70 Best Microbrand Watches - A Complete Guide for 2024
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70 Best Microbrand Watches - A Complete Guide for 2024

When it comes to watch consumers' interest, there has over the past several years been a rising level of interest in watch brands that deviate from what might be viable for the mass market luxury watch brands but appeal to a niche but passionate audience. These so-called microbrands have represented one of the fastest-growing segments of the mechanical watch market, in which small shops can produce quality products that compete for connoisseurs' attention with the titans of the business. In the past several years, we've handled hundreds of watches from different microbrands out there; In this blog, we take a closer look at some of the best microbrand watches that the market has to offer in a variety of price ranges.

Before We Begin...

First, it is important to classify for the sake of our list what a microbrand is and what it isn’t. For the purposes of this list, a microbrand is a limited-production watch company that typically specializes in a particular style that does not have extensive resources to produce its own in-house calibers or other proprietary parts. This classification can get a little grey in the area of independent watchmakers that typically either have higher levels of watchmaking — like a Habring2, which has a master watchmaker like Richard Habring at the helm — or with a brand like Christopher Ward, which produces a relatively high number of pieces year after year and has access to some in-house production capabilities. For the sake of consistency, we'll avoid the inclusion of any brands that I would classify as "independents" more than "microbrands." That said, there will undoubtedly be a few inclusions that push the limits of this classification.
Brand: AnOrdainWatch Featured Above: Model 1Shop Their Collection Here
Scotland based microbrand AnOrdain is one of the most unique brands on this list as, with their inclusion, we are already straddling that line between microbrand and independent. AnOrdain's founders pride themselves on their expertise with enamel dials. Enameling is a very complex process of fusing glass to metal and takes a considerable amount of time with attention to detail in order to successfully nail the process (click here for more details on their process). The Model 1 was the genesis of the collection and put into motion AnOrdain's unique dial manufacturing process. Its fumé dials really stand out, with the Model 1 Green Fumé being an outstanding example. AnOrdain watches traditionally range from $1,000-$2,500, feature Swiss mechanical movements within, and are hand-assembled within the company's own facility.
Brand: Astor & Banks Watch Featured Above: FortitudeShop Their Collection Here
Chicago-based microbrand Astor & Banks was founded by watch lover Andrew Perez and has quickly carved out a niche creating some very attractive looking mechanical tool watches. Their newest model, the Fortitude, offers a really versatile look based on a traditional Officer’s watch in a more than reasonable 38.5mm stainless steel case. It’s equipped with the brand's excellent bracelet, a Miyota M9015 movement, and a handful of nice dial color options. You also get 200m of water resistance and an extra suede strap that can be quickly and easily swapped out with the installed bracelet.
Autodromo Group B
Brand: AutodromoWatch Featured Above: Group B Series 2Shop Their Collection Here
The marrying of watches and cars seem to be a match made in heaven, given the mechanical undertones of both. Of the many brands that aim to harness the inner spirit of motorists in their watches, many struggle to do it as well as Autodromo. The brand was founded by Bradley Price, an industrial designer that aimed to develop a brand that could embody the golden era of motoring while offering pieces with modern components and has become one of the most respected boutique watch brands. The designs evoke dashboard instruments of vintage cars, like the Group B model pictured that calls to mind the eponymous rally cars of the 1980s with its minimalist aesthetic. Its titanium case integrates into a steel bracelet and contains the Japanese Miyota 9-series automatic movement from Japan.
Brand: BalticWatch Featured Above: MR01Shop Their Collection Here

The past five years (or longer, actually) has seen a resurgence in the collectibility of vintage watches. Yet with this resurgence, we also have seen rising prices on coveted vintage models, which make it daunting for many enthusiasts to dip into this world. This demand opened the doors to microbrands that answer the call of higher demand for watches with vintage looks at more affordable prices. French microbrand Baltic has leaned into this theme, releasing the excellent Aquascaphe and recently launching the dressy MR01, which features applied Breguet numerals over a lovely textured dial in three different colors: Salmon, Blue, and Silver. The most interesting element for many enthusiasts will be the micro-rotor-equipped automatic Hangzhao CAL5000A movement.

Brand: BravurWatch Featured Above: BW003Shop Their Collection Here
Similar to the trend of having vintage-inspired designs, the same can be said for that of watches that have minimalist aesthetics, which brings us to our next brand. Swedish microbrand Bravur assembles all its watches within its Stockholm-based facility, all of their pieces featuring Swiss movements and very clean-looking dials.
Brand: BrewWatch Featured Above: MetricShop Their Collection Here
Brew Watch Company is a New York-based microbrand founded by industrial designer Jonathan Ferrer and has developed a reputation for a fresh take on watch design. Brew tends to be a little bit slower than many to release new products; however, when a new model does appear it is almost always a hit and quickly sells out. If you want more insight into the mind of Brew designs, check out Teddy's discussion with Jonathan back in 2018 at a local NYC park. Pictured here is the Metric, a model released in 2021.
Brand: CarpenterWatch Featured Above: Brooklyn GentShop Their Collection Here
Speaking of New York, Carpenter Watches is a boutique watch brand based in the heart of Brooklyn, where all of its watches are designed. Carpenter's portfolio of timepieces all feature mechanical movements, vintage aesthetics, clean designs, and modern reliability. The brand was founded by Neil Carpenter, a Savannah College of Art graduate whose fascination with watches sprang from his family's collection of mostly American vintage pocket watches, whose classical, minimalist looks each Carpenter watch strives to evoke.
Brand: Dan HenryWatch Featured Above: 1970Shop Their Collection Here
Founded by watch collector, Dan Henry, this microbrand was created to encapsulate the 30 years he has spent collecting and acquiring over 1,500 watches in his lifetime and offering classic designs at affordable prices.
Brand: Deep BlueWatch Featured Above: Diver 1000mShop Their Collection Here
Deep Blue got its start back in 2007 and has become one of the fastest-growing microbrands that specialize in dive watches. The brand at this point has rather high production numbers for its size, offering more watches than many mainstream brands if we are talking total number of SKUs. This brand presents lots of options for the serious dive-watch enthusiast who wants a variety of different dial colors and case styles to choose from.
Dufrane Travis
Brand: DufraneWatch Featured Above: Travis Shop Their Collection Here

Dufrane was founded in Austin, Texas, an area whose influence is felt throughout the collection, whose timepieces offers many stylistic nods to the city. The brand prides itself on those Texas roots, and the hand assembly of all their watches in the United States. The brand first made its way onto the scene with the competitively priced and capable dive watch called the Barton Springs. As a shift away from those sporty undertones, Dufrane unveiled the Waterloo, a dressy watch with everyday capabilities, and the Travis (pictured), named after Austin's Lake Travis, with a dial that captures its dazzling shades of blue.

Elka X02

Brand: Elka

Model featured: X02

One of the newest yet “oldest” brands on our list, Elka traces its heritage all the way back to a Dutch watch brand, founded in Amsterdam in 1877, which opened a branch in Switzerland in 1949 and disappeared from the scene entirely in the 1970s. The modern Elka, which opened its doors in 2022, is fully Swiss, a project of former Swatch Group design veteran Hakim El Kadiri (nicknamed Elka, in a bit of serendipity), and leans not only into the vintage styles of its defunct predecessor but also into eccentric, unconventional aesthetic elements, as on the X02 model pictured, whose dial puts the emphasis on the minute markers rather than the hours. Also classically Swiss are the movements, from the artisans at La Joux-Perret (actually owned these days by the Japanese Citizen Group), which offer extended 68-hour power reserves, an extra bonus at the watch’s very reasonable price point of around $1,500.

Brand: EzaWatch Featured Above: SealanderShop Their Collection Here
In early 2018, we released a video of the best dive watches under $1,000, and among the featured pieces was this model of the Eza Sealander, which quickly became a favorite thanks to its understated vintage looks and its use of high-quality components at a reasonable cost. Eza is a brand that was restarted after the German brand that carried the name fell victim to the quartz crisis decades ago. In 2016, the brand was rejuvenated by two Dutch gentlemen that made it their mission to develop high-quality, vintage-inspired watches, produced in Germany and containing well-regulated Swiss movements.
Brand: FarerWatch Featured Above: Segrave MonopusherShop Their Collection Here

In the microbrand community, there are several companies that most would agree occupy the the upper echelon in terms of materials, and the British brand Farer falls in this category. This British brand's unique and fun design formula is recognizable throughout its catalog, defined by a use of vibrant colors. With most of Farer's pieces falling within the $1,000-$2,000 price range, they are among the more expensive watches on this list, but the prices are warranted thanks to the elevated Swiss movements within and the quality finishing throughout. Highlighted here is the Segrave Monopusher, containing an automatic movement with single-push chronograph functionality and a matte black dial with. a "big eye" bicompax layout and colorful details.Formex Reef GMT

Brand: FormexWatch Featured Above: Reef GMT Shop Their Collection Here

Formex is one of those brands that are certainly on the cusp of being classified as an "independent" — which one could make a strong argument for, as the company has been around for a considerable amount of time by microbrand standards — founded in 1999 — and is today producing some fantastic pieces for the money. Many Formex watches are COSC chronometer-certified. Based in Biel, Switzerland, Formex has become increasingly popular thanks to the Essence model and its stylish and sporty dive-watch companion, the Reef, GMT version pictured above.

Brand: HaliosWatch Featured Above: FairwindShop Their Collection Here
Whether of not Halios truly lives up to the accolade it's been given in some quarters — as the "Rolex of microbrands" — you can't deny the parallels at least in the area of the small Vancouver-based brand's quick movement of inventory and the subsequent built-up demand for increasingly scarce models. Halios got its start back in 2009 and made its first big waves with the release of the Seaforth several years back. With successful release after successful release, the brand has developed a cult-like status among lovers of microbrand watches.
Hegid Watches

Every brand’s marketing strategy attempts to position their pieces as unique product in the marketplace. However, in the watch industry, styles and concepts are constantly recycled and truly unique concepts are rare. Microbrands in this highly competitive environment must find a way to stand out. Hegid is a proudly French brand that does offer something unique in this space: a modular case system that allows the owner to interchange the dial and movement — each one is designed as a so-called capsule — into different cases (or “carrures”) with their proprietary case technology. France-based Hegid has been one of the more interesting brand concepts we’ve seen in recent years

laventure-sous-marine
Brand: LaventureWatch Featured Above: Sous-MarineShop Their Collection Here
Laventure is a Neuchâtel, Switzerland-based microbrand that creates impressively constructed timepieces for adventurers in limited series. The original Marine caught the attention of many in the press world with its nicely designed case and a rather bold sandwich dial. Laventure fits its watches with Swiss-made ETA movements, nicely executed bracelets, straps, and plexiglass crystals. The newest model, the Sous Marine, is already completely sold out in the six original configurations, cased in either stainless steel or bronze, all of which were limited to just 50 examples. With a price point north of $3000, these pieces sold out quickly and have quickly garnered a strong reputation among the collecting community..
Brand: LorierWatch Featured Above: Neptune Shop Their Collection Here
Lorier is a small brand founded by a husband-and-wife team, with a core collection that is heavily focused on vintage-inspired sports watches. With the exploding world of vintage watches and the rush of many that want the vintage looks — but want it with modern reliability and at more feasible price tags — Lorier has carved out a spot for itself in the microbrand market. The company first jumped on the scene with the release of the Neptune and followed up with other favorites like the Falcon, which Teddy reviews on our YouTube channel here.
Brand: Lüm-TecWatch Featured Above: C7Shop Their Collection Here

Lüm-Tec was launched by Mentor, Ohio-based Wiegand Custom Watch Company LLC, which does OEM/ODM production for private label watch brands and counts some major watch brands among its thousands of customers worldwide. Lum-Tec is the company’s showcase brand, taking the first part of its name, as you’d expect, from the incredibly bright luminous material used on its dials, derived from a technology the company calls MVD (Maximum Darkness Visibility), which combines a layer of white titanium dioxide, six additional layers of custom-developed, highly reactive Super-LumiNova, and a final layer of clear glass coat.

Maen Manhattan

Brand: MarteneroWatch Featured Above: KerrisonShop Their Collection Here
Started in 2014, Martenero quickly rose the ranks as one of the leading microbrands with its focus on reinterpreting vintage watch designs with a modern twist. Martnerero watches follow a similar styling ethos of utilizing striking colors while containing reliable mechanical movements inside.
Magrette Moana Pacific Waterman
Brand: MagretteWatch Featured Above: Moana Pacific WatermanShop Their Collection Here
Hailing from New Zealand, Magrette is a watch brand that has caught on the international radar with its value-driven distinction and impressive spec-stacked collection of dive-inspired timepieces. Magrette uses a variety of movement styles across its lineup from ETA, Sellita, and Miyota, and are highly water-resistant, particularly the Moana Pacific Waterman models capable of 500m of depth. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of these models is the price, which ranges from $300 - with a Sellita movement, no less - to $765 for the aforementioned Moana Pacific Waterman model in the bronze case. Positioned at the top of the collection are hand engraved cases that are of extremely limited production.

Massena LAB Uni-RacerBrand: Massena LABWatch Featured Above: Uni-RacerShop Their Collection Here
Massena LAB is the brainchild of prominent industry personality William Massena. To know the brand is to know the person, Mr. Massena has done a bit of everything in the industry: he owned retail stores, was the managing director of the Timezone forum, and was even the COO of Antiquorum auction house in Switzerland. His latest project is his startup watch company which produces vintage-inspired chronographs that are heavily influenced by the famous Universal Genève “Big-Eye” chronographs from the 1960s. Currently, the Uni-Racer collection consists of reasonably sized 39mm models in a handful of sharp and interesting colorways and supplied with reliable Swiss Sellita movements.

Brand: Melbourne Watch Co.Watch Featured Above: PostseaShop Their Collection Here
After a successful crowd-funding campaign in 2013, the Australian watch brand Melbourne Watch Company set forth on the goal of creating high-quality watches at accessible price points for watch enthusiasts and casual collectors. Since the company's initial launch into the market several years ago, it has expanded its lineup substantially, becoming a leader in the microbrand community from the land down under.
Brand: MercerWatches Featured Above: Voyager II & PewterShop Their Collection Here
Mercer Watch Co. is a boutique brand designing and producing stylish goods located in New Jersey in the United States.  Mercer aims to create watches that deliver great value for the money that combines well-crafted cases and dials with both Swiss and Japanese movements.
MKII Paradive
Brand: MKIIWatches Featured Above: ParadiveShop Their Collection Here

MKII was founded in 2002 as a customization workshop for brands such as Seiko and Luminox. Because of its early experience in this arena, MKII was a pioneer of the custom watch market, especially in the United States. The brand built a product line based on homage watches, paying tribute to some of the most iconic and important models to ever be produced. The homage watch category can be a tricky tightrope to walk, but MKII has become very well respected in this space. The build construction and overall quality of the final product, which is assembled in the United States, is what endears MKII to the watch community at large.

Minase Urushi watch

Brand: Minase

Watch Featured Above: Urushi Maki-E by Hakose

Shop Their Collection Here

Minase, based in Japan’s Akita Prefecture, traces its relatively short history to the high-end manufacturer Kyowa, which has been making tools and components for watch companies inside and outside Japan since 1963. In 2005, a group of ambitious watch designers within the company launched the brand HIZ, which became “Minase” in 2017, taking its name from the former village that occupied the area around the factory. Minase watches specialize in openworked dial whose movements appear suspended inside the cases; the geometrically inspired “Windows” cases, with rounded rectangular sides and five to seven individual sapphire crystal windows that showcases the movements; and the elite “Saliaz” surface treatment on the case elements, which combines mirror polishing and satin-brushing for sharp diamond-like facets. Minase is one of the smallest Japanese watchmakers, producing fewer than 500 complete timepieces annually. The most limited pieces are from the brand's Masterpiece collection, which feature exquisite lacquer dials by master craftsman Junichi Hakose, with traditional patterns hand-executed in the ancient Urushi lacquer technique.

Brand: MontaWatch Featured Above: SkyQuest Shop Their Collection Here

Monta is a small brand based out of St. Louis, Missouri that has quickly risen in the ranks since its founding in 2016, developing a great reputation for producing watches with an elite level of finishing at their accessible price points. Along with the strong (albeit somewhat familiar) designs and their use of Swiss automatic movements, this creates a winning formula. The SkyQuest is Monta's sporty travel watch, with undeniable resemblance to the famous (and much harder to get) Rolex GMT-Master and housing a Sellita movement with a 56-hour power reserve. 

Brand: NodusWatch Featured Above: SectorShop Their Collection Here
The brand name Nodus comes from the Latin word signifying the intersection of pathways, and signifies the microbrand’s mission of merging the two worlds of vintage and modern design. The first watch launched by the SoCal-based brand was the Trieste dive watch in 2017, which was discontinued after its initial run but continues to inspire successor models, like the Retrospect dive watch and the skin-diver-styled Sector Dive. Nodus watches are designed and assembled at the company’s HQ in Los Angeles and the bracelets feature the proprietary, button-operated NodeX module that allows for easy adjustment in five positions. In 2019 Teddy reviewed the Retrospect II on the main channel.
Brand: Norqain Watch Featured Above: Freedom 60 GMTShop Their Collection Here

A jointly developed project between Swiss watch entrepreneur Ben Küffer, former Breitling co-owner Ted Schneider, and retired NHL player Mark Streit, Norqain was  founded in 2018. It has established itself fairly quickly and decisively as a player in the field of value-driven sports watches with proprietary movements. The movements are made in partnership with a Swiss movement-making firm called Kenissi, which was established as a subsidiary company by Tudor, and boast 70-hour power reserves as well as COSC chronometer certifications. Norqain’s primary collections include the inspiringly named Freedom and Independence lines, and more recently the mountaineering-inspired Adventure Neverest, which Norqain has used as a stage for some very innovative dial colors and textures.

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Brand: NTHWatch Featured Above: OdinShop Their Collection Here
NTH is one of the better-established microbrands out there offering a variety of relatively affordable diver-style watches in the sub $1,000 range. The company's branding is bold and channels the rising consumer demands of all things with vintage looks.
Brand: Oak & OscarWatch Featured Above: OlmstedShop Their Collection Here

Chicago-based Oak & Oscar hit the scene in 2015 with the launch of the Burnham, a time-and-date model named for American Beaux-Arts architect Daniel Burnham, designed of many iconic Windy City skyscrapers. (Subsequent models have taken their names from other architects, like the Olmsted, pictured, and have included a two-register chronograph and a GMT.) The company’s own name comes from its team members’ love of good bourbon (“oak”) and the name of founder Chase Fancher’s dog, Oscar; dogs, particularly rescue dogs, play a large role in the brand’s mission statement, which includes donating a portion of sales to Chicago-area rescue dog charities. Oak & Oscar watches are hand-assembled, tested, and regulated in Chicago, with Swiss-made movements and mounted on U.S.-made Horween leather straps.

Brand: Ocean CrawlerWatches Featured Above: Core Diver & Dream DiverShop Their Collection Here
Based in Rochester, New York, Ocean Crawler is a brand specializing in creating colorful, vintage-inspired dive watches with regulated Swiss Made movements. In a short period of time, the brand has established itself as one of the most respected microbrands, producing mechanical watches that enthusiasts love while supporting an active lifestyle. Last year Teddy took a closer look at the popular Core Diver and Dream Diver, two of the coolest divers out there for under $1,000.
Brand: OrionWatch Featured Above: HellcatShop Their Collection Here
Orion was founded by Nick Harris, a watch enthusiast and watchmaker who became addicted to watches after receiving a vintage Omega Constellation from his grandfather. Orion makes no-nonsense tool watches that have fun '70s touches of color and style throughout. Landing here as a spotlight piece is one of the latest offerings from the brand, the Hellcat, offered in a handful of pleasing dial colors.
Raven Trekker
Brand: RavenWatches Featured Above: Trekker Shop Their Collection Here
Raven watches was founded back in 2008 by Steve Laughlin and is based in the midwestern United States, in Kansas. The brand specializes in adaptations of classic tool watch designs (including, you guessed it, affordable dive watches) and was among the leaders in the rapid growth of the microbrand watch scene in the past decade. The Miyota-equipped, vintage-Submariner-look Trekker is a prime example. 
Reservoir Hydrosphere
Brand: ReservoirWatch Featured: HydrosphereShop Their Collection Here

Founded in 2015 by former banking professional François Moreau, Reservoir brings a visually unique approach to displaying dial information. Time is displayed by a single retrograde hand with a jump-hour mechanism which is inspired by vintage measurement instruments with similar readouts. Whether it’s a watch for land, water, or air, this design language is prominent across each collection, giving the brand a very distinct identity. Reservoir calls La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland home and uses high-quality Swiss movements to pair with the signature designs.

 

Scurfa Diver One Titanium

Brand: Scurfa

Model featured: Diver One Titanium

Shop Their Collection Here

In 2014, commercial saturation diver Paul Scurfield, frustrated by the inability of existing, so-called “professional” dive watches to hold up to the hard usage they faced in his profession, founded his own watch brand. A longtime watch enthusiast in addition to being a seasoned diver, Scurfield focused on creating a range of watches for divers that were not only tougher and more reliable than those produced by well-known luxury brands but also priced within reason for diving professionals. For $230, you can snap up the Diver One Titanium (pictured), which boasts a rare 500-meter water resistance, a helium release valve for use in a diving bell, a sapphire crystal and a high-degree of luminous material on the dial for legibility in the depths. The Swiss-made quartz Ronda caliber beats inside the 40mm case (which is also available in steel for $30 less). 

Serica 5303 dive watch

Brand: Serica

Model featured: 5303-1

Shop Their Collection Here

Serica is a French brand, founded in 2019 in a collaboration between the watch blog “Les Rhabilleurs'' and the WM Brown Project, established by sartorial expert and A Man & His Watch author Matt Hranek. Following up the company’s first release, a “Dirty Dozen”-style field watch called the W.W.W. William Brown Edition, is its first divers’ watch, the distinctly designed 5303 series. Its high-end bonafides include sunray finishing on the bezel, mirror polishing on the articulated lugs, and an aluminum and ceramic dive-scale bezel that also incorporates a countdown function. Serica tests the automatic Soprod Newton movements to plus/minus four seconds per day, which speaks to the watches’ performance as well as the founders’ attention to detail.

Brand: SpinnakerWatches Featured Above: SP 5005 & 5062Shop Their Collection Here
As a member of Dartmouth Brands Ltd., which also offers brands such as AVI-8, Spinnaker Watches are made to resurrect vintage designs in a modern and affordable package.  In its production of price-competitive timepieces, Spinnaker has positioned itself as a go-to option in a segment of the market that is constantly dominated by larger brands and is one of the more popular microbrands out there for those that are looking for vintage-inspired divers.
Brand: SternglasWatch Featured Above: Naos AutomaticShop Their Collection Here
When it comes to Bauhaus inspired watch design, it is of course German brands like Junghans and Nomos that immediately spring to mind. When it comes to watches at an even more accessible price that nail this style as well, options are limited. However, Hamburg-based upstart brand Sternglas is perhaps the best  one out there that fits this category. This brand was started back in 2016 and is now one of the fastest growing mechanical watch brands in its segment.
Brand: Straton Watch Co.Watch Featured Above: Curve ChronoShop Their Collection Here
Straton Watch was founded back in 2015 and has garnered a reputation for developing watches with motorsport undertones. Specializing in chronographs, the maker offers a wide range of styles, typically with eye-catching splashes of color and reasonable prices.
Brand: TraskaWatch Featured Above: FreediverShop Their Collection Here

Looking back at some of our favorite microbrands that have come in for review, Traska is certainly in the conversation. Traska is a newer microbrand offering some of the coolest-looking pieces out there that certainly draw inspiration from classic designs but manage to offer it in a package that isn’t repetitive. One of the first models to catch the market's eye was the Summiteer in 2019, an everyday field watch with impressive specifications. In 2021, the brand unveiled some new offerings including some updates to its best-selling Freediver.

Brand: UnimaticWatches Featured Above: U1 Classic Shop Their Collection Here
When it comes to microbrands that nail both the design of their pieces but also their digital positioning, Unimatic is among the best of them. This Milan-based brand probably won’t surprise you that there is a team of great industrial designers at the helm given their branding. Unimatic has quickly become an archetype for how a small upstart brand can get more mass-market attention through quality design from the high-level brand experience down to the products it creates.
Vaer dive watch

Brand: Vaer

Model featured: D5 Tropic USA Automatic

Shop Their Collection Here

Founders Ryan Torres and Reagan Cook pooled their collective life savings to start Vaer because “we couldn’t afford the watches we liked and didn’t like the ones we could afford.” Based in Venice, California, Vaer released its first watches 2017. Designed and built with outdoor and sporting activities in mind, and adhering to the founders’ vision of “simple, well-built analog watches” for everyday wear, Vaer’s collection comprises two major pillars, one made up of dive watches like the D5 Tropic USA Automatic, pictured, and the other of military-influenced field watches, like the S5 Calendar Field, a homage to the World War II-era military-issue A-11 watch. Vaer watches offer several movement options, including Japanese quartz, Japanese solar-powered quartz, and, in the GMT model, a Swiss automatic Sellita SW330-2.

Brand: VeroWatches Featured Above: Ridge TrailShop Their Collection Here

Vero is a Portland, Oregon-based microbrand that has carved out the casual "West Coast" look with its pieces, which also uphold a retro aesthetic. In their Portland facility, Vero produces its own dials and assemble all finished watches within its walls while offering regulated Swiss movements inside the cases. The Vero Ridge Trail is boldly designed and comes with a minty green dial.

Vortic Watch
A trio of Penn State students envisioned the concept for Vortic in 2013, using 3D printing to craft modern steel watch cases to house antique American-made pocket watch movements from the likes of Elgin, Waltham, and Hamilton that had been discarded from their original gold and silver cases over the years when those cases were scrapped for their precious metal. Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, Vortic now offers more traditional CNC-machined cases as well as 3D-printed ones, classical dials that still sport the appropriate vintage logo of whatever model is being re-created, and vintage calibers from the late 19th and early 20th century. Vortic wristwatches now comprise three families, the original American Artisan series along with the Military and Railroad Editions, all notable for their 12 o’clock crowns, a remnant of the original pocket-watch design and their use of American suppliers even for details like the sapphire crystals and leather straps.
Brand: Weiss WatchesWatch Featured Above: 38MM Standard Issue Field WatchShop Their Collection Here

Cameron Weiss, an entrepreneurial WOSTEP-trained watchmaker who had worked for Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, launched Weiss Watch Company in 2013. The initial 10 pieces of his first watch, the original Standard Issue Field Watch, were hand-finished and assembled in a makeshift workshop, in a walk-in closet at his home. Originally based in Los Angeles, the company now makes watches at a workshop in Nashville, Tennessee. Each watch is individually assembled by a Swiss-trained watchmaker, with its case, crown, and buckle all machined in-house from a single block of stainless steel. Weiss initially used Swiss movements in his watches but as of 2016, his timepieces contain the in-house-developed Caliber 1003, which is 95 percent American-made.

 

Yema Urban Traveller

Brand: Yema

Model featured: Urban Traveller

Shop Their Collection Here

Founded in France in 1948, Yema has had an up-and-down history in the watch world, with ownership changing several times over the years (including a stint in the 1980s when it was owned by Seiko). In 2005, under new French ownership, Yema returned to the scene after a long hiatus and began offering a vast range of watch styles, including the racing-inspired Rallygraf chronograph, the retro-futuristic LED models, and the Flygraf GMT models that emerged from a partnership with the French Air Force, one of Yema’s many projects in its role as partner of France’s Armed Forces. By far the most emblematic Yema watch is the Superman divers’ series, which first debuted in 1963 and which still boasts a loyal following. The Urban Traveller, above, stands out from other integrated sport-luxury timepieces with its handsome honeycomb dial and its in-house YEMA2000 automatic movement.

Brand: ZelosWatch Featured Above: Mako V3 TitaniumShop Their Collection Here
Singapore-based Zelos has become one of the fastest emerging microbrands in the world thanks to its value-driven timepieces, primarily its robustly well-constructed dive watches. The cases are made of high-quality materials and contain both Japanese and Swiss movements. Zelos has carved out a unique niche in the competitive landscape of boutique diving brands.
William Wood Valiant Black

Brand: William Wood

Watch Featured Above: Valiant Black

Shop Their Collection Here

Founded in London in 2016, William Wood Watches pays tribute to its namesake, founder Jonny Garret’s grandfather, who was a decorated 25-year veteran of the British Fire Service, with its use of upcycled firefighting materials in its watches. The crowns are capped with a medallion crafted from melted-down brass London Fire Brigade helmets from the 1920s. Among the variety of interchangeable straps and bracelets available are tough, supple rubber straps that have been hand-cut from fire hoses used more than 10 years by the U.K. Fire and Rescue Service, which still maintain a faint smokiness from their decade-plus of service. Other aesthetic nods to firefighting culture abound, including a checkered ring around the dials’ perimeter, in place of a traditional minute track, echoing the livery of a British fire engine; a double index at 12 o’clock that resembles the collar markings on the lapel of a U.K. Fire and Rescue Service Crew Manager, an applied vintage fire helmet above the logo, and the counterweight on the central seconds hand that takes the form of the chime inside a historical fire bell. William Wood Watches are offered with a choice of two different types of mechanical automatic movements, either a Japanese Seiko NH35 or, for a slight upcharge, a Swiss Sellita SW200William Wood donates a percentage of the sales of each watch to firefighting charities, including the U.K.’s Fire Fighter Charity, which provides mental, physical and social support to the firefighting community, and the Australian Bushfire Relief Fund. In 2021, for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, William Wood partnered with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation to auction off a unique edition of its Triumph Heat chronograph model to benefit the charitable organization, which raised $19,000 after an opening bid of $2,000.

Bausele Ocean moon watchBrand: Bausele

Watch Featured Above: OceanMoon II

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From the name, you might think that Bausele is a Swiss microbrand based in the (former?) watch-industry trade show capital of Basel. You’d be right about the Swiss part, but way off on the home base. “Bausele” is an abbreviation of “Beyond Australian Elements,” and refers to the unique design sense that Swiss watchmaking entrepreneur Christopher Hoppe, who moved to Sydney with his Australian wife and founded the brand in 2011, brings to the table with this Swiss-made, Australian-designed microbrand. Bausele’s flagship collection is the OceanMoon series of professional grade dive watches, outfitted with 200-meter water resistant steel anti magnetic cases on straps made of recycled ocean waste and containing Swiss automatic calibers. Among those “Australian elements” are the cases’ hollow glass crowns through which you can glimpse an actual living element of Australia — red earth from the Outback, sand  — which allow the watch’s owner to literally carry a piece of Australia with them anywhere in the world. Bausele is the official watch of the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force as well as several military corps and even the iconic Sydney Opera House.

Waldan Heritage Professional

Brand: Waldan

Watch Featured Above: Heritage Professional

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Originally founded by Oscar Waldan in 1979, New York-based Waldan Watch Company is enjoying a renaissance under the guidance of Oscar’s son, Andrew Waldan, who revived the dormant brand during the challenging year of 2020. Thus far, Waldan consists of two distinctive sub-families within the flagship Heritage Collection: the dressy Professional, and the more casually colorful Sportline, which has a Nautilus-like lined-texture motif on the dials. All the watches feature steel cases with the thin, stepped, polished bezels typical of early Waldan models and knurled crowns. Most notably, they all feature a U.S.-made movements, namely the “Ameriquartz” caliber 70200, a quartz caliber developed and produced by Fine Timepiece Solutions (FTS) in Fountain Hills, Arizona that carries a five-year warranty. Also noteworthy at this price point (around $300) is Waldan’s use of sapphire crystals rather than mineral glass over the dials.

Studio Underd0g WatermelonBrand: Studio Underd0g

Model featured above: Watermel0n Chronograph

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London-based Studio Underd0g started out as the pet project of a restless University of Nottingham graduate, product designer Richard Benc, during 2020’s COVID-19 lockdowns. The “zero” replacing the letter “o” in his one-man brand’s name is a nod to its individualistic mission of making horology a little less “serious” and a bit more “playful.” The watches are distinguished by vibrant bright colorways on their degradé dials, and the names that derive from them, including the pink-and-green “WatermelOn'' model (pictured) as well as the black-and-white “Go0fy Panda” and mint-green-and-white “Mint Ch0c Chip.” The watches are all assembled in Great Britain and mounted on Epsom calfskin leather straps from The Strap Tailor, an artisanal shop also headquartered in London.Most notably, Studio Underd0g watches are equipped with hand-wound ST-1901 column-wheel chronograph calibers, which are made in China but based on the classical Swiss-made Venus Caliber 175. Each watch is inspected for accuracy and demagnetized before being shipped from the U.K. with its own individual “Report Card.” The first series from the young brand was priced at a very reasonable $475.

Kuoe Royal Smith Watch

Brand: Kuoe

Watch Featured Above: Royal Smith 90-008

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Kuoe was established in 2020 in the Japanese city of Kyoto. Its founder, Uchmua, who also serves as watch designer, was attending university in London a decade earlier when he discovered a shop that sold and repaired antique wristwatches and subsequently fell in love with their classical design and the accumulated history they represented. After several years working for another watch manufacturer, he ushered in the launch of Kuoe with its first timepiece, the vintage-influenced Old Smith 90-001. The Royal Smith models that followed represent Kuoe’s “premium” line, inspired by watches from the 1940s with rectangular cases, hand-applied Breguet numerals on the dials, and Japanese-made Miyota automatic movements inside, providing a high-beat frequency of 28,800 vph.

Trafford Crossroads Watch

Brand: Trafford

Watch Featured Above: Crossroads

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Based in Austin, TX and hailing from northern England, watch enthusiast Nathan Trafford worked in the creative end of the advertising business before the call of the watch industry moved him to found his own brand in 2020. Trafford’s passion for design and typography is evident in the brand’s flagship collection, called Crossroads, comprised of timepieces whose distinctive feature is the motif of a curved horizon line — in the sides of the rectangular steel case, on the rotor of the automatic Miyota movement, even on the buckle of the straps, which are made of Italian suede leather. The meticulously brushed dials are offered in an array of colors, many paying visual tribute to the scenery of Trafford’s adopted home of Texas.

Circula ProTrail

Brand: Circula

Watch Featured Above: ProTrail Sand

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Circula, a name referring to the circular shape of mechanical watch movements and their gears and wheels, traces its history all the way back to 1926, when the founding Huber family opened a watch and jewelry wholesale business in Pforzheim, one of Germany’s traditional horological centers. The brand as we know it today, which is currently run by Cornelius Huber, grandson of the founder, came into being in 1955. Then as now, Circula has specialized chiefly in purpose-built tool watches, like the DiveSport and AquaSport for divers, the AquaSport GMT for active travelers, and the ProTrail, a robust field watch with a sturdy, scratch-resistant antimagnetic case and a Swiss-made Sellita self-winding caliber.

Tornek-Rayville TR-660 Watch

Brand: Tornek Rayville

Watch Featured Above: TR-660

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If Tornek-Rayville’s military-look dive watches look familiar, there’s a reason. The original models, sold exclusively to U.S. military clients, were actually heavily modified Fifty Fathoms watches, sourced from Swiss watchmaker Blancpain and re-branded by retailer Allan Tornek as a clever end-around to the “Buy American Act” of 1933, which required America’s armed forces to buy strictly from American brands. (Hence, “Tornek,” the retailer’s name, plus “Rayville,” a vocal anagram of Blancpain’s Swiss hometown of Villeret, or "Ville-Ray".) Entrepreneur Bill Yao, who had previously founded the tool-watch brand MKII, relaunched Tornek-Rayville in 2010, with a heavy emphasis on a reissued version of the most legendary model, the TR-900, which was worn by U.S. special forces during the Vietnam War. The TR-660 followed, offering another does of mid-’50s Fifty Fathoms DNA at a far more accessible price point, Modern Tornek-Rayvilles are made in Japan and contain the Seiko NE15 automatic movement.

Momentum Sea Quartz Watch

Brand: Momentum

Watch Featured Above: Sea Quartz

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Since 1980, the St. Moritz Watch Corp. of Vancouver, Canada, has been making sturdy and affordable sports watches under the Momentum brand. The flagship Sea Quartz divers’ watch has its origins slightly further back, when brand founder Simon Pennell originally introduced it as part of his earlier brand, Chronosport. The model, one of the first analog dive watches with a quartz caliber, is best known for its role in the iconic 1980s TV series Magnum, P.I., where it was worn for the first three seasons by star Tom Selleck. Today’s Sea Quartz models replicate the fondly remembered design of the original, with robust 300-meter water resistant cases and Swiss-made Ronda quartz movements.

Brand: ADPT

Watch Featured Above: Series 1 Dual-Time

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The initials in this microbrand’s name stand for “All Day Purpose and Terrain,” which should be a tipoff that ADPT watches lean design-wise more into tool and sport than elegant luxury territory. Launched by online retailer and content platform Worn & Wound in 2017, and produced in collaboration with another boutique watch manufacturer, BOLDR Supply Co., the collection is fronted by the Series 1 three-handed models, based on the BOLDR field-watch platform and sporting titanium cases, equipped with an automatic movement from Seiko; and their GMT-enabled offshoot,s the Series 1 Dual Time, also with Seiko self-winding calibers. The military-style nylon straps are made in the U.S.A.

Brand: BeauBleu

Model Featured Above: Ecce Smalt

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French designer Nicolas Ducoudert established BeauBleu in 2017, drawing upon his experience in the automotive and luxury goods industries to create the unique look of the company’s watches, identified by their circular-shaped hands that seem to float above the dial. BeauBleu watches are conceived, designed and assembled in Paris, and outfitted with mechanical automatic movements from Japan’s Miyota. The three main pillars include the Ecce Lys, with rose-gold-toned cases and grained dials; Ecce Smalt, defined by embossed blue dials with gradient effects; and Ecce Vesperal, with monochrome metallic-brushed cases and dials.

Brand: Cincinnati Watch Co.

Model Featured Above: Guild Mechanical

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Founders Rick Bell and Mark Stegman founded Cincinnati Watch Company (originally a venture called Build Your Own Watch) in 2018 with a mission to bring the watchmaking trade back to their midwestern home city. Former AWCI executive director and WOSTEP-trained watchmaker Jordan Ficklin came aboard to help launch the company in 2020. The company assembles all its timepieces in-house, equipping them with movements from Switzerland and Japan. Its first timepiece was the Union Terminal Watch, whose design celebrates the historic train station in the “Queen City” that is also one of the United States’s icons of Art Deco architecture. Another historically inspired watch, the Guild Mechanical, pays tribute to another facet of Cincinnati’s horological past, the “Time Hill” guild hall that was once the home of the Gruen Watch Company.

Brand: Echo/Neutra

Model Featured Above: Averau 39 Moon Phase

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Industrial designer Nicola Callegro and aerospace engineer Cristiano Quaglia — both watch aficionados from Italy — joined forces to create Echo/Neutra, via Kickstarter campaign, in 2019. Based in the Italian Dolomites, Echo/Neutra produces watches that pay tribute to the mountain range of their origin and specifically to the city of Cortina d’Ampezzo, host of the 1956 Winter Olympics. The Cortina collection, which consists of three-handers, chronographs, and GMTs, contains Swiss-made mechanical movements and features the emblem of the ‘56 games on the dial; the chronographs are powered by a hand-wound Sellita while the GMTs feature an automatic Soprod. Another popular collection, the Averau, is described as a “contemporary field watch” with an automatic Sellita caliber animating both the three-hand-date and double moon-phase models.

Brand: Islander

Watch Featured Above: Greenport 

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The house brand of New York online retailer Long Island Watch Co., Islander makes affordable everyday tool watches with (as you might expect from the name) an emphasis on diver styles. The collection is wide, and also includes classical pilot and field watches; many of the watches, which carry the names of Long Island communities such as Greenport, Manhasset, and Bridgehampton, include what the manufacturer calls “hallmarks of quality” found in more expensive brands, including sapphire crystals, screw-down crowns, ceramic inserts for the rotating dive-scale bezels, and mechanical self-winding movements from the likes of Seiko and Miyota.

Brand: Isotope

Model Featured Above: Hydrium Pro NSFW Purple

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Isotope Watches, founded in 2016 by Portuguese immigrant Jose Miranda, operates out of the town of Henfield, England and makes its watches in Switzerland. Miranda, a lifelong watch enthusiast who nevertheless sold many of his personal watches to fund his brand, took inspiration from revolutionary watch concepts like the IWC Pallweber and Gérald Genta’s early jumping-hour watches, as well as the designs of the Art Deco “Streamline Moderne” era. This influence is still evident in today’s Isotope timepieces, like the Hydrium series of dive watches and the Old Radium models that take inspiration from 1940s pilot’s watches.

Brand: Ollech & Wajs

Watch Featured Above: M-110

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One of the very few Swiss watch brands based in Zurich, Ollech & Wajs traces its history all the way back to 1956. It was the first Swiss watchmaker to make a dive watch water-resistant to 1,000 meters and the first to do direct-to-consumer mail-order business; its tool watches were worn by military troops during the Vietnam War and by NASA scientists during the Space race. After many decades of such milestones, the founding families sold the company to its current owner in 2017. The watches produced by the brand — like the motorsport-inspired Rallychron, the Ocean Graph dive watch with decompression-scale bezel, and the P-104 pilots’ model with slide-rule functionality — channel the spirit of their vintage ancestors, and are all fitted with automatic movements from ETA and Soprod; OW is one of the rare Swiss makers that has never put a quartz movement in a watch.

Brand: Paulin

Watch Featured Above: Ohno Automatic

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Scotland-based Paulin, launched in 2013, assembles all of its watches at its workshop in Glasgow, and takes great pride in the transparency it offers to prospective buyers on the sources of the brand’s parts. The watches are truly a global collaboration: anodized aluminum dials made in Germany ands finished in the U.K., cases and crystals from China, hands from India, movements from Switzerland and Japan, straps from a 70-year-old family tannery in Germany. Paulin watches are notable for bold colors and playful designs, like the Ohno Automatic featured above, which is powered by a Swiss-made La Joux-Perret caliber and whose dial features a visual tribute to the free-form typography of California’s Ohno  type foundry, a Paulin partner.

Brand: Straum

Model Featured Above: Jan Mayen Glacier White

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Oslo-based Straum was the brainchild of two Norwegian students at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, with a shared appreciation of outdoorsy activities and talent for digital CAD prototyping. Their first entrepreneurial project, an experimental piece of camera equipment, was shelved in favor of making a new line of watches inspired by the Norwegian wilderness and its natural wonders. The flagship Jan Mayen collection, accordingly, features dials with a cracked pattern evocative of the landscape of the Beerenberg volcano; previous models, like the sold-out Opphav, had rippled-texture dials that called to mind the ridges and valleys of the nation’s glaciers.

Brand: Xeric

Model Featured Above: Scrambler

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Watch collector and re-seller Mitch Greenblatt teamed with his entrepreneurial brother Andrew to form the e-commerce business Watchismo in 2007. After several successful years, the brothers teamed with a designer Daniel Hunsaker to form their own watch brand, Xeric, which since its founding in 2013 has launched 20 successful Kickstarter campaigns for its products — including the most-funded timepiece in the platform’s history. With a mandate to “make time fun again,” Xeric watches are made in California and wildly unconventional in design and mechanics, with quirky complications like wandering hour displays, orbiting moon-phase hands, and linear chronograph indications echoing the look of gauges on a race car dashboard, as on the popular Halograph models. Japan’s Miyota supplies most of the movements, which range from quartz to automatic to a sub-$2,000 tourbillon.

25 Comments

Join the Conversation

al
atharva l.

what do you think about Argos watch company from india

VC
Varun C.

Please consider Bangalore Watch Company also

VC
Varun C.

Please have a look at Bangalore Watch Company aswell

MV
Miguel V.

Hi Teddy, missing from your list is Henry Archer. Suggest you give them a look.

tw
terry w.

I am curious, when did the definition of “microbrand” become cloudy? Deep Blue, St. Mortiz, Spinnaker, Vaer, Momentum, Yema, Christopher Ward are global brands with employees in the double digits.

Mercer closed up almost 3 years ago.

MKII and Tornek Rayville are the same brand/owner/employee’s. I am not sure why this is listed separately.

If there was some research done I am sure there are some worthy microbrands who could filled those voids.

FC
Frank C.

It would be nice to have a comparison between these microbrands as to movement/quality/reliability/cost. This article is more just a blurb but no criticisms.

AL
Aiden L.

No love for Nivada Grenchen??

AL
Aiden L.

No love for Nivada Grenchen??

AM
Asier M.

Great article! Please, check LEBOND. Architect designed timepieces!

YZ
Yanos Z.

Teddy ~ marvelous! Informative! And eye-catching.
Unfortunately, my two MB’s didn’t make your video list. I have Maen, Manhattan 37 [salmon color face] & DuFane Waterloo. Both wonderfully designed and executed. As typical for MB’s, quite cost-effective. They’re both wonderful to wear and keeptime beautifully.

YZ
Yanos Z.

Teddy ~ marvelous! Informative! And eye-catching.
Unfortunately, my two MB’s didn’t make your video list. I have Maen, Manhattan 37 [salmon color face] & DuFane Waterloo. Both wonderfully designed and executed. As typical for MB’s, quite cost-effective. They’re both wonderful to wear and keeptime beautifully.

MV
Miguel V.

Hey Teddy, what are your thoughts about Danish designed Henry Archer watches?

JL
Joe L.

Thank you for helping me to understand what a Microbrand actually is! For me, I will be looking into Astor & Banks, Melbourne, and Orion.

MZ
Matthew Z.

I bought the Sternglas Haburg Edition Neuwerk, and it is quickly becoming my favorite watch. Definite shoutout to the quality and affordability of Sternglas!

RD
Russell D.

An excellent article Teddy ! Thank you for posting. I discovered several brands that I was not aware of and learned more about those who I knew in name only ! Best! Russ Dejulio Pittsburgh PA

BT
Brian T.

Hi Teddy & Co., great article and information here! Wishing all a very happy new year.

JG
Jason G.

Most of these watch look substantially similar to the point of monotony. You should have some more unusual watches on the list like:
https://www.radcliffewatches.com/
https://angleswatches.com/
https://luckyharveywatch.com/
https://azimuthwatch.com/
Mr. Jones watches

At least these guys are making some effort to be unique

DD
Dennis D.

Dennis D. Ever heard of Towson Watch Company? Just purchased a watch for Christmas Very impressed.

DD
Dennis D.

What about THE TOWSON WATCH COMPANY, ever heard of it?

FM
Frank M.

I love the website and reviews. However, missing from the list is the much maligned Vincero Collection watch brand. I believe the brand is disliked by watch reviewers who are primarily upset by it’s advertising and marketing approach. Since the brand dares to advertise as a “luxury watch that is affordable”, reviewers are spring-loaded to point out why it’s not. It’s interesting that I have not seen head to head comparisons of it’s Argo or Reserve Automatics with some the brands that you prefer. I often hear “for the money, you could buy a better watch” —without a direct comparison. Presumably the advertising approach of these brands are more to your liking. Reviewers also dismiss the watch as merely a fashion watch -- which is completely baffling to me. Who wants to wear an ugly or non-distinctive looking watch — no matter what the brand. Many high-end watch brands (Rolex, Omega, etc.) look alike. It was Vincero that disrupted the market 10 years ago, by recognizing the value of original designs — now all micro brands are following suit — and some upscale brands as well. Most Chinese watchmakers fail to deliver originality and are primarily known for homage watches. While being made in China, Vincero sketches it’s own original designs – which has kept it in play for 14 years!

FM
Frank M.

I love the website and reviews. However, missing from the list is the much maligned Vincero Collection watch brand. I believe the brand is disliked by watch reviewers who are primarily upset by it’s advertising and marketing approach. Since the brand dares to advertise as a “luxury watch that is affordable”, reviewers are spring-loaded to point out why it’s not. It’s interesting that I have not seen head to head comparisons of it’s Argo or Reserve Automatics with some the brands that you prefer. I often hear “for the money, you could buy a better watch” —without a direct comparison. Presumably the advertising approach of these brands are more to your liking. Reviewers also dismiss the watch as merely a fashion watch -- which is completely baffling to me. Who wants to wear an ugly or non-distinctive looking watch — no matter what the brand. Many high-end watch brands (Rolex, Omega, etc.) look alike. It was Vincero that disrupted the market 10 years ago, by recognizing the value of original designs — now all micro brands are following suit — and some upscale brands as well. Most Chinese watchmakers fail to deliver originality and are primarily known for homage watches. While being made in China, Vincero sketches it’s own original designs – which has kept it in play for 14 years!

AS
A S.

Why Direnzo is not in the list? It seems to be a very appreciated micro-brand

JF
Jay F.

So helpful. Definitely look at Seaborne. Tremendous niche in surf watches.

MJ
Matt J.

I love your website, the blogs and the videos you share; great information. I’d like to see more on the renaissance of the British watch industry and watch companies. I also learned that Patek Phillippe was founded by a Polish watchmaker. Are there any current watches being produced in Poland?

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