Top 23 Independent Watchmakers You Need to Know
The Top 23 Independent Watchmakers
There is no one definition of an independent watchmaker, but everyone agrees that an independent watchmaker does not belong to one of the larger groups, such as the SWATCH Group, the LVMH Group, or the Richemont Group. Other qualifications can include making their own watches and movements and developing their own creative strategy.
Therefore, independent watchmakers play a large role in every aspect of the watchmaking process. They help brainstorm the idea, develop the design, create the movement, assemble the watch, and finally, market, distribute, and sell their product.
Unlike large companies, independent watchmakers often work alone or with a small team of watchmakers. Another difference is that they produce a smaller quantity of watches because they often create everything by hand, including the movements. In general, an independent watchmaker will produce between 10 and 100 watches per year, depending on the size of their team and the intricacy of their watches.
When buying a watch from an independent watchmaker, the timepiece may not be as instantly recognizable as Rolex’s Submariner or Patek Philippe’s World Time Chronograph. Although your friends may not instantly recognize the brand or model, this is not necessarily a bad thing. This ensures that your watch is unique and it can’t be found at every bus stop or in every office building.
Below you’ll find a list of some of the top independent watchmakers and independent watch brands. These watchmakers were selected based on reader reviews, the quality of their watches, their unique designs, and their time in the watch industry. This list is by no means exhaustive, so please comment below with watchmakers that deserve to be included.
1. Andreas Strehler - An independent Swiss watchmaker who began restoring clocks and antique watches in 1995. In 2014, Andreas Strehler became a Guinness world record holder by building the most precise moon phase indication in a wristwatch.
Featured Watch: The Andreas Strehler Sauterelle A Heure Mondiale
2. Antoine Preziuso - Based in Geneva, Switzerland, Antoine Preziuso creates original, highly complicated watches. While some watches are commissioned by luxury watch brands, other watches are developed for his own brand.
Featured Watch: The Antoine Preziuso Tourbillon of Tourbillons
3. Armin Strom - Armin Strom is an independent Swiss watchmaker, known for developing the art of skeletonizing in the 1980s. The brand began producing its own in-house calibers in 2009.
Featured Watch: The Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance
4. Bexei, Aaron Becsei - Aaron Becsei is a 3rd generation watchmaker who grew up surrounded by watches. Every Bexei watch is handcrafted by Aaron Becsei; this includes the gears, wheels, pinions, screws, case, buckle, crown, dial, and hands.
Featured Watch: The Bexei Dignitas Power Reserve
5. Christophe Claret - Christophe Claret, an independent Swiss watchmaker, creates unique watches that challenge the standard quo. He is known for exploring alternative designs and original ways to tell the time.
Featured Watch: The Christophe Claret X-TREM-1
6. De Bethune - Denis Flageollet and David Zanetta joined forces in 2002 to create the De Bethune brand, and in 2011 the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix awarded De Bethune the famous "Aiguille d'Or" or Golden Hand.
Featured Watch: The De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon
7. F.P. Journe - For over thirty years, François-Paul Journe has created timepieces that bridge the gap between watchmaking as an industry and watchmaking as an art.
Featured Watch: The F. P. Journe Repetition Souveraine
8. Greubel Forsey - Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey began working as independents in 1999, and together they founded Greubel Forsey in 2004. Their watches are best known for their inclusion of the tourbillon.
Featured Watch: The Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie
9. Grönefeld - Horological brothers, Tim Grönefeld and Bart Grönefeld, are third generation watchmakers. The family business began in 1912, and they continue making intricate watches with time-honored techniques.
Featured Watch: The Grönefeld Bespoke 1941 Remontoire
10. Jean-Baptiste Viot - Jean-Baptiste Viot is a French independent watchmaker that specializes in avant garde watches; however, he rejects the use of experimental materials and techniques that can leave watches fragile or unfixable by other watch makers.
Featured Watch: The J-B Viot In Paris
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11. Jean Daniel Nicolas - Daniel Roth previously sold his brand "Daniel Roth" to the Bulgari Group; however, he has not stopped creating watches. Now he creates 2 to 3 handmade watches per year under the brand name, Jean Daniel Nicolas. The brand's name comes from a combination of his name, his son's name, and a variation of his wife's name.
Featured Watch: The Jean Daniel Nicolas Two-Minute Tourbillon
12. Kari Voutilainen - Kari Voutilainen is a Finnish watchmaker that resides in Switzerland. He launched his brand in 2002, and in 2005 he created the world's first decimal repeater sounding hours, ten-minute intervals, and then minutes.
Featured Watch: The Voutilainen Vingt-8 ISO
13. Lang & Heyne - Lang & Heyne was founded in 2001 by Marco Lang and Mirko Heyne; however, in 2002 Mirko Heyne resigned and decided to purchase other avenues of the watchmaking business. Today, Macro Lang continues to make high-end luxury watches that focus on perfecting the small details.
Featured Watch: The Lang & Heyne Georg
14. Laurent Ferrier - Laurent Ferrier, based in Geneva, creates high-end mechanical watches that honor the history of horology. The watches typically draw on neo-classical styles.
Featured Watch: The Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic
15. Ludovic Ballouard - Originally from France, Ludovic Ballouard moved to Switzerland in order to pursue his watchmaking career. He is best known for the Upside Down watch and the Half Time watch; both of which challenge tradition.
Featured Watch: The Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down Watch
16. Manufacture Royale - Manufacture Royale is a Swiss watch brand that was founded in the eighteenth century by Voltaire. It was revived in 2010, and the brand now combines tradition and technology to create their luxury watches.
Featured Watch: The Manufacture Royale Minute Repeater Tourbillon
17. McGonigle - The McGonigle brothers, John and Stephen, combine Swiss engineering and Irish designs to create their one-of-a-kind luxury watches. They launched their brand in 2006.
Featured Watch: The McGonigle Ceol Minute Repeater
18. Philippe Dufour - One of the most well-known independent watchmakers, Philippe Dufour designs and creates his watches by hand from start to finish. He works alone, except for the help of his daughter and a young assistant.
Featured Watch: The Philippe Dufour Grande Sonnerie
19. Peter Speake-Marin - Speake-Marin is an independent Swiss brand that was founded in 2002. The watches honor tradition but with a contemporary and unique style.
Featured Watch: The Peter Speake-Marin Wing Commander
20. Roger W. Smith - Based in Britain, the brand was launched in 2001 after Smith embarked on a seven-year apprenticeship to learn all thirty-two watchmaker trades. The brand creates ten handmade luxury watches per year.
Featured Watch: The Roger W Smith Series 4
21. Romain Gauthier - After four years of working in secret, Romain Gauthier launched his brand in 2006 with the Prestige HM. The brand designs, develops, produces, assembles, and regulates their watches entirely in-house.
Featured Watch: The Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor
22. Thomas Prescher - Thomas Prescher Haute Horlogerie was founded in 2002 in Switzerland. The brand is known for creating highly complicated luxury watches.
Featured Watch: The Thomas Prescher Triple Axis Tourbillon Regulator
23. Vianney Halter - Vianney Halter has designed and created his own wristwatches since 1998, and currently his collection consists of 10 distinctive models. His watches are known for their distinctive designs and styles.
Featured Watch: The Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon
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Which of these independent watch brands is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!