Watch retail is largely dominated by a handful of enormous luxury brands. These brands, for the most part, are cogs in a machine wielded by even more enormous luxury conglomerates. LVMH, (the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey group), the Richemont group and the Swatch group, own a lion share of the market. The likes of Rolex, Omega and Tag Heuer occupying the largest share of public mind space when it comes to luxury wristwatches.
The brands at the top of the pyramid do offer some truly fantastic watches, and far be it from us here at Watchadvice to turn you away from that shiny new Rolex Submariner you have been waiting 5 years on a list that may or may not exist for. However, what we would like to turn your attention too are some of those lesser known watch makers, the independents and the small scale operations which offer some truly unique and beautiful creations, many of which, if not all of which offer incredible artisanship and incredible value for money.
Here are 5 watch brands we think you should be aware of, and strongly considering for your next wristwatch purchase.
Hailing from Le Loche Switzerland, Laine watches was founded by watchmaker Torsti Lane who relocated his family to the small city in the Jura mountains. Laine recently received the Lange Watchmaking Excellence Award 2014, which offer the highest monetary award of any watchmaking competition in the world. A graduate of the prestigious Finnish School of Watchmaking, Laine has worked alongside the renowned Lange & Sohne in Germany and Kari Voutilainen in Switzerland.
Laine has a current collection of four wristwatches and one truly spectacular desk clock. His creations are renowned for their intricate dial work and hand finishing, his Gelidus 2 model showcasing an exquisitely finished frosted dial texture, which rivals the absolute best of the Swiss giants.
Laine further demonstrates his dial making prowess in the Guilloche model line, the latest development from Laine Watches. It adds the classic art of guilloche to the possibilities of dial options offered by the brand. Guilloche pattern in done by hand with old engine turning machines by a specialist artisan, while all parts and assembly of dial is done in-house.
The creation of husband and wife team, Richard and Maria Habring, this brand truly is a labour of love.
Established in 2004, Habring² has worked tirelessly to bring the very best of luxury watchmaking to consumers. Each piece made to measure and produced by hand, the brand currently offers everything from elegant time only pieces, to perpetual calendars and minute repeaters.
The entry level piece offered by the brand, the Felix, represents the simplest mechanical method of measuring time, albeit with the utmost precision.
At the other end of the scale, Habring present an immensely complicated timepiece which features, a perpetual calendar as well as a mono-pusher split second chronograph. The Perpetual Doppel, is a feat of engineering and watchmaking well beyond many large scale manufacturers, and demonstrates exactly the level of quality watchmaking you are buying into when purchasing from Richard and Maria Habring.
Deep in the heart of Glasgow, Scotland, Anordain are making waves in the independent space with their exceptional use of enamel in the dial making process. Rising to the challenge of mastering one of the great crafts of watchmaking, the brands enamellers have, in five years, become experts in the field.
Both vitreous and Grand feu enamel dials are available from Anordain, and recently their creation of a fume enamel dial has those in the know, very excited about the brand.
Anordain offer a range of vibrant and more subdued colourways, ensuring that there is an enamel dial for everyone to be found inside their 36 or 38mm case.
Another brand doing some remarkable things dial side of their watches, Sartory Billard offer some of the most striking dials on the planet. Using some of the worlds most intricate and precise techniques, combined with the use of exotic materials, the brand gives the customer the opportunity to truly customise their timepiece.
Offering dials in various colours including their lustrous purple, the use of meteorite, mother of pearl, various stones, or metal types Sartory Billard are equipped to polish, brush or satin the material to create your own unique watch face.
Two of the most spectacular pieces offered by the brand are the hand guilloche SB03 model, and the polished titanium dial of the SB04.
In these two pieces Sartory Billard really cut loose and show off just what they can do with a dial
What is now the United Kingdoms longest running watch brand, Fears saw a revival after its closure in the 1970s. Company head, and true watch enthusiast, Nicholas Bowman-Scargill is one of the most passionate brand owners you will ever find. After restarting his ancestral watch business, Fears has taken on the challenge of providing exceptional wristwatches, with no corners cut.
The current offerings from the brand, the Brunswick and the Brunswick Midas, are 38mm cushion case timepieces where attention to detail reigns supreme.
The latest offering from Fears, the Brunswick Salmon, has a unique set of numerals, specifically designed for the watch and enchantingly named after the original founder Edwin Fears. Hour markers printed as pipets to match the shape of the hands, England proudly displayed at the base of the dial, and a delicate but purposeful brushed texture to the copper salmon dial, are all examples of Bowman-Scargill’s near maniacal sense of purpose and attention to detail that he pours into the Fears watch company.