Monochrome Watches
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The Best of Indie Watchmaking Seen Through the Casebacks – Part 1

And now you wonder why they don't feature a reversible case…

| By Xavier Markl | 4 min read |

Turning a watch over can be a moment of pure enjoyment. Beyond the intricacies of the mechanics of time, the meticulous search for perfection in their manufacturing, the time spent to decorate parts, the path for beauty and balance, is the hallmark of what we call “Haute Horlogerie”. We have put together some superb watches produced by Indie watchmakers, and we’re only going to look at them through the caseback, movement side. For viewing pleasure exclusively…

The list below gathers only ‘small’ independent watchmakers without mentioning larger brands such as Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Söhne or Audemars Piguet. Naturally, this isn’t an exhaustive list, so do not hesitate to mention your favourite craftsmen or watches in the comment section below!

Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain

Rexhep Rexhepi ascent to become one of the rising stars of independent watchmaking is due largely to the splendour of his movements. With the Chronomètre Contemporain, AkriviA focuses on the essentials, bringing the brand’s uncompromising ethos into an elegant three-hander. The symmetrical design of this movement accentuates its architectural nature. The finishing is remarkable with traditional techniques such as anglage, black polish and Côtes de Genève.

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Bovet Récital 22

Bovet is a unique manufacture with impressive horological capacity and superbly decorated movements. The Récital 22 Grand Récital (the Aiguille d’Or at the GPHG 2018) combines several complications: hours displayed by a rotating Earth with day/night indication, retrograde minutes, one-minute tourbillon, power reserve indicator, retrograde perpetual calendar and precision moon phase. Turning the watch over, you’ll discover the perpetual calendar with a date retrograde mechanism driven by a patented micrometric rack.

Bovet Recital 22 Grand Recital

De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius 

De Bethune stands for space-age design, innovative watchmaking brought to life by sharp and creative craftsmanship… De Bethune’s hand-wound calibre DB2005 showcases state-of-the-art watchmaking and refined (yet traditional) decoration techniques. In pride of place is the futuristic main bridge with Côtes de Bethune along with hand-polished bevelled angles. The self-regulating twin barrels ensure a 6-day power reserve. The titanium balance wheel with white gold weights comes with a silicon escape wheel and the brand’s patented triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system.

De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius

De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius

F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue Only watch 2019

The celebrated François-Paul Journe needs little introduction. The architecture and finishing of his beautiful movements are truly distinctive. The reverse side of his uber-complicated Astronomic Blue offers a spectacular view. It reveals a unique movement with a one-minute tourbillon with remontoir d’égalité (constant-force device), an annual calendar displayed on the periphery of the movement, an equation of time and some of the minute repeater parts, including the governor. 

Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 Oeuvre d’Or

Resurrecting the Ferdinand Berthoud name, an eminent 18th-century horologist, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (co-president of Chopard) and his team have shown quite a talent to surprise and amaze us. A case in point, the Chronomètre FB1 ‘Oeuvre d’Or’ is fitted with a tourbillon driven by a fusée-and-chain mechanism. The movement is superbly decorated, with a hand-applied pyramid engraving adorning the bridges – a decoration inspired by a Ferdinand Berthoud astronomical pocket watch. All the parts are finished by hand, including straight graining, bevels, sharp angles and more techniques.

Greubel Forsey GMT Quadruple Tourbillon

Founded in 2004 by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, Greubel Forsey is rightfully celebrated as the maker of some of the most exclusive, most complicated and most finely crafted watches – horological art and artisanship in their purest form. The finishing of their GMT Quadruple Tourbillon is stellar and you also get a universal time indication at the back of the watch.

Greubel Forsey GMT Quadruple Tourbillon - Baselworld 2019

Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire

The watches of the Horological Brothers are finished by hand to the highest standards. The monochromatic look of their Remontoire 1941 below, with its steel bridges, is spectacular – and also difficult to achieve since steel is much harder than the usual brass or German Silver bridges that you can find on the vast majority of watches. The architecture of the movement with the bridges at the periphery and the remontoire mechanism are no less impressive.

Kari Voutilainen 217QRS

Kari Voutilainen is one of the most revered independent watchmakers. The timepieces of this Finnish-born, detail-obsessed master (no more than 50 pieces per year) are crafted to a level that cannot be achieved in mass production. A look at his movements, for instance the 217 QRS below, is worth a thousand words…

Lang & Heyne Georg

The rectangular movement powering the Lang & Heyne Georg is in a class of its own. This superbly finished shaped calibre stands out with distinctive bridges holding the wheels creating a stunning contrast with the frosted mainplate. While most movements have their parts inserted into recessed areas, on this one, everything feels suspended, resulting in a great sense of depth.

Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole

The finishing of Laurent Ferrier movements is nothing short of top-notch! A case in point, the Montre Ecole in steel is fitted with the brand’s signature movement, a micro-rotor engine regulated by a double direct-impulse escapement. While the gold versions feature a classically decorated movement (Geneva stripes and rhodium-plated bridges), the steel version comes with a ‘rougher’ yet magnificent decoration, recalling the original materials used for prototyping, such as brass, which offers great contrast with the steel parts. Flawless handcrafting.

Laurent Ferrier Montre Ecole Steel - Review

Laurent Ferrier Montre Ecole Steel - Review

See you next week for part 2. Enjoy!

10 responses

  1. What an awesome idea for a post. Hard to pick a fave but the Grönefelds are definitely near the top.

  2. Oh. My. God.

    Watch p*rn of the highest standard.

    Cheers Xavier, looking forward to more.

  3. Some fabulous watches there, I really like LANG & HEYNE GEORG from both sides. Despite being made of gold and having a leather strap, it doesn’t matter which way you look at it , stunning. It would be worth looking at Roger W Smith’s output , if I had to pick one it would be the series 3.

  4. It’s great to be able to enlarge these views and actually see the intricacies of the creations from the masters. Thank you for sharing. You probably made it in two parts to avoid sensory overload.

  5. Great post! Would be lovely if you could do another post with something more realistically affordable options!

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