One could say that choosing a watch from one of the big brands (Rolex, Omega, Breitling, et cetera) is going the easy route. There are many alternatives out there from independent brands that deserve a fair chance as well, of course. The big advantage of owning a watch from one of these brands is that you will have a piece designed or crafted without too many concessions to sales and marketing departments.
The biggest “con,” perhaps, is the fact that these small, independent brands have less purchasing power, and a lot of money from them will go into buying parts from suppliers, whereas big brands can purchase such parts by the thousands. A number of these independent brands are fairly new and have done quite well thanks to support from forums, blogs, and social media. Actually, many of the leading watch magazines are taking notice of some of these brands as well. Even though many independents don’t have the advertising budget of a big brand, the watch cognoscenti are so enthusiastic about them that magazines almost feel that they have to cover them. My overview in this week’s Fratello Friday covers five interesting brands in this category that are definitely worth checking out. To be honest, this list is a wild mix of brands, with the intent of keeping it interesting for everyone and offering choices for every budget.
1. Linde Werdelin
This brand, which has focused on sports watches since 2006, was founded by watch enthusiasts Morten Linde and Jorn Werdelin. The Linde Werdelin collection consists of two pillars, the Spidolite and the Oktopus families. The Spidolite collection includes lightweight sports watches and chronographs. The Oktopus line, of course, is all about watches for those who love to be in or near the water. One of the neat features that Linde Werdelin offers is an add-on digital device (called The Rock or The Reef, depending on the purpose) that will fit any of its watches. This cool concept has been part of the line since since the earliest days of the company.
2. Christiaan van der Klaauw
Christiaan van der Klaauw is a Dutch watchmaker that focuses on “astronomical” watches. Through the years, the Van der Klaauw workshop has gained recognition among watch collectors worldwide. Whether it is the CVDK Planetarium or the Real Moon timepiece, they are all built in very limited editions, and all are considered haute horlogerie timepieces.The company will also make customized timepieces on request. The dials, materials, rotor and complications can all be composed together with you, the client.
Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva decided to start his own watch brand after having worked for prestigious firms like Parmigiani, Vianney Halter and Christophe Claret. Perhaps the most characteristic thing about the Sarpaneva watches is the unique, out-of-the-box design of their cases and dials. Sarpaneva’s Korona and Supernova models feature shapes and details that will make them stand out from the crowd. Recently (last year), Sarpaneva also collaborated with MB&F — a brand with which I’m sure you are familiar — and created a beautiful “Moonmachine.”
Sinn has been around for quite a few years, but for a long time it was only well-known in German-speaking countries and the countries around Germany. This brand has a large group of followers online, who have spread the word about the quality of Sinn’s watches and their attractive pricing. Because Sinn does not work with a large retailer network, but sells mainly through agencies and also directly from the factory, a whole layer of overhead costs is just not there. Astronaut Reinhard Furrer wore the Sinn 140 on his wrist of when he joined the D1 mission (Space Shuttle mission STS-61A) in 1985. The interesting thing about Sinn, in my opinion, is that it makes watches that create real solutions to real problems; no tourbillons here.
5. Laurent Ferrier
One of my favorite independent brands when it comes to classic designed, so-called dress watches is Laurent Ferrier. This company is named after its founder, a watchmaker who decided to start his own business after a long period working for Patek Philippe. Tradition, timeless design, and high standards for the finishing of the watch and its movement are a few of the core values Laurent Ferrier pursues. His Galet watches are praised by many connoisseurs of fine and independent watchmaking.
Feel free to let us know your own favorite independent brands in the comments section, and please tell us why you like them! Whether it is the exclusivity, the price, or the creativity of a brand, we are eager to learn about your preferences and ideas.