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Throwback Sundays: Six Watches from Independent Watchmakers for S$25K, from Our Archives

Little Gems
by Robin Lim on May 17, 2020
Reviews

The Covid-19 situation over the last few months have caused a variety of economic impact globally. Some of the businesses, naturally, find it hard to stay solvent as revenues are low, and they are affected by the lockdown.

Luxury products, such as watches, are definitely affected as they are considered discretionary goods. As people cut down on spending, it is inevitable that frivolous goods as such will be culled until further notice.

We understand some of the hardships that some of the manufacturers are going through. This is even more apparent for smaller outfits whose financial muscle might not be as robust as some of the larger powerhouses.

Hence, for the next few weeks, we feel that we should showcase some of the lesser-known independent watch manufacturers in our column. We hope that these brands will be able to get some exposure that they certainly deserve.

For this week, we will be looking at some watches from independent watchmakers that are priced at around S$25,000 and below. These are relatively more modestly priced as compared to some of the bigger boys out there, and they are good starting point for someone who wants to add a timepiece from an independent watchmaker into their collection. What have we selected? Let us find out!

Habring² Doppel 3 Split Seconds Chronograph

Habring² – the brainchild of Richard and Maria Habring – is probably one of the most accessible independent watchmakers that we are so blessed to have. Operating out of Austria, the husband and wife duo is no stranger in the horological world. For the uninitiated, Richard Habring is the person behind the famous split-second chronograph mechanism which was used on the IWC Doppelchronograph and the IWC Il Destriero Scafusia.

The Austrian watchmaker offers several interesting pieces, with an excellent price point to match. The Doppel 3 is perhaps our choice pick. Based on the Valjoux 7760, which is similar to the original IWC Doppelchronograph, the timepiece features his ingenious split-second chronograph mechanism that he had invented in the yesteryear. Our full review covers the details on the movement and the clever design he incorporates within. Incidentally, the start-stop-rest functions are powered by a single pusher, similar to a monopusher chronograph.

The best part of all is its price tag. The Doppel 3 retails at S$10,500 – which is very reasonable for an independently produced split-seconds chronograph timepiece with a limited production annually. It is something that is hard (or virtually impossible) to beat, especially for a well-made timepiece with this level of exclusivity.

Sarpaneva Korona K0 Northern Lights

The Northern Lights: One of nature’s mystical wonders, and a captivating sight to behold. But Sarpaneva had his own ideas and went a step further, by bringing this onto our wrists. Cue the Korona K0 Northern Lights.

Sarpaneva is a Finnish-based independent watchmaker, most known for producing contemporary-looking timepieces and his signature “Moon Face” that many grew to love. However, the Korona K0 Northern Lights is a tad more special than his usual creations. Collaborating with Black Badger Advanced Composites, Sarpaneva had produced three different variants (green, blue, and violet) of the timepiece that glows brilliantly in the dark. The end result, as seen in the picture above, is simply spectacular.

Fitted with Soprod’s A10 movement, the automatic timepiece has been modified to accommodate the signature moonphase indicator. The 46mm stainless steel watch is priced at €14,500 (approximately S$22,372), and we think that it is an interesting and unusual timepiece to include in any collector’s collection.

Czapek & Cie Quai des Bergues Fleur de Lys

Czapek is a fascinating brand, with its roots tracing back to 1839. It was, however, lost into oblivion and only revived back recently in 2013, by a trio of individuals who called themselves “The Guardian”.

The Geneva-based watch-manufacturer based one of its collections from the Czapek 3430 that was made in 1850s. Termed the Quai des Bergues, there are 2 different case sizes with a myriad of case material and dial combinations. We have previously done an in-depth review of the No.33, in which the finishing and movement did blew us away. We especially like the special “Fleur de Lys” hands, which were a throwback to the days when hands were designed and crafted individually by hands. Additionally, the Czapek SXH1 movement – which boasts a twin-barrel with a power reserve of 168 hours – is well-made.

The manufacturer offers many different variations of the watch, and the stainless steel version (with a smaller 38.55mm case) is priced very reasonably at CHF 11,500 (approximately S$16,912). We like the story behind this watch, and we do think that Czapek is one of the entry-level independent watchmaking brands that collectors should consider if they were to start looking at collecting such watches.

Urban Jürgensen The Alfred

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred crown view

We move on to another lesser-known independent watch manufacturer, where its roots can be traced back to both Switzerland and Denmark. Introducing The Alfred, from Urban Jürgensen.

The Alfred, interestingly, is a model that pays homage to Alfred Jürgensen and the opening of its new workshop in Biel/Bienne. The Alfred is a 42mm time-only timepiece, with an unusual stainless steel case (unlike its brethren). It is a classic timepiece, with Breguet numerals and two very beautiful pair of teardrop lugs. The design is subtle, but very well executed in the right places.

Powering The Alfred is the Calibre P4, a manual-winding movement with a power reserve of 72 hours. The finishing is excellent, with a variety of haute horlogerie finishes such as anglage, chamfering, blued screws, and perlage. It is sublime, and the attention to detail is exemplary.

Priced at €14,300 (approximately S$22,064), the timepiece is certainly priced very competitively against other independent watch manufacturers. The watch looks great, and its well-made as well. This is another great timepiece from a solid independent watch manufacturer, and we do think that this is another compelling alternative if one is looking to enter into the slippery slope of collecting watches from independent watchmakers.

Garrick Series 2

Continuing with the theme of lesser known independent watch manufacturers, we have a contender from England: Garrick.

The Series 2 is one of the collections from the English watchmaker. The watch, notably, features its new in-house movement: Calibre UT-G03. Notably, the movement was designed in partnership with the legendary Andreas Strehler. One of the key highlights of the movement is its large Garrick Trinity free-sprung balance, which beats at a traditional 18,000 bph. It is also highly accurate with the balance adjusted to a variation of around 2 seconds daily. The frosted finishing is great, and it also features other haute horlogerie finishing that elevates the status of this timepiece.

Priced at £12,495 (approximately S$21,567), the 42mm Series 2 is a delightful watch to behold. The finishing is stunning, and the engine-turned grey rhodium dial is pretty excellent too. It is surely a delightful piece to add into any watch collection.

GoS Sarek Akka

We round up the article with an independent watch manufacturer that does things a little differently, with a focus on an ancient Scandinavian craft tradition. Here’s GoS watches, 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$18,292), 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 Damuscus steel dial.

Concluding Thoughts

Even with a relatively restricted parameter where we can only select watches from independent watchmakers with a price point of S$25,000 and below, we think that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

We think that independent watchmakers create wonderful products, and they certainly add a lot of vibrancy in the watch collecting scene. They are able to execute more interesting watches, and experiment with designs that are more unusual or niche. The level of finishing – for some of them – are incredibly sublime as well. These qualities are certainly rarer from manufacturers who mass produce their products.

What are some of the entry-level pieces that you have bought from an independent watchmaker? Also, who are some of the watchmakers in this category that we have missed out in this column? Let us know in the comments section below!

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