Depends who you talk in the watch world the term microbrand is a double edge sword, some brands might raise an eyebrow and others love the label as is an opportunity to be different than anything called mainstream. Either way what we are here to discuss is value, as a reviewer and watch enthusiast I have gone through many stages (as we all do) but the one that really stayed with me is the value that independents or microbrands offer. Lately it has become quite hard for me to look at brands like Panerai (which I love) or Hublot and say that their current offering is compelling, now it is true that we are not talking about 500 GBP but sometimes a watch regardless of the price feels like a bargain (thank you Grand Seiko). What I am trying to explain is that there are manufacturers out there that create a rush feeling making you think that if you don’t pull the trigger and buy the wactch in that exact moment you are going to miss out, in this scenario most of the time price plays a big part on the equation. Coming back to the main topic this stage of value is what I am currently loving, when I go to a independent or microbrand website and look at what is being offered, I start asking questions like : '' are they going to make more?'', '' maybe is not so good on the metal?'', '' it's quartz but ?'', '' this uses a Sellita movement but so does Hublot and Bremont right?'', then 1 hour after staring at my phone or PC, I usually notice that I've added the item to the cart a few times back and forth. This is power of persuasion, this is where many brands want to be, out of the mainstream and inside your head.
For this article I reviewed 3 brands that really stuck with me and if you put them together they could easily be a 3 watch collection well under 1000 GBP, all of the watches have one thing in common and that is that they are made with design in mind.
Lets crack on.
The surprise: The Schindler Ochoa Classic
I called this watch a pleasant surprise as for me it's a game changer in the fashion watch arena. We all are used to see these Daniel Wellington knock offs with subtle changes and cheap movements, this is not the case with The Classic, the beauty of this piece is in it’s the entire execution.
The SCHO Classic is a clear example which shows that well a well design idea does not need to add to the price to the point that becomes unattainable. The first element that attracted me to this piece was the dial, a white matte face that looks like the whitest of papers with carved lines marking every second present, I opted for a blue brushed case which looks amazing,
I haven't seen this feature at this price range, the watch also shows details like polished sword style hands which looks as sharp as scissors adding to the overall charm of the watch. Under macro photography the whole dial looks as well executed as anything with a much higher price tag. The case is only 7mm thin and with a beautiful grey leather strap (which feels amazing) or a blue mesh (the watch comes with both) is simply a package that a fashion watch cannot compete with.
The most have: The Isotope Goutte d'Eau
Divers, I am still not sure why we all feel so attracted to dive watches, we are obsessed with how many meters underwater a watch can go but we take it off as soon as we wash our hands or take a shower, in the diving world of watches we can easily say that the Rolex Submariner design is timeless but also the supercompressor design is one of the most beautiful vintage looks a diving watch can have, enter the Goutte d'Eau.
This stainless steel beauty is design with elements you can find in watches 3x the price. In my opinion it has everything going for it, two crowns standing proudly to manipulate the inner bezel, a sandwich dial with SuperLuminova BGW9 and a world champion of ice diving behind the project.
I handled most of the Isotope's range and the quality of their cases and bracelet is something hard if not impossible to find at this price range and, I still haven't mentioned that its power by either a Sellita movement or a reliable Seiko NH35a.
The tool watch nature of the Goutte d'Eau makes it imposing but not uncomfortable, this is key as for me is that many brands create a heavy/big watches only to justify their higher prices, in this case the proportions are just right. After spending sometime with it, the Goutte d'Eau seemed to me a perfect blend between design and flair plus utility, this takes it another league with true hardcore tool watches, you can definitely wear it in a London office on a Friday, sneak out early, head to the coast and dive with it for the whole weekend.
The show stopper: The Marlow Coniston
I never understood why the watch industry doesn’t make more manual watches. Automatic seems to be the norm or a must, I do understand the convenience of an automatic movement but the whole idea of a wrist watch is already obsolete so why not go full throttle with an old school manual piece?
There is something nice about winding your watch and bring it back to life day after day, it is romantic but we lost this romance somehow. There are watch brands that will just take the rotor out and go for this vintage feeling but the people at Marloe did something much better, they put an exhibition case back, use a Miyota 8N33 and then went to extreme to decorated this watch as nothing else I have seen. The macro shots held incredible well, details were amazing and this is just the back. The front is executed as perfect as possible, details are crisp, the hands are unique and when the watch goes in the dark, the lume application is a modern work of art. This is the kind of watch you show to that friend who is not interested in watches and he/she might say : ''mmmm now I get it..''. The case is beautifully polished and even the crown gets its nautical motif looking like ropes curling on the side (maybe it’s just me imagining things).
I kept this watch full on for a week and it’s a perfect companion, very casual/elegant with a French Riviera air which fits very well with a nice salmon dinner and a crispy dry white wine on the side. I will have the hardest of time to return this piece as I think it can fit on any collection with watches from every price range.
So there they are, a 3 piece collection: the dress watch, the utilitarian and the everyday. These 3 marvelous watches are a living proof that if you do your homework you can find craftsmanship, design and heritage with out breaking the bank and I assure you that they will bring more excitement than buying some of the traditional mainstream brands. It is incredible how much joy I got from wearing, writing and telling their stories about them, I spent a few times chatting with the owners of these brands and they all are lovely people, this is a value add-on that I really enjoy.
I believe this proves my point that excitement is not linked with pricing and 1000 GBP can take you a long way.
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