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Price • Origin
Made in U.S.A.
Watch Watermark Faucets Being Assembled and Finished
Watermark Designs, Ltd.
350 DeWitt Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11207
(Meets North American Standard)
This Company In Brief
Watermark Designs is a Brooklyn, New York designer and manufacturer of faucets. Its unique designs, some of which are award-winning, have captured wide attention, propelling the growth of the company since its founding in 2000.
The company has experienced some growing pains, but seems to have steadied itself over the past few years. It's faucets are true luxury products, largely hand made and impeccably finished — worth a look by anyone in the market for smart, well-designed faucet with a very reliable valve that should give a lifetime of trouble-free service. But, if it should fail, keep in mind that the warranty service provided by Watermark is not always as helpful as it could be.
Brooklyn. One of the five boroughs of New York, and the nation's fourth largest city — home to a world famous bridge, the Botanical Gardens, the Navy Yard, Coney Island; and some well-known neighborhoods: Canarsi, Brighton Beach, Bensonhurst and Williamsburg.
It's not a place one normally thinks of as a design mecca. But, Brooklyn has become stylish, to the absolute astonishment of those of us who lived there in the 1970s and 80s. The style even has a name: "Brooklyn Chic".
Some well-known international designers call the borough home: Acconci Studio (Vito Acconci — architectural design), Egg Collective (Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie — heirloom-quality furniture), Roll & Hill (Jason Miller — lamps and lighting), Tri-Lox (creative furnishings and other products from reclaimed wood) and Workstead Studio (Stefanie Brechbuehler & Robert Highsmith — interior design), to name just a few, and, of course, Watermark Designs, Ltd. a designer and fabricator of some of the most interesting faucets to be found in North America.
Founded by Jack Abel in 1976 as Sepco Industries, Inc., a metal plating company, it expanded into designing and manufacturing upscale decorative bath fixtures in 2000 when Jack and his son Avi Abel (now Watermarks's president) acquired Eurotec, a decorative hardware designer and manufacturer. Eurotec became Watermark Designs, Ltd., the design end of the business. Sepco handles the production side.
Watermark faucets range from traditional to very contemporary designs arranged in coordinated collections. Most are fully loaded with faucets, shower sets, tub fillers, and accessories. Some even include lighting fixtures, shower drains, cabinet knobs and console frames for a completely coordinated look. Some, however, are more sparsely populated, like the Zen 1 collection that contains just lavatory faucets or the TOD 2, two kitchen faucets, a side spray and a soap/lotion dispenser.
The faucet styles straddle any historic period from Victorian to contemporary, so no matter the era of your old house, there is a Watermark faucet that will fit its character. But, if none of the company's standard offerings fill the bill, Watermark's ID division will design a custom faucet just for you. Of course, you would probably have to order several hundred to offset the cost of custom design and engineering.
The company formerly described itself on its website as
"...a true manufacturer of made-in-the-USA products".It no longer does so.
It has been a number of years since its faucets were "Made-in-the-USA" as that term is defined by law. The made in U.S.A. claim is closely regulated and monitored by the Federal Trade Commission which requires that any product labeled "Made in U.S.A." be comprised of parts and components also made in the U.S.A.
In 2006 when Watermark was much smaller, Avi Abel could talk in a promotional video about casually walking down the street in Brooklyn to get the supplies it needed from local vendors. It may still be true that the company buys incidental brass stock and components from "down the street" suppliers in Brooklyn. Those days are gone. Today the vast majority of its faucet components are manufactured to Watermark's specifications by Chinese and Taiwanese factories and imported.
Based on customs and import records for the thirty-six-month period ending on July 15, 2017, its known parts and components sources include:
• Delux Brassware Co., Ltd. (Taiwan);
• Eurotaps Industries, Ltd. (Taiwan);
• Stream Tapware Corp. (Taiwan);
• Foshan Ech Sanitary Ware Co Ltd. (Taiwan), a shower manufacturer that sells under the Ech and Aquakey trade names in Asia;
• Camel Products, Inc. (Taiwan), which supplies faucet components to a number of North American faucet companies including
• Eurden Industries, Inc. (Taiwan),
• Shenzhen Seagull Kitchen and Bath, Ltd. (China), a large manufacturer that supplies components and finished faucets to a number of faucet companies, including
• Alba Bathroom Mexico S. de R.L. de C.V. (Mexico).(The company changes suppliers regularly, so this list may not be accurate on the day you read this report.)
In addition to parts and components used to make faucets in Brooklyn, the company contracts for assembled faucets from a growing number of overseas supplier, including:
• Bronces Orus, S.L. (Spain);
• Elite Plumbing Fixture Company., Ltd. (Taiwan);
• Goldiden Industrial Co. Ltd. (China), whic also manufactures some faucets for
• Delux Brassware Co., Ltd. (Taiwan) which makesThese faucets are usually not completely finished and ready to sell. Typically they are received unfinished and are finished by Watermark in Brooklyn as they are ordered, and a cartridge and the customer's choice of handle are added to complete the faucet.
Most of these faucets are Watermark designs. But, the company also buys off-the-shelf faucets out of its vendors' . An example is the Beverly 314-1.1 monoblock lavatory faucet (pictured above) made by Bronces Orus, S.L. of Spain. This faucet is a Bronces design and appears in the Bronces . as the El Ayer faucet. It has been modified to fit Watermark's preferred Flühs cartridge (see below) and is purchased unfinished and without handles. Watermark buys the faucets, finishes them to order and installs its own handles, of which there are two available styles.
All of this foreign sourcing raises the question whether Watermark is still a of faucets as we define the term.
It has never had the facility required to do its own casting — an essential process in making most faucet bodies and spouts — and the usual hallmark of faucet manufacturers such as But, it does much more than merely assembled faucets from components manufactured by others. It does much of its own machining, and has recently upgraded its equipment to include a computer-controlled CNC machine.
It does all of its own finishing. In fact, Watermark's forté, other than its striking original designs, is metal finishing. It started out as a metal plating company, and its three generations of plating experience are evident in its faucets, showers and accessories. The photos in its catalogs and on its website do not begin to do justice to its impeccable finishes. It offers thirty-two basic finishes, (or 35 or 40, sources vary as to the number) and can provide special finishes on request. It does all of its own plating and lacquer coating, and, according to company sources, is gearing up to do PVD finishing in house. Formerly, PVD finishing was outsourced. (What is PVD finishing? Go here to find out.)
So, on balance, we think Watermark can still be fairly characterized as a with the caveat that it increasingly relies on parts and components largely made by other, mostly Chinese and Taiwanese, factories. How much actual manufacturing it does depends on the particular faucet. Some are almost entirely machined and finished in house, others are received from component manufacturers ready to finish, perhaps requiring some polishing, but no, or very little, in-house machining.
A spokesperson for the company told us that every Watermark faucet is developed around one of five ceramic cartridges made by Flühs Direhtechnik of Lüdenscheid, Germany. The Flühs valve is generally considered among the best in the world. It took us five minutes of research on the company web site to find out that this is not true. While all of the two-handle faucets we examined did include a Flühs cartridge, Watermark's single handle faucets are equipped with ceramic mixing cartridges made by Kerox Kft. of Hungary. The Kerox is generally considered one of the best mixing cartridges on the market. Watermark's web site lists Flühs cartridges but does not mention the Kerox cartridges used in many of its faucets, although we found references to the Kerox K25A, K35B and K35A cartridges in many parts diagrams.
Some faucets include a valve designed specially for Watermark. Many faucets in the 22 series (pictured above) contain a cartridge of this type. We asked who made it but the person we spoke claimed not to know. However, it is neither a Flühs nor a Kerox. In the older design of 22 series faucets the valve was built into the body of the faucet, o that if it failed the faucet had to be returned to the company for repairs. In the new design the valve is built into a removable cartridge that can be replaced without uninstalling the faucet.
Watermark faucets also include Neoperl® aerators engineered in Switzerland. Faucet aerators used to be simple devices that merely infused a little air to soften the water stream so it would not splash out of the sink. Today, however, they are precision products used to limit water volume to the lower flows required by federal and state water conservation laws, and in faucets with pull-out sprays, to prevent back-flow that could contaminate household drinking water. It is important, therefore, that this little device, often smaller than a dime, be the best available. And that, almost by definition, is the Swiss-designed Neoperl® aerator.
No matter how or where the components for a faucet are made, or where the faucets are assembled, every faucet undergoes a very rigorous quality control process including a pressure test at three times normal household water pressure to ensure that the faucet does not leak.
Many of Watermark's faucet designs are striking, and some are award-winning. The new, industrial look, Elan Vital bridge faucet — which reminds us of the rustic faucet designs offered by won the Best of Year award from Interior Design magazine in 2016 after having already captured a KBCulture award in 2014. The Zen collection was voted K+BB's Bathroom Product of the Year in 2013. And, in 2012 the Edge collection won the Product Innovation Award from Architectural Products Magazine.
Watermark's creative in-house design team develops and prototypes most of its faucet designs. Outside designers also contribute. The H-Line collection is by Mark Zeff. The Elan Vital collection was designed in collaboration with the Fredman Design Group and kitchen and bath designer David Kotowsky of Hydrology in Chicago. The Brooklyn Collection, with its unique handles based on gate valves from turn of the 20th century New York, was created by Incorporated Architecture and Design, Inc., an international design firm based in New York City, and the Touch27 series is the inspiration of Clodagh Design Studio, also in New York City, which designs everything from ceramic tile to lipstick cases.
In addition to kitchen and bath faucets, the company supplies coordinating accessories and decorative hardware, primarily for the bath. It does not, however, manufacture these accessories, but buys them from accessory manufacturers, among which are Camel Products, Inc. (Taiwan), Oannes Sanitaryware Co., Ltd. (China) and Integradora Empresarial Poblana, S.A. De C.V. (Mexico). Many of its faucet component suppliers also make the accessories that coordinate with the faucets they provide.
Watermark at one time supplied most, if not all, of the faucets sold in in North America by the Italian bathware company, Devon & Devon. Devon has, however, largely withdrawn from the North American market as of the date of this report. Watermark also provides some of the distinctive bath faucets sold by Rejuvenation, our favorite "house parts" company.
The company's web site is artsy and dramatic. In the past we characterized it as hard to use with navigation that was often not at all intuitive. It has been vastly improved. Whereas the former site structure made it very difficult to just browse the online catalog for inspiration, now it's very easy to do so by scanning collections or faucets by type: kitchen, lavatory or bar faucets. Gone is the inappropriate use of industry terminology about which we complained. You no longer need to know terms like monoblock or concealed edge to navigate to an appropriate faucet. But the company insists on continuing some industry jargon such as lavatory fittings rather than lavatory fixtures to describe faucets. Fittings is actually the correct term, but most consumer readers are more familiar with faucets described as fixtures. We are big fans of accuracy, but not at the expense of comprehension.
Our one remaining complaint is that the search feature is not very robust, often producing no results on common search terms such as "Kitchen Faucet". Even a basic search term like "faucet", produces a result set that consists of only bar faucets.
Once you find a faucet you might like, you will likely be disappointed in the information provided about the faucet. Generally only a single image of a faucet is available. Multiple images or, better yet, a 360° viewing feature such as is used by faucets, that allows the mouse to rotate the faucet to any viewing angle, are invaluable in fully visualizing the faucet.
Downloadable .pdf documents are linked to most faucet pages as "Product Specifications/Parts List" and "Installation Instructions." Some faucets have only the "Product Specifications/Parts List" and some have neither. We checked 33 faucets and never did find a parts list linked to "Product Specification/Part List". Installation instructions are where you may find an exploded parts diagram, but in many instances while the parts list includes numbers identifying the parts, the corresponding legend that tells you what the number refer to is missing. "Product specifications" are never found to be more than a measured drawing of the faucet, useful for determining whether a faucet will fit your sink, but hardly what we think of as specifications.
There is no identification of the cartridge installed in a faucet other than "ceramic cartridge", which is not all that informative. Nearly every faucet made now includes a "ceramic cartridge". But as there are good and not so good cartridges, it's useful to know the origin of the cartridge. No water flow rate is specified (useful to those living in states with mandated maximum flow rates, like California); nor is there a list of the faucet's certifications or of available finishes.
As the faucet display pages are mostly empty white space, there is plenty of room for this additional product information.
We give the site an A for ease of use but only a C+ for the information provided about each faucet. The site is striking and entertaining, but not very informative about some important details of Watermark faucets.
A spokesperson for the company told us that any technical information needed is always available from the company through customer service, including CAD drawings and 3d models. We have not tested or confirmed this service. But, assuming it is true, why should a potential buyer go through the trouble of contacting customer service for information which should be a part of the faucet's web page? Most likely what will happen is that the buyer will move on to another brand that provides more complete information.
We are totally mystified by the company's reticence about identifying its faucet cartridges. Based on our inspections company-provided information and reader feedback, Watermark uses mostly excellent cartridges from companies with good reputations. Why keep that a secret? We suggest that you always find out who made the cartridge for the faucet you are intending to buy. The cartridge is the heart of a faucet. Without a working cartridge, the faucet is useless. If the customer service agent professes not to know the maker of the cartridge, ask him or her to find out and call you back. For absolute certain, somebody in the company knows.
Our plumbers found the installation instruction easy to follow and graded installation as "Easy" on a scale of "Very Easy" to "Very Difficult".
The Watermark faucet warranty meets the standard for North American warranties. Faucets are guaranteed for as long as the original owner-purchaser owns the faucet and the faucet remains in its "original installation". Certain finishes are excluded. Gold and copper finishes are guaranteed for just five years and not at all, which is normal in the industry as is the lack of warranty on glass, porcelain, and crystal.
This warranty language can produce some odd results. For example, if the original purchaser moves a Watermark faucet to another bathroom, the warranty expires — the faucet is no longer in its "original installation". Probably not what Watermark intended, but that's how the warranty reads at the moment. Our lawyers suggest "original residence" rather than original installation.
Warranty and parts support could be better. The process is unduly cumbersome. The customer pays the cost of returning a defective faucet to Watermark and must pay for the replacement faucet before it will be shipped. If the returned faucet is then determined by Watermark to be defective, the company will credit the cost of the new faucet. We have received a number of complaints that Watermark does not promptly issue the credit, or does not issue the credit at all until the customer complains repeatedly.
This sort of nitpicky warranty service is just plain dumb. Charging the customer for returning defective faucets saves the company a trickle of dollars at the expense of a waterfall of lost good will. Requiring the customer to pay for replacement parts, even if the payment is later refunded, serves absolutely no purpose other than to needlessly aggravate a customer who is already annoyed that her expensive, upscale faucet broke in the first place. Nothing turns annoyance into a Better Business Bureau copmplaint faster than poor customer service.
In the past 36 months we have received a number of complaints about customer service representatives seeming wholly disinterested, distracted and even rude. We don't know how much of the reported rudeness is just New Yorkers being New Yorkers, which to the rest of the county can seem rude, but the number of reports is a concern. Our experience is that customer service agents can be brusque and somewhat impatient, but are generally helpful.
The Better Business Bureau has received two complaints about the company in three years, one of which was settled, the other ignored by Watermark. The BBB rates Watermark a B- on a scale of A+ to F, down from an A+ two years ago, for its handling of customer issues. Watermark has not been vetted for BBB accreditation.
To better understand the difference between Watermark's warranty service and a world class warranty operation, see our report on Moen knows how to use its warranty to drive repeat sales. Watermark has yet to learn the lesson.
Watermark has long claimed to be an environmentally responsible manufacturer, and has widely publicized its environmentally friendly manufacturing practices. For example in a 2010 press release announcing its Touch27 faucet collection, the company claimed that its manufacturing plant employed
....environmentally safe practices, including a closed-loop plating system and degreasing station that exceeds EPA and DEP standards, a closed water reclamation and recycle-for-use system, chemical and water maintenance, and a recycled brass program.The company's actual practices turned out to be considerably less eco-friendly than its press releases claimed.
In 2013 Watermark's production company, Sepco Industries, pleaded guilty to the illegal dumping of untreated heavy metal industrial waste from the Watermark factory into the New York City sewer system. According to information released by the Kings County (New York) District Attorney's Office,
"Proper disposal of the waste water requires a costly, multi-step process, that ensures any solid toxic materials be removed by a regulated waste-hauler. Watermark instead disposed of the industrial waste water, which included the hazardous metals, through a hose inserted in a floor drain."Kings County District Attorney, Charles J. Hymes, called the practice "abhorrent" and an example of "putting profit ahead of the health and safety of employees and the public at large".(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 17, 2013; "DA: $2.8M Settlement with corp. NY in sewer scam", Associated Press, 14 Jun 2013, Web, 11 Aug 2017.).
The company was fined $2.8 million, given four years of extensive compliance monitoring and required to submit a remediation plan.
As required by the terms of its plea agreement, Watermark has now instituted proper disposal methods for its hazardous waste and, according to a company spokesperson, fully complies with applicable hazardous waste handling standards.
This has not been Watermark's only brush with the law. In 2010 Watermark fell afoul of the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act and was assessed a civil fine of $135,104.00 by the U. S. Department of Energy for failing to certify that certain of its products complied with federal water conservation standards. (Order:2010-CW-1404) Then in 2011 the DOE again imposed a penalty $4,200.00 on the company for having "distributed in commerce" products that did not meet federal conservation guidelines. (Order:2011-SW-2908)
Having learned its lesson, Watermark now appears to comply fully with Energy Policy and Conservation Act reporting and water flow requirements (see below).
The company sells through authorized dealers located mostly on both coasts of the U.S. It is expanding its retail outlets rapidly, but the faucets are still of limited availability — especially in the middle of the country. Some of the Watermark collection is available from internet plumbing sites like Quality Bath, and some general merchandisers such as Amazon.com. Only a limited number of finishes are available through these outlets, however.
Do not expect substantial discounts on Watermark faucets even if you by-pass your local showroom. Watermark seeks "to maintain the integrity of the product line" and a "quality brand image" through a minimum advertised pricing (MAP) policy that prohibits advertising a price "more than 15%" below the company's suggested list price. Dealers may still sell below the minimum advertised price, they just cannot advertise that lower price prior to the sale.
If you are in the market for a good quality luxury faucet that features cutting edge design and incorporates only first class components, Watermark would be a company worth a good, long look. The craftsmanship and finish of the faucets we examined were tops. The best-in-class Flühs and Kerox cartridges and Neoperl® aerators promise a lifetime of faultless service. Be aware, however, that if your faucet does break, you will get warranty service only after jumping through a number of procedural hoops that could make the process needlessly long and annoying and leave you without a working faucet for many weeks.
Watermark faucets are comparable in quality and price to most upscale European faucets such as
•For other North American-made or -assembled faucets comparable to Watermark, consider
•We are continuing to research the company. If you have experience with Watermark faucets, good, bad or indifferent, we would like to hear about it, so please contact us or post a comment below.