There has been an increase in interest when it comes to independent watchmaking. There are a few reasons behind it, which also includes the fact that more are aware of this particular genre of watch manufacturers, from social media, publications, and forums alike.
This is good news for these independent watchmakers, many of which have a relatively smaller operation and do not have the financial backings of the large conglomerates. While the industry has grown as a whole, there are still inequalities – some are getting more attention than the others.
Six of the Lesser Known Independent Watchmakers
In today’s article, we will be focusing on some of the lesser-known independent watchmakers. We think it is high time to bring them onto the table, and spread their works to a wider audience. What have we selected? Let us find out.
Habring² Foudroyante Felix
We begin today’s article with the incredible Habring² Foudroyante Felix.
Habring² is the brainchild of Richard and Maria Habring, a husband-and-wife duo that produces wonderful timepieces from Austria. The Foudroyante Felix is one such piece. This seemingly simple watch has an interesting complication in the form of the Foudroyante complication. This hand – on the sub-seconds indicator at the 9 o’clock position – ticks 8 times per second. While it does not serve any particular function, the animation is quite a fascinating sight to behold – especially for a seemingly simple-looking dress watch.
Priced at €6,550 (approximately S$10,175), the 38.5mm timepiece is a lovely dress watch that is a little different from the norm. We highly recommend this for collectors who wish to enter into the world of independent watchmaking.
Next, we have a timepiece hailed from the town of Dresden: Kudoke 2.
Launched in 2019, the Kudoke 2 is part of the HANDwerk collection. The collection was launched following the introduction of the brand’s Kaliber 1 movement, which was produced in collaboration with Habring². The 39mm watch is a time-only piece, with an additional 24-hour indicator that has been hand-engraved by an artisan in Glashütte. The movement, which we have mentioned earlier, is finished in gilt and also features an engraved balance cock.
The timepiece may be simple, but the execution is pretty incredible. The price point is also rather reasonable too, at €8,665 (approximately S$13,460). The Kudoke 2 is a great example of what both German and independent watchmaking can offer, and we do reckon that the brand deserves much more attention than it has currently.
Sarpaneva x Moomin
Stepan Sarpaneva has always been an interesting figure in the watch scene. His watches, notably, share the same characteristics as the enigmatic gentleman as well.
This new variant of Sarpaneva x Moomin timepiece is the independent watchmaker’s latest creation. It features the characters from the series of books by Finnish author Trove Janssen, with them taking the centre stage of the timepiece. This series of watches has another key highlight, in the form of a dial that uses multi-colour SuperLuminova. The end result, as seen in the above picture, is spectacular.
In addition, the case is produced with sustainable stainless steel, from a Finnish steel mill known as Outokumpu. The whole package makes a rather compelling story, and it is really these kinds of creations that make independent watchmakers (and their products) so special. The 42mm watch is priced at €12,000 (approximately S$18,640), and it will be limited to a production run of 100 pieces (25 for each of the four variants).
GoS Sarek Akka
We then move on to Sweden, with another captivating timepiece from an equally engaging manufacturer. Cue the GoS Sarek Akka – the brainchild of master bladesmith Johan Gustafsson and master watchmaker Patrik Sjögren.
The company, which is based in Sweden, offers watches that amalgamates the two individuals’ skills in blacksmithing and watchmaking. The Sarek Akka is an example of that, where the dial is produced by uncoloured Damascus steel. Each of the dial is unique, a result of involving the hot forging of two different kinds of steels. On top of that, the bezel of the 43mm is also engraved by master engraver Stanley Stoltz, which accentuates the theme of patterns and Scandinavian traditions.
The Sarek is powered by a Soprod A10 movement that has been customized with a GoS triskele rotor. The dark GoS rotor has a circular brushed finish and is equipped with an additional counter weight made from Damascus steel. The counter weight is finished for maximum contrasts on the surface and high gloss polished bevels.
Priced at US$12,800 (approximately S$17,570), the GoS Sarek Akka is an interesting timepiece that focuses a lot on traditional craftsmanship. We like the brand’s unique approach to watches, and it is certainly a conversational timepiece with its unique engravings and Damascus steel dial.
Czapek & Cie Antarctique
The genre of luxury sports watches may be heating up, but the Czapek & Cie Antarctique may have offered a superb alternative that should get some people to sit up and pay attention.
Named after the continent, the Antarctique is a 40.5mm luxury sports watch that features a stunning case with an integrated bracelet. The design is clean, but with neat and sophisticated touches such as the use of an original double ‘trompe l’oeil’ curve on the case and the stunning dial variations with various techniques employed.
Powering the watch is the Calibre SXH5.01. This is a self-winding movement with a micro-rotor, and it boasts a decent power reserve of around 56 hours. The movement is notably conceived in-house by the Czapek team, and it is a visual treat with reference to how the different elements of the movement were arranged. It is worth noting that the micro-rotor is produced with recycled gold, which reinforces the brand’s commitment in sustainability.
With a retail price of CHF 18,000 (approximately S$26,950), the Czapek offers collectors an excellent timepiece that is a tad different from the usual crowd. This is a timepiece for the connoisseurs, and it certainly offers a compelling alternative to some of the more popular luxury sports watches in the market for sure.
The Haldimann brand might be unfamiliar to many, but their watchmaking lineage can be dated as far back to 1642. However, it was only until more recently in 1991 when Beat Haldimann established the modern Haldimann brand, and they had started to produce some rather incredible timepieces.
The H12 was one of the pieces that was launched not too long ago, at Baselworld 2017. The H12 is basically the H11, but with the inclusion of an additional sub-seconds dial at the 5 o’clock position. The 39mm wrist watch may look simple, but the execution is sublime. The case, for example, is perfectly symmetrical and finished nicely by hand – all without the help of the CNC machine. The midnight blue frosted dial is exceptional as well, in which it has undergone a myriad of touches which includes engraving, silver lacquering, and the hand application of silver powder.
Another interesting feature of the H12 is its movement. The plate is finished in frosted gilt, and it occupies almost 3/4 of the caseback. This allows the centrally-placed balance wheel – which is almost suspended by a skeletonised balance cock – to stand out. Overall, the H12 is an extremely well-made dress watch, and we feel that this is something that collectors should go for if they are looking for a timepiece that is different from the crowd. The watch is priced at CHF31,000 (approximately S$46,370).
For those who have not gotten a taste of collecting watches from independent watchmaking, taking the first step might be rather daunting. Hence, in today’s article, we have tried to bring up a few names who are relatively more accessible in terms of price point. After all, watches from independent watchmakers need not need to be priced at a high five- or six-figure sum.
These six brands that we have featured today have done rather great things, and we believe that they should receive more exposure as well. We hope that after reading this article, readers will be inspired to go on and find out more about these brands.
Let us know what are your thoughts on our selection, as well as your thoughts on independent watchmaking, in our comments section below. Till the next article, ciao!
the haldimann central balance is listed on his website at close to chf 70k. so i’m really not sure about the difference between that and what you wrote above.
The H11 price we wrote as reviewed in our 2017 article Review: Haldimann H12 and the new H11. Looks like the H12 is discontinued, and the H11 now has a retail of CHF 69k as you mentioned. Thanks for the update.
Your selections are intriguing to read about and we’ll executed to look at, but to call, for example, the Kudoke 2 watch at over 8,000 euros a reasonable price point borders on the ludicrous. These watches are well above price points that are “reasonable”, although I get that in relation to the price points of many of the industrial big brands for a lot of their middle to upper end watches, these independents offerings seem competitive, given the execution involved. But the skewing to pricing that’s become absurd only seems to be getting more so with no end in sight. It’s destructive to those who got into the collecting watches hobby and now find themselves priced out of the show.
Ron, I appreciate your point, but if you look at the cost of production for some of these pieces it’s difficult to figure out how they’re not LOSING money selling them at these prices. For example the Habring2 is based on a Valjoux 7750 movement but so comprehensively redesigned it doesn’t share a single interchangeable part with the ETA version. And being a single watchmaker Richard has to outsource the manufacture of parts to dozens of small independent shops in Austria and Germany. Furthermore, with a total annual production of maybe 150+ pieces per year there are no economies of scale, compared to ETA who make hundreds of thousands of movements each year. Now you might say why doesn’t he just use an ETA or Sellita copy, but those are significantly thicker, far less refined, and only available for orders of thousands per year. So unless he started using cheap off the shelf Japanese or Chinese movements the cost is what it is, and if he did that would you still want to buy one?
I can’t say this applies to all the pieces mentioned here, but I imagine the economics for most of them is similar. So personally I’m just thankful these small Independents exist, and keen to support them rather than handing over my hard earned to Rolex and Patek etc.
Thanks for your comment, Ron. While I can appreciate your point, our view is that the entry point to the independent watchmaking game starts at about EUR 10k and goes up from there. We don’t think it is ludicrous at all, as we are not aware of any hand-made independent watches which are offered at significantly below that arbitrary price point. Unless we limit ourselves to the likes of Louis Erard or Kurono, which are excellent watches, but they are hardly comparable the amount of handwork performed on watches like the Kudoke, Habring and others in the list. Given the volumes of these independents, the prices are very reasonable, and as DavidB has pointed out, it is hard to imagine how they are able to make money given these prices.