It’s easy to think the watch industry is about as agile as a mid-sized glacier. It often seems like the same brands and models have dominated the market for decades. But this impression is misleading. In the last 20 years alone, countless new watch manufacturers have entered the market. These brands have a lot to offer, which is why we’re taking a closer look at some of the most exciting new brands.
Laurent Ferrier, MB&F, and Greubel Forsey: High-end watch or work of art?
Let’s start with Laurent Ferrier. The brand was founded in Geneva in 2009 by Laurent Ferrier and released their first timepiece, the Classic Tourbillon, in 2010. To great acclaim, I might add: The watch was named Best Men’s Watch at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève the same year.
But this shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, as the company’s founder isn’t exactly a newcomer to the scene. Not only does Ferrier come from a long line of watchmakers, he was also technical director at Patek Philippe for 37 years. Ferrier was the one who transformed Gerald Génta’s designs for the now legendary Nautilus into a functioning prototype.
With this backstory, it’s no surprise that Laurent Ferrier’s creations exude an air of understated noblesse. The watches in the Classic collection, for example, are viable alternatives to the Calatrava, Datejust, and many more. And if you’re looking for a luxury sports watch that’s a bit off the beaten track, you should definitely take a closer look at the Laurent Ferrier Sport Auto or Grand Sport Tourbillon.
Before Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey baptized their company, Greubel Forsey, in 2004, they both spent a good decade or so as movement specialists at Renaud & Papi. They now make good use of the experience they gained there in designing and constructing highly complicated movements in the development of their own watches.
Greubel Forsey’s specialty is first and foremost tourbillons. Of particular note are the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Incliné and Double Tourbillon 30°. The former’s tourbillon cage houses a balance wheel inclined at 25 degrees, which takes 24 seconds to complete a full rotation. The Double Tourbillon 30° takes tourbillon tech to the next level: True to its name, it’s a minute tourbillon with a balance wheel set at 30 degrees, embedded in another tourbillon cage. The latter takes four minutes to complete one revolution.
Greubel Forsey enjoy pushing the envelope with creations like the GMT Quadruple Tourbillon & Balancier Contemporain. This watch not only features a GMT display with a small rotating 3D globe to indicate the second time zone, it’s also equipped with two Double Tourbillon 30°, synchronized with each other by means of a differential gear.
Maximilian Büsser has been making news with the brand MB&F (Maximilian Büsser & Friends) since 2005. Büsser’s concept is unique in the watch world: each of the company’s creations is developed in collaboration with an independent watchmaker, with the watchmakers enjoying complete creative freedom in the design of their timepieces.
This unparalleled approach has resulted in a catalog of striking timepieces like the Horological Machine No. 10 Bulldog, reminiscent of a bulldog; the Horological Machine No. 8, inspired by 1960s Can-Am race cars; and the futuristic Horological Machine No. 6, which would look great in a sci-fi film.
Along with the Horological Machines, MB&F also offers Legacy Machines, a line of somewhat more traditional watches. The only traditional element here, however, is the round case shape; the watches in this collection feature movements and displays that are just as extraordinary as those of the Horological Machines. The Legacy Machine Perpetual, which is equipped with a new kind of perpetual calendar mechanism, and the revolutionary Legacy Machine Sequential EVO double chronograph have recently attracted a great deal of attention.
The idea for MB&F came to Büsser during his time as CEO at Harry Winston. It was there that he conceived of the Opus collection, a series of highly complicated mechanical watches. Again, Büsser relied on the expertise of independent watchmakers.
Want to learn more about what’s been going on in the watch world for the last 20 years?
HYT: Young Upstart With an Eventful Backstory
In 2012, HYT set out to revolutionize the way time is displayed on mechanical watches. Instead of conventional hands, HYT watches use a liquid display to show the passing hours. The fluid is pumped into a thin tube at the edge of the dial via the two highly visible bellows that give the timepieces their characteristic appearance.
HYT quickly became a star in the watch scene, receiving a number of illustrious prizes, including the prize for Best Innovation at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. Despite its initial success, however, the company was gradually met with financial difficulties and forced to file for bankruptcy at the end of 2020.
However, that was not the end of HYT: With the help of new investors, the brand was revived in 2022 and has since resumed production.
Baltic and Christopher Ward: Up-and-Coming Microbrands
Baltic and Christopher Ward are just two of the countless new microbrands to have enriched the industry with their watches over the last 20 years. Both brands have been able to build a loyal fan base since their founding in 2016 (Baltic) and 2005 (Christopher Ward). Their recipe for success: high-quality watches at affordable prices. Based in France, Baltic has focussed on watches with a decidedly retro design; from diving watches to dress watches and chronographs, they offer something for everyone.
Watches from Christopher Ward, on the other hand, belong more in the sporty tool watch category. Vintage classics from the 1950s and 60s often serve as inspiration, but the brand’s timepieces have a modern and distinctive look. The watchmaker, based in Maidenhead, England, has developed into a true manufacturer, with its own atelier in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland. In early 2023, for example, Christopher Ward surprised the watch world with the Bel Canto C1, a minute repeater developed in-house.
As well as the innumerable new brands that have altered the horological landscape over the past 20 years, some long-lost brands have been brought back from obscurity, of which one particularly resonant name is Czapek.
Czapek & Cie was founded in Geneva in 1845 by Franciszek Czapek, a Polish immigrant. Czapek had already made a name for himself as head of watchmaking at Patek, Czapek & Cie. But when that company dissolved, and Antoni Patek joined forces with Adrien Philippe to create Patek Philippe, Czapek became watchmaker to the Court of the Emperor Napoleon III. Business flourished, and Czapek opened his own stores in Paris and Warsaw.
But the history of Czapek & Cie ends abruptly in 1869. The reason for this is still unclear. Some believe that Czapek died without naming a successor. Whatever the reason, the brand fell into oblivion for more than 140 years.
It wasn’t until 2011 that Xavier de Roquemaurel, Harry Guhl, and Sébastien Follonier decided to breathe new life into the Czapek brand. Since then, the company has been manufacturing high-quality luxury watches imbued with the spirit of the great Franciszek Czapek.
As our small selection of brands and manufacturers demonstrates, the watch market has been enriched by many new industry players in the past 20 years. The list could go on and on, and that’s good news, because it proves that the watch world is alive, and ever-changing.