Wednesday, September 23

Throwback Sundays: Six Incredible Watches from Independent Watchmakers, from Our Archives

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Over the last four weeks, we have channelled our focus on the independent watchmaking scene. We thought that we would like to round the topic up with a bang.

Hence, for this week, we are taking a look at what the independent watch brands can achieve, with the freedom and creativity that they are blessed with. The results, as some might have already known, can be rather amazing indeed without the limitations and constraints present.

Singer Reimagined Track1 Geneva Edition

For car collectors, Singer is certainly a brand that is instantly recognised by many. The California-based car restoration workshop is known for its works on classic air-cooled Porsches, and it has now teamed up with others to bring its philosophy into timepieces.

The Track1 is Singer’s first attempt at creating a timepiece. The theme of the watch seems to draw its inspiration from the 70s, in which its tonneau-shaped 43mm case reminding us of both the Omega Speedmaster Mark II and the Heuer Autavia. The Geneva Edition – a gold version launched in SIHH 2018 – further exudes the classic vibes.

But the watch is not just a pretty face either. The Track 1 is fitted with the AgenGraphe – a 67-jewel, 477-part movement that has a minimum power reserve of 60 hours and operates at a traditional 3 Hz beat rate. It is a well-crafted movement, with an equally attractive level of finishing.

Priced at CHF 72,000 (approximately S$105,303), the Singer Reimagined Track 1 Geneva Edition is slightly pricey for a newcomer into the game. However, it does seem to offer an interesting proposition, and we will certainly keep our eyes peeled on their subsequent offerings in the future.

Urwerk UR-T8

Urwerk is an independent watch manufacturer that produces intriguing timepieces that provoke our minds. The UR-T8 is an example, where they incorporate the brand’s signature wandering hours complication with a reversible case – where the latter is a first for the Geneva-based brand.

Produced to celebrate their 20th anniversary, the UR-T8 is a hallmark of the brand’s direction in producing watches with a strong personality. The user is able to flip the case by first pressing a button at the side of the case, before the turning the case to caseback side. The reverse side is shaped like a titanium shield, with a diamond-cut motif. Coupled with either the titanium or Black PVD case, the timepiece certainly exudes an air of style and mysteriousness.

Besides the new reversible case, the UR-T8 is still an Urwerk through and through. The usual elements include the bull-head type large crown, and the signature satellite complication with rotating hours modules mounted on planetary gears. The UR-T8 is available in either full black PVD or bicolour (titanium/black PVD), with a retail price of S$176,800.

MB&F HM9 “Flow”

In the world of horology, MB&F has certainly cemented itself as one of the luminaries for independent watchmaking.

One of the brand’s latest creation under the Horological Machine collection – HM9 “Flow” – continues from where Maximilian Büsser had left off previously. The HM9 draws its inspiration this time from classic cars and planes, most notably the Mercedes-Benz W196 race car and the sleek De Havilland Venom plane. The end result is an organic-looking sculpture, which admittedly look more like a piece of art than a device that tells the time. But then again, that is where MB&F offers something different from pretty much the rest of the crowd.

The titanium-cased HM9 “Flow” powered by an in-house manual-winding movement. The movement also incorporates two fully independent balance wheels with planetary differential, as well as a vertical timing display. The HM9 “Flow” is priced at US$182,000 (approximately S$253,451), and is a good option for anyone who wants to wear a piece of art on their wrist.

Krayon Everywhere

Watches are engineering marvels, and the capabilities that they can achieve are sometimes mindboggling. The Krayon Everywhere is an example of such technical feat.

When we first heard of the Everywhere in 2017, we were awed. The 42mm watch has the incredible ability to calculate the time of sunrise and sunset at any specific location, based solely on mechanism that leverages on inputs such as latitude, longitude, and time zone. It is all mechanical too, without the aid of any software or digital algorithms. 595 physical components, to be exact.

Powering the timepiece is the USS Calibre, a self-winding movement which boasts 3 patents. Aside from the watchmaker’s mastery in building complications, the finishing is exceptional too. All the haute horlogerie finishes are present, and it can also include bespoke works (on the movement, or even the case/dial) at additional costs as well.

We understand that prices begin at CHF 600,000 (approximately S$877,521), which is admittedly out of the league for many collectors. However, for the privileged few, this is truly a marvel – and one that represents (and perhaps transcends beyond) the pinnacle of watchmaking.

Ludek Seryn Karel Rotation

Tourbillons, hands, and discs. What do they have in common? They rotate on a watch. But what about movements?

The 45mm Karel Rotation, created by Ludek Seryn, offers an interesting interpretation of watches. The steampunk-inspired timepiece features an exposed case which lies its party piece: A movement that rotates. Notably, it features a rotating base, and the movement completes a revolution once every eight houses on its own axis.

Based on the Czech classic Calibre Prim 66, the calibre consists of two independent movements that shares a single mainspring barrel. This means that it has a pair of escape wheels, second wheels, intermediate wheels, and minute wheels. It is also interesting to note that the watch uses a sapphire crystal oscillating wheel to wind the watch, and the time setting is done with a key that is inserted in a slot that is found at the 12 o’clock position of the timepiece.

The Ludek Seryn Karel Rotation is a whimsical piece, to the delight of collectors who prefer something that is more conversational. It is also a solid handmade timepiece, with almost 3/4 of the watch being produced without the help of CNC machines. Kudos!

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

We round up the article with Greubel Forsey and its latest and possibly one of the most ambitious creations: Hand Made 1.

The Hand Made 1 is the result of 6,000 hours’ worth of man hours, which culminates in the prototype model as seen above. The goal of the watch is to create a timepiece that is 95% made by hand, and it is monumental as many skills or machineries have been made obsolete with modern watchmaking processes. In addition, Greubel Forsey hopes to take these watchmaking skills to a level that has never been attained before – with the help of a team consisting some of the most skilled craftsmen in each field.

The result of all these can be seen in the tiny details. It is like an Easter egg hunt, with a surprise at every corner. In the traditional Greubel Forsey fashion, plenty of finishing techniques are used on the watch – special mentions to the black polishing, frosted finish on the plates, and patchwork pattern on the reserve side of the timepiece. It is noteworthy to mention that every haute horlogerie finishing method is executed at the absolute top level. For the lack of a better word, the watch is simply outrageous.

Perfection, however, does come at a price. The Hand Made 1 can be yours at CHF 1 million (approximately S$1.45 million), and Greubel Forsey only plans to make 2 to 3 watches per year. This is almost as close to perfection as one can get in the field of watchmaking.

Concluding Thoughts

We have certainly seen some rather amazing timepieces throughout this article. Some of them features some incredible engineering feats, while others wowed us with beautiful finishing and stunning design cues. Or perhaps, a mix of all these wonderful things as well.

Independent watchmaking certainly shows us a side of horology that is not present in most watch brands. A niche market, as some might call it. But these are the mavericks that continue to break boundaries and showcase their prowess in the field of engineering and craftsmanship, and as collectors, we would surely want to preserve these spirits for as long as it is possible.

Finally, we hope that you have enjoyed this week’s column. We hope that you have had a better insight to the world of independent watchmaking over the last few weeks, and we definitely wish that we have converted some readers into believers of this very special category of individuals/brands in the horological world.

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