Independent watchmaking is a whole new ballgame for those looking to elevate their collection. Leading the charge in the indie scene are names like Richard Mille, Francois-Paul Journe, Greubel Forsey, Urwerk… all of whom today command significant premiums at watch auctions around the world. At a Phillips auction this year, a Philippe Dufour Duality sold for US$915,000 and at the 2017 Only Watch auction, a unique FP Journe timepiece went under the hammer for CHF1.15 million.
The astronomical prices are an acknowledgement of the prestige these independent watchmakers command; but such high profile prices and the fame they bring are ironically tugging these offbeat names towards the mainstream. Fortunately, there are other brands that embody the ideals of independent watchmaking away from the glare of media spotlight, obscure to all but those in the know…
Brothers Tim and Bart Grönefeld honed their craft at some of the best horological institutes including Swiss watchmaking school, WOSTEP, and the high complications specialist firm, Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi. They learned from the best and some of their watches have already earned prestigious awards. The 1941 Remontoire and the Parallax Tourbillon are the ones to get, while the One Hertz proffers a rare, almost forgotten complication.
He was from the 18th century but Ferdinand Berthoud’s creations continue to live on today. Most famous for his contributions to the development of highly precise marine chronometers, Berthoud was also the first to produce double-balance calibres in his quest for timekeeping precision. Paying tribute to this legacy, Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele founded this independent high watchmaking firm and the first timepiece produced, FB1 Chronometer, came with a COSC-certified tourbillon powered by a fusée and chain transmission system embodying Berthoud’s dedication to chronometry.
After spending the better half of his career at Patek Philippe, Laurent Ferrier decided to strike it out on his own. His creations have received prestigious accolades around the world including the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix in 2010 and 2015. Simple on the outside yet complex and exquisitely finished on the inside, the Galet collection has won Laurent Ferrier a large and growing fan base. Ferrier also collaborated with fellow watchmaking independent, Urwerk, on a unique watch for Only Watch 2017 which sold for CHF100,000.
Brothers John and Stephen McGonigle create watches that combine Swiss engineering with Irish design. The McGonigle have been producing watches with a unique Celtic flair since 2006, after spending several years working for some of the best Swiss companies. The collection is made up of 40 complicated and non-complicated timepieces made in very small numbers. The McGonigle Tourbillon is their first watch and apart from superior finishing, its gear wheels are cut with wolf’s teeth or dents de loup which dates back to the 19th century and require a high level of manual labour to finish.
Her watches can be spotted from a mile away and whether you love them or not, you won’t forget ever having seen them. Krüger is foremost a designer and collaborator, so she will not hesitate to create special pieces if you so ask. She hails from Scotland and her works are inspired by the concept of memento mori as she constantly explores the theme of mortality in horology. Since 2013, her atelier has produced numerous iterations of the Skull although Krüger also collaborates with other independents like Speake-Marin.
Asaoka established his atelier in 1992 but only made his first watch in 2009, four years after he decided to go into watch production. Lately he has been making waves among watch collectors for being one of the few watchmakers who undertake every process in watchmaking by himself, so each Hajime Asaoka timepiece is made by him and him alone. His Chronograph is especially spellbinding with an open-worked dial and a movement finished to the nines.
Safeguarding the tenets of classical watchmaking is the raison d’être of AkriviA Geneve, fronted by Rexhep Rexhepi, a young watchmaker who’s spent enough time in the workshops of big players like Patek Philippe and FP Journe to know that all he wants is to make watches his way. Akrivia means precision in ancient Greek and Rexhepi’s approach to watchmaking combines traditional flair with contemporary spirit. The collection is made up of four watches – all tourbillons – coupled with additional complications including a monopusher chronograph, a chiming jump hour, and a regulator.