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Empowering Legacies: The Tale of Sangamon Watches, an American Watch Brand

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

Brian's father was a mechanical engineer with a passion for taking things apart and understanding how they worked. Brian Su still vividly recalls watching his father scrutinize the inner workings of his mechanical wristwatch at his cluttered workbench. Years later, Brian inherited the same watch from his father, a Swiss-made Roamer purchased in China during his early 20s. The watch was a stunning combination of craftsmanship and engineering, and Brian felt proud to carry on his father's legacy whenever he wore it. Over the course of two years, Brian traveled the world and amassed a collection of over 60 watches, studying their history and appreciating their craftsmanship. He met Tyler McKay, another international business consultant and watch enthusiast, and together they founded Sangamon Watches.

Tyler and Brian discovered that Springfield, Illinois was once home to one of the greatest watchmakers in US history, the Illinois Watch Company. The company operated for 61 years and produced over 6 million watches, which were transported globally via railway. Inspired by their town's rich watchmaking heritage, they established the Sangamon Watch Company in Springfield. According to Tyler, "Sangamon Watch Company's products are a fitting continuation of the legacy of the Illinois Watch Company. While we are based here in Springfield, our reach extends globally, just like the Illinois Watch Company. We never compromise on quality, even as we strive for growth."

Sangamon Watch Company is named after the Sangamon River, which was beloved by Abraham Lincoln. Brian has always been fascinated with American history, especially that of Abraham Lincoln. He came to America in the late 1980s, after the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing, and was drawn to the stories of Lincoln's bravery and honesty. This led him to move from Las Vegas to Springfield, where he attended Sangamon State University as a graduate student and followed in Lincoln's footsteps along the trails surrounding the Sangamon River. Their first series, "New Beginnings," was inspired by Brian's walks along the Sangamon River. The limited edition "Lincoln's River Collection" features only 500 watches and is a nod to Lincoln's youthful years in Central Illinois.

According to Tyler, "What sets Sangamon Watches apart is the fact that each collection we create is a tribute to a memorable event or person in American history. The 'New Beginnings' series is both a collectible and an everyday wearable. The back of the watch is engraved with the scene from 1831 when a young Lincoln navigated down the Sangamon River and became stuck on a milldam at New Salem. Through his ingenuity and leadership, he impressively navigated around the dam, impressing the local onlookers."

Tyler McKay also has a personal connection to Illinois's rich history. He is a sixth-generation farmer from a small village in Central Illinois and attributes his entrepreneurial drive to his Midwestern values. Despite facing challenges during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Sangamon Watch Company has managed to overcome them. To celebrate its first anniversary, the company is launching a third product series called "Spirit," inspired by the iconic and historic Route 66 that connects Chicago to Los Angeles.

Tyler explains, "Route 66, affectionately known as the Mother Road, is a symbol of classic Americana and the pursuit of adventure. The limited edition 'Spirit Series Mother Road Collection,' consisting of only 310 watches, is now available this fall. The back of the watch showcases the famous Route 66 road sign in front of a checkered flag."

Brian and Tyler carefully choose the stories they tell through each of their stunning products. Their unique approach to sharing America's rich history through classic watches sets them apart. They don't just commemorate historical events, but also help Americans showcase their personal pride in their country's fascinating history.

Brian still wears the watch he inherited from his father, stating, "Wearing my dad's watch is like carrying a piece of him with me wherever I go." Tyler adds, "That's what we're striving to achieve with our watches. It may seem ironic to use the word 'timeless' when discussing a watch, but we're creating a timeless physical representation of a person's legacy that will endure long after they're gone." Check out


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