Watches should be Swiss they said, look again we said…
There is a much larger world beyond the world of Swiss watches, it includes pieces that are equally mesmerising, complex, and undoubtedly cool. Say hello to the new geographical centres for timepieces that are breaking the norm one horological wonder at a time. While the Swiss may reign, they are being decentralised slowly but surely, let’s take a look at the new epicentres shall we?
Known for all things meticulous, it’s no surprise that this island is making a serious case for some path breaking technology, price points and complications that will simply ‘wow’ you. Take Seiko for example, started all the way back in 1881 by Kintaro Hattori, but it was only in 1924 when the brand started using its current name. In 1969, Seiko created the world’s first quartz watch able to be produced at large scale: the Quartz Astron. Nowadays, Seiko represents a solid competitor for Swiss watches worldwide and is even the official timekeeper for several Olympic games.
To add to their heritage there is also Grand Seiko, a much more complex label by the same house that is perhaps one of the most underrated watch brands in the world. The first Grand Seiko was released in 1960 and had a new, 3180 caliber with accuracy of +12/-3 seconds a day, with astonishing power reserves for that time. It was also the first Japanese watch that was compliant with the COSC standard of excellence (The Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres), the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute, responsible for certifying the accuracy and precision of Swiss watches.
Note, to how we still keep going back to Switzerland for validation, but hey! First movers advantage right? Not only do they make the finest watches but they make the institutions too!
Next we have Citizen, another brand from the early 90s that still has a cult following. They developed the world’s first light-powered analog quartz watch—now known as the Eco-Drive—shaped the brand’s culture of looking to the future. And recently, they announced the Eco-Drive Caliber 0100 as the most accurate watch ever made.
And lastly we have Casio, while they have always had history in other instruments, what really made them popular was when they came out with the Casiotron electric wristwatch in 1970. The 80s also welcomed the super-tough G-Shock, which has since evolved to become Casio’s most successful line of watch models.
The land go the queen knows a thing or two about being on time and in time. A plethora of seriously artful timepieces come from the UK and we are just as surprised as you are on them not being from the Swiss capital. Exhibit A is Arnold & Son, born in 1736 in Cornwall, England and son of a watchmaker, John Arnold was already writing his fate from an early age. He was responsible for creating the smallest repeating watch for King George III, and rapidly became famous thereafter. He continued to create all kinds of innovations, among which there’s the ‘No. 36’, the first watch to be called a chronometer, for its level of accuracy. Arnold’s timepieces travelled all over the world on the wrists of famous explorers.
Another one is Bremont, who only began their journey in 2002 but immediately gained recognition and respect when they were sanctioned to create watches for the British Royal Air Force, Army, and Navy. The manufacturing of these pieces was overlooked by the Ministry of Defence, resulting in an innovative timepiece mixing modern watchmaking technologies and the strong tradition of British militaristic excellence.
And one of the most exciting finds from the UK is Roger W Smith, who is a protégé of the great George Daniels himself! And the legacy carries on as each timepiece is made by what he calls the ‘Daniel’s Method’ which effectively means every component is made from raw materials in the Isle of Man studio without the use of repetitive or automatic tools. With a seriously low production (we are talking less than 20 pieces a year) but beautifully crafted pieces, coveting one of these is truly one for the books.
There are a few standouts from these countries that have a following around the globe and it’s almost unreal how these too don’t have Swiss roots. Number one has to be Panerai, from the land of pizza, pasta and really good looking men—Italy, we present you a brand that has made you rethink diving watches forever. The distance shape, the luminescent markers, everything about this watch adds to its unique appeal. In 1860, Giovanni Panerai founded the watch manufacturing company in Florence and soon became the watch supplier for the Italian Navy. Even during World War II, Panerai produced a series of wrist-worn driving instruments meant to assist the Italian Decima Flottiglia MAS combat drivers. Today, it’s become a must have for collectors, enthusiasts and celebrities.
Number two has to be A. Lange & Söhne, founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in the town of Glashütte, Germany, the company started its journey with pocket watches. Later, during World War II, they even manufactured wrist watches for the German air force. However, after the war, the company’s property was confiscated by the Soviet government, which led to a cease in the operations. Luckily, after the fall of the Berlin wall, Ferdinand’s great-grandson decided to relaunch the company. And today Lange & Söhne craft classic timeless creations that literally make collectors drool. The brand’s models are distinguished from others by the use of “German Silver” in all their cases, which gives their watches a unique trademark.
Number three is Ressence, a Belgian wonder that only surfaced as recently as 2010. What caught everyone’s attention to them was the construction of the dial was scarily close to the glass making them appear mesmerisingly flat and the secondly the complete absence of a crown which is which is integrated as a lever on the rear of the titanium case and also their display of subdials that must be read in succession in order to tell the time. These dials are actually orbiting disks and rings that move around one another in order to display the time.
Others around the world
And while you may have thought you’ve seen everything, wait for it, we still haven’t spoken about the United States of America, one of the most popular brands from there has to be without a doubt Timex. What began as the Waterbury Clock Company from Connecticut in 1854 went on to become one of the most iconic and powerful watch conglomerates in the world. Their name is actually derived as a portmanteau of Time Magazine and Kleenex tissues.
Now let’s move to the land down under, Australia, who presents a few very strong cases for great timepieces, but one that stands out is Nicholas Hacko Fine Watches. They are the first and only watch fully manufactured in Australia. Built from the inability to import watch parts in his own country from Switzerland, Nicholas decided to make his own. The one that made the most waves was “0/9″ which was released with only nine pieces up for grabs and when released over a newsletter got over 100 orders requiring him to restructure, rethink and rebuild a more commercially viable creation. The rest they say is history, and a brilliant one at that, today he is known as one the the finest Australian watchmakers.
All in all, it’s the thought that led you to buying the watch and the watch that truly stood out for you, geography doesn’t matter anymore. The world of horology has been decentralised as we know it and this is only the beginning.
By Nirja Dutt