6 Watches by Independent Watchmakers that Wowed us During Watches and Wonders
The independent industry is very much alive and well, seen through these six watches.
Running around the Palexpo centre and the rest of the city of Geneva during the Geneva Watch Week recently, wasn’t solely about the news coming from the Richemont Group and other attending mainstream brands. It was also very much about the creative side of watchmaking, often the field of play for independent brands. With an impressive number of indies launching a whole range of fascinating new models, we had a tough time narrowing everything down to just six new watches. Nevertheless, here they are, showcasing that independent watchmaking is very much alive and well!
Armin Strom Orbit
The team of Armin Strom never fail to impress us, with a combination of innovative mechanics and alluring designs. In recent years we’ve seen Armin Strom embracing resonance technology in several very impressive watches, for instance. For 2022 the brand has envisioned a new way to display the date function, and its equal parts are unusual and intriguing. The sporty Armin Strom Orbit has a fixed ceramic bezel decorated with the dates of the month. The complex mechanism, which is almost fully exposed, comes with an on/off function activated by a pusher in the caseband. A memory-setting ensured the central hand jumps back to the correct date again and jumps backwards from 31 to 1 to avoid confusion with the neutral position (straight up). The Armin Strom Orbit is limited to 25 pieces only and priced at EUR 31,300.
For more information, please visit ArminStrom.com
Quick Facts – 43.4mm x 12.6mm – stainless steel case – fixed ceramic bezel with date scale – sapphire crystal front and back – 50m water-resistant – off-centred black gold dial – numerals and indices with Super-LumiNova – in-house made hands with Super-LumiNova – Armin Strom Calibre ASS20, in-house – automatic with micro-rotor – 297 components – 25,200vph – 30 jewels – 72h power reserve – Geneva-drive equal force barrel – offset hour and minutes, small seconds, column-wheel date, power reserve indication on the barrel – stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp – limited to 25 pieces – EUR 31,300
De Bethune DB28GS JPS
For those of you with even only a hint of Formula 1 knowledge, the letters “JPS” must surely get your pulse racing. It is forever linked to the glorious black-and-gold Lotus “John Player Special” branded Lotus Formula 1 cars of the 1970s and 1980s. De Bethune has used this iconic three-letter designation and the accompanying colour scheme for the latest iteration of the DB28GS. It has a black zirconium middle case, black stainless steel caseback and bezel, sapphire crystals on both sides and signature swivelled lugs. The dial side features more black and gold details, such as the balance bridge and hands. The movement is equipped with a fully mechanical light system operated by a pusher at 6 o’clock. It’s worn on a black natural rubber strap with black stainless steel folding clasp. Limited to 50 pieces only, it retails for CHF 105,000 excluding taxes.
For more information, please visit DeBethune.ch
Quick Facts – 44mm x 12.8mm – black zirconium and stainless steel case – sapphire crystal on both sides – crown and pusher at 12 and 6 o’clock – 100m water-resistant – black grade 5 titanium minute dial – rotating bezel with metallized minutes ring – black titanium hour and minute hands – integrated fully-mechanical lighting system with twin-barrels and pusher – Calibre DB2080, in-house – hand-wound – 400 components – 28,800vph – 51 jewels – 5-day power reserve (120 hours) – hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve indication – black rubber strap with stainless steel folding clasp – limited to 50 pieces – CHF 105,000
F.P. Journe Vagabondage 1 Gold
The Vagabondage saga by F.P. Journe is one of the most fascinating stories in independent watchmaking. Thanks to its unusual shape and display of time, and not to mention the incredible movement and finishing, have garnered a very strong following by collectors. The Vagabondage can be traced back to a trio of unique pieces submitted to Antiquorom for a charity auction 18 years ago. The response was so strong, that three commercial collections followed. The new Vagabondage 1 Gold returns to the soul of the very first, presented in 2004, but with an updated movement. Time is read through a wandering and jumping hours disc with aperture, and a minute track. The disc rotates once every hour and jumps forward one position every full hour. In the middle, a sapphire disc reveals the balance and escapement of the Calibre 1504.2, made in gold. It is limited to 68 pieces, with allocation prioritized by collectors who want matching numbers with previous Vagabondage editions. The price is available upon application only.
For more information, please visit F.P.Journe.com
Quick Facts – 45.2mm x 37.5mm x 7.6mm – flat tortue shaped 18k red gold case, brushed and polished – sapphire crystal front and back – wandering hours on slate grey disc – silver mobile aperture for hours – peripheral railway-style minutes track – sapphire disc in the centre of the dial protecting the balance and escapement – screwed steel elements on each corner – F.P.Journe Calibre 1504.2 in rose gold – manual-winding – 21,600vph – 50h power reserve – two barrels in parallel – straight-line lever escapement – black alligator leather strap with 18k gold folding clasp – limited to 68 pieces with priority allocation for matching serial numbers of Vagabondage II and III in gold – price on application
H.Moser & Cie Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton
Most people might associate H. Moser & Cie with funky, fumé styled closed dials and a design so pure it virtually doesn’t need the brand’s logo to be identifiable as a Moser watch. Yet, there’s also a very technical side to the brand, showcased by the stunning Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton. The signature fumé style dial is still there, however, reduced in size and placed off-centre at the top of the watch. It gives way to the fully-skeletonized HMC 811 movement that powers it, which is regulated by a one-minute flying tourbillon with a cylindrical hairspring. This hairspring is made in-house and shaped by hand, with 2 Breguet curves. The movement is wound by a skeletonized gold rotor and has a running time of 74 hours. All this is set in Moser’s robust Pioneer case, executed in stainless steel. It’s worn on a black alligator leather strap and is priced at CHF 79,000.
For more information, please visit H.Moser.com
Quick Facts – 42.8mm x 11.7mm (without crystal) or 15.3mm (with crystal) – screw-down crown – domed sapphire crystal with sapphire crystal caseback – 120m water-resistant – skeletonized construction – off-centred funky blue fumé dial for hours and minutes – applied Globolight indices – hour and minute hands with Globolight inserts – one-minute flying cylindrical tourbillon – Calibre HMC 811, in-house – fully skeletonized construction – bi-directional pawl winding system with skeletonized gold rotor – 74h power reserve – hand-shaped cylindrical hairspring with 2 Breguet curves – hand-stitched black alligator leather strap – steel folding clasp – CHF 79,000
HYT Supernova Blue Moon Runner
Just a couple of weeks ago, the recently revived HYTrecently revived HYT launched the next chapter in its meca-fluidic watchmaking adventure, the Supernova Blue Moon Runner. This highly-complex piece follows the Hastroid, which relaunched the brand in January of this year. While the Hastroid provided you with “just” the time and a power reserve display, the Supernova Blue Moon Runner adds a day, month and 3D moon phase display to that. Smack-bang in the middle of the “dial” is a two-tone rotating sphere with an eye-like arm coming down from the 12 o’clock position. Surrounding the moon phase display is a date ring and a month ring. Time is indicated by HYT’s party-piece, the liquid-filled capillary for the hours, driven by two mechanical bellows, paired with a rotating minute indicator. From all angles this is a very impressive piece, limited to just 27 pieces only, costing CHF 100,000 each.
For more information, please visit HYT-Watches.com
Quick Facts – 48mm x 52.3mm x 13.3mm – grey and blue sandwich-constructed titanium case – screw-down crown in black titanium – domed sapphire crystal – 50m water-resistant – Supernova blue fluid hour display with luminescent numerals – matte black minutes track with triangular indicator – months and day rings in black – central spherical moon phase in black and blue with circular aperture – Calibre HYT 601.MO – proprietary movement, developed by Eric Coudray – hand-wound – 41 jewels – 28,800vph – 72h power reserve – retrograde fluidic hours, minutes, months, date, 3D moon phase – two-tone black rubber with blue Alcantara with black titanium clasp – limited to 27 pieces – CHF 100,000 (excl. taxes)
Trilobe Une Folle Journée
The poetically named “Une Folle Journée”, which roughly translates to “a mad day” pushes the original concept of the Trilobe display of time to new horizons. Following the Les Matinaux and Nuit Fantastique collections, the “Une Folle Journée” is a more technical, deconstructed execution. Covered by a high-domed sapphire crystal is an openworked display of three rotating rings for the hours, minutes and seconds. In between, you get a full view of the running mechanics underneath, which is pretty neat! The movement is still based on the Calibre X-Centric, but has been reworked for this unique looking watch. It’s driven by a micro-rotor and has a modern, almost symmetrical construction. The Trilobe “Une Folle Journée” is part of the permanent collection and retails for EUR 21,500 including taxes.
For more information, please visit Trilobe.com
Quick Facts – 40.5mm x 17.8mm – 10.8mm domed sapphire crystal – grade 5 titanium case, brushed and polished – sapphire caseback – screw-down crown – 50m water-resistant – deconstructed display of time with rotating floating rings – fixed pointers as “hands” – black or blue DLC coated titanium rings – Calibre X-Centric, proprietary movement developed by Mojon and made by Le Cercle des Horlogers – automatic with micro-rotor – 196 components incl. 33 jewels – 28,800vph – 48h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds – black or blue alligator leather strap with titanium pin buckle – EUR 21,500 (incl. taxes).
For me, a big problem with independents (apart from their prohibitive prices) is that a lot of their amazing pieces, as seen here, are just way too large.