curriculum from basic introduction and technician-level courses, up to advanced service & repair certifications,” Scott Soldat-Valenzuela, President and CEO of the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, said.
Scott Cooper, Economic Development Director for Town of Fountain Hills, said there are many potential benefits to having a company like FTS operating in Fountain Hills.
“When you have something like FTS, it really puts kind of a pin or focal point on your community to not only the nation, but the world,” he said. “We hope they continue to grow here in town, and we’d love to keep them here for as long as it takes to make their dream a reality.”