The best independent watch brands to know in 2022
Few aspects of style are as completely dominated by a handful of brands as the world of watches. Heritage names like Rolex, Omega, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe are strong competition for smaller labels, so strong that many don’t even care. But, for the brave few who do, the domination of the old guard forces innovation. That’s what makes it so exciting when young, independent watch brands start making strides.
Although we are followers of the classics, we are also supporters of the underdog. That’s why we thought it was time to put together a handful of independent watch brands worthy of your attention.
Customizers like MAD Paris and Individual design who practice their art on second-hand luxury watches, up to names like eBike, Movado, and others who are forging their own path to the top, the watch scene seems really healthy right now. Below, you can read more about independent watch brands to watch out for, and shop some of our favorite models from each.
Check out some of our favorite independent watch brands below.
You’ve probably seen a number of MAD Paris pieces before, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. The custom luxury pieces have found a warm reception on Instagram feeds, garnering a lot of attention. The French company is the kind of thing that could only have been founded by a watch fanatic. Founder Pierre Lheureux is an avid watch collector who grew tired of owning watches that everyone else owned. He took matters into his own hands, customizing the same highly respected timepieces he collected and turning them into limited-edition works of art.
Using second-hand luxury watches as a backdrop, MAD Paris brings a bold aesthetic in the form of industrial details and, more often than not, a multitude of precious stones. Having worked with brands like 1017 ALYX 9SM and Casablanca, MAD Paris’ distinctive style is already on the luxury fashion radar and its influence is only growing.
While building a viable watch business among the giants is one thing when you use their watches, it’s a whole other game when you create your own. VAER is a fledgling watchmaker that has really caught our attention in recent months.
Founded in 2016 in Los Angeles, VAER is the passion project of two watch enthusiasts who, in their own words, “couldn’t afford the watches we liked and didn’t like any of the watches we could afford. This is a dilemma many find themselves in, so young brands like VAER are a welcome solution.
The duo started with the mission of creating a functionally waterproof wristwatch priced below $150. Since then, VAER’s offering has grown to encompass everything from field watches to diver’s watches, proudly made in America. Besides the Made in USA options, here you can offer Swiss-made divers for less than $1,000. If that’s not a sign of the seriousness of this young brand, we don’t know what is.
Designa Individual actually started life as a gadget customization service. While you can always get your phone carbon-clad or leather-bound by the artist duo, we’re more into the customs of the luxury watch. While MAD Paris seeks bold details with minimal restraint, Designa Individual is a total visual refresh.
Known for replacing stainless steel cases with carbon fiber substitutes, Designa Individual believes that a high-end watch should be portable, lightweight and reliable. Using the Rolexes as its main base, the Design Individual collection also includes an eye-catching update from the Patek Philippe Nautilus.
The concept of Reservoir draws heavily on tradition as a source of inspiration. While many of today’s booming independent watch brands opt for heavy cases and visible detailing to grab attention, Reservoir aims to echo a time when precision timepieces were purely utilitarian.
Understanding that almost all modern luxury watches, no matter how polished or refined they are today, were invented for much less glamorous work than its aesthetic rests at the center of Reservoir’s collection. The brand believes that without these perfectly crafted watches, many of the greatest feats in history would not have been possible.
One look at Reservoir watches really tells you all you need to know. Each is ultra-functional in its appearance. Colorful scales decorate the dials as if they came from the dashboard of a fighter plane while under the hood, Swiss-made mechanical movements offer the precision that characterizes the best watches in the world.
How many independent watch brands can say they are part of 20 museum collections around the world? Since its first conception in 1912, MOVADO has consistently released watches with cutting-edge visuals at an affordable price. What is perhaps most appealing about MOVADO watches is their timelessness.
Take their specialty, the Museum Watch, for example. First designed in 1947 by artist Nathan George Horwitt, it is part of MoMA’s permanent collection and remains one of MOVADO’s best-selling designs. It’s no surprise – the museum dial is essentially completely blank save for a circular marking at 12 o’clock.
From watches under $500 to luxury versions over $2500, there’s plenty to choose from, so it’s worth doing some research to find out if you’re looking for a Swiss quartz movement, d a chronograph or something automatic.
There’s a lot of debate about the golden age of watches, but the 1960s spawned whole swathes of iconic pieces. The 60s ushered in a line of small square dial watches which gradually lost popularity but have made a comeback in recent years. March La.b caught our attention because it offers some of the most authentic retro square watches around. Unless you’re looking for a real Cartier tank, of course.
Aside from the square faces that hooked us, you’ll notice that March La.b is a proponent of a green dial. U.S. too. That’s another tick in the aesthetics column, but what about the technical side of things?
March La.b offers quartz and automatic options. Quartz watches usually use a Japanese Miyota movement known to be one of the most reliable in the game. As for automatic watches, movements range from Miyota to La Joux Perret G100 Swiss Movements.
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