After showing you our selection for the best sports and dive watches, after the 5 best chronographs, the best dress watches or the best of the ultra-complicated watches, it is now time to end these guides with what certainly is our most preferred category, the one that properly creates sparkles in the eyes of our team: the best of “indie watchmaking” of 2016. Just before Christmas, we bring you the ultra-bold, the ultra-complex, the ultra-everything. No compromises, no justification of price, no industrial matters. Here, it’s all about dream, passion, creativity and innovation. Here are our 5 best watches from independent watchmakers introduced in 2016.
URWERK EMC Time Hunter
This watch is almost unreal, but it’s no only for its look (which is admittedly rather strange). No, there’s much more, in terms of technology and innovation. In fact, I would dare to say that never a watch allowed such interaction between its wearer and its mechanics. While most watches are made to be contemplated, the URWERK EMC Time Hunter is just like a racing car that you can monitor lap after lap. Inside are two movements. The first in an in-house mechanical engine. The second is a high-frequency quartz, but no worries, it’s only goal is to monitor and compare – nothing to do with timekeeping. Placed on the balance wheel is an optical sensor that measures the oscillations and compare them to the highly-precise quartz movement. Thus, this watch is able to monitor both the precision and the amplitude. The best is that, just like is a racing car, you can adjust the settings yourself for an even better performance (yes, you can regulate the rate of the watch yourself…). And there’s this look, a sort of military weapon that could find place in a sci-fi movie. Just – So – Cool. Price: 110,000 Swiss Francs (ex. taxes) and limited to 15 pieces. urwerk.com.
MB&F HM8 Can-Am
“A creative adult is a child who survived“… With this motto in mind and looking at MB&F’s latest creation, we could say that Max Büsser is a very lively child. Once again, the brand strikes hard with an hyper-creative watch, a mix of two icons, the HM3 and the HM5, to create the HM8 (HM3 + HM5 = HM8, logical…). A vertical display to be read while driving, a reversed movement, with a large, blue, Astro-blade shaped rotor on top, swinging super fast, a case that looks like nothing existing in the watch world… Bold is probably not enough to describe this HM8. While the HM5 was inspired by 1970s sports cars, Max and his friends again dive into child memories and dream cars, with a shape that recalls 1960s / 1970s Can-Am race cars – see the two arches on top as two roll bars… The time is deconstructed with two discs, placed vertically and read through sapphire prisms. The final argument is the execution, once again to very high standards. Price: 78,000 CHF (ex. taxes). mbandf.com.
Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
Forget about the rather understated (yet perfectly executed and elegant) style of this Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire. The beauty is on the back side, with what certainly is in the Top 5 most amazing movements of 2016. If you want a proof of our love here for this watch, consider that both Frank, Robin and Brice placed it in their Top 5 from Baselworld 2016 (and yes, this was the only watch on which we agreed). This watch created a consensus here, and for very good reasons. It’s the total package. The combination of a sleek dial with a modern – almost minimalistic – approach of Haute horlogerie, the choice for a perfectly useful complication (a remontoire, which serves to improve the accuracy), the rather non-demonstrative look, the stunning execution of the case, the dial or the hands… And then you turn it over and see a movement to die for: real hand-finishing, bridges in steel, frosted, polished, brushed, engraved and a visual architecture that is again a feast. The final uppercut comes from a constant force mechanism that enhanced precision all over the length of the power reserve. It’s chronometry vs. showing off here. And we chose the first option. Price: 49.500 Euro (before tax). gronefeld.com.
Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Square Tourbillon
When people think about “indie watchmaking”, they often imagine ultra-creative watches, with very special shapes and displays. Well, it can also be the total opposite. Ultra-traditional and highly respectful of traditions is what defines Laurent Ferrier. This latest version of the Tourbillon Double Spiral comes now in the Galet Square case (a pebble-shaped watch, with not a single angle or cutting line… the softness of the watch when touched had always been one of Laurent’s main concerns). Linked to this perfectly designed case is a superb dial, what we could name a “sector dial”, combining circular brushed and grained areas, in a cold, discreet and modern metallic tone. The hands as the indexes are to die for too. Turn back the watch and you’ll have a both superbly finished and technically advanced movement, again with great attention to the shapes, and a tourbillon with double spiral. Price: 180,000 Swiss Francs. laurentferrier.ch.
Armin Strom Edge Double Barrel
We’d like to end this Christmas Shopping Guide with another watch from Armin Strom (as we already selected the Mirrored Force Resonance in the ultra-complicated best of). Picking up a second one was not that difficult, knowing that this year, the brand introduced a strong evolution of their iconic skeletonized watch, which comes back stronger and bolder than ever, in the name of the Edge Double Barrel. Surprisingly, the watch is larger, more designed and more complex than before but still, when strapped on the wrist, it feels lighter, smaller and sleeker. And that is a sign of great conception. The look, hyper technical, angular and dark is a great combination with a real haute-horologerie movement, finished in a very precise and highly-decorated way. A strange package of sports watch and high-end watchmaking that just ended to be super cool. Price: 26,900 Swiss Francs. arminstrom.com.