We build supremely well-made watches that can take whatever we’re up for: century rides, date nights, playing with kids in the rain, skating with friends.
Our watches are excellent without being fussy, beautiful without needing to be protected. We assemble and adjust our watches locally, and we believe the midwest is the best place in the world.
From the start
My dad—a clock- and watchmaker since 2000, after a career in business—gave me my first mechanical chronograph in the summer of 2012, an old Tissot, and for the next several weeks I researched the Valjoux 7734 powering it, scanning forums and ebay. Before long I was digging into other old chronograph movements, and then other complications—alarms, dive watches, perpetual calendars.
In 2015, I bought my dad a vintage Leonidas moonphase. It needed a service, and in northeast Indiana, options were few. I ended up in a jewelry shop 45 minutes away and met a guy named Donovan Paradise, who’d grown up in a machine shop and then decided to become a watchmaker. He serviced my dad's watch, and we got to be fast friends. Even before I gave my dad his watch, I'd fallen for vintage, and was soon driving up to Donovan every few weeks, dropping off vintage Heuers, LeCoultres, and Omegas for service.
In 2018, having watched vintage watches continue to climb in price, and feeling like new converts were going to have a hard time finding vintage watches in decent shape for reasonable prices, I thought it’d be fun to build one (fun fact: if, over the last 50 years, watch prices had simply risen to match inflation, most good mechanical watches would be under $2k).
Donovan and I spent several months looking for a chronograph movement that’d be hand-winding, robust, and thin enough to build a classic chronograph around. We wrote to Sellita to ask about modifying their SW510—we thought we’d figured out how to convert it from an automatic to a manual—and, amazingly, they told us they were about to release *exactly* what we were after: the SW510, with the classic 3/6/9 subdial layout, as a manual. Given Sellita’s track record of bullet-proof movements, we put in an order.
Steve Reidell’s one of my oldest and best friends, and for the last decade and a half he’s done design work for bands, plus was the Art Director at Metro in Chicago. Haven’s look—logo, dial, typefaces—is Steve’s work, translating my bumbling descriptions into killer design during breaks on his usual work as a touring musician.
Each step of the process was a matter of trying to find the right solution—not just good components and parts and design, but right, excellent. We don't like waste, and don’t care about watch boxes, so we found 100% recycled cardboard boxes and stamped them ourselves. We found a local company to make the inserts—again, of cardboard—so each Haven box is 100% recyclable. We wanted to make our own straps, so we had a die made by Atlas, in Elkhart, IN, sourced hides from SB Foot, Horween, Badalassi Carlo, and Conceria Walpier, cut our own straps by hand at Becky's Die Cutting in Fort Wayne, IN, and the straps are finished by Leather Works Minnesota in St. Paul.
We get our components internationally—cases/dials/hands in Asia; movements in Switzerland—and assemble, regulate, and pressure test everything ourselves, in the Midwest. There are easier and cheaper ways to make watches, but this is the best way we’ve found to get it right.
Early on, we were considering a certain hand-wound chrono movement. We'd gotten two samples, and Donovan’d pulled both apart and found that, while they ran okay, they wouldn’t last—they had huge mainsprings and bad tolerances, and had been designed to run till the watch shredded itself. I tried to argue, saying it’d be worth it just to make something. Donovan said that if Haven used that movement, he didn't want to be involved. It was an off-hand comment, but it's Haven: we're only making stuff we're willing to sign our names to and stand behind. We are not at all kidding around about quality: if our watches can’t put up with going on bike rides, splashing in the rain with our kids, brewing beer, splashed beer at concerts, pick-up games of basketball, and all the other stuff we get into in the Midwest, they’re not worth making.
And me? This was all an accident. I teach English, and I write—short stories and poetry and book reviews. Like everyone involved with Haven, I’m a misfit, finding myself far afield of anything I imagined. All I can tell you is we’re trying to make the best watches we can and have as much fun in the process as possible. Thanks for checking us out, and feel free to drop a line if there's anything more you'd like to know.