Michael Lembo was always a watch guy. A native of Waltham — which, he’s quick to remind, is the original watch city and home to the first watch factory in America — Lembo had the idea for a high-quality, affordable, heritage-inspired timepiece brand for years before he put the wheels (and gears) in motion. He founded Back Bay Watch Co., a line of women’s and men’s watches inspired by the look, feel and history of Boston’s Brahmin brownstone neighborhood.
“I wanted a classic looking timepiece that matches the classic neighborhood of Back Bay. That area of the city — that’s where everything started. It has heritage,” says Lembo, who also works in the neighborhood’s bustling hospitality insurance, currently the food and beverage manager at the Lowes Hotel’s Precinct Kitchen + Bar. “There’s also a modern element of the neighborhood — with Newbury Street and the steady stream of new businesses coming in — so I wanted to incorporate that vibe of the city as well.”
The debut collection, which made their first appearances via social media earlier this year, features the Arlington watch for men and the Berkeley for women, both named after the neighborhood streets Lembo passes each day en route to work. The watches feature rounded gold hardware inspired by the gold leaf and copper domes in Back Bay and Beacon Hill, and traditional elements like a domed crystal face and a second hand dial are carefully incorporated. The watchband colors — rusty beige leather and matte black — were chosen to represent the neighborhood’s brownstone facades. Updated features — an oversized fit and modern clips and bands — give each piece a contemporary feel, and the face’s stylized number “8” is a pair of back-to-back B’s, for Back Bay, of course.
Lembo says many of his customers have been former residents of the area or family members of students who remember the neighborhood fondly. The price point ranges from $110 to $125 and Lembo hopes consumers will find themselves collecting multiple pieces from each line. “I want them to be more of a fashion statement, matching [each watch] to what they’re wearing that day,” he adds.
The next collection, due in spring, will focus on Beacon Street, with a more rustic vibe inspired by the brownstones and cobblestone hatchways of Back Bay’s iconic main drag. But where next? For Lembo, inspiration is endless.
“I love walking the streets and incorporating them into watches,” he explains, noting inspiration in colors and shapes to be found in the likes of Trinity Church, the State House and Copley Square. “There’s no shortage of what you can intertwine into a watch.”