Skillful, inventive, daring – there are many reasons why independent watchmaking has been on the rise over the past twenty years. Indies practice craftsmanship and horological innovation guided by passion, unique perspectives and uncommon philosophies. Their creations are exclusive, personal and crafted to a level of quality that you simply cannot get in mass production. We take a look at four creations from some of the most talented and prominent independent watchmakers.
Romain Gautier – Insight Micro-Rotor
Romain Gauthier is one of the best representatives of the ‘Vallée de Joux’ expertise – which means complicated watchmaking and refined craftsmanship. The Insight Micro-Rotor is his first automatic watch, and unlike other creations from his workshop, it features no complications. Instead it focuses on the essential, reinterpreted and crafted using a radical approach.
As the name suggests, the Insight Micro-rotor reveals its inner workings, allowing an unobstructed view of its movement’s back and front. The finishing of all parts is simply spectacular.
Elevating watchmaking to such a level requires know-how, uncompromising manufacturing ethos and talent. The in-house movement features an in-line time display with off-centered hours and minutes, small seconds and a superb balance wheel. The micro-rotor crafted in 22k gold is visible at 9 o’clock and through the exhibition back. The two barrels can store up to 80 hours of power reserve.
The Insight Micro-Rotor is available in a 39.5 mm case in platinum or red gold, both limited to 30 pieces each.
MB&F – Legacy Machine Split Escapement
The belief in the power of dreams and out of the box thinking is the raison d’être of MB&F, short for Maximilian Busser and Friends. Fueled by passion for the craft and unbridled creativity, the innovative horological lab played a pivotal role in the ‘indie’ watchmaking rise.
Recently, the brand announced the end of one of their most successful models, the Legacy Machine 1. However, watch enthusiasts were relieved to learn that this was not the end of the road, as it coincided with the presentation of the next chapter in the series, the Legacy Machine Split Escapement, or LM SE.
44 mm in diameter, its case features a domed sapphire crystal protecting a balance wheel suspended above the movement, under an organically arched balance bridge. Three small dials show the hours and minutes at 12 o’clock, the power reserve at 4 o’clock and the date at 8 o’clock. The dial is actually the main plate that features a micro-textured frosted finish (a delicate finishing technique reminiscent of the finish of pocket watches movements from the 18th and 19th century). The hand wound movement features a 72-hour power reserve. The escapement can be seen at the back of the watch, unusually placed at the opposite of the balance bridge, which is a true technical feat and explains the name ‘split escapement’.
The MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement comes in 4 different versions, all with a white gold case but different colors for their movement and dial: blue, ruthenium, yellow gold or red gold.
F.P. Journe – Chronometre Souverain Havana
François Paul Journe founded his eponymous brand in 1989 in Geneva. Since then, the master watchmaker has been exploring the measurement of time with integrity, creativity, innovation and a truly unique perception of elegance.
Recently, F.P. Journe has dressed his Chronometre Souverain with a new dial, subtly patterned and now presented in a warm Havana color that perfectly matches the platinum case and alligator leather strap.
The restrained yet distinctive elegance of Chronometre Souverain is paired with a refined hand-wound movement inspired by early 19th century marine chronometry. For optimal precision, it features two barrels in parallel to deliver stable power over 56-hour of their indicated reserve. As always, the finishing is superb with top-notch hand-decoration; all parts are fashioned out of gold and are immaculately finished with exacting attention to details. It is craftsmanship and substance personified.
Voutilainen – Aki-No-Kure
Kari Voutilainen is one of the most talented and respected watchmakers in the rarefied world of Haute Horlogerie. Collectors over the world go crazy for his creations. Aki-No-Kure is no exception and the industry accolade received at the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in the ‘Artistic Craft’ Category is no small achievement.
The symbiosis of Japanese tradition and Swiss Haute Horlogerie, it unites East and West in perfect harmony. Its dial is manufactured by the talented craftsmen of the Unryuan lacquer studio, working under the guidance of master lacquer artisan T. Kitamura. It is paired with gold and steel handmade hands with their distinctive ‘eye’.
Housed in a 39mm high palladium white gold case with tear-drop lugs, the manual winding movement indicates hours and minutes. With a special direct impulse escapement and a free-sprung balance, it operates at 18,000 vibrations per hour for a power reserve of 65 hours. The movement is lavishly decorated with all parts hand-finished to the highest level – not that you would expect anything else from the meticulous Finnish master watchmaker. Art in its purest form.
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An industry expert, Xavier Markl became hooked on mechanical watches when he started working for Cartier and then Girard-Perregaux. A subject area which was initially a professional necessity turned into a horological obsession. Unable to ignore the beauty of a finely decorated movement or gloriously turned dial, he frequently writes for Monochrome-watches in order to indulge his horological cravings.