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James Reeves spent his career focused on corporate social responsibility, working both in-house for Office Max as well as on his own.
Most recently he was working for Edelman, one of the largest privately owned public relations agencies in the world, with 6,000 employees in 60 offices, when he decided to leave and start his own consulting practice in Brooklyn.
That’s when he decided to make high-end watches for a living instead.
“I felt like I had something more to share with the world,” Reeves explains.
Why watches? And why in particular, automatic watches, which use the power of motion while strapped to your wrist to keep a precise mechanism of gears and spindles moving to tell time?
“There’s something magical about tiny parts you can barely see with the naked eye that work so well together,” Reeves said. “There’s magic in that and I wanted to show that off. It’s one of the reasons people love watches and one of the reasons they’re different than the clock on your cell phone.”
The Swiss have been making the best watches in the world for generations, building up centuries of “entrenched practice and apprenticeship,” Reeves said.
“That’s one of the reasons I deliberately chose to have our watches powered by a Swiss-made movement. I wanted to leave no doubt this is a quality watch that stands the test of time,” he said.
Reeves has a manufacturing partner in Ohio, Fine Timepiece Solutions, which procures the Swiss movements for him and helped him with design.
“When we looked at the back of the movement I felt like it needed something else to push it over the edge in terms of design,” Reeves said. “That’s where we created the custom rotor label. That’s the red you see. I could have closed the back of the watch off, but the movement itself is so beautiful I wanted to show it off.”
Reeves, 41, is certainly not the first one to have the idea of exposing a Swiss movement. Any number of Swiss watchmakers do the same, from Tissot to Oris. He needed something to set his three-year-old startup watch company apart. He thinks he found it in his sixth great grandfather, Henry Diefendorff, who fought in the American Revolution, and now lends his last name to Reeves’ watch.
During his research, Reeves learned that Diefendorff had died 200 years to the day from Reeves’ birthday. Reeves was born Aug. 6, 1977. Diefendorff died in combat on Aug. 6, 1777.
“When I came across his record I had to rub my eyes,” Reeves says.
Reeves’ own family was unaware of its illustrious ancestor, whose parents had come to Philadelphia from Switzerland in 1735. There it was. The Swiss connection.
“A lot of symbolism goes into the watch,” Reeves said. “One was to have a Swiss-made movement to reflect his heritage. Because he fought for the American cause, I wanted to prioritize American suppliers.”
Reeves’ connection in Ohio, Fine Timepiece Solutions, found an American supplier for the leather watch bands on Diefendorff watches.
Reeves began selling his watches last October. He’s selling direct to consumer on his website. And it’s not just to friends and family.
“It’s an amazing experience when you get that first order in from somebody you don’t know,” Reeves said. “To me that was the ultimate passing grade on the ultimate test, to see that order come in and not recognize the name.”
Reeves, who has yet to hire any employees, said he’s seeing 20 to 30 percent growth in website traffic every month and more and more attention on social media.
“The response right now is very good,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of traction.”
Reeves patented his case design, which features 17 big lines and 76 small lines to honor the American Revolution his 6thgreat grandfather fought in. Reeves said Henry Diefendorff died in the Battle of Orisky in upstate New York, one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution.
“There’s a lot of details about his death, I haven’t found out a ton about his life,” Reeves said. “He was shot in the lungs. He collapsed to the ground and asked for water, took one last sip and died. It sounds like it’s out of a movie.”
Reeves hopes to bring Diefendorff’s story and sacrifice into the modern day with his namesake watch.
“It was forgotton in my family,” Reeves said. “So many benefitted from his sacrifice. I wanted to recognize that.”
May 26, 2019 at 02:42PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs