A Guide To The Types of Watches Made By Microbrands. Part 2
This blog continues our series on watch microbrands. As a reminder, microbrands are usually founder-led, and focused on a particular style of watch.
In our previous blog, we explored some of the types of watches made by microbrands: dive, military and homage. This week, we will explore dress, racing, explorer and pilots watches that are made by microbrands. This guide is intended to help you explore the thousands of microbrands for yourself.
The biggest trends in watch design and collecting at the moment relate to sports watches, which you can read about here. However, sports watches are a relatively new type of watch. Prior to the 1970’s, most wristwatches sold were what we now call dress watches.
These watches are designed to be worn for formal occasions, or where you don’t expect to damage your watch.
The classic (and very expensive) example of a dress watch is the Patek Philippe Calatrava. However, you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of pounds to get a very well made and beautiful dress watch.
So, what is a dress watch? A slim, simple watch which typically shows the time.
Some dress watches might also have a complication, such as a calendar function. High-end brands typically make dress watches from precious metals, such as gold, and platinum, which can make the watches expensive. Most microbrands make dress watches in steel, to reduce costs. To make them beautiful, they focus on the case and the dial of the watch.
There are hundreds watch microbrands which make dress watches. Two famous brands are British: Fears and anOrdain.
Fears was established in 1846 and is one of the oldest family-run watch companies in the UK. It is currently run by Nicholas Bowman-Scargill, and all of the company’s watches are built by hand in the UK. Fears only make a few hundred watches a year, and nearly all of them feature an unusual “cushion” watch case. These make excellent dress watches. They are simple and very elegant, only displaying the time on the dial. The Brunswick (below) is one of their most popular watches, and is available in both steel and precious metals.
Fears Brunswick Midas
anOrdain is a Scottish watch company, which makes all of its watches in Glasgow. What makes their watches unique and very interesting is that every watch has an enamel dial. Enamelling is a very difficult technique, which involves heating a coloured powder to very high temperatures to create a vividly-coloured dial. These dress watches come in a variety of striking colours, and because they are made in limited numbers, you are unlikely to see many other people wearing them. Like most dresswatches,they have simple designs and only tellthetime onthedial.
anOrdain Model 1 Green Fume Dial
Another category of watches that are made by microbrands are motor-racing inspired watches. Before the invention of digital timekeeping, wrist-watches and stopwatches were used to time motor-races. The most famous watch brand that still makes racing-inspired watches is Tag Heuer. You can read more about their links to racing history here.
Unfortunately Tag Heuer can be expensive. However, there are now a few microbrands that are starting to design motor-racing inspired watches at lower prices.
These watches tend to take design inspiration from key parts of motor-racing. They might have rubber, checked flag, carbon fibre, or bright colours integrated into their design.
Gorilla Watches are a popular microbrand that make watches inspired by motor-racing, particularly American muscle cars. They use bright colours, high performance materials, such as carbon-fibre, and numerals in fonts similar to motor-racing sponsors. They make each of their watches in limited quantities, typically less that 1,000. Our co-founder Ed is a big fan. Below you will see a picture of his Gorilla Fastback – the first watch that the company designed.
Autodromo are another motor-racing inspired brand.Their designs are all inspired by car designs from the 1950’s 60’s and 70’s. The dials that they have created all look like the dials you would find on vintage racing cars.
Watches have been used by pilots for over one hundred years, and many large luxury swiss brands continue to make watches for use by pilots. IWC is a famous luxury brand which has an entire range dedicated to pilots’ watches. Many pilots watches share common features, which were necessary to make thewatch usable in the 1930’s and 1940’s, as the aviation industry expanded.
Until the 1940’s many planes had exposed cockpits, so pilots had to wear gloves whilst flying. The crown had to be large so that the pilot could adjust the time whilst wearing these gloves.
Additionally, the dial of the watch was large, and the numbers and hands very easy to read, as flight was rarely smooth. Many pilots watch faces mimic the look of the instrument dials that you find in thecockpit of a plane.
These design features continue to be popular with pilots and non-pilots alike, and there are many microbrands that have focused on the design features of pilots’ watches.
One such brand is Avi-8. Their watches have large dials, which contain a variety of small sub-dials, mimicking the dial of vintage and modern fighter planes. One of our members brought a Hawker Hunter watch to one of our virtual events. This model is based on the jet which broke the air-speed record in 1953.
Avi-8 Hawker Hunter
Make sure to check back in next week as we continue to explore the wide variety of microbrands that are available. At The Watch Collectors Club, we don’t have a favourite microbrand, and we really enjoy finding out more about these small, interesting and unique watches. Hopefully these blogs will encourage you to go and explore these fascinating brands further.
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