Downtown Springfield watch maker looks to spark resurgence with new company

(SBG photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. – A new downtown Springfield merchant says she's seeing a nice uptick in business with her one-of-a-kind product.

Celeste Wong of Celeste Watch Co. is a maker of custom made wristwatches, and her business has been decades in the making.

Wong says she was happy in her engineering consulting work, but she wanted something more, something better.

So, what grew out of her fascination about wristwatches as a child has become one of downtown Springfield's most unique businesses.

For as long as she can remember, Celeste has been in love with the simple wristwatch.

“Every picture my mom has of me from about 4 years old on, I have a watch on; every single picture,” said Wong.

Now she's taken that childhood passion to the next level with her own new business -- Celeste Watch Company.

“I believe I'm the only woman-owned & operated watch company in the United States,” she said.

Wong started thinking seriously about changing careers about 10 years ago, away from engineering and into watch making.

“My first design was a wave and then I went into a sea turtle,” she recalled, “I have an octopus; I have an orca.”

She chuckles that the first wave design watches had some of her customers confused; some thought it was an elephant.

“’What is that shape?’ And it became the Rorschach test, so now I say to people, ‘it's whatever you see.’”

Celeste uses a laser to cut pieces of mother of pearl or abalone shells.

“I go and some of these holes…they need to be cleaned out,” she explained. Then it's under the microscope where the painstaking work takes place.

And in this age of smartphones and other ways to keep time, Wong hopes her products can spark new interest.

“I see a resurgence in watch wearing and these types of watches; it's a type of jewelry. It's wearable art.”

Celeste said her watch dials are covered with sapphire glass, making the face virtually scratch-proof.

She will create custom faces based on customer preferences.

She said the best way she can explain it is that each watch represents about one day of her life. It takes five to 12 hours of work on each face, not counting her time, to hand-sew every leather wrist band to perfection.

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