MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There is a small, but growing, movement of Americans who are making their own crafts and goods again.
J. W. Hulme, the St. Paul leather-goods company whose gained attention in fashion magazines ad Hollywood for their makers handcrafted handbags and briefcases.
And Red Wing Boots is undergoing a renaissance for their made-in-Minnesota Heritage Boots.
Now, a Minneapolis man is hand-crafting heritage watches, all from a tiny workspace in Northeast Minneapolis.
WCCO’s Jason DeRusha shows why Leo Padron hopes to become the next Rolex or Movado.
It is incredibly exacting, precision work.
In the basement of a 100-year-old Minneapolis building. Leo Padron is making watches, by hand, by himself.
“I’m trying to do work that is elegant. That is fresh,” Padron said. “I make watches that, I design them to hopefully outlive me. And that’s a good feeling. Knowing that I’m actually putting something interesting into the world.”
Padron’s fascination began with a vintage timepiece from the mid-1900s.
“Well it began with my grandfather’s watch,” Padron said.
His grandfather died and left his broken watch to Padron.
“What I wanted to do was to just get the watch working,” Padron said.
He succeeded, and eventually his hobby of repairing old watches became a goal of creating new ones.
He launched a Kickstarter campaign where backers could pre-order the Padron Vuelta.
“I made close to $100,000 on that Kickstarter. And hat’s money people try hard to raise when starting a business,” Padron said.
He earned enough money to let him quit his web design job at Target and work full-time on keeping time.
“It’s incredible to me that this is what I am today and this is what I do,” he said.
His current Kickstarter is funding a new watch, the Hennepin, the perfect homage to Padron’s home county.
“Very simple, almost minimalist, but still fun,” he said.
A lifelong tinkerer, Padron builds four or five watches every day.
“The beauty about a good automatic mechanical is that it does not need a battery. You shake it, it goes,” Padron said.
In a time where the latest digital gadget built overseas captivates us all, Padron is hand-crafting automatic watches.
Watches he hopes will keep ticking far longer than he does.
“Is it a dying industry? If it is, it’s one I’m happy to occupy in my lifetime,” he said.
Priced from $300 – $500, they’re far less expensive than comparable brand-name luxury watches.