Veterans Watchmaker Initiative: Why I Care & Why You Should Too

The last 45 dMid-Atlantic GTG ays have been a whirlwind for me and Janis Trading Company. I was in Atlanta for a get-together on April 28th, visited Hong Kong and toured factories in mainland China the second week of May, and organized the Mid-Atlantic get-together here in the Philadelphia suburbs, which took place on May 20th. 

When I wasn’t rubbing elbows with watch-geeks or people sitting next to me on a plane, I tried to make some progress on several new designs and continued work on the new NTH website.

To call our Mid-Atlantic GTG a success would be an understatement. 50+ watch geeks gathered from as far away as NY and DC to show off collections, talk shop, and revel in all the delights of our shared passion for watch collecting. It’s always energizing to meet other enthusiasts, to see what they like, and to share ideas.

In a break from the usual free-form nature of most meetups, we held an hour-long panel discussion, wherein I was joined by two other microbrand owners, Marvin Menke of Hemel, and Christian Champion of Ocean Crawler, and a master watchmaker (who I’ll get to in a moment). The panel was moderated by our friend Loren, who blogs under the name “The Time Bum,” with questions from the attendees and submitted through the Mid-Atlantic GTG group on Facebook. Watch my blog for some posts informed by that discussion and expanded thoughts on some of the different topics.

For me and my business, the most rewarding moment of the day came by way of Sam Cannan, that master watchmaker mentioned above, the founder and lead instructor of the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative, who wanted to recognize me and Janis Trading Company as a supporter of the school, and an official sponsor of their program.

What is VWI

The Veterans Watchmaker Initiative (VWI) is, in their own words, “...an organization set up to provide training,  support, and referral services to the wounded veterans returning from Veterans Watch Initiativethe wars and return their dignity of purpose in a time-honored craft.” Veterans with service-related disabilities can attend VWI tuition-free. It is a rigorous program, but upon graduation, they will be equipped for long-term, gainful employment in the watch repair industry, an industry whose demand for skilled labor in the U.S. grows every day.

Developed with inspiration from the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking, a non-profit institution that provide d training and rehabilitation to disabled World War II veterans, VWI takes the Bulova vision and updates it for the next millennium. Receiving grants and funding from both the public and private sector, VWI is the only technical school devoted to disabled veterans in the United States.

Why it is Important and Why I Care

In their ownVeterans Watch Initiative words, the VWI is all about dignity with purpose. They equip veterans with a new set of skills, skills which are in short supply. Training with VWI creates a sustainable career opportunity for these heroes, opening doors for both rewarding employment and entrepreneurialism. By training veterans in the craft of watchmaking, VWI is fulfilling a need in the industry for skilled labor, while also fulfilling the individual veterans’ need for independence and purpose.

I don’t just own a company making watches. I’m also a veteran. My good friend and mentor was killed in combat, and I still have friends who serve, so VWI’s mission is one I felt compelled to assist, if only in a small way. These warriors were wounded while serving their fellow man. They deserve to lead a fulfilling life and have a rewarding career upon return, yet unemployment/underemployment among veterans, especially those returning from combat, is above the national average. Any initiative which addresses the problem by empowering veterans and supporting self-sufficiency deserves support.

How Janis Trading Company Was Able To Help

As it is with so many things, success begets more success. More important than the nominal  donation Janis made to VWI was the formal, written declaration that we’d sponsor their program. Being able to show corporate interest in their mission helps VWI attract more grants and Veterans Watch Initiativedonations from non-profit foundations, other companies, and institutions of higher learning. In addition to our cash donation, I donated my recently restored, first-year of production, 1957 Hamilton Ventura, a watch inherited from my grandfather, now on display in the school’s lobby museum. Lastly, Janis will provide the school with some practice materials, and provide all students in the watchmaking program with the components needed to assemble one of our watches.


I am honored to be able to do my small part to assist in VWI’s mission and encourage you all to check out their website and learn more.

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