The Coolest Non-Swiss Independent Watchmakers – Part 3
The third installment of our salute to independent watchmakers from all corners of the world.
Over the last two weeks, in this first installment and in this second one, we have dedicated our Sunday posts to indie watchmakers from outside of Switzerland. And even though the vast majority of watches are produced, or use components produced in Switzerland, why should it stop there? The allure of “Swiss Made” is understandable, but with the right mindset and the right people, a good watch can be produced anywhere. With that in mind, it’s time for our third and final (for now probably) rundown of some of the coolest non-Swiss independent watchmakers.
Ketelaars – the Netherlands
Call us chauvinistic, but yes, we’re once again including a Dutch indie watchmaker. In recent years, our little country has been bustling with exciting things in the watchmaking industry, which we happily share with all of you. One such watchmaker is Stefan Ketelaars, a young man from the south of the Netherlands, who creates intricate 3D displays.
His 3D Time in Motion and 3D Terra in Motion both have a 42mm wide steel case which is fitted with a highly domed sapphire crystal to reveal the intriguing mechanics mounted on the dial. Using a heavily modified ETA 6497 as a base, he adds inverted balance wheels, rotating spherical globes and more. The finishing is done in-house and reveals how he has developed his skill these past couple of years. We see anglage, frosting, brushing, polishing, hand-painting and more. His work starts at EUR 4.800 before taxes for the 3D Time in Motion. Be patient though, as he produces only 15 watches per year and has a long waiting list at the moment.
Quick Facts – 42mm diameter – stainless steel case, polished – domed sapphire crystal – flattened onion-style crown – sapphire crystal caseback – inverted balance wheel or 3D spherical globe – off-centred dial with heat-blued hands – heavily modified high-grade ETA 6497 – traditional finishing techniques like anglage and frosting – 46h power reserve – from EUR 4,800 excl. taxes upwards
For more information, please visit KetelaarsWatches.com
Kikuchi Nakagawa – Japan
We recently came across Kikuchi Nakagawa, a watchmaking duo from Japan and simply had to share it with all of you. What struck us was the incredible attention to detail, even more so the level of finishing. Even though not everything is done in-house, as the movement is outsourced, for instance, the entire case, dial and hands are made according to the highest standards.
The Murakomo is the most classical of the two models Kikuchi Nakagawa currently offers. It has a distinct Calatrava-style design, with a slim and refined case. It is entirely black-polished, something that is commonly used for movement components or hands. The result is striking, especially combined with the sculpted spade-and-whip hands. The micro-rotor movement is sourced from Vaucher Fleurier and is left untouched. No issue, as the 5400-series of movements looks quite nice. At USD 21,000 without taxes, it certainly isn’t a cheap watch.
For more information, please visit Kikuchi-Nakagawa.com
Quick Facts – 36.mm x 8.5mm – black-polished stainless steel Calatrava case – sapphire crystal on both sides – deep black or white dial made by Comblemine – pad-printed Breguet numerals – black-polished spade and whip hour and minute hands – small seconds subdial – Vaucher Fleurier VMF 5401 micro-rotor movement – 30mm diameter – 21,600vph – 48h power reserve – crocodile leather strap – USD 21,000 excl. taxes
For more information, please visit Kikuchi-Nakagawa.com
Roger W. Smith – United Kingdom
Briton Roger W. Smith is far from your average watchmaker. This former student of George Daniels is one of the most highly-regarded watchmakers on the planet, and rightfully so. After studying watchmaking at the Manchester School of Horology he worked alongside his mentor on the Millennium Series of watches, before embarking on his own in 2001. His watches are almost entirely crafted by hands, and in very low volumes only.
The Great Britain watch you see here has a handmade three-piece platinum case with a unique movement created specifically for it. The three-quarter plate with floral hand-engraved barrel bridge is typical of British watchmaking. It features a single wheel, George Daniels Co-Axial escapement with a free-sprung balance, all developed by Mr Smith himself. The dial has an off-centre union flag with guilloché decoration, individual applied indices and plaques, and flame-blued purple hands. Over roughly 20 years, around 100 watches have left Roger W. Smith’s atelier, each one taking up to ten months of labour and costing upwards of GBP 180,000.
For more information, visit RWSmithWatches.com
Quick Facts – 40mm diameter – handmade three-piece platinum case – sapphire crystal on both sides – offset Union Jack dial with guilloché decoration – individual applied indices and plaques – hands heat-blued to a violet shade – unique handmade movement – three-quarter plate with floral hand-engraved barrel cover – single wheel George Daniels co-axial escapement with free-sprung balance wheel – 23 jewels – gilded and frosted hand-engraved plates – flame-coloured purple and blue screws – unique piece, no price available
Kudoke – Germany
While Germany is home to a number of prolific, high-end watchmaking manufacturers, one of the smaller, very interesting indies is Stefan Kudoke. After graduating with honours, Stefan worked for several high-end watch manufacturers, including Glashütte Original, Breguet, Blancpain and Omega. Following the achievement of the Master Watchmakers Certificate at just 22 years of age, he now makes watches under his own name.
Stefan Kudoke’s watchmaking can be categorized into two different styles; classical with a twist, or elaborately skeletonized and decorated. The Kudoke HANDwerk 1 falls under the first category and is a restrained, elegant watch. The case is only 39mm wide and 9,5mm thin, fully polished, with a stepped bezel. The silver dial has a frosted finish with blued hands and a small seconds subdial. The Kudoke Kaliber 1, jointly developed with Habring², is a hand-wound movement with ample amounts of decoration. Considering the level of craftsmanship, it is priced relatively reasonable at EUR 6,303 before taxes.
For more information, please visit Kudoke.eu
Quick Facts – 39mm x 9.5mm – stainless steel case, polished – stepped bezel – sapphire crystal front and back – silver dial with frosted finish – blued steel hands – applied minute track, small seconds subdial track and Kudoke plaque – Kaliber 1, jointly developed with Habring² – manual winding – 18 jewels – 28,800vph – 46h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds – EUR 6,303 before taxes
Masahiro Kikuno – Japan
Watchmaking in Japan is done differently than in other countries, that much is clear by now. The next Japanese indie watchmaker is Masahiro Kikuno, a brand we featured in an episode of our Collector’s Series. This young man is already inducted as a member of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants and has a unique philosophy to watchmaking. As @Watch_Time_It_Is explained, he honours time with his mostly-handmade Wadokei watch, based on an ancient time measuring instrument. Six daylight hours and six night-time hours slowly move around the dial in accordance with the seasons.
The Shakubou, or New Moon, is another one of his creations and the one that was the focal point in our interview. This made to order watch uses a special alloy called Kuro-Shibuichi, composed of copper, silver and gold. Since the base material is copper, it will get a unique patina over time. The dial can be fully customized with traditional Japanese elements and a mix of materials. In this case, it features a Nanoko pattern, made with a series of small, hand-hammered circles. The Calibre mk17 movement is largely handmade, using traditional techniques and machines. Every component of this watch reflects pure craftsmanship to a level few can master.
For more information, please visit MasahiroKikuno.jp
Quick Facts – 38mm diameter (bespoke sizes possible) – Kuro-Shibuichi and white gold case – sapphire crystal on both sides – 30m water-resistance – handmade bespoke dial designs possible – handmade hands – Calibre mk17 hand-wound movement – made in-house, by hand – 22 jewels – 28,800vph – central hours and minutes, moon phase – annual production of 4 watches – JPY 5,000,000 (before taxes, roughly EUR 38,200 at the time of publication)
Ressence – Belgium
Ressence is one of the most unique brands in the industry, for multiple reasons. First off, the unconventional yet fascinating display of time on motion. Secondly, it uses a magnetic transmission in some watches, despite the fact it’s one of the arch enemies of mechanical watchmaking. And thirdly, they look like nothing else on the market, period.
The latest to come from the creative genius minds of Ressence is the Type 3 BBB, a fully blacked-out version of its oil-filled, distortion-free pebble. It was originally introduced in 2013 as the Type 3, which won the brand the Horological Revelation prize at the GPGH the same year. This BBB version is the last in line and has a black DLC polished titanium case of 44mm across. Inside is an ETA 2824/2 base movement, connected to the in-house developed ROCS module through the aforementioned magnetic transmission. It will be produced in 2022 only, with a price of EUR 36,500.
For more information, please visit RessenceWatches.com
Quick Facts – 44mm x 15mm – black DLC-coated titanium case – fully polished – two domed sapphire crystals with AR coating – black with white dial – biaxial satellites for hours, thermal gauge and days of the week – white minute hand – rotating date on side of case – indications filled with green Super-LumiNova – ETA 2824/2 base, in-house ROCS module with magnetic transmission – anthracite strap with honeycomb pattern – produced for 1 year only – EUR 36,500
Please don’t forget Christian Lass of Denmark 🙂
Not forgetting Sartory Billard of France
Nice articles, thank you. But I reckon there’s enough material for a 4th! 🙂