Following Part 1 of this journey through the fascinating world of independent watchmaking, which we published last week, we continue today with the second part of this collection of superb watches… Instead of looking at the watches in the conventional way from the dial side, we’re looking at them from the reverse side. And seeing what these independent, creative watchmakers are capable of when it comes to movement construction and decoration, we have to admit that in many cases, the view is even sexier.
The selection below is a composed of ‘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!
An absence of the unnecessary and a focus on the essential… That’s what Beat Haldimann has been striving for with the timepieces that he crafts by hand. Plus a high dose of spectacular finishing. His first stainless steel watches, the no-frill H11 & H12 radiate authentic, uncompromising craftsmanship. And despite a sleek look, the decoration is far from simplistic.
MB&F Legacy Machine Thunderdome
MB&F might be renowned for its out-of-this-world creativity but it also excels in beautifully crafted movements.The Legacy Machine Thunderdome is a spectacular triple-axis tourbillon developed with Eric Coudray… For the finishing of the movement, the brand engaged the talents of Kari Voutilainen resulting in a true feast for the eyes.
Montres KF Spirograph Tourbillon Sport calibre 441
Karsten Frassdorf is, without a doubt, one of the most inventive watchmakers of his generation. After working behind the scene for several brands, he ended up creating his own brand, Montres KF. The movement of his Spirograph Sport is truly captivating. It is packed with innovation to create a tourbillon for proper daily use, 1,000-Gauss amagnetic and with 5,000G shock resistance… And the openwork honeycomb structure of his new calibre 441 is truly unique.
Moritz Grossman Hamatic
Although A. Lange & Söhne is not eligible for this list of independent watchmakers since it is a brand owned by the Richemont Group, we had to feature German watchmakers here as well! The movement of the Moritz Grossman Hamatic is finished in the pure Saxon tradition but is not your typical self-winding movement. An ode to the earliest automatic watches, it is fitted with a (fascinating) so-called ‘hammer’ winding mechanism.
Petermann Bedat Dead-beat Second
New kids on the block… Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat are probably some of the lesser-known names in this article. Although they are not yet part of the Swiss Haute Horlogerie clique, the work of these young watchmaking talents truly deserves a closer look… Visible through the exhibition caseback of their Dead-Beat Second watch, the hand-wound calibre 171 is simply superb. From their time with A. Lange & Söhne, the two men developed a true sense of respect for Saxon watchmaking. This is evident with the large barrel bridge (reminiscent of a three-quarter plate), the cock with a swan-neck regulator and the use of untreated German silver, a.k.a maillechort.
Philippe Dufour Simplicity
Philippe Dufour is a living legend. The independent watchmaker is one of most (if not the most) revered craftsmen in the industry and his watches are regarded as the ultimate in traditional hand-finishing. His Simplicity is refined outside and a marvel of craftsmanship inside. The decoration of the movement, entirely done by hand respecting the Vallée de Joux tradition, is simply astonishing.
Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor
Romain Gauthier is one of the best representatives of the Vallée de Joux expertise. This means an exceptional level of finishing. For example, the Insight Micro-Rotor focuses on the essentials with a radical manufacturing ethos and master craftsmanship. The movement architecture, constructed on multiple levels, is magnificent with fluid curves for the bridge contours. The back looks splendid, with circular spoke wheels, bercé anglages and applied plaquettes.
Singer Reimagined Track 1
Singer Reimagined broke out on the indie watchmaking scene with Track 1, a magnificent central indication chronograph. This radical display is driven by the amazing Agengraphe. The brainchild of Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, this revolutionary chronograph is a true technical feast. Redefining fundamental principles that have remained unchanged for decades, this column-wheel mechanism incorporates a set of snail cams storing energy for an entire minute (or hour) before releasing it to generate an instant jump. It also includes a new clutch, the AgenClutch combining the best of the vertical and horizontal clutch. The coupling is made horizontally which requires less space. Yet the connection is made by friction between wheels with no teeth, just like with vertical clutches, thus avoiding the chronograph ‘stutter’.
Tutima is known for crafting tough tool watches with ETA movements… Not really a name you’d expect in an article about magnificent casebacks. Still, the Patria collection with its in-house movement really deserves a closer look, for instance, the Tempostopp. Its Calibre T659 is based on the Glashütte UROFA Caliber 59 from the 1940s, which had to be completely re-engineered, as no plans could be found. It is a hand-wound column-wheel chronograph with a horizontal clutch and classic movement architecture.