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25 Best Boutique Watch Companies You Should Know About • Gear Patrol

25 Best Boutique Watch Companies You Should Know About • Gear Patrol

James Stacey, in a superb essay revealed on Hodinkee in August of 2018, laid out a conundrum within the watchmaking world: watch followers need to purchase “microbrand” watches, but manufacturers hate the moniker.

“[Microbrand] operates as a blanket time period for small watch manufacturers that function on-line, which lumps high quality producers in with rip-off artists and get-rich-quick schemes,” Stacey wrote, whereas on the similar time, insisting that it was a helpful time period (respectable sufficient to be discovered on Wikipedia) that might be utilized to high quality manufacturers.

So what’s a “microbrand”? We will possible agree on a number of parameters: It’s a model that’s independently owned, typically run by a single individual or a workforce of some individuals; that produces watches in small batches, at a price of a number of hundred to a number of thousand a yr; that always outsources a minimum of one vital a part of its watches to be made elsewhere, whether or not in Asia or Switzerland; and that “cuts out the intermediary” by promoting its watches on-line, straight to shoppers (although some may even promote in retail places).

This definition doesn’t exclude the ugly elements of the time period: Kickstarter frauds and trend-chasers who know nothing about watchmaking can and do verify these bins, with out supplying any high quality to the combination. However in furtherance of Stacey’s concept—that there are high quality microbrands on the market, that deserve our consideration as consumers and watch lovers, it’s time for a information to the respected microbrands, which function worldwide and produce an enormous scale of watches in several types and worth factors.


This British firm unveiled its first few items in 2015, all of them powered by Swiss quartz actions and made notable by ‘60s-era designs touched by a tropical shade palette. They made the leap to mechanical actions in 2016 with a line of three watches powered by the ETA 2824-2. (We notably loved the Beagle.) Within the days since, they’ve added a GMT, hand-wound gown watches, an automated chronograph, and a dive watch with a “tremendous compressor” case and inner rotating bezel — diversifying their portfolio in all the correct methods.

Based mostly In: Nice Britain
GP’s Favourite Watches: Aqua Compressor Leven (~$1,385), Beagle Three-handed Automated (~$1,107)


Once we requested Autodromo’s founder, Bradley Worth, if he was occupied with being interviewed for a narrative on American watches a number of years again, he politely declined. He didn’t contemplate himself an American watchmaker, per se, he stated. Actually, Worth doesn’t actually cop to being a watchmaker in any respect. He’s a watch designer, centering his creations round a love of classic cars. Many have been impressed to aim making a watch that harks again to an previous automotive’s gauges; the consistency with which Worth has delivered sharp, novel designs to that impact has floored a loyal fanbase and, extra lately, Ford, who this yr tapped Worth to make their high-end, customizable GT House owners Watch.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Ford GT Proprietor’s Watch ($11,500), Group B Collection 2 Automated ($975)


There are a selection of manufacturing methods you’ll hear typically across the “microbrand” world: straps comprised of locally-sourced leather-based; arms designed in-house. One method you’ll not hear about typically is the grand feu enamelling of a dial. It’s because the method is a really troublesome and extremely inefficient one, involving layers of glass utilized to a metallic substrate in a very popular oven. The six-person group at Scottish model anOrdain (named after an area loch) builds a whole watch round this course of. Their Mannequin 1 is a three-handed automated in a 38mm case, however no one who seems on the watch will care a lot about that: they’ll be transfixed by its vibrant dial, whether or not in publish workplace purple, iron cream, translucent blue, pink, or Hebridean blue.

Based mostly In: Scotland
GP’s Favourite Watches: Mannequin 1 in Submit Workplace Purple (~1,326)


Baltic’s silver bullet to overcome the heritage and homage growth? Simplicity. The French firm makes use of Asian manufacturing and actions to maintain prices under $1,000. But their watches seize the essence of classic timepieces, boiling design parts right into a retro focus of types. Take for example their latest pre-order, the Aquascaphe — a software watch that recollects a number of totally different dive watches from the 1960s. Followers of classic dive watches who can’t afford a four- or five-digit watch can get Baltic’s for lower than $600 on preorder.

Based mostly In: France
GP’s Favourite Watches: Aquascaphe (~$550) ; Bi-Compax (from ~$614)


The place different American watch manufacturers have failed, Monta, a maker of bombproof, higher-end metal sports activities watches, is flourishing. Earlier than creating the model, its founder, Michael DiMartini, started Everest Straps, which turned a darling amongst Rolex followers (historically a troublesome crowd) for his or her line of lively straps made particularly for Rolex sports activities fashions. Monta’s watches function giant, seen dial markings and numerals and are powered by Swiss actions. And, after pushback on their pricing, they’ve adjusted their Oceanking and dropped its worth from the unique $three,500 to lower than $2,000. It’s the very best type of device watch but from a microbrand.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Oceanking ($1,925); Skyquest ($1,925)


Made in Italy utilizing Seiko actions, Unimatic’s watches are a minimalist, reasonably priced response to the classic timepiece developments. Its founders Giovanni Moro and Simone Nunziatom are industrial designers who’ve been been making (and promoting out) watches in Italy since 2015. One among their newest creations, the U1-E, provides extra markings and features to each bezels and dials; the U1-EM brings to thoughts the simplistic design bones of the good dive watches that got here earlier than, eschewing, for example, bezel markers in favor of naked, matte black aluminum. Don’t ignore their in-house instances, that are anti-magnetic and water resistant to 300 meters, or their made-to-order choices, which embrace engraved instances.

Based mostly In: Italy
GP’s Favourite Watches: U1-EM (~$596), U1-E


Nick Harris acquired his begin modding Seikos in his childhood bed room. Now, after finishing two years at Seattle’s Watch Know-how Institute, he’s capable of work full-time on his microbrand, Orion. That model has already produced one watch, the Orion 1, that received Harris’s enterprise off the bottom. That watch, a 38mm looker with gown watch bones and a contact of subject watch type, bought out shortly. His subsequent batch, the Calamity Diver, was impressed by a completely totally different design directive: make a skinny dive watch. This meant Harris shifting away from the Asian actions he’s recognized so properly to a Swiss-made ETA 2892; the brand new watches additionally acquired ceramic bezel inserts and contoured case backs for higher match. It additionally means Harris moved out there from lower-end, Seiko-level costs to upwards of $1,000 — a testomony to the standard of the brand new wave of American watchmaking.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Calamity Diver ($1,495)


An enormous variety of microbrands (and far bigger luxurious manufacturers) make their watch elements in Asia. And but, few manufacturers smaller than Seiko, Orient and Seagull had damaged by means of within the microbrand scene till Zelos launched three consecutively profitable watches on Kickstarter, beginning in 2014. Its founder, Elshan Tang, is a former mechanical engineer. His fascination with watch actions and distinctive design interprets to dive watches with actions starting from Seiko to ETA and instances made utilizing nontraditional case materials like bronze, carbon fiber, and Damascus metal.The Abyss 2 and Helmsman 2 are deep watch discussion board favorites, however they’re each bought out, or close to to it.

Based mostly In: Singapore
GP’s Favourite Watches: Abyss 2 (bought out), Helmsman 2 ($649)

Gorilla Watches

Octavio Garcia, an American born in Chicago, is most well-known for his design work at Omega and Audemars Piguet. Lukas Gopp is an Austrian who labored for IWC, Ralph Lauren watches, and AP. That they each left osome of probably the most prestigious watchmakers on the earth to design automotive-inspired, modernist watches that value $1,000 relatively than $100,000 ought to make microbrand followers’ hearts swell. Their watches aren’t for everybody — when their first watch, the Unique, was launched, Jack Forster over at Hodinkee questioned aloud whether or not it was an train in campiness or not. Their portfolio has solely elevated because the launch of that watch again in 2016, they usually proceed to supply bombastic (and maybe, campy) modernist watches at a lot decrease costs than that of the high-end Swiss competitors.

Based mostly In: Switzerland
GP’s Favourite Watches: The Unique, Mirage ($1,150)

Dan Henry

There’s a concern amongst those that hassle themselves with such issues that microbrands are engaged in a “race to the underside” in pricing. Many manufacturers on this listing show that’s not the case, however Dan Henry isn’t considered one of them. Take the Dan Henry for what it’s: Henry, a prolific collector of classic watches, determined to create a full line of watches impressed by each decade between 1930 and 1970, all of them priced lower than $300. That worth is bare-bones for ending QC. However it’s additionally placing a mechanical watch in your pocket, and lots of of Henry’s designs are extraordinarily properly executed.

Based mostly In: Brazil
GP’s Favourite Watches: 1970 Automated Diver ($270)


Halios is a microbrand OG. Since its launch in 2009, it’s targeted on making glossy dive watches impressed by 1960s design, with Swiss actions and high-quality ending for lower than $1,000. Its adherence to those tenets has gained it each admiration and a constant state of being bought out (maintain shut tabs on Halios forward of their subsequent product launch if you wish to land one). Its launch in 2018 of the Seaforth GMT, a $900 great thing about a watch with an ETA GMT motion, proves its rabid followers proper — and is proof that microbrands have endurance.

Based mostly In: Canada
GP’s Favourite Watches: Seaforth GMT (Bought Out)

Oak & Oscar

Oak & Oscar’s founder, Chase Fancher, has stated he needs his watches to be talked about forty years from now. He’s made it a tenth of the best way up to now. Since 2015, he’s launched 4 watches, every to essential acclaim: The Burnham, debuting the “sandwich dial” type; The Sandford, a GMT with a rotating internal bezel; The Jackson, a chronograph; and now, The Humboldt, a area watch with a 12-hour bezel. The latter is the primary watch the model will make in steady style, fairly than in limited-edition batches.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: The Humboldt ($1,450+)


Jonathan Ferrer acquired his begin in watch design at Movado, throughout an internship throughout his junior yr on the New Jersey Institute of Know-how. He based Brew Watches in 2015. His designs, impressed by industrial espresso machines, helped him increase $40,000 on Kickstarter, and in 2017 he shipped about 200 watches, created from Japanese and Chinese language elements assembled in Switzerland. In 2018, he launched Brew’s new Retrograph line, his greatest but. The oblong watch has a basic American design bent, with markers to time your espresso pull by. It’s powered by a Seiko meca-quartz motion, and Ferrer assembles it himself, in Brooklyn. The result’s much more than you’d anticipate out of a watch impressed by espresso.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Retrograph ($350)


Martenero’s been bringing artwork deco aptitude to microbrand watchmaking since 2014. The model’s preliminary strategy included a customizable angle on dressy watches — swap a black seconds hand for an orange one, say, and determine whether or not that must be set towards a navy or white dial. In recent times, that strategy has been nixed in favor of offering a variety of set colorways and mixtures. It nonetheless works. And the model has matured particularly with its final two watches, the Edgemere Reserve, an replace on the distinctive nautical look of their unique Edgemere, and the Kerrison, which sharpens the aesthetics of the manufacturers earlier, extra reserved gown watches.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Edgemere Reserve ($530), Kerrison ($595)


The Princeton, New Jersey, model has made eight watches and is barely extra ahead in its capital-P Philosophy than different small manufacturers: “Some massive identify watch corporations produce watches in the identical factories we do, but cost far more,” the model writes. Mercer’s pricing walks the stroll: utilizing lesser-known mechanical actions, just like the Seagull ST1901 chronograph and STP 1-11 automated, in addition to Ronda quartz, it retains watches at or beneath $600 (or $250 for the quartz).

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Durham ($629), Lexington Chronograph ($529)


Its watches have been borne, since 2008, out of a self-admitted obsession with Rolex divers. And Raven does the homage watch properly: these early fashions captured the cool fashion of classic Submariners, with Miyota actions and with out the Rolex price ticket. Their present line has stored the cool, however shied away from the Rolex worship. Every chunky diver does its personal factor — the Trekker at a smaller 40mm, the Enterprise at 42mm with pops of shade, the Titanium Deep as a bezel-y monster, the Endeavor a 44mm basic and powered by the ever present ETA 2824-2 automated. Every is beneath $1,000.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Endeavor ($750), Trekker ($850)


Eone vaulted to headlines as huge as The New York Occasions in 2015 for its immediately iconic watch that permits customers to inform time by contact, the Bradley. Eone’s founder, Hyungsoo Kim, had the thought for the watch when a blind classmate at MIT felt uncomfortable utilizing his speaking watch throughout class. His design makes use of two magnetic balls to trace hours and minutes, one rotating across the dial, the opposite across the fringe of the case. However the buzz concerning the Bradley was about extra than simply the intelligent design. After chatting with blind focus teams, Kim realized the blind wearers have been simply as frightened concerning the watch’s look as a sighted wearer. The compromise between utility and visible attraction led to the ultimate product, a slick, modernist watch that was nominated for the London Design Museum’s annual award. The corporate now gives greater than 20 variations of the watch, with totally different textures and appears.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Bradley ($285+)


The identify says all of it. Invoice Yao works alone on homage-style watches that re-imagine classics with up to date supplies and an obsessive concentrate on high quality management — a “Mark II,” or a second attempt on the unique. Yao harbors few illusions: his watches are pure homages of the greats, just like the Blancpain 50 Fathoms, IWC and JLC Mk.11 or the US particular operations-utilized Benrus Sort I and II watchesd, with comparable dimensions and stylings. He provides extra reasonably priced actions from ETA and Japanese makers, and, regardless of his intense (and sometimes laborious) handiwork, the worth of the unique not-so-magically sinks into the realm that an abnormal man can afford.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Hawkinge ($595+), Paradive G3 ($895)


What does a totally American-made watch seem like? Weiss has accomplished extra to edge us towards the reply to that query than another new model prior to now ten years. Their 42mm American Problem Area watch has a case, dial and sapphire crystal made within the US,and its Cal 1003 motion is usually manufactured within the US, too. Their new 38mm Area Problem opened their basic design to these with smaller wrists, they usually simply launched a really restricted version “Gauge Collection” with a cool new, Land Rover-inspired look.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: 38mm Normal Challenge Area ($950)


Why think about the troubles of recent American watchmaking when you’ll be able to re-use its lovely previous? It’s not so easy, in fact. Vortic, based mostly out of Colorado, custom-designed its instances and a proprietary system to carry the vintage pocket watch actions, dials, and arms which might be positioned inside them. Their newest line, the Railroad Version, makes use of solely refurbished “railroad grade” watches made by American corporations like Elgin, Waltham, and Illinois.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Railroad Version ($2,000+)


Nestled within the coronary heart of Italy is a watchmaking firm who specializes solely in refurbishing and repurposing conventional watches from…England. Sebastian Salvado, an American dwelling in Rome, first started twiddling with English pocket watches from the 19th century in 2005. In 2015 he based Coggiola Watch Roma, the place he makes by hand and with conventional instruments, and with out the help of CNC machines or computer systems, each a part of his watches apart from the actions. Most of the completed items haven’t any conventional dials, as an alternative displaying off the bones of the English actions inside.

Based mostly In: Italy
GP’s Favourite Watches: Gowland Brothers No. 819 (Contact for pricing)


It’s a standard chorus amongst divers who’re additionally watch aficionados: We need to put on our watches within the water! Paul Scurfield, a saturation diver, began Scurfa with that objective in thoughts—and no less than in origin story, says that his watches are made for individuals whose Rolex divers “exploded” in worth, making them just a little too valuable to make use of in follow. His dive watches are a worth proposition “software watch” to the T: each piece, from its screw-down crown to its critical Tremendous LumiNova, is aimed toward making an reasonably priced dive watch that may survive 500 meters within the deep.

Based mostly In: United Kingdom
GP’s Favourite Watches: Bell Diver 1 S/S Auto (~$414)


Based in 2007 by Dion Wynyard McAsey, Magrette has spent greater than a decade constructing watches aligned with crusing and diving. The massive, cushion-shaped watches have a contact of Panerai about them. And, although the corporate has robust ties to McAsey’s New Zealand roots, its watches have international attain: the straps are made in Canada, the graphic design is predicated in Taiwan, the dials are from Germany, and the actions are from Japan and Switzerland.

Based mostly In: New Zealand
GP’s Favourite Watches: Moana Picific Diver II ($660)


This LA-based model has made waves because it was based in 2017. Its Retrospect, a dive watch with sunburst dial, had watch nerds swooning, and promptly bought out. (It’ll return in 2019, based on their website.) Just lately, we completely loved sporting the model’s new Contrail 39, a strong dive-rated device watch with an apparently textured dial. The model’s trick, up to now, is strong design with fan favorites like sunburst dials, paired with reasonably priced Miyota actions and a strong worth level.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Contrail 39 ($575)


After a stint creating ribbon microphones for the professional audio business, Deni Mesanovic based Pelton Watches to convey his horological concepts to life. Crafting handmade dials and machining his personal instances, Mesanovic has launched a number of fashions since his firm’s inception in 2016, chief amongst which (to our minds) is the Sector and the Sector LE. These fashions exhibit Mesanovic’s first utterly in-house dial, which requires quite a few ending methods and 6 hours of labor to finish. Whereas his watches are amongst the pricier of the micorbrand motion, the trouble that goes right into a Pelton watch (and particularly the dial) greater than justifies its worth level.

Based mostly In: USA
GP’s Favourite Watches: Sector LE ($1,749)

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