The ease of starting a watch brand from scratch has never been easier. It’s still not a simple process, but the availability of information online, along with social media marketing and crowdfunding, has definitely lowered the barriers to entry. This is evident with the proliferation of micro-brands that have sprung up in the space over the past few years.
Beyond just creating relatively seamless homages and pieces, many brands have started to step up their game to produce incredible timepieces at a modest price. This is undoubtedly due to increased competition, as well as the maturity of collectors who are no longer satisfied with ordinary watches. As collectors and enthusiasts, we certainly couldn’t be happier with the progress.
In this week’s article, we think this might be a great opportunity to showcase what some of these smaller-scale startups have to offer. For our selection, we will not only focus on value, but also on aspects such as the finish and the originality of the design. These are the same factors collectors look for, and we’d like to use the same set of guidelines to ensure a selection aligned with our readers.
So what are some of the watches we’ve selected? Let us find out!
Wen Perception Workshop
We start the article with the new Atelier Wen Perception, which incidentally launched earlier this week.
Perception is the inspiration behind this week’s article. We were largely impressed with what the brand has to offer – a well-made watch with a superb guilloche dial. The latter especially impressed us a lot, especially since it was made in collaboration with a Master Craftsman, who notably needs about eight hours of work to produce a single guilloche dial.
Given the reception given to the timepiece when it was launched, its popularity is beyond doubt. Collectors recognize quality when they see one, and Perception has successfully showcased it. Its original price of US$2,588 (about S$3,548) might be a little higher than most micro-brands, but we think the watch offers tremendous value (especially at its premium price). -early US$2,088). We’re really excited to see the newest chapter of Atelier Wen, and will surely keep our eyes peeled for their future offerings.
anOrdain Model 2 mkII
Then we have another interesting young builder from Scotland. Introducing the new anOrdain 2 mkII model.
Launched three years ago in 2019, the Model 2 is anOrdain’s interpretation of a classic field watch. What is interesting with the brand is the incorporation of a great fire enamel dial, produced in-house by each of the brand’s five master enamellers. The end result is a rather pure and smooth dial, in which it is further enhanced by an ultra-readable and simple dial.
Beyond that, anOrdain had used an upgraded Sellita SW210-1+ movement with the Incabloc shock protection system, along with syringe-shaped needles that are produced with an elaborate process that spans three different sites and manufacturers. The attention to detail is immense.
The new anOrdain Model 2 mkII is available in medium (36mm) and large (39.5mm) sizes, and they are priced at £1,700 (approx S$2,994) and £1,850 (approx S$3,258) ) respectively. Given their limited production size (at 500 pieces per year) and the quality of the timepieces, these watches are surely hard to find.
Work and Day Morning Blue Moon Email
Travail et Jour, a micro-brand based in Singapore, is a small watch manufacturer like no other.
The brainchild of the business is Jeremy Moi, a young entrepreneur who was interested in watches. Its star piece, the Matin Blue Moon Enamel, is a work of art. As its namesake suggests, the watch features an incredible great fire enamel dial. The dial is produced in his own workshop, after he had the opportunity to learn about enamelling with a local enameller in the costume jewellery.
The best part of it? The 39.5mm watch is priced at S$2,000. It’s by no means a cheap piece if we’re talking micro branding, but for a watch with an enamel dial it offers tremendous value. For someone who looks at craftsmanship and artistry, the Matin Blue Moon Enamel is definitely a timepiece worth considering.
Dietrich Skin Diver SD-1
For some collectors, Dietrich is a brand that might ring a bell – they are, after all, known for their funky, esoteric timepieces at the turn of the last decade. Now, with the Skin Diver SD-1, Dietrich seeks to take the brand in a new direction.
The 38.5mm timepiece, produced for casual divers without the use of proper diving equipment, offers an attractive alternative in the tool watch scene. Featuring a glossy gradient dial and integrated strap, the Skin Diver SD-1 offers a more contemporary take on a category of watches that are generally more “serious” in look and shape.
Design aside, we think the Skin Diver SD-1 is also a fairly well-built piece. The quality is pretty decent, and it definitely punches above its weight at this price. The watch retails for US$1,050 (about S$1,440), and we think it’s a great option for someone looking for a tool watch that’s a bit different from the crowd.
Gorilla Fastback GT Drift “Elise”
As the brainchild of Octavio Garcia and Lukas Gopp, Gorilla aims to target adventurous watch collectors with their unusual take on watches. The 44mm Fastback GT Drift “Elise” achieved this in particular thanks to the elusive “wandering hours” mechanism – usually seen on high-end independent brands such as Urwerk and H. Moser & Cie.
The Fastback GT is powered by an ETA 2824-2 movement, coupled to a Vaucher module. Using such a combination ensures that Gorilla can keep its prices modest, while allowing consumers to enjoy an unusual complication without compromising on quality or performance. Additionally, the self-winding movement beats at 28,800 bph and has a power reserve of approximately 36 hours.
The Gorilla Fastback GT Drift “Elise” is limited to a production run of 350 pieces, and this special model has a case made of four different materials: Ceramic, Aluminum, Titanium and Carbon Fiber. It is priced at S$5,088 which is a good price for a conversation piece with a very rare complication to boot.
The idea of producing well-made watches at an affordable price is a noble but difficult act. However, Ophion’s Miguel Morales Ribas might have other ideas.
The Ophion OPH786 is one of those brilliant watches. Inspired by vintage pocket watches, the OPH786 aims to incorporate traditional touches with modern elements found on high-end watchmaking. The result is a stunning piece, with stunning touches such as CNC machining guilloche dial and hand-hammered Technotime movement. Finishing is pretty much a key aspect of the OPH786, and we’re happy to say that Ophion lives up to the execution.
The initial series of the OPH786 was priced at €1,890 (about S$2,880), but we understand that this series has been sold out. The OPH 786 BIKES – priced at €3,150 (about S$4,800) – is perhaps the next best alternative. Either way, you know you’re getting a great piece, at a relatively reasonable price.
As collectors become more discerning, especially with the availability of information online, mass-produced watches from third-party vendors simply don’t do the trick anymore. Collectors certainly want more, and brands need to do a lot more to appease their customers’ appetites.
In order to conquer the market (and the hearts) of collectors, many brands have tried to stand out with differentiated products. In today’s article, we have seen many micro brands (or young emerging brands) that offer complications or complex artistic techniques in the production of their timepieces. Given the popularity of some of these watches, we can assume that collectors and enthusiasts appreciate these features and are willing to pay extra for them.
We’re certainly impressed with some of these offerings, and take comfort in knowing that these watches are being well received. We hope this will continue to motivate brands (especially younger ones) to move away from cookie-cutter pieces and instead seek to add value through different features or complications. In fact, big boys should start taking inspiration from this book.