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IWC Schaffhausen

The Journal

ADVENTURE IN AUTHENTICITY

ADVENTURE IN AUTHENTICITY
Read Time: 3 min

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SHARING THE IWC SPIRIT FOR CRAFTSMANSHIP, JOSH SIRLIN REVEALS WHERE HE FOUND THAT PERFECT BLEND OF RUGGEDNESS AND REFINEMENT FOR HIS DENIMS. THIS IS THE STORY OF THE BLACK BEAR BRAND

the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN IW329801 with a black ceramic case

When American watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones established IWC in 1868, his goal was to craft the “best of watches” built to withstand generations. Today’s IWC watchmakers inherit Jones’s ambition. Their Leitmotif remains unwavering: a relentless pursuit of precision, accuracy, reliability, and durability. IWC’s engineers persist in enhancing mechanical watch mechanisms and designs. Similarly, in the realm of U.S. apparel, one brand mirrors the rugged yet refined essence found in IWC watches: the Black Bear Brand. 

ORIGINS OF BLACK BEAR BRAND

Based in Seattle, WA, the apparel brand was established more than 100 years ago by founder George G. Black. Along with five sewing professionals and five sewing machines, Black launched the brand by making fine men’s clothing, which ranged from men’s overcoats to wool jackets, pants, jeans, denim overalls, and other popular men’s workwear items at the time.

 

The brand had a style that transcended genres and found enthusiastic reception through pure quality, functionality, and unparalleled durability, earning the endorsement of men who valued authenticity. However, as the trend to mass production and cheap fashion prevailed - prioritizing quantity over quality - Black Bear Brand closed its doors, unwilling to submit to the trend of mass-produced cheap clothing. 

Historic advertisements from Black Bear Brand

— Historic advertisements from Black Bear Brand

I fell in love with the style, detail construction, and material quality. I was fixated and I needed to recreate this brand.
Seattle-based Josh Sirlin revived Black Bear Brand and started ‘Black Manufacturing Company’

— Seattle-based Josh Sirlin revived Black Bear Brand and started “Black Manufacturing Company”

ENTER JOSH SIRLIN

Decades later, Josh Sirlin - a Seattle-based designer, adventurer, and entrepreneur who loves fashion and history - came across a very rare 1912 Black Bear Brand coverall and soon dreamed of reviving this dead brand. “I fell in love with the style, detail construction, and material quality. I was fixated and I needed to recreate this brand.”

 

Black Bear Brand’s history has deep roots in the Pacific NW while many details are wildly elusive, lost, or remain a mystery. “I saw a brilliance, excellence, and unsurpassed realness with a unique blend of ruggedness and refinement; I saw and felt this in the vintage Black Bear Brand items. This is when my adventure to resurrect Black Bear Brand began.”

THE JOURNEY - THE ADVENTURE

“My beloved Big Pilot’s Watch Ref. IW501001 on my wrist... always.”

 

“My life is an adventure, a journey of experiences, and the revival of Black Bear Brand became an extenuation of my life. Every part of my life included Black Bear Brand, everywhere I went I was designing, finding inspiration, being influenced, and learning! Travel is a keystone to who I am and what makes me tick. I love traveling, and traveling is my creative muse forever. All my travels began to be integrated with exploring fabrics, manufacturing techniques, and meeting some of the world's best craftsmen. This fuels my creativity dreams.”

The Creative Director of Black Bear Brand en route to ‘Kuroki’, where cotton yarn for denim undergoes indigo dyeing

— The Creative Director of Black Bear Brand en route to “Kuroki”, where cotton yarn for denim undergoes indigo dyeing

The Japanese dedication to every aspect of denim is unmatched, and the small town of Kurashiki in the Okayama Prefecture is the mecca of everything denim; from the cotton to indigo rope dying to the sewing of jeans. This is the best place on earth for denim!

JOSH’S ROAD TO JAPAN

The key to realizing his dreams of reviving the Black Bear Brand was to work with top artisans who possess outstanding craftsmanship skills now lost in many places around the world. While traveling the world, Sirlin found himself in Japan, exploring the world of denim, riding motorcycles, and interacting with many amazing artisans who are carrying on the Japanese unwavering craftsmanship.

 

“I’ve always been drawn to the Japanese culture, I love the craftsmanship and their relentless quest for excellence. In Japan, I find there are so many pure artisans with a life’s dedication to mastering their craft. I fell in love with the philosophy. I wanted this in everything in my life. Creating my designs with this Japanese philosophy of craftsmanship combined with the style of ruggedness and refinement was my quest.

 

The Japanese do denim better than anyone else in the world and my first fabric/textile love in Japan was denim. My dream of creating denim the way I wanted was possible now. The Japanese dedication to every aspect of denim is unmatched, and the small town of Kurashiki in the Okayama Prefecture is the mecca of everything denim; from the cotton to indigo rope dying to the sewing of jeans. This is the best place on earth for denim!”

Josh Sirlin wearing the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN IW329801 with a black ceramic case
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BIG PILOT’S WATCH 43 TOP GUN

IW329801

Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN

11.400 €

Ceramic case, Automatic, self-winding. Black dial with luminescence, Black textile strap with EasX-CHANGE system, Strap width 21.0 mm.

Made in Switzerland

— Josh Sirlin wearing the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 TOP GUN IW329801 with a black ceramic case

KURASHIKI – THE SANCTUARY OF JEANS

Weaving using locally cultivated cotton has been a flourishing practice in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture since the 17th century. In the early 1960s, local craftsmen, inheriting traditional techniques, started crafting denim jeans through indigo dyeing, weaving, and sewing. Unsatisfied with the mediocre texture of the fabric imported from the U.S., they sought to create the best denim fabric possible. And so, the journey to producing the best jeans in the world began.

 

In 1973, Japan produced its first denim fabric domestically. By the 1980s, jeans made in Kurashiki gained global notoriety for their meticulous process from textile preparation to design and sewing. Today, Kurashiki is renowned as the “Sanctuary of Jeans.”

 

“I was in love; my denim dream was coming true. I found where I will make all the Black Bear Brand jeans. I make what I really want from the heart. This is the manufacturing policy of the Black Bear Brand and Japanese artisans are indispensable to the brand. The exciting journey into design and adventures, and to bring to life what I'm dreaming is just starting.”

Josh Sirlin wearing the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Ref. IW329301 with a green rubber strap
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BIG PILOT’S WATCH 43

IW329301

Big Pilot’s Watch 43

9.600 €

Stainless steel case, Automatic, self-winding. Black dial with luminescence, Brown calfskin strap with EasX-CHANGE system, Strap width 21.0 mm.

Made in Switzerland

— Josh Sirlin wearing the Big Pilot’s Watch 43 Ref. IW329301 with a green rubber strap

Originally a cotton-farming area, the city soon flourished with dyeing, weaving, and sewing industries

— Originally a cotton-farming area, the city soon flourished with dyeing, weaving, and sewing industries

Josh Sirlin amid large spools of cotton yarn pre-dyeing

— Josh Sirlin amid large spools of cotton yarn pre-dyeing 

The cotton yarn after going through the indigo dying process

— The cotton yarn after going through the indigo dying process

Epilogue

 

In the swirling haze of denim dreams and indigo-infused nights, my journey into the heart of Japan’s craftsmanship began—an odyssey that feels like eons etched in the fabric of time. From the very soul of Okayama, where looms hum like ancient hymns, to the rugged hands that weave threads of tradition into every stitch, I found myself ensnared by the allure of denim’s dance.

 

As I stand amidst the serenity of Okayama, I am humbled by the depth of gratitude that fills me. For Black Bear Brand, denim is more than just a culmination—it is a vow, a promise to continue honoring the boundless beauty that Japan has bestowed upon me. With each stitch, I weave my devotion into the fabric of time, forever yours in this timeless dance of denim and destiny.

 

In the end, it is not just a jacket—it is a proclamation of love, a declaration of allegiance to the artistry that defines us both. And so, with the deepest respect and gratitude, I remain forever yours—Josh

 

IWC and my Big Pilot’s Watch, you accompany me everywhere. You are my timekeeper, my reminder of past adventures and how precious time is... you are my reminder that dreams await, to go and chase every wild dream I have, and don’t waste a minute!

IWC Schaffhausen