Five Microbrands Well Worth Your Time And Money
Small, niche brands are capable of doing very cool things on a relatively tight budget!
The term microbrand usually evokes mixed feelings for most people but there are some absolute gems to be discovered. This segment of the watch industry has boomed over the last five to 10 years and some of these passionately driven brands have been able to outgrow their microbrand status. But what defines a microbrand exactly? When are you, or are you not considered a microbrand? There’s no fixed definition of what it should be other than the scale of operations perhaps. One-man-bands or very small teams devoted to a specific topic or style of watches generally best describe a microbrand. And through this passion and devotion, free from any type of corporate guidelines, some are capable of growing a very hardcore group of fans and followers. In today’s Buying Guide, we take a look at a selection of brands that fit this very bill and are well worth your effort, time and money.
We start things off with one of the coolest vintage-inspired manual chronograph watches we’ve recently come across. The chronograph has always been a fan favourite, and the Antigua, made by Belgian microbrand Méraud, ticks a whole lot of boxes for us. It has a very cool 1970s vibe, is very well built and has just the right amount of colourful touches on the dial. And best of all? It uses a fully serviced New-Old-Stock Landeron 248 mechanical chronograph! It also won’t break your piggy bank, as it is priced at a relatively affordable EUR 1,750. Be quick though, as both dial colours are limited to 100 pieces each.
For more information, please visit Méraud-Watches.com.
Quick Facts – 39mm x 13.5mm – stainless steel case, brushed and polished – unidirectional rotating bezel with black sapphire insert – sapphire crystal front and back – 100m water-resistant – miho-black or soft-sand coloured dials – bicompax layout with pastel orange and blue elements – dauphin hour and minute hands – NOS Landeron 248, manual chronograph – 41h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph with central seconds and 45-minute counter – nubuck leather strap with additional tropic-style strap – limited to 100 pieces each – EUR 1,750
Circula AquaSport II GMT
Circula is not a new name per se since it has a history dating back to the 1950s. However, it has some very cool microbrand characteristics, such as watches in small batches and designs finalised with input from the community. The latest model is an adaptation of the funky and well-made AquaSport II, which now comes in a GMT configuration. The design is typical of the 1970s, and especially the blue-and-teal colour combination, highlighted by bright orange touches, works very well. Equipped with a top-grade Sellita SW 220-1, it retails for EUR 1,299.
For more information, please visit CirculaWatches.com.
Quick Facts – 40mm x 12.6mm (13.4mm with crystal) – barrel-shaped stainless steel case – bidirectional bezel with two-tone insert – screw-down crown – 200m water-resistant – petrol blue circular-brushed dial – applied, orange-outlined indices and hands with Super-LumiNova – central GMT hand with 24h scale – top-grade Sellita SW220-1, automatic – 56h power reserve – tropic-style rubber strap or steel beads-of-rice bracelet (EUR 100 premium) – EUR 1,299
Beaubleu Vitruve Date Steel
Microbrands tend to tap into different sources for creativity compared to large corporate brands, as this Beaubleu Vitruve Date Steel perfectly demonstrates. The small French brand has created a very distinct look with a vertically brushed steel dial with circular indices and hands. The bottom circle shows the date, and the overall combination is fun and original. Ticking away inside the 39mm by 9.5mm steel case is the Miyota 9015 automatic movement, visible through the caseback. You have a choice between a leather strap for EUR 820 or a mesh steel bracelet for EUR 950 (go for that one!). The model is limited to 288 pieces.
For more information, please visit Beaubleu-Paris.com.
Quick Facts – 39mm x 9.5mm – stainless steel case – sapphire crystal front and back – 30m water-resistant – steel vertically brushed sandwich dial – circular indices and hands – Miyota 9015, automatic – 42h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date – stainless steel mesh bracelet or leather strap – limited to 288 pieces – EUR 820 (leather strap) or EUR 950 (bracelet)
William Wood Fearless Collection
Coming from the UK, William Wood Watches has been working hard at building a complete firefighting-themed brand for more than five years. What started with a moldboard at the kitchen table turned into a self-sustained brand with fans from all over the world. The latest model is the accessible Fearless collection, following the Valiant, Triumph and other collections. The Fearless has a 40mm blackened case and charcoal textured black dial with red, yellow or orange accents. Around the back, a firefighters helmet partly reveals the Seiko NH35 movement inside. Fitted to a rubber strap with a genuine firehouse insert, it retails for GBP 895.
For more information, please visit WilliamWoodWatches.com.
Quick Facts – 40mm x 13.8mm – stainless steel case with IP Stealth Black plating – sapphire crystal – firefighter helmet caseback with tinted visor – 100m water-resistance – charcoal black dial with red, yellow or orange accents – indices and hands with Super-LumiNova – outlined date window – Seiko NH35 automatic – 41h power reserve – black rubber strap with genuine black firehose insert (with +10 years of active service) – GBP 895
Baltic Tricompax Chronograph
Baltic started out life just a couple of years ago to embody Etienne Malec’s personal passion for watches. It has done this through a series of extremely well-received collections, such as the versatile Aquascaphe. However, the MR01 would launch it onto the big stage as batches sold out fast and resell values went through the roof, relatively speaking. The Baltic Tricompax Panda and Reverse-Panda are the latest in a long line of deliciously retro-styled watches. It’s also a big step up for the brand, and it feels like, by now, it has outgrown the microbrand game. The Tricompax is powered by a manual wound Sellita SW510-1, with a healthy 63h power reserve. Prices are accessible too, at EUR 1,585 on a leather strap or EUR 1,645 on a steel bracelet.
For more information, please visit Baltic-Watches.com.
Quick Facts – 39.5mm x 13.5mm – stainless steel case – double-domed sapphire crystal – solid caseback – pump-style pushers – 50m water-resistant – light beige or matte black panda/reverse panda dial – applied hour markers – Dauphine hands – Sellita SW510-M manual wound chronograph movement – 23 jewels – 28,800vph – 63h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph – grey leather strap or steel bracelet – EUR 1,585 (strap) or EUR 1,645 (bracelet)
Surely Sartory-Billard should be mentioned here? Totally original design
The price of the Baltic chrono is higher than the prices stated in the article. On Baltic’s website I see the price with taxes is over 2000 (2023.35) euro, which is waaaay above the stated 1645 euro. Almost 400 euro is a huge difference – would that be a matter of the given prices being net ones, or does Baltic charge different MSRPs for buyers in various EU countries?
@ Mike – In Europe, prices vary according to the countries. Some have 20% VAT, others 21% or 19% and it basically goes from 15% to 25%. This is why Baltic chose to display the prices before taxes.
Great cross section of micro brands. One thing to ask or point out is the MÉRAUD ANTIGUA is a 45 minute counter…no?
@DavidS – you’re absolutely right… and now corrected