Kari Voutilainen Vingt-8 Salmon Dial

The Best Independent Watches to Buy Now

Back in the day, watches were made in small cabinet shops with limited production and a high degree of hand skill and craftsmanship. Many of the industry’s greatest brands began this way— Vacheron, for example, was founded within the home of its visionary, with only a single apprentice constructing timepieces alongside Vacheron. With time, the nature of the industry has changed significantly. Today, most premier brands are part of larger conglomerates, growing in production numbers and the utilization of mechanized processes to streamline manufacturing. 

In recent years, however, we have seen a renaissance occurring within the world of fine independent watches. Brands such as F.P. Journe have pioneered the way for other smaller production makers to establish a name and a reputation for themselves, maintaining a prioritization of the craft and developing a unique design language. Today, we will be analyzing 10 of the greatest creations to emerge from independent watchmaking shops to date that you should consider for your own collection. 

The Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down


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Ludovic Ballouard’s Upside Down is a great example of the type of ingenuity an independent brand’s perspective provides. A unique complication, the upside down displays each hour with a rotating disc, presenting the hours upside down, and flipping the current hour to be right side up. To achieve this effect, Ballouard developed a very unique movement architecture unlike any other, packaging it within a traditional case design that allows the distinctive complication to take center stage. Watches of this variety are simply not going to be introduced by standard brands like Omega, Rolex, or Breitling, who create amazing watches but are intending to reach a much broader audience. 

Moritz Grossmann Backpage 

Moritz Grossmann Backpage Limited Edition

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A small production German manufacturer with a rich history, Moritz Grossmann has developed a reputation for both unique designs and interesting mechanical solutions to common collectors’ gripes. The Backpage reorients the most aesthetically pleasing components of the movement to the front of the piece, and shaves away much of the dial to ensure increased visibility. Additionally, the piece incorporates a locking pusher that ensures that the minutes hand doesn’t buckle when setting the current time precisely with the crown. A beautifully finished watch with the intrigue of the movement transferred to the dial, the Backpage is an innovative work of artisanship to emerge from the heart of German watchmaking. 

Kari Voutilainen Vingt-8 Piece Unique 

Kari Voutilainen Vingt-8 Salmon Dial

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A true 1 of 1 unique piece from Kari Voutilainen, the Vingt-8 with salmon dial is equally ornate on the dial and movement sides. A full guilloche dial with several textures alludes to the underlying quality that this piece possesses. The movement side reiterates this idea, with an exquisitely polished hand-finished movement. A massive balance with a fully black polished staff adorns the case back. The piece’s teardrop lugs honor the inspiration of vintage timepieces from the likes of Vacheron Constantin. This gorgeous timepiece exudes quality from every angle.

R. Gauthier Logical One


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For many years, Romain Gauthier has been recognized as a source of high quality watch componentry. Supplying the parts for many premier brands, R. Gauthier also produces an incredibly limited production of brilliant watches— the estimate is that the total production falls below 100 pieces per year. The Logical One is probably the brand’s most recognized design, with a chain and fusee constant force system, and unique shrunken dial design. As a result of its exquisitely finished movements, Romain Gauthier has quickly risen to wide acclaim as one of the up and coming fine makers in the industry. 

Vianney Halter Trio Grande Date


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One of the hallmarks of indies is their individualistic and distinctive design philosophies. One brand that has perfected its approach to watch design is Vianney Halter. With an industrial portal motif consistent across their collections, Vianney Halter’s pieces are solid and tank-like in presence. The Trio Grande Date is one of the marque’s most reserved  packages (if it’s possible to use this word), yet it still preserves the underlying design language. With the time, subsidiary seconds, and date presented in separate portal hole displays, this watch is an eclectic everyday piece loved by many and hated by others. This controversy is precisely what makes this watch a conversation starter and a brilliant piece of not only watchmaking, but also art. 

H. Moser and Cie. Endeavor Perpetual Moon Concept 

H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept Aventurine

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Moser is most certainly best known for its eye-catching dials. In this case, the brand has chosen an aventurine glass speckled dial that resembles a starry sky scape. To complement the lunar theme, the watch has a moon phase at 6 o’clock. Beyond its special dial and simple complication, Moser has kept the rest of the piece pure and simple proving the notion that sometimes, less is more in design. 

Richard Mille RM 004-V2


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If there is one independent brand that has fully penetrated pop culture, developing a cult-like following of enthusiasts, it’s Richard Mille. The RM 004-V2 exemplifies the Richard Mille brand mission perfectly, as the combination of a traditional split-seconds chronograph mechanism, fused with modern materials and a progressive design. Richard Mille has successfully introduced high end complications to a younger, hipper, and sportier crowd. In this way, RM has created an entirely new market segment geared toward the desires and needs of a new customer. 

Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire Constant Force


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Produced by two Dutch brothers in the Netherlands, Gronefeld watches are among the best finished timepieces in the world. The 1941 Constant Force on the surface looks like any other simple watch, yet this ostensibly simple package belies an incredibly sophisticated movement architecture. An 8 second remontoire ensures constant force on the escapement, which is in its own right extensively and ornately decorated. Part of the movement’s brilliance is its stripping of much of the baseplate structure in favor of a more open and cavernous display. The entirety of the caliber is finished to a level rivaled by few, with many elements mirror polished. The dial features a metallic graining that enhances its salmon coloring. To give just a small inkling of the sophistication of this piece, take, for example, the fact that the case alone comprises over 60 pieces. Enough said. 

Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar Montre École “Vintage”


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One of only five examples from one of the industry’s most understated brands, the Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar “Vintage” is incredibly pure in its finishing, with nothing extraneous or ostentatious about its appearance. This specific piece, alongside every Laurent Ferrier creation, has the quality of falling under the radar, serving as the ideal watch for the unassuming collector that enjoys the knowledge that they have something of quality but who do not wish to flaunt their wealth conspicuously to others. Behind the veil of a simple design rests a truly beautiful hand-finished movement and a soft, almost pebble-like case that is incredibly warm on the wrist. 

F.P. Journe Astronomic Souveraine 


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No list of independent watches is complete without a Journe. Journe, alongside George Daniels and Philippe Dufour is considered a father of the independent watch market. The Journe Astronomic Souveraine is the most complicated wristwatch made by the brand to date. The piece features 18 complications, including sunrise/ sunset indication, moonphase, complete calendar, sidereal time, equation of time, tourbillon, minute repeater, constant force remontoire, and more. To make this piece even more impressive, all complications are controlled from a single crown, and the movement is housed within a case that is less than 14mm thick! In spite of its vast complication and sophisticated execution, the watch retains wearable dimensions, since every owner of a Journe will want to be sporting it on a daily basis. 

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