Independent Watchmakers and Microbrand Watches with a Promising Future

Independent Watchmakers and Microbrand Watches with a Promising Future
Independent Watchmakers and Microbrand Watches with a Promising Future

In a world filled with corporations, luxury conglomerates, and industrial watchmaking, the real watchmaking craftsmanship, its poetry, is oftentimes left aside while the sales become the only focus. The ubiquitous fashion watches, born out of marketing and entrepreneurial spirit, are the worst. The latter doesn’t even value how a watch works, how the mechanism keeps track of time, and the case finishing, quality control, unique designs, and innovations barely exist among them. That partially comes from an uninformed public, which doesn’t care about the watch they are wearing for as long as it looks good from the outside. But here at LuxyWish, we do care, and today we will be reviewing microbrand watches and independent watchmakers with a promising future. From Japan to Switzerland, and all over the world, microbrand watches and independent watchmakers have erupted significantly in the past years. These bright minds keep their production limited, always putting quality above quantity and exceptional designs, and sometimes new innovations are introduced. But before we begin, we want to classify what makes a microbrand watch and what differentiates a microbrand watch from an independent watchmaker. 

What is a Microbrand Watch? 

A microbrand watch is a small watch brand or company that is just getting started in the world of watchmaking. Typically, microbrand watches fly under the radar and are unknown to the masses. To classify, a microbrand watch is a limited-production watch brand that usually focuses on a particular style and oftentimes outsources movements and other proprietary watch parts. Three words to describe microbrand watches: Distinctive, Purpose-Driven, and Reliable. 

What is an Independent Watchmaker?

There is no exact definition, however, we can all agree that an independent watchmaker does not belong to large groups like Swatch, Richemond, or LVMH. Independent watchmakers usually work alone, with a small team of watchmakers. They strive for exceptional quality and innovation; they don’t have to answer to corporate shareholders, and their watches are not a product of market research but pure creativity that sets the bar and is followed by others. 

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What is the Similarity between Microbrand Watches and Independent Watchmakers?

Unlike other established watch brands, which might sometimes not be entirely individualistic, independent watchmakers and microbrand watches are free to do whatever their bright minds say to them. In terms of design and functionality, the free-spirited watchmakers bring the creme de la creme of horology to our wrists. 

Differences between microbrand watches and independent watchmakers: 

  • Price: Watches from independent watchmakers are way more expensive due to exclusivity and the high level of craftsmanship. While a Sea Ranger from Astor&Banks would cost you around $800, let me remind you that the Philippe Dufour Grande et Petite Sonnerie 3 was recently sold for a whooping ($7.63M US). 
  • Exclusivity: Microbrand watches do keep their products volume-limited but independent watchmakers are notoriously known for a higher level of exclusivity. 
  • Craftsmanship: Sometimes microbrand watches outsource many watch parts, starting from mechanisms to other proprietary watch parts. On the other hand, we have independent watchmakers, the watches of who are usually entirely hand-made from start to finish, with in-house made high-grade movements.

Best Independent Watchmakers and their timepieces 

Kurono Tokyo

I believe this is the first time many of you hear the name of Kurono Tokyo but let me tell you that it is one of the most popular independent watchmakers of the moment. The Japanese independent watchmaker Mr. Hajime Asaoka (one of Japan’s most celebrated watchmakers), gave life to Kurono Tokyo back in 2019. It all started as a side project for Hajime Asaoka who wanted to deliver watches with a high level of finishing and craftsmanship at a reasonable and accessible price range. And indeed, a Kurono Tokyo costs $1,790 but unless you’re already a customer of Kurono Tokyo, you will have to purchase the watch on the second market for x4 times its initial price. 

The supply and demand rule is what paves the way to the watch’s insane price inflation. Mr. Asaoka, and his team of watchmakers, keep their production limited as they put quality above quantity. Sadly, instead of appreciating the watch’s hand-made case finishing and its vivid dial colors, people chose to flip the watch and make a quick profit. Yes, Kurono Tokyo is a true hidden gem, and most definitely the price of its watches will continue to grow in the second market, but if you truly appreciate its beauty, purchase the watch, and let it become a family heirloom. It is one of those watches!

Country of origin: Japan

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Year of foundation: 2019

Philippe Dufour 

As aforementioned, Philippe Dufour became the most expensive independent watchmaker after the purchase of his Grande et Petite Sonnerie 3 from A Collected Man for a whopping $7.63M US. The timepiece, limited to only 8 pieces, was initially made for the Sultan of Brunei and delivered to him in 1995 after 9 months of work. Philippe Dufour is valued as one of the greatest masters of modern watchmaking. Mr. Dufour makes its timepieces entirely by hand, from high-caliber in-house mechanisms to case finishing and everything in between, without the need for modern tools. Born and raised in Le Sentier, Vallée de Joux, the future of young Dufour was written right from the start. After finishing his studies at Ecole d’Horlogerie de la Vallée de Joux and graduated in 1967, Philippe Dufour worked for several big players of the watchmaking industry, including here Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet, and Gerald Genta. Today, Philippe Dufour owns his own atelier in Valle de Joux where he continues keeping alive the traditional watchmaking along with his daughter, Magali.

Country of origin: Switzerland

Year of foundation: 1978

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Greubel Forsey

Ever since its creation in 2004, Greubel Forsey counts 30 unique and original high-end calibers that have often been associated with groundbreaking inventions. The founders, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey – are a symbol of the continued traditional watchmaking as their timepieces are, (as Stephen Forsey estimates), 95% hand-made. The wheels, plates, dials, balance, hands, pinions, and pivots, are entirely made by hand or by hand-operated machinery. Expect a Greubel Forsey watch to be retailed for a whopping $300,000 while their exclusivity being equally insane. 

Country of origin: Switzerland

Year of foundation: 2004

Masahiro Kikuno

As one of the youngest independent watchmakers today, Masahiro Kikuno has made its way into the world of horological marvels by delivering three stunning creations at Baselworld 2011. The Western Style Temporal hour watch, The sublime Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, and The Japanese Style Temporal Hour Watch – helped Masahiro Kikuno find himself on the horological map, and establish himself as a serious and skillful independent watchmaker. Over the following years, Kikuno presented an entirely hand-made, one-of-a-kind timepiece featuring the in–house manual winding calibre. Mk12 movement with tourbillon. Instead of leveraging CNC machines, Masahiro Kikuno, although at a young age, favors hand-made craftsmanship and that is why his future is promising. 

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Country of origin: Switzerland

Year of foundation: 2004

Best Microbrand Watches 

Mr. Jones Watches

Novelty watches are simply not for kids anymore. These vivid and playful timepieces not only look good on the wrist but also provide a distinctive way to keep track of time. The stage set is about Mr. Jones Watches, who joins the novelty watches category with its fun and “un-serious designs”. As a London-based watch brand, Mr. Jones Watches does the design, color printing, and assembling all in the UK. Their watches are affordable and can be purchased by anyone who loves adorning their wrists with a watch that will make you smile and definitely start a conversation. 

Country of origin: UK

Year of foundation: 2007

Price range: $300

Bremont 

The young watchmaker from Britain has the most aspiring future as in only 19 years, the microbrand watch has managed to create a decent followers base – fueled by the founder’s efforts to bring the watchmaking tradition back to the British Isles. The company has recently opened their new facilities (The Wing), where Bremont’s technologies (9 layers of anti-reflective coating treatment, metal hardening, anti-shock design, anti-magnetic Faraday cages, in-house developed Trip-Tick case construct, and more) will continue to develop. Learn more about Bremont’s latest release – the Bremont Supermarine S-302 GMT Diver.

Country of origin: UK

Year of foundation: 2002

Price range: $1,500 to $5,000

Undone

Born out of the idea for something new and unique, Undone watches bring a high level of customization to the buyers unlike any other brand out there. Undone outsources their movements from Seiko and the assembling is handled in-house at their Tsim Sha Tsui headquarters. The watches come with a one-year international warranty and that further implies that Undone is here to stay. Along their exciting customization process which is their strongest pillar, Undone has also released several successful collabs as an attempt to mark their way on the horological map. 

Country of origin: Based in Hong-Kong

Year of foundation: 2014

Price range: $400 up to $2,000

Konstantin Chaikin

Since its start in 2003, the Russian watchmaker has made its way to the world of watches by incorporating the Joker, clown, Minotaur, and other faces into his collection of Wirstmons. The Joker timepiece is born as a cinematic pop art object that brings a flavor of insanity to your wrist. Other collections of Konstantin Chaikin also have their own story – with the only similarities being their playfulness, vivid designs, and fine watchmaking. Konstantin Chaikin offers his watches to a free-thinking audience, who enjoys keeping track of time in an extraordinary manner. 

Country of origin: Russia 

Year of foundation: 2003

Price range: $10,000 to $100,000