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An Original Homage to LA
And the Angelenos who make it fly.
I’m an LA guy.
I was born in Los Angeles County and raised here. I married my wife in LA, bought my first home in LA city proper, and my kids were born Angelenos, too. I’m a die-hard Lakers fan, I root, root, root for the Dodgers, and I can barely function if the weather drops below 70 degrees. My Instagram handle, @el_lay_time, is an homage to the city’s paper of record, mine and the city’s shared Latino heritage, and my enthusiasm for watches. So when my wife and I were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary, the watch anniversary, it only made sense for me to choose a watch that felt more personal than a standard luxury Swiss timepiece; I wanted a locally manufactured piece from then-Los Angeles based Weiss Watch Company.
Many enthusiasts today recognize Weiss Watch Company as a Nashville, Tennessee based independent watchmaker; but the brand was originally founded by Cameron Weiss in the South Bay region of Los Angeles in 2013. After graduating from the University of Southern California in the late 2000s, Cameron would learn the precise art of watchmaking and manufacturing under renowned haute horology houses Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. After a few years of assembling and repairing some of the most luxurious timepieces in the world, Cameron returned to the South Bay to launch the Weiss Watch Company. Unique from most other “Made in America” watch brands, Weiss made a name for itself by manufacturing their own cases and dials, and powering their classically styled field and pilot watches with Swiss made manual winding movements assembled and finished in LA. In 2016, Weiss made another leap as an independent watchmaker by releasing their own in-house manufactured movement, the manual winding Caliber 1003.
I had been following the growth of Weiss Watch Company since I first entered the watch hobby in 2015, intrigued by the prospect of a homegrown watch in my collection. By 2020, my collection contained pieces from well-known brands like Omega, Rolex, Tudor, Tissot, Hamilton, and Seiko. I also owned a vintage Vietnam-era, military issued Hamilton GG-W-113, which I considered my patriotic watch. But that watch, with its Swiss ETA based movement, and the other Swiss and Japanese pieces I owned, didn’t satisfy my craving for a truly American-made piece. With our wedding anniversary approaching, I zeroed in on a recent Weiss release that would fulfill my wish: the 100 piece limited edition, Weiss American Issue Field Watch – Ultralight; a 42mm pilot watch with a titanium case, blue brass dial, and an aircraft grade aluminum manual winding movement, all manufactured in-house and assembled in my hometown.
Compared to Weiss’s 38mm field watches, these meatier 42mm offerings fall more firmly into pilot watch territory. Even in the Weiss logo, the font of the name tapered at the ends like wings and spelled with a propeller in place of an “I”, leans into the imagery of airplanes and aviation. Just below the center of the dial, two lines of script inform the wearer of the materials used in the watch’s construction, and underneath the Arabic 6 o’clock hour marker, where one would usually see “Swiss Made,” the text reads, simply, “Los Angeles, CA.”
On the caseback side, the Weiss Ultralight puts its black aluminum movement on display, adorned with blued screws, a golden balance wheel, and the name Weiss engraved in copper colored font. Just to the lower right of the Weiss name on the movement, one can see the faintly engraved initials—USA—to indicate the American birthplace of the CAL1003 movement. The watch came paired with a handsome tan leather strap from the Chicago, Illinois-based Horween Leather Company, though I often wear it with a gray “Tundra” Matte Supreme NATO™ strap from Crown and Buckle, or a taupe textured calfskin strap from Veblenist.
To non-Angelenos, a pilot watch may not feel like a natural fit for the international image of Los Angeles: a movie star’s playground with flashy Hollywood premieres and its warm, sunny beaches. But to natives, the aviation industry and the region’s role in the history of aviation and aerospace is a large part of our story. Angelenos employed by Howard Hughes, Lockheed, Donald Douglas, and Northrop built much of the nation’s fighting air fleet in World War II and beyond, and more Angelenos would go on to build space shuttles from the Apollo missions to the present time, with SpaceX headquarters based in Hawthorne. Combined with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the aerospace and aviation industries remain a major driver of the region’s economy, and a prominent employer of Angelenos.
I grew up under the flight paths of the planes flying in and out of LAX, and my mother worked early morning hours in the airline services industry. When I was a kid, sometimes we’d pick her up from work and I’d sit in the backseat of my father’s car and watch the planes take off over the beach into western skies. Some days, she’d come home from work and hand me plastic pilot wings, the kind flight attendants would give to the kids on planes. My godfather and his brother worked on parts for fighter jets at Northrop, and my wife’s great grandmother was a “Rosie the Riveter" who worked in a Hughes factory during World War II.
Contrary to the image of LA as a haven for models and aspiring actors, of mansions, swimming pools, and red carpets, when I think of Los Angeles, I think of working-class folks leaving their homes before dawn to work in maintaining the aviation industry, keeping the planes in the sky and the passengers comfortable. They’re tough, they work their tails off, but they’re humble. The Weiss Watch Company Ultralight is a perfect tribute to the people of this city and its history, and a watch I’m extremely proud to own.
—Casual Time #3 by Eddie Alexander