Innovating in a traditional world

Tucked away in the woods off Route 2 in East Greenwich, in a simple 10,000-square-foot building, Chronomatic Inc. produces intricate logo jewelry and awards from start to finish.

“If you want cufflinks made,” said owner and president Ann Marie DaSilva, “we will make those two pairs of cufflinks, and we’ll do it right here in Rhode Island.”

The company’s seven workers take each item from design to finished product. They make the molds and dies, by hand or using a computer-driven CNC machine. They use them to stamp or cast the product; for precious metals and rings or other 3-D projects, they use investment or “lost wax” casting. They do the polishing, plating, enameling and final assembly. They card or bag the products, pack them and ship them.

Some items, including the cufflinks, they make from scratch. Some include findings from other Rhode Island manufacturers, including B.A. Ballou and Salvadore. “We try to get everything local,” said DaSilva, a Pawtucket native. “Boxes, bags – we purchase our metals in Rhode Island.” They use First Card for their packaging, which declares: “Proudly made in the USA, Chronomatic Inc., E.G., R.I.”

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“We do very high-end items,” DaSilva said, “and we also do very inexpensive items – from the one, very expensive 14-karat gold pin for that one employee, with stones in it, to that tie bar you’d give to 10,000 employees, we put our heart and soul in.”

A simple pin produced in bulk might sell for 70 cents, she said. A one-of-a-kind pin in precious metal with gemstones, for a top employee, might go for $500.

In its “library” – metal shelving, bearing rows of boxes, each labeled with a finished piece and brief description – the company keeps samples of every item, to make it easier restart production. This month, they went back into the library for a Marine’s widow, after a piece her husband had given her went missing.

The Marine Corps is one of their biggest customers, and one of their oldest. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is another. “This is [from] a mold we cut here, by hand,” DaSilva says of a slender 3-D figure in dress uniform that’s perhaps 2.5 inches tall. “This is the West Point cadet, and we just cut the female version.” Even the buttons can be seen.

But Chronomatic also does work for the national Better Business Bureau, the National Guard, the U.S. Department of Education, Cabot Creamery of Vermont, the East Greenwich Yacht Club, and several zoos.

Many orders come from “small organizations that can’t get the customer service, or don’t have the quantity, or want better quality than you get overseas,” DaSilva said. “Another niche has always been special awards – the medallions for universities for special degrees.” Coins or pins for special workers. Award plaques, on marble, wood, metal or Lucite, bearing a raised logo or an engraved image.

Still, she said, “The family that owned it before us, the Rieger family …when business started to go overseas, they began to suffer.” The company lost more than sales; in the polishing room, rows of empty tables bear witness to the decline from a total staff that once numbered 40.

DaSilva bought the company 21 months ago. Some things, she hasn’t changed. Co-founder Fred Rieger still works there, as do his children, Petra Long and John Rieger, and DaSilva’s brother-in-law, Joaquim DaSilva. It’s still very much a family business.

One change since Ann DaSilva took over is a new line of Marine Corps souvenirs, based on a Chronomatic system called the Interchangables. “A company will pay to cut a die one time,” DaSilva explained, “and we will be able to put that on a lot of different pieces.” A single medallion might be used on cufflinks, tie clips, pins, charm bracelets, pendants, bookmarks, wine charms, key tags, card cases, letter openers, desk sets, plaques, even souvenir spoons.

The Web site is changing, too. “It’ll be very interactive,” DaSilva said. “You’ll be able to click on an item and get a close-up, so you can see the incredible detail. But again, what we like to encourage as a company is that very personal interaction … because it’s so very customized.” Call Chronomatic, she noted, and you’ll always reach “a real person, not a voice-mail system.”

DaSilva has a master’s degree in psychology and business administration from Rhode Island College. “Because of the new challenges companies face on a daily basis, from product development to cutting costs to finding new customers, that’s been a great combination,” she said – helping her boost sales 30 percent.

Still, she said, “My heart is in production. I like to spend most of my time on the floor, working out there, then come back here to handle the office stuff at the end of the day.”

“We are a woman-owned and a minority-owned company,” DaSilva added. “My family is Portuguese, and they were all factory workers, so this is going back to my roots.”

For more information about Chronomatic Inc. of East Greenwich or its products, call 884-6360 or visit www.chronomaticinc.com.

Company Profile: Chronomatic Inc.
Owner: Ann Marie DaSilva
Type of business: Manufacturer and vendor of emblematic jewelry, awards and other custom products
Location: 1503 South County Trail, East Greenwich
Employess: 7
Year established: 1968
Annual sales: WND