To wear a wristwatch is to participate in a fashion trend that has existed for well over a century. Despite being updated and digitalized throughout the decades, the analog watch has remained a luxury item, a symbol of style and status that has resisted total modernization.
This sense of tradition is at the heart of Sangamon Watches, a wristwatch brand recently launched in Springfield, Illinois by businessmen Brian Su and Tyler McKay. United by a wish to incorporate a sense of history into classic design, they created a business dedicated to preserving tradition while utilizing the latest technology.
Brian moved to America in the late 1980s and brought with him the experience of international business and a love of American history. Tyler is a sixth-generation Illinois farmer who switched his focus to business and entrepreneurship. He came up with the idea for Sangamon Watches while studying an MBA at Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois.
Both wanted to create a luxury product with a meaning behind it and Sangamon Watches tell more than just the time: each timepiece is inspired by an American story, a nod to the creators’ shared love of the past. In fact, almost every element of the company is inspired by local history.
Basing their headquarters in Springfield pays homage to the once-renowned Illinois Watch Company that was based in the city throughout the late nineteenth century. The name is a tribute to the Sangamon River which is associated with Abraham Lincoln’s early life and career. During the pandemic year of 2020, Sangamon Watches successfully launched three collections.
In Spring 2021, the company released the Clara Harlowe Barton Collection, its first line of female watches. The collection commemorates its namesake, a Civil War nurse and the founder of the Red Cross, a tribute to the nursing profession that is particularly meaningful in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A further two new collections are currently in production, both of which pay tribute to incredible moments in American history.
Scheduled for release in the Fall, the 761st Tank Battalion Collection is designed for college-age customers and is inspired by the first African American armored unit in World War Two, since described as one of the most effective tank battalions in the entire conflict.
The end of the year will also see the company release its Grand Expedition Collection, featuring a diver watch inspired by the Lewis and Clarke expedition. American history is quite literally etched into the piece, with the back of the watch carrying an engraving of the explorers’ adventure.
With a brand philosophy firmly committed to producing quality over quantity, Brian and Tyler have set their sights on a global market, without compromising on what makes their watches unique. A limited number of each design is produced, ensuring that the highest standards of craftsmanship and design are maintained. This ethos has proven to be popular on a global scale, with the pandemic necessitating a shift to online business that has allowed more customers than ever to access the company’s distinctive products.
Sangamon Watches met the challenges of the pandemic head-on, with history lovers and watch enthusiasts the world over now enjoying the designs and the stories behind them, with positive YouTube and blog reviews from the US, UK, Mexico, and Canada.
Despite their shift to a wider market, their connection with the local community remains strong. Since its inception, Sangamon Watches has donated to over fifteen local charities, keeping its commitment to using its success to help others.
The success of Sangamon Watches proves that even in a modern market increasingly inundated with fast-fashion and cheap goods, a worldwide appreciation for craftsmanship and quality products with a sense of story remains.