The ease of starting a watch brand from scratch has never been easier. It is still not a straightforward process, but the availability of information online, as well as social media marketing and crowd-funding, has definitely lowered the barriers to entry. This is evident with the proliferation of micro-brands that have popped up in the space over the last few years.
Beyond just creating homages and relatively homogenous pieces, many brands have started to step up on their game to produce incredible timepieces with a modest price point. This is no doubt coming from the growth of competition, as well as the maturity of collectors who are no longer satisfied with run-of-the-mill watches. As collectors and enthusiasts, we certainly could not be happier with the progress.
In this week’s article, we think that it is perhaps a great opportunity to showcase what some of these smaller scale upstarts have to offer. For our selection, we will be focusing not only on value, but also aspects such as finishing and originality of the design. These are the same factors that collectors are looking out for, and we will like to use the same set of guidelines to ensure a selection that is aligned to our readers.
So, what are some of the timepieces that we have selected? Let us find out!
Atelier Wen Perception
We begin the article with the new Atelier Wen Perception, which was incidentally launched earlier this week.
The Perception is the inspiration behind this week’s article. We were largely impressed with what the brand has to offer – a well-made timepiece with a stunning guilloché dial. The latter especially impressed us a lot, especially since it was produced in collaboration with a Master Craftsman, who notably needs around eight man-hours of work to produce a single guilloché dial.
Given the reception of the timepiece on its launch, there is no doubt about its popularity. Collectors do recognise quality when they see one, and the Perception has managed to showcase it successfully. Its original price point of US$2,588 (approximately S$3,548) may be a tad higher than most micro-brands, but we do think the watch offers tremendous value (especially at its early-bird price of US$2,088). We are definitely excited to see the new chapter of Atelier Wen, and we will surely keep our eyes peeled on their future offerings.
anOrdain Model 2 mkII
Next, we have another interesting young manufacturer, hailed from Scotland. Introducing the new anOrdain Model 2 mkII.
Debuted three years ago in 2019, the Model 2 is anOrdain’s interpretation of a classic field watch. What is interesting with the brand is the incorporation of a grand feu enamel dial, which is produced in-house by each of the brand’s five master enamellers. The end result is a rather pure and smooth dial, in which it is further enhanced by an ultra-legible and simple dial.
Beyond that, anOrdain had used an improved Sellita SW210-1 + movement with the Incabloc shock protection system, as well as syringe-shaped hands which are produced with an elaborated process that covers three different locations and manufacturers. The attention to detail is immense.
The new anOrdain Model 2 mkII is available in both medium (36mm) and large (39.5mm) size, and they are priced at £1,700 (approximately S$2,994) and £1,850 (approximately S$3,258) respectively. Given their limited production size (at 500 pieces annually) and quality of the timepieces, these watches are surely hard to come by.
Travailler et Jour Matin Blue Moon Enamel
Travailler et Jour, a Singapore-based micro-brand, is a small watch manufacturer that is unlike any others.
The brainchild of the company is Jeremy Moi, a young entrepreneur who had an interest in timepieces. Its flagship piece, the Matin Blue Moon Enamel, is notably a work of art. As suggested by its namesake, the watch features an incredible grand feu enamel dial. The dial is produced in his own atelier, after he had got the opportunity to learn about enamelling from a local enamellist in the costume jewellery trade.
The best part of it? The 39.5mm watch is priced at S$2,000. It is by no means an inexpensive piece if we are talking about micro-brands, but for a timepiece with an enamel dial – it offers tremendous value. For someone who is looking at craftsmanship and art, the Matin Blue Moon Enamel is certainly a timepiece worth a consideration.
Dietrich Skin Diver SD-1
For some collectors, Dietrich is a brand that might ring a bell – they are after all known for their funky and esoteric timepieces in the earlier part of the last decade. Now, with the Skin Diver SD-1, Dietrich is looking to helm a new direction for the brand.
The 38.5mm timepiece, produced for casual divers without the use of proper diving equipment, offers an interesting alternative in the tools watch scene. Featuring a brilliant gradient dial and integrated bracelet, the Skin Diver SD-1 provides a more contemporary take on a category of watches which are typically more “serious” in its appearance and form.
Aside from the design, we feel that the Skin Diver SD-1 is quite a well-built piece as well. The quality is rather decent, and it definitely punches above its weight at this price point. The watch retails at US$1,050 (approximately S$1,440), and we reckon it is a great option for someone who is looking for a tool watch that is a tad different from the crowd.
Gorilla Fastback GT Drift “Elise”
As the brainchild of Octavio Garcia and Lukas Gopp, Gorilla aims to target adventurous watch collectors with their unusual take on timepieces. The 44mm Fastback GT Drift “Elise”, notably, achieved this with the elusive “wandering hours” mechanism – typically seen on high-end independent brands such as Urwerk and H. Moser & Cie.
Powering the Fastback GT is an ETA 2824-2 movement, coupled with a Vaucher module. The use of such a combination ensures that Gorilla can keep its prices modest, and yet allow consumers to enjoy an unusual complication without compromising on the quality or performance. Additionally, the self-winding movement beats at 28,800 bph and it has a power reserve of around 36 hours.
The Gorilla Fastback GT Drift “Elise” is limited to a production of 350 pieces, and this special model has a case that is made up of four different materials: Ceramic, aluminum, titanium and carbon fibre. It is priced at S$5,088, which is well-priced for a conversational piece with a highly-uncommon complication to boot.
The idea of producing well-made watches, at an affordable price point, is a noble but difficult act. However, Miguel Morales Ribas of Ophion might have other ideas.
The Ophion OPH786 is one of such brilliant timepieces. Inspired by old pocket watches, the OPH786 aims to incorporate traditional touches with modern elements found on high-end watchmaking. This results in a stunning piece, with stunning touches such as a CNC-machined guilloché dial and hand hammered Technotime movement. Finishing is pretty much a key aspect of the OPH786, and we are glad to say that Ophion is spot on with the execution.
The initial run of the OPH786 was priced at €1,890 (approximately S$2,880), but we understand that this series has been sold out. The OPH 786 VÉLOS – priced at €3,150 (approximately S$4,800) – is perhaps the next best alternative. Either way, you know that you are getting a great piece, at a relatively reasonable price point.
As collectors are more discerning, especially with the availability of information online, mass produced timepieces from third-party suppliers simply do not make the cut any more. Collectors definitely want more, and brands have to do much more to quell the appetite of their clients.
In order to capture the market (and hearts) of collectors, many brands have tried to stand out with differentiated products. In today’s article, we have seen many microbrands (or emerging young brands) that offer complications or intricate artistic techniques in the production of their timepieces. Given the popularity of some of these watches, we can infer that collectors and enthusiasts appreciate such features and are willing to pay some premium for it.
We are certainly impressed with some of these offerings, and we are heartened to know that these watches are well-received. We hope that this will continue to motivate brands (especially the younger ones) to move away from cookie-cutter pieces, and instead look to value-add through different features or complications. In fact, the big boys should start to take a leaf out of this book.