Defining A Legacy - Sangamon Watches

Brian Su’s father was always tinkering: he was a mechanical engineer by trade and he loved taking things apart and seeing how they worked. Brian distinctly remembers watching his father hunched over a cluttered workbench, carefully inspecting the gears and inner workings of his mechanical wristwatch.

Many years later, Brian would end up inheriting that watch, a Swiss-made Roamer his father had bought in China in his early 20s. It was a beautiful piece: a wonder of both craftsmanship and mechanical engineering, and Brian proudly felt like he was displaying his father’s legacy whenever he wore it. Over the next two years, Brian traveled the world and acquired over 60 watches, learning the history, and admiring the craftsmanship of each one. He found a fellow timepiece aficionado in fellow international business consultant Tyler McKay, and they decided to start a new wristwatch company together: Sangamon Watches

The pair learned that Springfield, Illinois was home to one of the finest watchmakers in US history: the Illinois Watch Company, which operated for 61 years, producing over 6 million watches and transporting its inimitable timepieces all over the world via railway. Inspired by the rich history of their town, Tyler and Brian founded the Sangamon Watch Company in Springfield.

“The quality and design of the Sangamon Watch Company’s products make a worthy successor to the old Illinois Watch Company,” Tyler says. “We are headquartered right here in Springfield, but just like our predecessors, our sights are set globally. We will never sacrifice quality for quantity, though.”

The company is named after the Sangamon River, a river Abraham Lincoln famously loved.  Brian has always been entranced with America’s history. “I came to America in the late 1980s, right after Tiananmen massacre occurred in Beijing,” he says. “I was drawn to the stories about Abraham Lincoln and his courageous life and honesty. So, I moved to Springfield from Las Vegas and have been here ever since.” Brian was so inspired by Lincoln’s life that, during his time as a graduate student at Sangamon State University (now University of Illinois at Springfield), he followed the president’s footsteps along the many trails surrounding the Sangamon River.

Their first series - appropriately titled “New Beginnings”—was inspired by Brian’s walks. The series has only 500 “Lincoln’s River Collection” watches and brings to mind Lincoln’s youthful years spent in Central Illinois.

“What sets Sangamon Watches apart,” says Tyler, “is that every collection we design and produce recreates the memories of an event or person in America’s great history. Sangamon’s “New Beginnings” are collectibles that can be worn every day. The engraved backside of these watches illustrates the moment in 1831 when young Lincoln navigated down the Sangamon River, eventually getting his flatboat stuck on a milldam at New Salem. Lincoln showed ingenuity and leadership skills in maneuvering around the dam, impressing many of the locals who had gathered around to watch.”

Tyler McKay has his own personal connection to Illinois’ rich history. He is a sixth-generation farmer from a small village in Central Illinois, and he credits his Midwestern values as igniting his desire for entrepreneurship.

While their new startup venture has faced a rocky road during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it is efficiently weathering the storm. The Sangamon Watch Company is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a third product series titled “Spirit,” inspired by the iconic and historic Route 66 which famously connects Chicago to Los Angeles.

“Iconic Route 66 is also fondly called Mother Road,” Tyler explained, “It is a symbol of the classic Americana, in search of a greater adventure.” The Spirit Series Mother Road Collection is a limited edition of only 310 watches and available this Fall 2020. “The engraved backside of the watch” Tyler continues “highlights the famous Route 66 road sign in front of a checkered flag”.

Brian and Tyler are particular about the stories they narrate in every stunning product. Their unique flair for sharing America’s rich history by crafting classic watches sets them apart: They do not just enshrine historical events but help Americans retrace and showcase their personal pride in their country’s rich and fascinating history.

Brian still wears the watch he inherited from his father. “When I wear dad’s watch, it’s like I get to carry a piece of him everywhere I go.” Tyler chimes in: “That’s what we’re really doing here. It is ironic to use the word ‘timeless’ when I talk about a watch. But we are crafting timeless, physical representation of a person’s legacy, something that will last long after they are gone.”

Sangamon Watch Company’s Official Website:


Be the first to commment on this article.

Post a Comment