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  • Writer's pictureBalance & Bridge Team

A New Year of Watches: The 10 Best Microbrands to Check Out in 2024. Add Originality and Innovation to your Wrist.


The New Year is always a great time to reflect on the past year and also look forward to the year to come. Here at Balance & Bridge, we have been fortunate to get in-depth with some of the best watches in the world over the past year and left 2023 with incredible excitement for 2024. What excited us more than anything has been the incredible rise and public awareness of the so-called Microbrands in watchmaking. These smaller-scale, typically independently-owned companies are taking over enthusiasts' hearts by combining original designs, new and exciting materials, and incredible value for money.


 

To skip right to the list of the Best 1o Microbrand Watches of 2024, choose your

adventure below:



  1. Christopher Ward - The Twelve / Bel Canto

  2. FARER - Meredith GMT

  3. FORMEX - Reef Series

  4. MONTA - Oceanking

  5. Nezumi - Aviera GMT

  6. NODUS - Sector Sport Series

  7. Spinnaker - Hull Pearl Diver

  8. UNIMATIC - Modello Uno

  9. Weiss - Standard Field Watch

  10. YEMA - Superman Bronze

 

What has been equally exciting is the ability of these smaller-scale companies to be able to promote their creations via the various social media outlets and public internet forums available. Now more than ever, watchmakers can get their products in front of audiences that were more difficult to find in years past. For the newest and most cash-strapped watchmakers, avenues like crowdfunding make their watchmaking dreams a reality by enabling interested customers to fund their creations before the risk of producing a watch of no public interest.


As a result, the industry is allowing dreamers and innovators to seriously chase those dreams and truly innovate. Risks can be taken without as much (big risks can still be make or break for brands without established histories and followings) on the line. And in the world of creativity and competition, there is no greater superpower than having the freedom to fail.


Now, let's jump into some of the best Microbrands and Independently owned watchmakers and their best offerings to keep on your radar in 2024. If you missed our list from last year, we highlighted 7 brands in the same fashion. There are sure to be a few mainstays and repeat companies this year, but that's a good thing. The more microbrands can stay relevant, the more accredited the entire niche becomes. In watchmaking, true to other industries, a rising tide truly lifts all ships.


 

10 Best Microbrand Watches of 2024

The following brands are listed in alphabetical order and each brand has one or two model(s) highlighted that we believe capture the essence of the brand. Plenty of additional brands are worth discovering - but we recommend starting here. Enjoy!

 

1. Christopher Ward - "The Twelve" & "Bel Canto"


Christopher Ward The Twelve (Ti)
The Twelve (Ti) - Image: Balance & Bridge

Christopher Ward may be one of, if not the most obvious choice on this list. The British company has set the watch world on fire since its founding in 2005. Many newcomers have only recently stumbled upon the brand because of the awards and recognition, but Christopher Ward has been impressing enthusiasts for nearly two decades. When Christopher Ward released "The Twelve", the horological world took notice. Integrated bracelet sports watches recently reclaimed center stage and they capitalized on the moment. Featuring a dodecagonal case shape, "The Twelve" blends vintage design cues and modern aesthetics to create combinations for everyone. We got hands-on with the version pictured above and were also made into believers of the hype.


 

Christopher Ward Bel Canto
Christopher Ward Bel Canto - Image Courtesy of Christopher Ward

What can be said about the Bel Canto that hasn't been said before? This watch possibly claims the spot of the most important release of 2023. This was a big moment in watchmaking, much the same as Seiko's release of their manufacture NH34 GMT movement. It signified a momentous change in the direction of watchmaking, and the Bel Canto made a complication once unattainable, attainable. Getting your hands on one is a different challenge, but one worth it. The Bel Canto ended 2023 as the winner of the CPHG 'Petite Aiguille' Award. Haute horology with chiming complications can come in at nearly ten times the price. Just awesome.

 

FARER - "Meredith GMT"


FARER Meredith GMT
FARER Meredith GMT - Image Courtesy of FARER

Riding the British wave we move to FARER. This brand has produced some of the most original and innovative color palettes we have seen in recent history. FARER is not afraid to push boundaries and carve their lane. If you want to put something on your wrist that people will notice (don't we wish people would) then FARER is a great choice. Featuring awesome combinations of materials and colors, the Meredith GMT brings deep blues, applied indices, 3D Lume, bi-finished copper dials, and their signature 'A' second-hand to a package that screams luxury - at an affordable price. Grab yours at FARER and read our in-depth coverage here.


 

FORMEX - "Reef"


Formex Reef
Formex Reef - Image ©Formex Watch SA

FORMEX = forme extrème, French for ‘extreme shape’. This has defined the Swiss brand since its inception in 1999. FORMEX is still independently and family-owned since 1999 when two Swiss brothers wanted to combine their watchmaking and enthusiast sides with their love for motorsports and high design. Focusing on haute engineering and mechanics, the Formex brand takes a bold approach to their watches. The 'Reef' series specifically, are statements of strength and durability with 300m water resistance and featuring angular case designs with bold dials and distinct bezels. For those interested in further customization, the Reef allows for interchangeable bezels for highly individualized styling. Durable and strong - learn more at Formex.


 

MONTA - "Oceanking"


MONTA Oceanking
MONTA Oceanking - Image Courtesy of MONTA

We covered the Oceanking in depth here, but the American-based MONTA has been capturing the interest of collectors and enthusiasts since they began their operations out of St.Louis in 2016. The Oceanking was MONTA's first offering and still operates as the cornerstone of their product line. The Oceanking is a classically designed Swiss-made diver that offers an ideal 40.5mm case size with a black ceramic bezel and a class-leading clasp. MONTA has been iterating this design and constantly upgrading the watch leading to its current third generation model. Grab yours at MONTA.


 

Nezumi - "Aviera GMT"


Nezumi Aviera GMT
Nezumi Aviera GMT - ©️ David Campo / Nezumi Studios, all rights reserved.

What do you get when you cross a passion for horology, motorsports, creative direction, Swedish design, and German assembly? You get Nezumi, the creative hub established in 2011 by Stockholm-based designer David Campo, Nezumi is encompassing a range of passions, including premium watchmaking, which has now become the studio's main focus. The name Aviera combines the words 'Aviation' and the Swedish word 'Navigera', which means to navigate. A fitting name for the piece that combines classic aviation-based design with a touch of Swedish flair. This model was recently upgraded with the Miyota 9075 Automatic GMT movement, replacing the Seiko NH34 GMT movement previously featured. This is one of the most strikingly original watches and brands on this list, and they deserve your attention. Check out our deep dive on this model (pre-Miyota movement) here.


 

NODUS - "Sector Sport" Series


Nodus Sector Sport
NODUS Sector Sport - Image Courtesy of NODUS

Another American-based company, NODUS reigns from the City of Angels and has been producing high-quality designs since 2017. Each piece is assembled, tested, and regulated for accuracy in their Los Angeles workshop. The NODUS mission states; "We are committed to designing and building the best wristwatches through rigorous testing of innovative manufacturing techniques." They do exactly this and we have been lucky enough to get hands-on with several models including the Sector Deep, Sector Pilot, Sector Sport, and the Avalon. The Sector Sport offers the most diversity and applications for the casual wearer and shows off their focus on finishing and innovative dials, like on this 'Marigold' version. Pick your favorite at NODUS below.


 

Spinnaker - "Hull Pearl Diver"


Spinnaker Hull Pearl Diver
Spinnaker Hull Pearl Diver - Image Courtesy of Spinnaker

Spinnaker has long been a mainstay in the microbrand sphere and has made a great name for itself in the affordable watch sphere. The Spinnaker brand belongs to the larger Dartmouth Brands Ltd. and sits beside other notable brands such as AVI-8 and NUBEO. Spinnaker has a wide variety of offerings but hits the mark on both their vintage-inspired divers and modern dive iterations. A good example is the Hull Pearl Diver which features impressive specs like an AR-coated sapphire crystal, 300m Water resistance, a Japanese Automatic movement, and mother of pearl dial. The retail on these is already sub $500 and they offer great seasonal sales and additional savings. Spinnaker can do this by being part of a larger ownership group with their own production factory, eliminating middlemen from the supply chain. Check out Spinnaker below.


 

UNIMATIC - "Modello Uno"


UNIMATIC Modello Uno MoMA
UNIMATIC Modello Uno MoMA - Image Courtesy of UNIMATIC

UNIMATIC has emerged as one of the hottest microbrands coming out of 2023 and looks to keep its foot on the gas heading into 2024. After rattling off incredible collaborations with the Modern Museum of Art (MoMA), Royal Enfield, Massena LAB, UNDEFEATED, and many more, UNIMATIC has started to separate itself from the pack. The Italian brand with their minimalist take on vintage divers has taken off since its founding in 2015, and it is all thanks to their first offering, the aptly named Modello Uno. The Modello Uno boasts a sleek and uniform design, measuring 40mm in diameter and 13.6mm in thickness. Crafted with durable 316L steel, it features a robust build, including a screw-down crown and caseback. It also offers an impressive capability of up to 300 meters. Italians know design.



 

Weiss - "Standard Field Watch"


Weiss Standard Issue Field Watch
WEISS Standard Issue Field Watch - Image Courtesy of Weiss

In late 2023, we put together a featured piece on the WEISS Watch Company and its importance in the American watchmaking revival. We can't speak highly enough of the brand and what its founder, Cameron Weiss is doing to rejuvenate the art of watchmaking. Established in 2013 in sunny Southern California, Weiss has grown to become the largest mechanical watchmaking company in the United States, an extraordinary feat considering it's a one-man operation. Founder Cameron Weiss, a Swiss-trained, certified master watchmaker, is the guiding force behind the brand, personally crafting every watch by hand from start to finish. Each watch takes a minimum of 60 hours to craft. A true dedication to the art. Their prized offering, the Standard Issue Field Watch exemplifies everything great about the brand.


 

YEMA - "Superman Bronze"


YEMA Superman Bronze
YEMA Superman Bronze - Image Courtesy of YEMA

We're rounding out our list with a trip to France, where the Watchmaker YEMA has been a mainstay (after a return from the Seiko group ownership) in watches since 1948. YEMA has a rich and admired history in crafting pieces that specifically draw inspiration from motorsports, sailing, diving, and space exploration. The YEMA Rallye was even the preferred choice of Mario Andretti in 1969! The Superman though, boasts possibly the most interesting history dating back to 1963. In the early 1950s, the emergence of top-tier divers became a focal point of enthusiasts and YEMA delivered with their take, the Superman. The early Superman featured 300m of water resistance and an innovative bezel locking system called the safety brake stop that was both visually distinct and functional. Similar to the Panerai crown guard, this design feature became an unofficial trademark of the brand and can still be found on current models of the Superman like the Bronze models highlighted here.


 

There we have it. As we mentioned previously, it's a great time to be a watch enthusiast. The quality and originality that can be found in the microbrands have never been quite what it is today. There are a host of additional brands that deserve a spot here but we think this is a great place to start for the experienced collector who wants to explore away from the big brands, as well as the budding enthusiast who's looking for a bit more personality and brand exclusivity. Just don't betray these watchmakers when everyone else starts enjoying them too.


Thanks for stopping by,

Balance & Bridge


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