Trying to nail down lesser-known watchmakers is sort of a slippery slope concept.
For purposes of this post, I will include those timepiece manufacturers which didn't originate in the 1700 and 1800s. You know Patek, AP, Rolex and so on. The names that are not commonly known.
Many of these companies are newer. Some are microbrands. Others are older and more established brands that you may have never heard of before.
My intent is simply to make as many people as possible aware of the various watch manufacturers that they might not otherwise be aware of. There are some great companies here with superb timepieces.
Just a caveat, I have not been endorsed or have even communicated with any of these manufacturers. All comments are my own through my own research.
With that, let me just begin.
We start with Baltic, a Paris, France concern with some recognization, the Baltic produces a number of timepieces like the Bicompax 001 above. This chronograph is 38mm and only 12mm thick. Using a Seagull ST1901 the watch deploys a high-domed Hesalite crystal and has a water resistance of 5 ATM. At approximately $550, you can understand the price point interest in some of these microbrands.
Boldr is probably typical of a Kickstarter company. Based in Singapore and Malasia, they manufacture “urban explorer” watches that will have a certain youth appeal. With timepieces ranging from $300 quartz pieces to $850 Bronze divers that sport Swiss Sellita SW200-1 automatic movements, Boldr is worth reviewing. The Venture pictured above sells for $299.
Another Asian concern that directly sells Divers which are an homage to Rolex Subs and even and the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, and Field watches, which are an homage to Rolex Explorer I, all in the $200 price range. These pieces include AR-coated sapphire crystals with BGW9 Super luminova and water resistances of 100 to 300 meters. Of course, the fit and finish won't be anywhere near some of the better know brands, but you would probably surprised at such a low price point. The above Sea Storm sells for $175.
Brellum may not be as well known as Rolex and AP, but their watches, which sell in the $2,000 – $5,000 range are truly exquisite. They offer a number of chronometer as well as chronographs and the workmanship is of the highest caliber. This is a watchmaker that needs further review. It's easy to see the enhanced fit and finish inherent in a watch of this caliber. The featured image of this post is another example of the Brellum Swiss Watchmaking company.
Carpenter is a Brooklyn, NY concern and features a number of elegant dress and field type watches at price points of $595 to $825. Most of these feature ETA movements with lower water resistance ratings (5 bar) as would be expected of dress watches. They have “old school” acrylic box-type crystals but with sapphire exhibition backs. The Brooklyn Field pictured above lists for $595.
Certina is certainly not a new company, with a heritage that goes back to 1888. Its current name “Certina” was adopted in 1939. They are absolutely beautiful watches and incorporate all the best features of swiss watches, including the Posermatic 80 caliber with its 80-hour power reserve. The DS Action Day-Date Powermatic 80 illustrated above has a price point of approximately $685 including VAT. The U.S. prices would be less.
Christopher Ward may be more well known than other watchmakers listed here. They deserve it. They produce some of the most classic looking watches, include the C8 Power Reserve Chronometer pictured above with a list price of $1,875. One of the nice features about CW is that they offer a 60-day free return and a 60-month movement guarantee – their 60/60 program. They are also highly rated with Trustpilot. Timepieces from CW range for approximately $1,000 to $2,000. Well worth exploring.
Collins is yet another Kickstarter microbrand of sub-$1000 watches which are mainly divers and field watches with sapphire crystals, Sellita SW200 movements, and 300 meters of water resistance. At the time of this writing, they did have a number of Kickstarter campaigns on some of their watches. With a Kickstarter, you take the risk of a later delivery subject to enough participation, and all the other issues surrounding a new company's development. You may, however, end up with a timepiece at a good discount.
Certainly less known than Sinn, German-made Damasko produces a number of watches, three-hand to divers, which are similar to their German sibling. The above DA34 is a solid example of that and is powered by an ETA 2836-2 with a 38 hours power reserve. Another of the few that use hardened stainless steel, the DA34 has a 10 bar water resistance rating and is 40 mm in diameter with a height of 12.3 and 20 mm lugs. Of course, it is protected with a sapphire crystal and a screwed-down case back. Approximately $1345 with VAT brings the non-European price to about $1,090.
Interested in a dress watch, that won't break the bank but is still Swiss powered with sapphire crystal? Look no further than Delma. Their Heritage Automatic above has an ETA 2824-2 with 10 ATM of water resistance, a transparent back with mineral crystal, and styled at 43 mm with a thickness of 12.3 mm. All this with a butterfly deployant clasp at only $1,050. Worth reviewing. While you're there, check out their World Traveler they've just released.
Formex Watch, with its Essence automatic chronometer at $1,265 imaged above, is one of the more innovative watchmakers. With the inclusion of all the typical top quality features; sapphire crystal, Swiss-made movements, 316L stainless steel, and transparent case backs, they go the extra mile to offer a patented case suspension system and micro-adjustment bracelet and strap systems. Formex is definitely a company worth your attention.
Applied baguette indices with blue brushed steel dial and a sunburst effect, 316L stainless steel case, domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, 10ATM water resistance, Swiss movement, exhibition back, an Alligator strap with butterfly deployant buckle in polished steel, at 40mm bezel diameter and 11.2mm thick – all for $495? The Gentian might be some of the best quality/priced timepieces available. And who knew? Gentian.
Want a well-made homage to the Rolex Submariner, that is a chronometer, with sapphire crystal, 300 meters of water resistance, and superb fit and finish? At around $1,500? Look no further than the Ginault Ocean-Rover pictured above. Sure, there are too many Sub homage watches, but some are actually worth purchasing. The Ginault is one such company and should be on your shortlist for Sub homage watches, especially if you want a chronometer grade version.
I know, everyone wants a submariner but no one wants to fork out $10K or so. I get that. Fortunately, some watchmakers produce homages that you don't need to be ashamed of. Hager Watches is one such company and, like Ginault above, and have even created a GMT version with the red and blue bezel. Sweet. Under $1,000 they might be worth investigating.
Lorier Watches is a New York City company, owned and operated by husband and wife Lorenzo and Lauren Ortega who are attempting to democratize well built, beautiful watches with classic designs like the Neptune Series III above which has a price point of only $499. You can tell, just by looking at the crown, bezel coin edge, and bracelet that there is something special about this watch. The fit and finish are truly special, with the only disappointment being a mineral crystal. You can join their waitlist for delivery in late August of 2020.
Like Certina, Louis Erard has been around for a while. In fact since 1929. They manufacture some of the most exquisite watches you can buy. There's also something special about Louis Erard. They have allowed Alain Silverstein, a notable architect, and horologist, to design watches that are exclusively available on Louis Erard – like the Excellence Regulator pictured above for approximately $2,900 (including VAT). Silverstein supposedly retired a number of years ago and his watches are still available at auction for prices that exceed $50,000 – they are truly collectibles. You might want to consider Erard, especially the Silberstein series, as potentially the last of a great artist's offerings.
Looking for Italian watchmaking craftsmanship? Look no further than Meccaniche Veneziane. With a price point of around $500, the stunning looking Redentore, pictured above, is well worth considering. Using an automatic caliber MC145 developed from the Seiko NH35 the solid back Meccaniche is really a stunning timepiece.
The Milus Snow Star at $1,743 with an ETA 2892 movement, 904L steel casing (just like Rolex), sunray brushed black dial traces, sapphire crystal and a date window at 3:00 is a product of the independent, 101-year-old, family-owned Swiss watchmaker located in the heart of the Swiss watch industry in Bienne. Minimalistic in design, it exudes quality throughout. It also holds a hidden history, as a Milus Snow Star was included in South East Asian U.S Navy pilot flight bags as part of a Life Barter Kit. You can read about that story here.
A heavily modified ETA 7001, the Ming 27.01 (sorry, sold out for 2020) is 6.9mm thick. Made in Switzerland, the sapphire crystal front and rear with a double-sided anti-reflective coating is only 50m water resistant (it's a dress watch). It sports a 38mm diameter case, with a mix of polished, brushed, and blasted surfaces. Other models are expected to be available in June of 2020.
Okay, I know, another Submariner homage. I know but I've left out a number of such companies trying to show only the better manufacturers like Monta. The Monta Atlas GMT, pictured above, goes for $1,840 and includes a choice of a Stainless Steel Bracelet and leather or rubber straps. It has a water resistance of 150 meters and includes parallel flat sapphire anti-reflective crystals. The Monta M-23 caliber features a 28,600 PBH and a 42-hours power reserve.
The timepieces above are usually the only representative of the various watch manufacturers. They, however, illustrate both the diversity and quality of wristwatches that are available from many of the lesser know watchmakers that deserve exploration. The values are obviously inherent and only require a little deeper personal dive into the many companies to capture yet another watch for your enjoyment and safekeeping.