With age comes experience. And nowhere is that truer than among Swiss watch manufactures. Brands such as Vacheron Constantin and Cartier have been crafting timepieces for over 160 years. And, unsurprisingly, such a resumé costs.
But experience isn’t the only guarantee of authority. In recent years, plenty of new watch brands have emerged that hold their own against the ancients – offering similar levels of craftsmanship, often at a fraction of the cost. As Andrew Jennings, founder of contemporary watch brand Larsson & Jennings explains, good looks aren’t the only advantage of youth.
“As a young watch brand, we’re more open to new methods, ideas and products. Those take time within larger manufactures,” says Jennings. “Until a few years ago, most affordable watches were created by huge companies that put little thought into the end product. We take the expertise of the older brands and the contemporary drive from fashion brands.”
And this line of thinking has proven infectious. Several brands are now playing with the big boys thanks to improved craftsmanship and the public’s receptiveness to fashion-led designs. The difficult part is choosing your favourite.
At just a year old, Farer is still in the crèche. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t cut its own niche. The mix of influences at play make for a unique collection: there’s the minimalist London-based design, expeditionary vibes in the sub dials and a splash of Bauhaus with primary colours aplenty.
And, better yet, each piece is hand assembled in Switzerland. The new kid on the block may well be a child prodigy.
Farer Barnato Watch, available at Opumo, priced £420.
A marketplace full of Swiss extravagance can get a little bit, well, boring – there are only so many classic dials and diamonds before it all starts to look the same. Something that makes Newgate watches all the more refreshing.
Its designs channel a bygone era, before Brits swapped Bognor for the Costa Blanca: off-white dials, orange hands and typography lifted straight from a WW1 propaganda poster.
Newgate The Liberty Grand Watch, available at Newgate Watches, priced £175.
Watch brands often wax lyrical about prestige and heritage. But there’s nothing wrong with modernity. As MVMT proves, understated designs complement an outfit as opposed to being the talking point – and nobody should ever brag about their wristwear.
MVMT Chrono Gun Metal/Sandstone Leather Watch, available at MVMT, priced £103.
Watches are cool. But not in the current, streetstyle-esque sense of the word. Seeking to bridge the gap between collectors and fashion darlings, Komono offers classic shapes with runway-worthy ingenuity.
Case in point, the new mirror series. The line boasts a fully reflective, metallic dial and case, so you can check the time and your mug all at once. Doesn’t get much cooler than that.
Komono Winston Royale Silver Watch, available at Time By Me, priced £79.
Aviation lines are nothing new for watch brands, but AVI-8 is one of few to solely dedicate their collection to the aeronautical.
Each piece boasts a super-legible dial, seconds hand and multiple chronographs – all hallmarks of a traditional pilot watch. Bombs away.
AVI-8 Flyboy Bronze Edition Automatic Watch, Available at AVI-8, priced £580.
Larsson & Jennings
Larsson & Jennings is arguably the best recognised of the young brands. And who knows where to place thanks? Could be the minimalist design. Or the COS-like marketing campaign. Might even be its affordability. Likely a combination of all three. Either way, they’re doing something right.
Larsson & Jennings Norse Watch, available at Larsson & Jennings, priced £245.
Exoskeletals: those flaunty watches that require vast horological knowledge and a bank account to match. Not quite the case with Thomas Earnshaw.
This London-based, Swiss-built brand offers prestige without the price tag as both mechanicals and automatics clock in at under £500.
Thomas Earnshaw Bauer Watch, available at Thomas Earnshaw, priced £345.
Outside rubber, leather and steel, watch straps have largely remained the same. Until Birline got its hands on them. The brand’s signature tweed straps come in a large number of colours and textures, with a simple dial taking the backseat. Just don’t expect it to weather the next gym session.
Birline Stanmore Watch, available at Birline, priced £149.
If you flunked GCSE physics, don’t bother with a re-sit. Ressence reinvents the classic watch as a scientific pursuit.
The upper dial of the Type 3 model is flooded with 35.7ml of crude oil – not to recreate a capsized tanker, but to reduce dial distortion and improve performance and clarity. That elusive C grade pales in comparison.
Ressence Type 3 Titanium And Leather Watch, available at Mr Porter, priced £28,800.
88 Rue du Rhone
88 Rue du Rhone is an offshoot of noted watchmaker Raymond Weil, and is often considered the younger brother. The same prestige is still evident, but with bold designs that are more Saint-Tropez pool party than final lot at Sotheby’s.
88 Rue Du Rhone Chronograph Dial Watch, available at Chisholm Hunter, priced £345.