In 2016, Towson Watch Company was purchased by Kevin Plank, the founder of Under Armour and prominent Baltimorean entrepreneur. The acquisition was part of an effort to unite Baltimore’s proudest artisanal engineering firms to rejuvenate industrial culture & innovation in Charm City.
The endeavor was managed by Sagamore Ventures, who hosted the American watch brand in the City Garage Science & Technology Innovation Hub. The new TWC HQ located on the Baltimore Peninsula served as a workshop and showroom for Towson Watches, providing easy access to visitors coming from Washington D.C. Right next-door sits the Sagamore Rye Distillery & Under Armour Headquarters.
(Towson Watch Company has since left City Garage (2023) and will return to in-store visitations shortly at the new permanent location.)
For the co-founders and former owners of the brand, Hartwig Balke and George Thomas, they were elated with the sale of their company. The new corporate oversight and association with Baltimore’s greatest brands meant that their operation could be taken to a new level. TWC could now work with a wide network of ambitious creatives and artists to bring more of the watchmaking process in-house.
Most importantly, Hartwig and George could now focus all of their time on watchmaking and developing new watchmakers for their company. Prior to Plank’s acquisition, much of the marketing and sales work was left to Hartwig. With this new team foundation for growth, Hartwig could return to what he truly loves…the watchmaking.
From the year Towson Watch Company was founded in 1998 to the year it was acquired in 2016, Hartwig and George had built Towson Watches out of their home workshops and sold them exclusively at select retailers. For much of this time, their work consisted largely of commissioned restorative projects, such as converting old pocket watches into wristwatches or building grand complications from vintage movements.
Standardization at TWC only began in 2005, after Hartwig’s infamous Mission Chronometer that flew in outer space on an STS-99 mission could be sufficiently reproduced in scale. At this time, George developed a standardized process for regulating highest-grade ETA calibers to chronometer-grade accuracy and five-position adjustment. Meanwhile, Hartwig’s workshop in his hometown Pforzheim, Germany, grew the capacity to make stainless cases precisely in accordance with his specifications. With these boxes checked in order to produce standardized reference models and offer them in the TWC Collections, Towson’s founders began developing the Mission and Chesapeake Collections.
Sagamore Ventures saw the potential of the Towson Watch Company brand that had solidified itself as a premier American watchmaker in the years prior. They especially saw the scalability potential in the standardized processes developed by Hartwig Balke and George Thomas. More importantly, the social impact it may have by allocating resources to the proliferation of it. Teaching and inspiring young people to work with their hands can only be a good thing for cities like Baltimore. Watchmaking is a great way to introduce this spirit into the next generation of American workers.
The 2016 purchase of Towson Watch Company by Kevin Plank was a monumental transition for Towson Watch Company as a public brand and group of watchmakers. The acquisition fundamentally changed the scope of production that Towson’s watchmakers and manufacturing partners worked within. Each and every element of the watchmaking process, whether it occurs in Baltimore or Pforzheim, occurs at a small family-owned workshop using vintage tools and hand-operated machines. This approach to the craft wasn’t going to change despite this shift in ownership. More people & machines were going to be needed to continue that same approach. The company is still developing that arsenal today.