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New vs. Traditional Luxury Watchmakers – Top 13 Pieces to be Aware of in 2019

Luxury watches, whether sport-focused, otherwise-focused, or those created with a limited budget in mind, help discretely keep us on time while looking like stylish pieces of art.

They offer us reassurance with their beautiful simplicity or their elegant complexity, allowing us to keep our lives in order.

They can offer us peace of mind as we have a piece of art integrated into our style and life patterns. Further still, they influence the much less expensive options down the line.

A lot of terms go into the craft of appreciating luxury watches and the mechanical properties of clockwork.

For watch enthusiasts, these specs offer a deeper degree of customization and appreciation.

Nonetheless, the casual hobbyist appreciates finding a piece that appeals to them on both a functional and aesthetic level.

Each of the following watchmakers are innovators, as they move this analog artform into the future with smart features, flawless self-winding mechanic, recycled resources, natural materials, and perpetual timekeeping.

Alternatively, they have taken the liberty of introducing new, original “takes” into horology.

We know that even if watchmaking is a pretty traditional activity, several new companies have cropped up recently to inject their perspective regarding the whole business, which is sometimes completely innovative. And at least one of these brands come from the core tradition of the groups which form the backbone of high-end and luxury Swiss horology.

This means that- even if we acknowledge the return to very old designs and shapes,  there is a constant attention to innovation and the needs of the emerging buyers who are needing exactly that: some new, fresh proposals which are outside what has already been seen.

 

The Six New Trends of Watchmaking

The new year started in January with the SIHH – the International Fair of High Horology.

This venue marks the start of the year in watchmaking and sets the pace of the industry, showing the most recent trends of the business. These trends were quite different from what the users were accustomed to so let us examine them together so we can know what to expect in the near future:

 

1) It’s Not a Man’s World Anymore

Traditionally, horology was always divided into two separate field which were generally separated: men’s watches and women’s watches. Men’s watches were strong, muscular, and assertive. Women’s watches were light, blingy, and sophisticated.

Not anymore. The evolution of the styles have caused this trend to change substantially, as lots of ladies have, with the change of their role in society, embraced a much more active role in business and the industry. This results in them wearing men’s watches, which are less of a bracelet and more of a different, and authoritative, ornament.

 

2) Big Is Out for Good

Until today, we have seen a constant growth in the size of the average wristwatch. The elegant watches of the fifties ranged from 30-38 mm, and didn’t get much bigger than that. Yet now, with the excesses inspired by a hypertrophic market, some models and brands are nearly unwearable.

Yet this progression has finally stopped. The reason might be different, but we suspect that the influx of Asian customers plays a big part in this reversal. Even the brand which embodied the trend for growth, Panerai, has presented a “small” version of its Luminor Due model in a size of just 38 mm.

 

3) Pretty in Pink? Definitely

If you have a passing interest in color trends, you know that the Pantone company, which is quite famous for presenting in autumn the color of the following year, has decided that 2019 will be the year of “Living Coral.”

This is essentially a shade of warm pink. And the watch industry has not been immune to this influx, because the powdery colors of pink in its various hues fit very well with the return to the moods of the 40s and 50s.

 

4) From Art Deco to Modernism

Some of the modern timepieces are avant-garde and futuristic, but others are very retro-inspired. Lots of companies are reissuing their classic models as “Heritage” series. They are also revisiting the old solutions for cases, which get out of the traditionally round shape to delve into tonneau and squarish ones, along with some modern interpreting to explore new variations.

 

5) Playing on Materials and Finishings

The timepieces we have seen presented in the SIHH put much more attention into finishing and details than before. For example, most dials show some guilloché decoration, suitably enhanced by the applications of other crafts, like the use of enamel grand feu and porcelain, with a modern twist.

 

6) Manufacture Movements Are the New Black

We has predicted it in the past, and we were spot-on: the market is overflowing with new releases of manufacture movements enriched by dazzling complication. It is like being transported into horologist’s heaven, only to get them we need to pass through the cashier first.

 

A Roundup of Wrist Stars

We have included a selection of watch companies, both traditional and innovative, with very different styles and price levels. There should be something for everyone here.

Some are new entires while others are old pals, but all are noteworthy in one aspect or another.

 

The New Notable Watchmakers

1) Baume

This logo belongs to Baume.

Everybody who is even a little bit inside watchmaking knows Baume et Mercier, right? Well, the issue is that there is no “et Mercier” here.

The Richemont Group, which contains some of the top brands of Swiss horology amd where we find the venerable Baume et Mercier, has introduced recently (2018) a new brand simply called  Baume, marketed towards Millennials.

And after a (most probably) long inception, this rather innovative brand has debuted, featuring some quirky, but well-chosen features, which create a sort of middle ground between fashion watches and true horology.

We can’t be certain as to the results, but this is an unusual and very interesting development in the horology industry. And the watches, let me tell you, are lovely. Here are a few more notable aspects:

  • The distribution of the watches is directly made by the company through their e-commerce website: the watch is assembled for you and then sent to your home directly in a couple weeks time
  • At least one line of the watches is entirely customizable through an online configurator, resulting in over 2,000 possible combinations. This is a watch that is “unique” for its wearer (and can be engraved on the back – a service which is included in the list price).
  • The style of the watches is somewhat unusual. You do not get this on the “regular” market, as the watches uniformly offer a post-industrial mood which appealing to Millennials.
  • The materials used for the watches and the wristbands are 100 percent recycled/natural/sustainable: Baume watches feature such unique materials as natural cork, cotton, and linen.
  • This sustainable trend is the underlying philosophy of the brand. For example, while nowadays the watches are assembled in one location only (the Netherlands), there is a plan to creare a set of assembly workshops around the globe to reduce the carbon footprint required for shipping them.
  • The prices, while not exactly low, are more or less affordable and very well tailored to suit the niche.

Water Resistance: 3-5 ATM/30-50 meters
Movement: Quartz and Mechanical, based on Miyota movements
Type: Mechanical and Quartz based
Case: Stainless Steel
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Straps: Wide array of options, all upcycled, recycled and natural
Where to Buy:

 

2) REC Watches

This logo belongs to REC Watches.

REC stands for Recover, Recycle, Reclaim. This process defines REC watches and sets them apart from the rest. Founded by two Danish long-time friends, REC Watches makes it their mission to identify and recover salvaged icons from automobiles and mechanical crafts around the world. Their watches tell a story, since the recycling process makes each piece unique.

REC watches are made with the highest grade components so that they will last a lifetime without any issues. Perhaps most known for their P-51 collection, which have features recycled from classic Ford Mustangs, REC Watches are for the mechanically-inspired. Their distressed look and recycled patina makes them great for any occasion.

Water Resistance: 3-5 ATM/30-50 meters
Movement: Quartz, Miyota 9-series movement with rotor decoration
Frequency: 28,800 VPH (4.0 hz)
Power reserve: 40-48 hours
Type: Mechanical, Self-winding
Case: Stainless Steel
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Straps: Wide array of options, including calf leather, stainless steel mesh, canvas, amd denim
Top Timepieces:

Warranty: 2 years
Where to Buy:

 

3) Analog Watch Co. (Vegan Watches)

This logo belongs to Analog Watch Co.

Analog Watch Co. is a sustainability-minded American watch company. They work with natural materials to make timepieces that allow wearers to adjust their clock to the Earth’s natural movements. Their materials recycle wood and marble, as well as preserving flowers and moss. Their designs have been developed as a response to studies that specify how nature and close proximity to plants and flowers can help improve one’s mental health and life satisfaction.

Their watches offer self-expression through minimalist design and the use of timeless materials often taken for granted. Each model in their new Botanist collection is a work of art, carried in the best museums around the country. Analog Watch Co. partners with Trees for the Future, a tree-planting non-profit, Earthworks, which protects communities and the environment from mineral and energy development, and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Their designs are 80 percent biodegradable.

Water Resistance: Depending on model, most are water resistant but not waterproof
Movement: Citizen Miyota 1L45, Swiss parts movement
Case: Wood, Marble, Resin
Straps: Leather available, as well as leather alternative vegan bands and wood
Top Timepieces:

Warranty: 1 year
Where to Buy:

 

4) Vortic

This logo belongs to Vortic Watch Company.

For far too long the American traditional manufacturing of great watches has been forgotten in favour of the sheer force of numbers, as entities like the Fossil group have amply demonstrated.

Yet even if companies which are still cherished by the vintage lovers, like Waltham and Elgin, have closed, there is indeed a centuries old tradition still lingering. As such, there was a space for a bold and innovative company to step in there and “revive” this amazing legacy.

And Vortic saw the opportunity to. The company harvests original, scrapped movements made by American watch companies, which were used in pocket watches, and after a careful reconstruction and servicing refits them into new cases, creating wristwatches that show the amazing level of workmanship achieved in the US.

One of the key features of American watchmaking was the extremely high sophistication in the decorations of the surfaces – and Vortic watches play this feature to their advantage, by offering original dials and sapphire glass backs which show the magnificence of the movements and their relentless work.

The cases are instead modernly milled and finished pieces of fine machinery, made in modern metals and alloys, perfectly suited to host the vintage movements, and finished to perfection to confer them this retro-industrial look that makes them seem like the offspring of a cyberpunk era.

Also, if you have an old movement you want to convert into a wristwatch, the company does it. Impeccably, we might add.

Water Resistance: 1 ATM/10 Meters
Movement: Mechanical
Type: Mechanical, vintage
Case: Various material, between which Stainless Steel and Titanium
Glass: Gorilla-glass – reinforced Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Straps: Wide array of options in old-style calf leather
Top Timepieces:

Where to Buy:

 

5) Ochs und Junior

This logos belong to Ochs und Junior.

Ochs und Junior innovates new mechanical ways of tracking time horizons with a technical elegance that allows their timepieces to show alternate calendars. Many Ochs und Junior watches track the length of day and night, as well as the positions of the sun and moon in the sky for a selected location. Some watches track moon phases while others have a perpetual calendar on the clock face.

Their watches have a very limited production, only manufacturing about 130 watches per year. This allows them to work toward simple perfection. The models aren’t designated with a logo, instead relying on intricate designs. This makes buying a watch a personal experience.

Water Resistance: 3-10 ATM
Movement: Ulysses Nardin, ETA 2824-2
Power reserve: 38-60 hours
Type: Self-winding mechanical movement
Case: Sterling Silver, Titanium
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Straps: Naturally Waterproof Sturgeon, Leather, Suede, or Rubber
Top Timepieces:

  • Day/Night – prioritizes tracking the position of the sun and moon in the sky with elegant icons
  • Perpetual Calendar – requires no adjustment to accurately display time and day of the year and week until the year 2100
  • Two Time Zones –  elegantly displays two time zones at once

Warranty: 2-year guarantee
Where to Buy:

 

6) LIV Watches

This logo belongs to LIV Watches.

LIV is an American watch company that produces Swiss watches that complement an extreme lifestyle. Many of their recent products have started on Kickstarter through crowdsourcing. They offer their customers direct interaction with their brand and have an ongoing conversation with the needs and desires of their customer base.

Many of the features developed into the design of LIV watches are meant to make advanced mechanical systems less expensive and analog watches more user-friendly for traveling and sporting. This includes easy release buckles and large easy to grasp knobs.

Water Resistance: 300 m
Movement: RONDA startech Caliber 5040.D
Type: Quartz or Automatic, Mechanical Movement
Case: Steel
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Straps: Steel
Top Timepieces

Warranty: 5 years
Where to Buy:

 

7) Beijing Watch Company

If you have always thought that Chinese manufacturers can only make copies, you are living in the wrong century. The Beijing Watch Company – one of the oldest in China, hailing back to 1958 – is proof that the Chinese have a strong tradition in watchmaking and work tirelessly to innovate and develop their products, obtaining some amazing results.

The Beijing Watch Factory was one of the main developers of the Chinese Standard Movement: and their watch model based on the movement, designated ZB-1 (or SZB-1) and with 17 jewels, began production in 1972. The Shuangling brand was adopted soon after for export markets. At the beginning of the production of the ZB-1, the factory developed a 40 jewelry automatic version known as SZB-1C, which was the first standard Chinese automatic movement in production.

In the 1990s, the factory continued to export complete watches as well as movements to foreign manufacturers. By the end of the decade, they were also manufacturing complete OEM watches for outside customers. As with many other factories, Beijing created a skeletonized version of their standard movement – so it began the development of new, complicated movements, between which we find some different tourbillons.

The company offers a wide watch assortment, and we would like to put the spotlight on the Silk Whisper, a Ladies watch line with dials made with traditional Suzhou embroidery techniques; the Bladelegant, offering a selection of flying tourbillons decorated with a distinctive Asian flair; and the Beihai, an exercise of classic elegance in dress watches, featuring a swan neck fine regulator and a small seconds dial at six.

Water Resistance: 3 ATM/30 Meters
Movement: Mechanical and quartz
Type: Mens’ and Ladies’
Case: Steel and several metal-plated versions
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Straps: Wide array of options in leather
Top Timepieces:

Where to Buy:

8) Vector Smartwatch

This Logo Belongs to Vector Smartwatches.

Vector Smart Watches are fashionable, casual for everyday wear, and programmed with the Fitbit technology. Vector requires less charging than most smartwatches and only needs to be plugged in once a month. The feature set of the vector watch is deliberately reduced from what you would get from an Apple Watch or similar smartwatch, which helps it stay on target for what you need a watch to do.

Vector’s face looks convincingly analog. Unlike many in the market, it’s not a touch screen. Instead, it’s controlled with buttons and accelerometer, giving a more authentic watch experience. Vector can sync with a smartphone and applications include social media, calorie counters, Nest, Uber, and Evernote. Vector is taking an open-source approach that looks forward to compatibility with pared-down productivity and health applications in the future.

Basic Features:

  • Step and sleep tracking
  • Discrete notifications that you can see and dismiss with a flick of your wrist
  • World time
  • Alarms
  • Contacts

Compatibility: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Battery Life: 30 Days
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Type:Digital watch with Bluetooth Syncing
Case: Black, Steel, Rose Gold, Champagne Gold
Straps: Leather, Silicone, Crocodile Leather, Rose Gold, Steel
Top Timepieces:

Warranty: 2 years, limited
Where to Buy:

 

9) Einstoffen

This logo belongs to Einstoffen.

Based in Switzerland, Einstoffen is a lifestyle brand that prioritizes innovation and style while designing products that bring us closer bring nature with our daily carry. Einstoffen makes Swiss watches that are inspired by natural materials, including wood and Italian leather. These watches are designed for simple elegance with quartz-movement. Einstoffen’s wooden watches keep you close to natural materials while emphasizing the simplicity of lines and clear timekeeping to declutter your relationships with time.

A wide range of extra straps are available to help seamlessly transition between different your different looks and styles. Their straps are skin-friendly, and the leather is sourced from environmentally sustainable and low-emission livestock farming and production in Italy. Their vegan options are metal mesh in black or gold with seamless adjustability.

Water Resistance: 5 ATM
Movement: Swiss quartz – Ronda Z50
Case: Wood, Stainless steel
Glass: Sapphire Crystal
Straps: Italian leather, Fine metal mesh
Top Timepieces:

  • Surselva Gold – light gold simple luxury with a leather band
  • Aescher – a minimalist everyday watch with a stylish and iconic face
  • Cauma IP Gold – a delicate metal mesh watch that pairs steel and wood

Where to Buy:

 

Veteran Luxury Watchmakers

1) Pro Hunter

Pro Hunter is a high-quality customization of Rolex’s sports watches dedicated to bringing rugged luxury to the casual everyday. Pro Hunter offers personalized, limited editions, steel sports watches, developed for hunting. The models are designed from Rolex’s style and history, including Rolex’s vintage models.

Each Pro Hunter model is a limited edition, sometimes being one of only a hundred. Pro Hunter innovates by collaborating with their design. This includes their Inkadelic line, which is a product of their collaboration with tattoo artist Neil Ahern.

Water Resistance: Waterproof up to 100 meters
Type: Mechanical self-winding
Case: Steel with multiple finishes, including stealth
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Straps: 904L steel, Nylon NATO, Rubber, and Exotic leather
Top Timepieces

Warranty: 5 years with extended warranty options
Where to Buy:

 

2) Frederique Constant

This logo belongs to Frederique Constant.

Frederique Constant is a Swiss watchmaker with a long legacy. They handmake their timepieces with careful design and conception. They also manufacture and machine their pieces in-house, including their proprietary state of the art movements. They seek traditional and timeless elegance on the face with innovation and creativity powering the inside of the watch. Frederique Constant was among the first watchmakers to show the heartbeat of a timepiece’s movement through the watch face to display their mechanics.

The idea driving Frederique Constant’s designs is accessible luxury so that more people may enjoy exquisite craftsmanship and beauty. Their elegant designs remain innovative with tourbillon perpetual calendars and moonphase trackers. Additionally, they emphasize charitable giving through their company.

Frederique Constant have developed an analog smartwatch option, linked to a corresponding smartphone application. Features include activity tracking, sleep monitoring, call and text notifications, and cloud backup that are integrated into a truly analog watch. With the smartphone features, vibration and the watch hands discretely alert wearers to a call or message. Furthermore, Frederique Constant’s E-Strap can add smart functionality to existing analog watches to track activity, monitor sleep cycles, and give alerts.

Water Resistance: 3 ATM
Movement: Heart Beat Manufacture Movements, 700 Series Movements
Frequency: 28,800 alt/h (4Hz)
Power reserve: 42-48 hours
Type: Mechanical Self-Winding
Case: Steel
Glass: Sapphire Crystal
Straps: Metal, Leather, and Alligator Leather
Top Timepieces

  • Slimline Perpetual Calendar – elegant and easy to ready with a movement that tracks to the date, month, year, and moonphase
  • Hybrid Manufacture – a Swiss Mechanical timepiece with connected smartwatch functionalities, inspired by renewable energy and development
  • Horological Smartwatch – Notify collections connect to a smartphone application to help you track you day and night, while also keeping your style elegantly analog

Warranty: 2 years
Where to Buy:

 

3) Girard Perregaux

This logo belongs to Girard Perregaux.

Girard-Perregaux is a Swiss watchmaker dating back to 1971. They have been set apart due to their design which embraces new technologies in their movements and innovative designs, such as their perpetual calendar. Their designs are often inspired by architecture with bold contrasts and strong lines.

A leader in technological innovations, Girard-Perregaux’s Constant Escapement LM has been a technological revolution in the watch industry since 2013. Girard-Perregaux has also implemented a modern sustainability program committed to environmental and social sustainability, including ethical diamonds and gold as well as urban beekeeping.

Water Resistance: 3-10 ATM
Movement: Proprietary
Power reserve: 46-60 hours
Type: Self-winding mechanical movement
Case: Steel, Titanium
Glass: Sapphire crystal
Straps: Steel, Alligator Leather
Top Timepieces:

Warranty: Guaranteed periodic maintenance
Where to Buy:

 

4) Christophe Claret

This logo belongs to Christophe Claret.

Christophe Claret is a passion project by an innovative master watchmaker who, for years prior, had developed designs and movements for major watch brands. Christophe Claret has launched his own brand, basing production in Switzerland. His pieces are intended as rare and offbeat artwork among the traditional Swiss watch community. He develops pieces with a playful creativity, drawing on the traditional as well as the new.

In addition to making unique art pieces, Christophe Claret also creates stable collections. His fascination with the history and function of watchmaking drives him to display the mechanical function of the clockwork. The individual craftsmanship and playful designs are extremely limited in production.

Water Resistance: 3 ATM/30 meters
Movement: Proprietary Specifically Developed
Frequency: 14,400vph (2Hz)-28,400 vph (4Hz)
Power reserve: 48-168 hours
Type: Mechanical self-winding, Mechanical hand-wound
Case: Gold, Steel, Titanium, Platinum, and Anthracite
Straps: Alligator leather, Stingray leather
Top Timepieces:

  • X-Trem-1 – features retrograde hours and minutes display along with magnetized spheres to emphasize the mysteries of time and physics
  • Soprano – This elegant timepiece strikes a Westminster chime with cathedral gongs and hammers
  • Marguerite – This piece hides a personalized secret message

Warranty: 2 years
Where to Buy:

 

Franz Rivoira
Click image for Franz’s linkedin profile.

About the Author: Franz Rivoira is a Chartered Journalist and Marcomm Professional operating internationally in the world of high-end and luxury products, mainly watches and design objects.

He lives in Italy, but frequently travels the world, especially to Asia. He is a regular contributor to www.ddnblog.it, a reference for everything design-oriented. He is also very active on Quora, the most read Q&A portal in the world, where he has been nominated as one of the Top Writers for 2018.

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Justin Mastine-Frost
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Justin Mastine-Frost

This is terrible. If you’re going to write long format like this on the watch industry, I suggest having a clue what you’re talking about. Your “new school” includes older established brands, and your “Veterans” include a kickstarter-special brand that’s only been around a few years. This is a joke, but way to try and beat the google algorithms….

Groom+Style
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Groom+Style

Hi Justin, Thanks for the comment, yes it does look like we accidentally placed Girard Perregaux in the new watchmakers and LIV in the veterans, this has now been corrected and the editor is doing penance. Our readers come from all walks of life, and along with die-hard watch fanatics we find people who like something less demanding. This is why we have published a wide array of offerings, trying to discover a few of the most interesting and notable watchmakers for everyone. For instance, the Baume series is a new take on an old and traditional brand (it is… Read more »

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