Editor’s Pick: An Introduction to Independent Watchmaking (Pt. III)

In the final chapter of our three-part focus on influential and important timepieces being exhibited during the opening of Wristcheck’s Hong Kong space, we dip our toes into the riveting world of independent watchmaking...
By Aaron Voyles
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The world of horology is a fascinating collection of awe-inspiring designs, intricate microengineering and beautiful problem-solving. While the industry itself has these qualities in spades, traditional watchmakers and conglomerate groups that own them stifle their own creativity to some degree – and we see it in plenty of other industries too. Look at the fashion industry; it's the small independent brands that really get their creative juices flowing and produce the most incredible clothes. It's the very same with watches. The smaller independent brands are free from the shackles of commercialism. 

Granted, these independent watchmakers still have to sell their timepieces, but they produce fewer watches and appeal to passionate collectors who are happy to be the early adopters. As such, independent watchmakers can flex horological muscles that other more prominent brands don't even know exist. As a result, what we get is a handful of independent brands with some genuinely incredible, technically mind-blowing watches. Here, we're going to explore some of these watches which you have the pleasure to see in our brand new location in Hong Kong. 

 

Urwerk UR-100V IRON

 

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Founded in 1997, Urwerk's founders Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner sought to design and create Haute Horlogerie timepieces that would fuse traditional watchmaking with futuristic design and vision. Their original design inspiration was the sun's arc across the sky and creating a watch that would tell the time like a sundial, with a single hour numeral representing the sun as it moved along a semi-circular minute track spanning from 9 to 3 o'clock. This intuitive design and visual representation of time as we naturally know it – where the sun is in the sky, is what Urwerk's design has continuously been based on, and has enabled them to stand out as a genuinely independent watchmaker in every sense of the phrase. As mentioned earlier, independent watchmakers can take these original ideas and run further with them than any traditional watchmaker, and Urwerk's legendary designs exemplify this. Just take a look at the UR-100, for example.

 

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Inspired by their roots, the UR-100 tells the time as Urwerk envisaged it all those years ago. It also features a duo of astronomical complications that build upon its solar and celestial-inspired design origins. Introduced in 2019, the UR-100 merges Urwerk's signature display with a new aesthetic in the shape of a fully metallic silver-tone case. In keeping with the brand's vision, the UR-100 features Urwerk's emblematic satellite orbital hour markers circling the dial and tracing along the minutes display along the bottom of the watch like the sun's shadow as it passed overhead. 

 

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In its totality, the UR-100 is successful in its attempt as a new spin on their iconic design and pushes Urwerk's watchmaking credentials even further into the ether of Haute Horlogerie and cements the now-iconic indie watchmaker as a true maverick within the industry. While the watch is an acquired taste, handle an Urwerk for long enough, and you will fall in love with its paradoxically comfortable design, legible displays and overall unique aesthetic.

 

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This watch is available on Wristcheck.

 

MB&F LMX

 

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Famed as perhaps one of the most individualistic watchmakers on the planet, MB&F has taken Max Büsser's love of creativity and blended it with immaculate watchmaking in ways that few other brands could even dream of. Standing as the focal point of one of MB&F's most brand-defining collections, the LMX celebrates ten years of the Legacy Machines series to great acclaim. 

 

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Debuting in 2021, the MB&F LMX is one of the most intricately designed and aesthetically astute timepieces to come from Max Büsser's brilliant eponymous brand. Unique from the very get-go, the LMX is visually unlike any other watch you are likely to have seen or held before. Featuring two independent time zones across two white slanted sub-dials, an impressive seven day power reserve display at 12 o'clock, all within a titanium case, the LMX is as functional as it is beautiful – and shockingly unique. With its stunning green dial, show-stopping central flying balance and signature domed sapphire crystal, this 44mm beauty is sure to turn some heads.

 

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Ushering in your own design language is an essential aspect of becoming a genuinely iconic independent watchmaker. While the LMX certainly looks unique in photos and renderings, it is only when a watch like the LMX is in hand or on the wrist that we truly appreciate just how remarkable a timepiece it is.

 

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MB&F x Moser LM101 (Ref. 51.SL.MB)

 

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Released in 2020 to celebrate both MB&F and H. Moser's 15th anniversary, the MB&F x Moser LM101 is a stunningly "Moserized" version of what has become an iconic MB&F design. Unlike any watch from MB&F in the past, the MB&F x Moser LM101 features design aspects that are crucial to H. Moser's identity mixed with a watch that has become an icon of MB&F's catalogue, the LM101. 

 

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The specific variant of the MB&F x Moser LM101 that we have on display is the ref. 51.SL.MB. Limited to just 15 units, the ref. 51.SL.MB is made unique through its defining 'Funky Blue' dial sitting proudly within its 40mm stainless steel case and beneath an incredible 14mm flying balance wheel that hypnotically ticks undisturbed. Lacking branding and featuring Moser's signature fumé design, the ref. 51.SL.MB changes from a brilliant sky blue at its centre to an almost-black shade of navy along its periphery. Powered by the incredible calibre LM101 Kari Voutilainen-designed movement, the MB&F x Moser LM101 sits at the apex of contemporary independent watchmaking.

 

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This watch is available on Wristcheck.

 

Moser x MB&F Cylindrical Tourbillon in Burgundy (Ref. 1810-1201)

 

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Alongside the MB&F x Moser LM101, the duo also released another timepiece as a nod to the two independent watchmakers' 15th anniversaries. But, instead, this time, the Moser x MB&F Cylindrical Tourbillon is Moser taking inspiration from MB&F, as opposed to the other way around with the LM101 mentioned before. A 'Moserised' version of an MB&F LM Thunderdome, the Cylindrical Tourbillon features an incredible dome-shaped sapphire crystal that serves as an aesthetic reminder of MB&F's involvement with the project, and a functional role in allowing Moser to raise the timepiece's sapphire dial to a 40-degree incline as MB&F have done in the past.

 

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Fitted with a cylindrical balance spring designed by Moser's sister company, Precision Engineering AG, the Cylindrical Tourbillon is a technical marvel with mechanics very rarely seen in the watchmaking industry. While the transparent sapphire dial displaying the time is purposefully subtle in that it provides an uninterrupted view of the cylindrical tourbillon that raises out from the opening at 12 o'clock, it also speaks to Moser's minimalist styling in that it is lost in the madness of the watch when it needs to be, yet it is there to tell you the time when you look for it.

Beyond its incredible engineering and brand-specific design influences, the stainless-steel Cylindrical Tourbillon ref. 1810-1201 that we have here features an incredibly vivid burgundy fumé dial and is, like the other variants from the collection, limited to just 15 pieces. Completing a perfect exhibition of independent watchmaking technical prowess, confident design language and just plain breath-taking watchmaking, the Cylindrical Tourbillon is not a watch that can be truly understood from someone else's description. Much like the rest of the watches discussed here, the Cylindrical Tourbillon needs to be seen to be believed.

 

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This watch is available on Wristcheck.

 

De Bethune DB28 “Kind Of Blue”

 

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Known for their fascination with the colour blue, science fiction-esque aesthetic and incredible dedication to high-end artisanal watchmaking, De Bethune rightfully exists as one of the most easily identifiable watchmakers around, and the ‘Kind of Blue’ ref. DB28B exemplifies precisely that. 
 
Launched in 2016, the De Bethune DB28 ‘Kind Of Blue’ was unlike anything the watch industry had seen. When the brand came onto the scene, it brought with them a whole new design language that was unique to them and immediately recognizable. With the ‘Kind Of Blue’, the independent watchmaker took the concept of a “blue watch” to the next level. The watch features a case in grade 5 titanium that is heated and oxidized to achieve a unique all-blue look executed to a stunningly high standard that has now become a signature of the brand. The DB28B stands as a proud demonstration of De Bethune’s persistence to flame-blue titanium even with the technical difficulties that present themselves with the technique.

 

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Visually striking, the watch also features a predominately flame-blued movement, a matching flame-blued dial and De Bethune’s signature ‘floating’ lugs which allows for maximum comfort on the wrist. 

 

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The ref. DB28B proudly represents everything unique about this incredible independent watchmaker in the form of aesthetics and design, internal mechanics and overall execution.
What’s more, the present example is watch number 1, indicating that it was the first customer piece to have come out of the Manufacture.

 

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This watch is available on Wristcheck.

 

Greubel Forsey GMT Black

 

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Founded by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey in 2004 on the simple premise that not everything in watchmaking had been invented already, Greubel Forsey has made its name as a watchmaker continually seeking to push the envelope. One such watch that demonstrates just how far Greubel Forsey is willing to push the envelope is the GMT Black – a variant from the GMT collection. 

 

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A signature piece within their modern offerings, the GMT Black, like most GMT variants, is packed full of complications that simply boggle the mind. Starting with the most visually obvious and a subtle hint to its name, the GMT Black features a spinning globe at 7 o'clock that displays the time everywhere in the world at once thanks to the hour ring encircling the globe.

 

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Building upon the omnipotent grasp of time that the GMT Black grants its wearer, this wonderfully monochromatic timepiece also features a dedicated 2nd timezone display above the Earth alongside the main local time display with a running seconds and power reserve indicator found between the main subdial and the 24-second inclined tourbillon completing the dial's array of complications. In addition, the tourbillon is so inclined to ensure that it is never in either extreme position: perfectly vertical or horizontal, thus ensuring greater accuracy. 

 

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Complicated beyond measure, the GMT Black doesn't stop with its black dial or black DLC titanium case. It even has a worldtimer behind its caseback that displays the time in 24 cities across the globe – differentiating between the ones that observe summer and wintertime. 

 

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This watch is available on Wristcheck. Email concierge@wristcheck.com for enquiries!


 

The Wristcheck Experience officially opened its doors to the public on the 4th of September.

Shop 116A, 1/F, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central
Opening hours: 11-8pm Mon-Sun

See you there!

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