Independent watchmaking is huge right now, and it’s only going to get bigger and better for us all. There’s an element of freedom that independent watchmakers seem more able to explore within their own ateliers. Void of neck-breathing conglomerate executives, independent watchmakers have unparalleled liberty and autonomy to avoid conforming and explore their passion for watchmaking. And, more often than not, this venturing into the unknown leads to magnificent works of art.
Let’s take a look at our top 6 favourite independently made watches.
F. P. Journe Chronométre Optimum
The ultimate piece for the watch-nerd in all of us. F. P. Journe’s Chronométre Optimum is the archetypal high-end mechanical wristwatch for those of us who have an appreciation for obscure watchmaking. There’s an enormous amount of tech in the Chronométre Optimum, and it’s this amount of engineering that has turned my love for this watch into an obsession. The Tourbillon Souverain trumps the Chronométre Optimum from an idealistic perspective, but in my opinion, I feel that the Chronométre Optimum is a far more intriguing affair. The Chronométre Optimum is at the forefront of Journe’s pursuit of chronometric performance, and everything seems to indicate that fact. There’s nothing about this watch that seems unnecessary. Not the unconventional dial layout. Or the one-second remontoir. Or the secondes morte indicator. Or even the EBHP double escapement wheel. Everything ties in perfectly with the directive of the Chronométre Optimum: to provide timekeeping of the highest calibre.
Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
If you follow us on Instagram, then you’re probably well aware of the affection that I personally have towards Grönefeld, namely the 1941 Remontoire. This is a watch that epitomises what I think constitutes exceptional watchmaking. There’s a lovely balance between the traditional and the conservative with forward-thinking and a modernistic approach to watchmaking. Throughout the 1941 Remontoire there is a clear and precise indication of its purpose: to be outstanding. From the case to the dial, from the 8-second remontoire to the leather strap, everything aligns itself with what I’d want in a watch. Then you turn the piece over and you’re confronted with what may very well be the world’s most beautifully finished movement. Hand-engraving, micro-blasting, hand-beveling and an air of perfection adorns the mechanism. There’s watchmaking, then there’s true haute horlogerie. The 1941 Remontoire definitely demonstrates the Grönefeld brothers’ unrelenting pursuit to create some of the world’s most incredible timepieces. A crowd pleaser, and one of my all-time favourite watches.
Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro Rotor
One of the most beautiful time-only watches the world has ever seen, Laurent Ferrier’s Galet Micro Rotor is such a stunning example of when a watchmaker exercises restraint and maturity. The dial is stunning in whatever colour you choose, but my favourite combination would definitely have to be white gold case with slate grey dial model. This is a superb timepiece that is virtually flawless. One may lay claim to the fact that the crown is a little bit too large for the case’s dimensions and that it throws off the piece’s balance, but aside from that tiny nit-pick, the Galet Micro Rotor is impeccable. Better yet is the movement, featuring extensive finishing techniques throughout. Simple, well executed and housing one of the most beautifully made movements, the Galet Micro Rotor is sublime.
Romain Gauthier Logical One
Romain Gauthier have quickly asserted themselves as one of the crowning kings of independent watchmaking. And the Logical One is a prime example of that fact. My favourite variation is the Platinum limited-edition piece which features a platinum case and oven-fired black enamel dial. The semi-inverted nature of the Logical One is such that you’re able to see a fair amount of the movement both dial-side and through the open sapphire caseback. The Logical One’s chain-and-fusee constant force mechanism is an absolute delight to watch in action, and beyond its obvious technical prowess, a find that this particular variation of the Logical One to be the most aesthetically pleasing with respect to its neutral colour palette and overall monochrome theme. A far cry from the simplicity of the Galet Micro Rotor, the Logical One is easily one of the most striking pieces on this list.
MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual
This was a tough choice, and I found myself torn between MB&F’s Legacy Machine Perpetual and the Legacy Machine 101. I went for the former, being that it housed one of my favourite movements, the perpetual calendar. As far as theatrics in watchmaking is concerned, the Legacy Machine Perpetual is up there with the best of them. I’m talking just as dramatic as a Greubel Forsey piece. I was recently able to get hands with the Legacy Machine Perpetual, and let me tell you: pictures absolutely do this piece zero justice. And that’s saying something, considering how insane it looks in still images. I cannot emphasise just how special MB&F are, and the Legacy Machine Perpetual is perhaps their crowning jewel. It’s available in a variety of metals and base dial colours, but without a doubt the coolest feature of the watch is the bespoke 14mm flying balance wheel. The fully skeletonised dial enables the wearer to peer through the passing of time, and while it may seem busy, there’s a clear and distinct separation of indicators and functions. Not much else on the perpetual calendar market that can match the Legacy Machine Perpetual’s prominence.
H. Moser & Cie Pioneer (Perpetual Calendar + Tourbillon)
The final piece on this list is actually of a watch that doesn’t exactly exist. Yet. Let’s call this a concept piece. This year, H. Moser & Cie released the Pioneer Tourbillon, one of the most perfect examples of a wearable tourbillon. A while back, they released the Pioneer Perpetual Calendar, again one of the most perfect examples of a wearable perpetual calendar. Both pieces jumped straight to the top of my wish-list, and ever since their respective conceptions I’ve toyed with the idea of H. Moser & Cie combining the two into one, incredible and amazing timepiece. Let’s call it the H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon. Original, right? Just imagine it, though. The highly functional and super useful perpetual calendar providing you with more than enough information to get through your day, with the tourbillon keeping you somewhat sane. The Pioneer collection, generally speaking, is my favourite from Moser, so imagining what it’d look like with both of these beasts combined into one uber-watch is super exciting. One day. Maybe. Fingers crossed.