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Watches are on display throughout Celeste Watch Co.’s Springfield location.

SPRINGFIELD – Sometimes inspiration will find you again, even if it takes a few years to return. Dedicated time-watcher Celeste Wong has held a fascination for clocks and watches since she was 4 years old, and after a few decades away returned to master the craft of creating watches.

Now Wong, 56, owns Celeste Watch Co., the only minority woman-owned watch company in the USA operating out of Springfield, and creates all of her designs by hand.

Made from ethereal materials such as mother of pearl and sapphire, Wong creates watches that catch the eye with bright colors, scenes and animal designs. Once finished, the watches are tested by robots for 48 hours, simulating motion to ensure everything works properly. 

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Celeste Wong, who moved to Oregon from Louisiana, at her work station, holding a watch with a cat on its face.

After feelings of isolation rose up due to lockdown, Wong said she began offering custom watches of furry family members and the heartfelt special designs kept her in business through the pandemic.

“It really hit me that our animal friends are what’s going to get us through this,” Wong said. “People got excited to see their pet on a watch. You look at your wrist 500 times a day, and they’re with you.”

At seven years old Wong earned her first watch featuring Charlie the Tuna, “spokes-tuna” for Star-Kist, which required mailing in tuna can labels, $4.95 and waiting up to four weeks for delivery. Wong said she cannot eat tuna anymore, even years later.  

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The watchmaker’s first watch – for which she ate multiple cans of tuna to earn, is on display up at the register.

Watchmaking took an intermission for Wong after high school and she used her artistic talents for other avenues, such as opening an engineering education center, writing 22 books, and eventually selling her sold-out engineering workshops to a university before returning to her obsession.

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Wong’s favorite watch she’s made, because it takes her back to her 20s “on a beautiful beach with the wind in her hair.”

“I used to talk to kids about going into engineering, and how you can make anything you want,” Wong said. “All these things are a part of me, I like to experiment and learn constantly and a regular job just doesn’t offer as much as I feel I need to keep growing.”

Wong moved to Springfield from Louisiana, where she worked for 10 years. She said as a minority, she knew the South wasn’t the place for her and she loves Oregon. One of her watches even features the statewide celebrity Bigfoot, which is called the “Sasq-Watch.”

“Nobody cares what you do as long as you don’t hurt a tree,” Wong joked.