Local Shinola Watchmaker Helps Keep Detroiters on Time

Tonya Hadden at Shinola
Tonya Hadden in front of an assembly station at Shinola

“Wow, I had a part in that,” reflects Tonya Hadden on her craftsmanship. “Once I saw it on the display case, it was the most gratifying feeling for me. It’s a beautiful timepiece, and it can last forever.”

Founded in 2011 in Detroit, Shinola has grown from a 10-employee assembly line to a nationally recognized manufacturer of artisanal timepieces, leather goods, bikes and clothing. Hadden, 40, was one of the first factory watch assemblers, and she has seen every step of the company’s growth.

Growing up in Inkster, Hadden was inspired to enter crafts by her father, a Ford factory worker. “I just loved seeing the things that my dad did. Originally when I came out of school, I wanted to go to Ford” too, Hadden says.

She did wind up in the auto industry, but as the field become more uncertain, Hadden joined Shinola’s manufacturing team in March 2012. Each watch is made from hundreds of tiny pieces and mechanisms, which takes time and training to master.

“Originally we started with Thai trainers, and they basically were here with us for a month,” Hadden says. “If you’re used to working with your hands and your hands are steady, it just comes natural for you. Most of us that came from the line, we were already prepped for this.”


Through Shinola, Hadden recently got the opportunity to travel to Switzerland to attend the Baselworld World Watch and Jewelry Show-the auto show for wristwatches. It was a thrill.

“Once you think you’ve seen something that’s just really caught your eye,” Hadden says,  “you’re on to the next exciting thing.”

Today, the 300,000-square-foot factory headquarters produces roughly 800 watch units daily, shipping them across the country to small and big department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, and their shops in Detroit, New York and Minneapolis.

“I’ve seen it from the beginning, and I’ve seen how far it has grown and continues to grow, so it’s something I’m really proud of.”

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