Last May, we chronicled the ascent of Michael Kobold, founder and CEO of Kobold Watch ("The Greatly Improbable, Highly Enjoyable, Increasingly Profitable Life of Michael Kobold"). His high-end watches grace the wrists of celebrities such as James Gandolfini and former President Bill Clinton. Ten years after launching the company from his dorm room at Carnegie Mellon, the German-born Kobold has made good on his promise to bring the craft of watchmaking back to America. In October, Kobold began shipping the Spirit of America Automatic, 89 percent of whose components, by value, are American-made.
Sourcing that 89 percent wasn't easy. The crystal was made by an optics company that worked on the Hubble telescope. Kobold had to convince a Pittsburgh aerospace supplier that its machines could operate with the precision required to build the watch's case. Kobold was disappointed that the Spirit of America doesn't meet stringent "Made in U.S.A." standards, which require all parts to be manufactured in the U.S. (By contrast, a watch can be labeled "Swiss made" if 50 percent of the components in the movement are produced in Switzerland.) Still, he figures that working toward a self-imposed benchmark will sound familiar to a lot of entrepreneurs. "When my mind starts going in a direction, it doesn't stop," Kobold says. "Psychiatrists stamp us poor people as being obsessive-compulsive. Really, we're just trying to do the best possible job."