Hamish Robertson, Jul 9 2021

Microbrands in the Shadows

Microbrands in the Shadows

The nature of modern manufacturing, marketing and ecommerce means that people can establish new brands wherever they are in the world. In the last 10 years, this trend has come to the world of watches with full expression and enthusiasm, leading to the creation of a large number of new watch brands we call Microbrands. We have already examined different Microbrands by type of watch, Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. This week we will look at some by country. We hope that exploring this fun area will inspire you to join our Virtual Showcase celebrating Microbrand watches, which is on Thursday July 22nd at 6:30pm BST.

When we think about important centres of watchmaking, we might think of Switzerland, Germany, Japan, or the United States. This week we will review microbrands from these countries.

Next week we will explore brands from countries not as well-known for watches, who are now creating fabulously diverse and interesting timepieces.

Swiss Microbrands

Now this is a bit of a complicated topic. Many microbrands all over the world use Swiss watch movements, so in fact, many of the other watches we mention in this series of posts have Swiss machinery at their hearts. We do not think these are Swiss microbrands. For that to be true, they have to be designed, manufactured, assembled and marketed from Switzerland. This may be controversial to some of you, but we feel this is the best way to look at it. Switzerland is not only a source of high end luxury timepieces, but has lots of innovative smaller companies to explore.

Straton Watch Co.

Straton have made waves in a similar way to the US based Autodromo we mentioned last week; they make fun and striking watches inspired by motor racing. Despite Switzerland not having much of a motor racing past, the watches take inspiration from classic racing watches in history, using up to date movements and colour schemes to provide a wide selection at a variety of prices.

DWISS

As a Collectors’ Club we particularly like brands that are taking the time to build their own community. DWISS came up with something remarkable, and built a paid-for members club to design their watches! The latest model is called the M3 and is designed by members voting on their preferences. In return for their membership fees and input they get a discount on the finished watch. We think this is a fantastic idea for those interested in helping out innovative brands. The company uses the very best movements and fascinating styling to create really differentiated watches. You can learn a lot more about what they are doing here.

American Microbrands

Much of American watch production ended after the Second World War as lower cost competitors from Japan entered the market. In the last few decades many entrepreneurs have started new watch companies, and there are plenty of options for American designed and assembled timepieces.

Dan Henry

One of the most successful microbrands anywhere is based in Florida in the United States, called Dan Henry. Dan himself is a famous collector, and he decided he would design and sell watches closely based on his own favourite models he had in his own collection from the last century of watchmaking. This idea is wonderfully specific. It allows customers to get a watch of modern size and quality at a reasonable price that closely resembles something from decades ago. 

We at The Watch Collectors’ Club love vintage watches, but recognise their fragility and features may not suit modern needs. Dan Henry’s solution is admirable. His timeline feature is an education in itself, so the website is well worth exploring.

Brew Watches

This is a design-led watch company. They are trying to look different and funky. Combined with decent quality and rave reviews, Brew has been a big success in the last five years. New York based, we think it is a good example of what modern Microbrands can offer to those looking for something different. 

Japanese Microbrands

The titans of Seiko, Citizen and Casio are world-renowned and responsible for manufacturing the movements of the majority of watches sold worldwide, both in their own models and by supplying other brands. Their large ranges and global distribution make them common in watch shops worldwide. There are plenty of other brands in Japan, and many focus on Japan’s famous reputation for quality and craftsmanship.

Minase

This extraordinary brand contains all of the signs of what people think of when they think of Japanese craftsmanship and tradition. Their watches are almost entirely hand finished, including even stitching the leather straps themselves. The company grew out of making machinery for other watch companies, and they have a range of radical designs. Ultimately, they provide very high quality at a very reasonable price. We believe that in terms of quality for the price, there are probably no other watches close to this level available anywhere else in the world.

KUOE  

This brand is a great example of how fast modern microbrands can get going. Started in 2020 by a young graduate who fell in love with classic vintage watches while studying in London, they now ship very affordable small watches from Japan. By focussing on design and styling, assembling to order, and offering a large range of options, they are already struggling to keep up with demand.

German Microbrands

 Germany is a country with a long history of watchmaking, and some very old brands. While some of these may be small, we do not count them as Microbrands, due to their importance and stature in the watch world. For example, check out Junghans, once the largest clock manufacturer in the world. Due to the complicated history of Germany in the 20th century, including the partition into East and West, some of today’s brands are very old but have been resurrected in recent decades. If you are interested then check out A. Lange & Sohne or Glaschutte Original to see some very fine watchmaking. Today, there are many micro and not-so-micro brands selling from, and in some cases manufacturing every part, in Germany. 

Archimede Watches

A watch company born from a case manufacturer. An example of a proud extension of engineering and manufacturing, similar to that seen earlier with Minase from Japan. These watches are all historically inspired, and highly customisable.

MeisterSinger

One of most remarkable and successful microbrands of the last 30 years, MeisterSinger focuses on watches with only one hand. This simplicity of design style is derived from scientific instruments, and the colourful dials stand out a mile. Reading the time is surprisingly easy. 

Conclusion

We hope that some of these designs and styles excite you. The world of watches is about more than Rolex or other famous names. We at The Watch Collectors’ Club don’t have a favourite type of watch or brand. There is innovation going on all over the world in companies large and small, and we will help you explore it. If you are interested in talking about microbrands, join our Virtual Showcase on Thursday 22nd July at 6:30pm BST to learn more. If you liked what you’ve read today, please make sure you follow us and make sure to tell anyone else who might be interested. Sign up to our mailing list, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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Make the watch world simple

Make the watch world simple