Monochrome Watches
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The Coolest Non-Swiss Independent Watchmakers – Part 2

We’re continuing on last week’s listing of some of the most exciting watchmakers outside of Switzerland.

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Robin Nooy | ic_query_builder_black_24px 8 min read |
Gronefeld 1941 Remontoire Guilloche

Last week’s article about indie watchmakers from all corners of the world showed that the industry doesn’t solely revolve around Switzerland. And as a matter of fact, we’ve received some comments and did some more digging of our own and are turning it into a tryptic of articles, listing yet more watchmakers doing all sort of cool stuff. Some might be quite well-known, while others might be completely new to some of you. But that’s the beauty of it, actually, and part of the reason why MONOCHROME exists in the first place. Without further ado, let’s get started with Part II of the coolest non-Swiss independent watchmakers.

Habring² – Austria

Of course, we simply had to include Habring², the Austrian-based indie watchmaking brand run by Richard and Maria Habring. We worked closely with the brand last year and presented our first-ever Montre de Souscription, which is a very proud moment for us. Richard Habring is well-known within the industry for developing the DoppelChronograph for IWC. Other noteworthy models include the Doppel-Felix, the Foudroyante and the Erwin, which features a dead-beat seconds complication.

MONOCHROME Montre de Souscription 1 x Habring2 Monopusher Chronograph salmon sector dial

If we had to pick one, the Monopusher used in the Chrono-Felix is perhaps one of the best examples of Richard Habring’s work. We are a bit biased on that one, as it is the very watch we based our MdS1 on. It relies on a heavily modified Valjoux 7750, which Habring² converts from an automatically wound movement into a manually wound chronograph with only a single pusher. It’s housed in a 38.5mm wide stainless steel case, with a height of only 12mm. It comes in several different configurations, and ours featured a rich, salmon-toned sector dial. Prices start around the EUR 6,000 mark.

For more information, please visit Habring2.com.

Quick Facts – 38.5mm x 12mm – stainless steel case, brushed or polished – sapphire crystal on both sides – bi-compax chronograph dial in various colours and layouts – central hours and minutes, small seconds subdial, central chronograph seconds and 30min counter – calibre Habring² A11C-H1, in-house – 4Hz frequency (28,800vph) – 48h power reserve – anti-magnetic escapement – 180 components – leather strap with steel pin buckle – starting from EUR 6,000

GoS – Sweden

The independent watchmaker GoS is one of my personal favourites, even though I am fully aware opinions might be split between love it or hate it. It’s a regularly seen brand on MONOCHROME Watches, located in Linköping, Sweden and run by Patrik Sjögren. GoS uses Scandinavian heritage and folklore, combined with hand-forged and -finished Damascus steel components. The result is often very striking, to say the least.

The latest model by GoS is the Norrsken Blue, which uses a bright blue dial with a hand-applied wavey guilloché pattern to mimic the ripples of the Aurora Borealis. The 41.5mm wide case and its bezel are made from Damascus steel, forged by hand by an expert blacksmith. Damascus steel is known for its depth and detail, with no two parts ever having the same patterns. The micro-rotor of the Calibre GoS03 (a Schwarz-Etienne ASE 200.00 base) is also done in Damascus steel. Limited to 50 pieces only, it has a base price of USD 19,500, with bespoke options at a premium.

For more information, please visit GoSWatches.com.

Quick Facts – 41.5mm x 12.1mm – Damascus steel case and bezel – domed sapphire crystal with sapphire crystal caseback – handmade crown – 50m water-resistance – blue hand-engraved guilloché dial – hand-blown Swedish crystal index ring with luminous insert ring – handmade hands and Triskele running seconds indicator – Calibre GoS03 micro-rotor movement, Schwarz-Etienne ASE 200.00 base – 33 jewels – 198 components – 21,600vph – 86h power reserve – black salmon leather strap with Damascus steel pin buckle – limited edition of 50 pieces – USD 19,500 base price

Bexei – Hungary

Out of the six indies we’re covering today, Aaron Becsei might be the most fly-under-the-radar watchmaker. Aaron is a Hungarian watchmaker located in Budapest and produces almost everything in-house by hand. He mainly works on bespoke and very low volume series of watches and can cater to pretty much any request. Each watch is made from scratch, showcasing Aaron Becsei’s talents to the fullest.

We’ve been fortunate enough to talk to a Bexei owner recently and find out what makes his watches so very special. The Bexei Dignitas Power Reserve has a very distinctly shaped case with a scalloped profile and bezel. It measures 37.5mm wide, 42mm long, and 14mm in height, so quite a sizeable piece. The dial has an elliptical hour/minute indication, with a small second sub-dial in the lower half. A subtle power reserve is incorporated at noon, giving the watch its name. The movement is completely made in-house, with even reground and polished countersinks for the jewels. It really is exquisite stuff, and ordering one from Aaron Becsei means dealing with the man himself directly.

For more information, please visit Bexei.hu.

Quick Facts – 37.5mm x 42mm x 14mm – scalloped case and bezel – concave lugs – steel, gold or platinum case upon request – sapphire crystal on both sides – bespoke dial and hand configurations possible – shaped, in-house made, hand-wound movement – 14mm free-spring titanium balance wheel – central hour and minutes, small seconds, power reserve – 40h power reserve – hand-applied finishing including black polishing, anglage, engraving and polished jewel sinks –  Starting price of EUR 51,000

Grönefeld – the Netherlands

Every episode of our round-up of some of the coolest indie brands on the planet will include a Dutch entry, and today it’s the Grönefeld brothers’ turn. The two men from Oldenzaal, the Netherlands, have made quite a name for themselves with watches like the Parallax Tourbillon, One Hertz and more recently, the 1941 Principia. Regardless of complexity, each one is finished to Haute Horlogerie standards.

Gronefeld 1941 Remontoire Guilloche

Case in point, the 1941 Remontoire, to us perhaps the most interesting collection out of the Horological Brother’s portfolio. It was a watch that won them the award for the best men’s watch at the 2016 GPHG. What makes the 1941 Remontoire so appealing is the governor for the constant force mechanism on the dial side of the watch. This governor regulates the speed of the remontoire mechanism and mitigates shocks to the geartrain. A tiny hairspring is wound, and every 8 seconds it visibly releases a controlled pulse of energy. It also has a Geneva stop work that cuts off the power after 35 hours to ensure perfect isochronism. It is limited to 188 movements in total and has a base price of just under EUR 45,000.

For more information, please visit Grönefeld.com.

Quick Facts – 39.5mm x 10.5mm – stainless steel or gold case – domed sapphire crystal – multi-level sterling silver dials in a range of colours – extended lancette hands – small seconds subdial – Calibre G-05, in-house hand-wound movement – 258 components – 36 jewels – 21,600vph – free-sprung balance – stainless steel bridges finished by hand – 8-seconds remontoire – Geneva stop works mechanism – 35h power reserve – hand-sewn alligator leather strap – base price of just under EUR 45,000

Ophion – Spain

We’re moving further down to the south of Europe for Ophion, a Spanish independent watchmaking company working on slightly more affordable watches. The brand combines several of the more classical, high-end traits of indie watchmaking with outsourced yet interesting mechanical movements.

Ophion OPH 786 Velos

In 2019 the brand came out with the OPH 768 Velos, working together with non-other than Kari Voutilainen for the case and dials. This was a surprise move really, and the result was very satisfying. The case features teardrop lugs combined with either radial brushed dials in grey or blue or CNC guilloché dials in blue, silver or salmon. Power comes from a proprietary movement made with Soprod. It serves up an impressive 5-day power reserve thanks to the double-barrel system. And the best part of all? This all can be yours for as little as EUR 2,580 or EUR 2,870 (without taxes), depending on the dial.

For more information, please visit Ophion-Watches.com.

Quick Facts – 39mm x 10.45mm – stainless steel case, polished – teardrop lugs – sapphire crystal on both sides – multilayered CNC guilloché or radial brushed dial – thermal blued or nickel-plated hands – proprietary Soprod movement, manually wound – 26 jewels – 28,800vph – handmade hammered decoration – central hours, minutes and seconds – 120h power reserve – EUR 2,580 (radial brushed dials) or EUR 2,870 (CNC guilloché dial)

Sarpaneva – Finland

The final indie watchmaker in this list comes from Finland and goes by the name of Stepan Sarpaneva. Working under his name, and under the more affordable Sarpaneva Uhren Fabrik brand, Stepan creates exceptional watches comparable to no other. He has created a unique watchmaking style revolving around his angry moon display, a signature element in almost all his watches.

The recently presented Sarpaneva x Moomin limited edition is a perfect example of his creativity and originality, even though it parts ways with the otherwise very industrially designed dials. It comes in Sarpaneva’s trademark styled case and has an image of a resting Moomintroll surrounded by colourful reeds and engraved bushes and trees. The sapphire crystal caseback reveals the full rotor of the Soprod A10 automatic movement, with the aforementioned angry moon display giving you the “look”. Limited to just 100 pieces evenly spread across four variations, it is priced at EUR 12,000.

For more information, please visit SarpanevaWatches.com.

Quick Facts – 42mm x 11.4mm – stainless steel Sarpaneva case – sapphire crystal on both sides – screw-down crown – 100m water-resistance – three-part stainless steel dial – hand-finished and -painted Moomintroll image with 9 colours of Super-LumiNova – two-tone hands in 4 different colours – modified Soprod A10 movement, automatic winding – 25 jewels – 28,800vph – 42h power reserve – Sarpaneva “angry moon” rotor – handmade black salmon leather strap – limited edition of 25 pieces per colour (hands) – EUR 12,000

https://monochrome-watches.com/the-coolest-non-swiss-independent-watchmakers-part-2/

6 responses

  1. I hope these watchmakers are not getting a majority of their parts from China. The more this ‘addiction’ is being done, the more there is the likelihood that non Chinese watchmakers will become non comoetitive, and not be even able to stand on their own two feet if forced to make their own parts.

  2. Does Monochrome have a view on Sartory Billard?
    They appear to be an independent brand based in France.

  3. @MARK WOLFSON – we know all these watchmakers very well, and most of the parts they use are either made internally or sourced from well-known suppliers from Switzerland or Germany. And for some of the watches (Gronefeld and even more Bexei), most of the parts are handmade by the watchmaker himself.

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  4. Mucho mérito en estas manos que son en la actualidad, la expresión mas cercana a la forma de hacer relojes, de la época dorada de los grandes maestros como Breguet y sus geniales contemporáneos.

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