Small Business Spotlight: American Time Companies

April 04, 2019 04:59 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Anyone can check the time on their phone but there's something beautiful about the precision and craftsmanship of a nice watch.

Turns out, a local company manufactures them by hand for a very specific customer base.


Peering into a microscope, John Harmon, Sr. is painstakingly putting the hands on wrist watches. He's been at this as long as the company has been in business.

"I do this day in and day out," he told us as he worked. "For every watch that goes out here, I have to put the hands on them."

He works at American Time Companies. So does his son John Harmon, Jr.

"We're a union wristwatch manufacturer," said Harmon, Jr. "We have different watches with different logos."

If you're in a union, and you need a watch for a member's retirement or anniversary, chances are you're doing business with American Time Companies. The firm manufactures custom designed timepieces with union logos stamped or printed on the watch face.

"That's what we do, and we do it better than anybody else," said company founder Clifford Charlson. "And I say that because I believe it."

Charlson started the company nearly 30 years ago and says they have a loyal customer base of more than 1,500 unions across the United States who want American made products.

"Every time you can keep their logo in front of them, it's just a show of pride, and they take fierce pride in it," said Charlson.

Here in their 21,000 square foot facility on North Clinton Avenue, we watched the process from start to finish. And we immediately got an appreciation for the level of detail. Once a customer selects a design, it's then die-struck like a coin, or hand printed on the dial.

"She (an employee) is actually pad printing by hand a track on one of the dials to get it ready for customization," Harmon, Jr. pointed out. "This particular dial needs a gold track with a gothic track around it. this is the first step of putting a track on a dial by hand."

The dial then goes to a fusion welder where tiny feet are attached to the back to keep it in place when it's attached to the Swiss-made movement. Harmon, Sr. then puts the hands on the watch.

News10NBC's Brett Davidsen: "That takes some serious precision."

John Harmon, Sr.: "Yeah, when I first seen it done, I said, are you kidding me. But after you do half a million of them, it comes pretty easy."

A stem is then put in and the back is pressed on before the band is finally attached. American Time Companies then customizes the order further by adding engraving.

"Our business is really honor and recognition," said Charlson.

Charlson says they've sold more than a half million watches. They generally run anywhere from $79 to $100.

"What sets it apart is the quality parts that we use, number one, Swiss quartz movement, but the real separation is the people who put it together," said Charlson. 

The company also makes decorative clocks as well and can print logos on coasters, bag tags and other novelty items.

Charlson says the popularity of new-tech watches like Fit-Bit have cut into their bottom line, but says there's no substitute for what they have to offer.

"It's something we'll have to deal with, and I think as long as we keep ahead of the power curve in terms of design, delivery, service, service and more service, Ii think we'll be fine."

For more information about American Time Companies, click here.

If you know of a company we should highlight, email us at


Brett Davidsen

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

Relay Media Amp

We no longer have Facebook comments on this site. Please visit our Facebook Page to join the conversation.