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Throwback Sundays: Six Watches from Independent Watchmakers for Under S$125K, from Our Archives

Moving Up the Curve
by Robin Lim on May 31, 2020
Reviews

For the third instalment of this series, we will be taking a look at some of our favourite (and lesser-known) watches from independent watchmakers. This includes some of the up-and-coming watchmakers, who will continue to carry the torch for the industry in many years to come.

In the first two instalment, we covered six watches that were priced below S$25,000 and S$60,000. For today, we will take it up to another level at under S$125,000. Scroll down to take a look at what we have selected today!

Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire

Hailed from the Dutch town of Oldenzaal, the Grönefeld brothers first tasted fame with the award-winning Parallax Tourbillon. Motivated with the GPHG award, the brand had went on to create more wonderful creations – which got the industry to start looking at their direction.

The 1941 Remontoire is another timepiece in the brand’s repertoire that won the 2016 GPHG prize. Featuring an eight second constant force mechanism, the watch follows the old system where the force serving the balance wheel does not wane – through a small spring in the wheel train that provides constant torque as the mainspring winds down.

Similar to other Grönefeld watches, the movement of the eponymous brand is finished with a myriad of techniques. This includes the brand’s signature frosted bridges, combined with traditional techniques such as anglage and hand-polishing. We particularly like the contrast between the raised bevelled edge and the frosted finishing on the bridges, which adds complexity to the timepiece. The execution is flawless, and this is something that the brand is particularly proud of.

Priced at €49,500 (approximately S$77,713), the 39.5mm timepiece is available in different case material and dial combination. This is a well-made timepiece, and the movement is something that sets it apart from the other watches in the competition. This is a great watch, and one that is certainly crafted with much love and passion.

McGonigle Tuscar Bánú

From another part of Europe, we have yet another brother duo in the field of independent watchmaking. Cue John and Stephen, from McGonigle Watches.

The brand, which draws a lot of inspiration from its traditional Celtic roots, offers collectors an atypical touch to the usual offerings. The Tuscar Bánú is an example, where the watch’s aesthetics are heavily drawn on such folklores. This is very conspicuous on the main plate, where it features engravings with traditional Celtic motifs that depicts sea birds and waves. Its slightly unusual touches were also seen on the case and fonts used, where there is a hint of mystic surrounding it.

The masculine 43mm Tuscar Bánú is priced at CHF 52,800 (approximately S$77,606). This is another timepiece that celebrates the theme of individuality, with its unique design language and heavy influence from the brothers’ Celtic roots.

H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar

Touted as one of the cleanest perpetual calendar watches, the H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar is an interesting take on one of the most complicated complications that is available on the market.

The award-winning timepiece is certainly unlike any others. The flash calendar function (which provides instantaneous date change even from 28th/29th/30th/31st to the 1st of the next month), as well as the use of an additional central arrow hand to indicate the month, are just some of the innovative features that led H. Moser & Cie. to win the prestigious Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix in 2006.

The in-house HMC341 also boasts a 7 day power reserve, as well as a modular system that allows the escapement to be removed independently for servicing. The finishing is top-notch with great execution – with special mention on the anglage and the combination of black-polished screw heads with gold chatons.

With a recommended retail price of S$83,790, the 40.8mm Endeavour Perpetual Calendar is positioned somewhat on the middle ground for watches with this complication. It is, however, a stunning and refreshing take – proving that complicated watches do not necessarily need to look complicated as well.

De Bethune DB25 “Starry Varius”

De Bethune is one of the independent brands that we have always held in high regard for its finishing and polishing techniques. Its design language, as well as its blued titanium components, are some of the key highlights of the watchmakers as well.

The DB25 “Starry Varius” is no exception, but the 42mm Grade 5 Titanium watch goes one level up with its bewitching centre dial. The centrepiece begins its life as a dull grey titanium plate, before it underwent rounds of polishing and heating to attain the vibrant shade of blue. Perforations are then made to attach the golden pins (and gold leaves), which culminates with a stunning rendition of the galaxy (or rather, part of it). Interestingly, the design can also be customised to match the owner’s preferences as well.

On the business end of the watch, the DB25 continues to shine with its movement. The watch is powered by the DB2005, and the manual-winding movement boasts an excellent power reserve of around 6 days. The finishing is impeccable as usual, which justifies the enormous price tag for a time-only watch. The 42mm DB25 Starry Varius is priced at CHF 60,000 (approximately S$88,189), and it is perhaps one of the best looking two-hand timepieces that is available in the market.

AkriviA Chronomètre Contemporain

Rexhep Rexhepi is probably not a familiar name for anyone who is not well-versed in the scene of independent watchmaking, but this gentleman is rather special indeed. Touted as one of the most talented watchmaker in the industry today by Kari Voutilainen, the claims are certainly proven in full transparency with his exemplary creations.

The AkriviA Chronomètre Contemporain is one of the watchmaker’s latest collection, signed off in the name of the craftsman himself. The 38mm timepiece is a neo-classical interpretation of the wrist watch, with a nuanced but graceful design that features plenty of sensual curves all around. The art deco dial – which is made of grand feu enamel – is rather pretty as well especially with its contrasting scheme against the case material (black/gold on rose gold, or white/blue on platinum).

The movement, however, is where the watch really shines. Powering the timepiece is the in-house Calibre RR-01, a manual-winding movement which boasts a power reserve of around 100 hours with a single barrel. We are particularly intrigued by the symmetrical movement, which makes it a visual treat especially when the entire package is finished at such level. For some, the attention to detail on the Chronomètre Contemporain is virtually at the top of its game – not dissimilar to the likes of Philippe Dufour or Kari Voutilainen.

As mentioned, the watch is available in rose gold (CHF 55,000, or approximately S$80,840) or platinum (CHF 58,000, or approximately S$85,249). This is amongst some of the very best in terms of finishing and execution, and Rexhap Rexhapi is surely a name to look out for in the field of independent watchmaking.

Sylvian Pinaud Monopoussoir Chronograph

The last watch that we have today is the Sylvian Pinaud Monopoussoir Chronograph. Admittedly, this is a new kid on the block. But we think that this watchmaker is rather special indeed.

The Monopoussoir Chronograph is one of the rare chronographs in the world of independent watchmaking, due to the expertise and complexity required to produce timepieces with this complication. This watchmaker, however, takes it up a notch. It was noted that Sylvian Pinaud made this watch almost completely by hand, alone. That is incredible, considering that most of the watchmakers – save a handful – prefer to use machines and automated production techniques to produce timepieces.

Notably, the watch is powered by a donor ebauche in the form of ETA 6497. What is also intriguing is that the donor movement was completely stripped, reconstructed, and rebuilt with a new chronograph mechanism (and a monopusher, while we are at that). The finishing is also exceptional – with a variety of techniques that include anglage, black polish, and blued steel hands.

The Monopussoir Chronograph is available in two varieties, either in titanium (CHF 78,000, or approximately S$114,622) or 18K gold (CHF 88,000, or approximately S$129,317). This is a sublime timepiece, and certainly one of the few promising watchmakers to watch out for. If Sylvian Pinaud continues to produce such magnificent timepieces with such dedication and passion, we are sure that he can be at the top with some of very bests in the trade.

Concluding Thoughts

Today’s selection includes some very interesting brands, as well as some names which most collectors have not heard of. Despite the lack of recognition (for now), these watchmakers are pushing the boundaries and have produced some rather exceptional pieces that simply blew us away. Sylvian Pinaud and Rexhep Rexhepi are just two examples. And that is, really, the tip of the iceberg.

We hope that you have enjoyed this week’s selection, as much as the two other instalments that we’ve written previously. Ideally, we envisage and hope that more people are aware of the independent watchmaking scene, and hopefully allow the art of traditional (or innovative) watchmaking to continue in the many more years to come.

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