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  • Writer's pictureBalance & Bridge Team

Looking for Your Next Watch? Look No Further Than These Incredible Microbrands and Their Watches

Studio Underd0g Watch
Image Courtesy of Studio Underd0g

If you're like us, every so often you find yourself reaching in the watch box for something that isn't there, but you don't know exactly what you're hoping for. You know you want something different, something with some personality and backstory. But you also want something you can wear anywhere and not be afraid to take the spontaneous adventure that pops up along the way.


These pillars are the ones that microbrand watches are founded upon, and this is what we are going to cover. Each of the microbrands/independents mentioned in this post offer no shortage of these attributes.


Original Design Language

Personality and Brand Aesthetic

Backstory and Heritage

Versatility and Durability

Value and Affordability


These companies are listed and featured in no particular order - but for many, this is the first time we have featured their history, stories and models on Balance & Bridge. We hope to dive into each of these in greater detail in the future, but we hope you appreciate what these bring to the world of horology and find something new.

 

 Quick Navigation of Featured Microbrands and Their Best Watches:



 

BALTIC


Baltic Watch
Image Courtesy of Baltic Watches

Vintage Inspired Watches. There you have it. There is no better way to describe the French company founded by Etienne Malec in 2016. Etienne fatefully discovered his father's watch collection and it led him to pay tribute to his father the best way he knew how, by founding the brand and drawing inspiration from vintage pieces he had gazed upon for years. Read more about the founding story here, as it helps paint Baltic in a light we can all relate to. Thankfully for us, the brand story is held up by its fantastic watches and their incredible design language.


Baltic Watch
Image Courtesy of Baltic Watches

Baltic's catalog has an incredibly diverse range of watches that hit all the high notes when it comes to capturing the vintage aesthetic. Our favorite models include the Aquascaphe collection, the MR01 series, and the Tricompax collection. One could even make the argument that the perfect three-watch collection could be made with these three Baltic models alone, and the collection would cost less than one of your favorite luxury watches. You're fully covered from dress and sport to diving, all while perfectly capturing an ageless style. Baltic is here to stay.


Baltic Watch
Image Courtesy of Baltic Watches


 

Studio Underd0g


Studio Underd0g watch
Image Courtesy of Studio Underd0g

While the namesake of this British brand may lead you to believe they are fighting for their share of public interest, its recent eureka moments have proved the company is no longer in the shadows. The company was founded in March of 2021 and earlier this year, famously touted their outselling of Rolex UK for one single day thanks to their Pizza Party launch. In the words of Studio Underd0g, "Why can’t horology be a little more playful from time to time?" Good question, and for most of the horological world the answer is probably something around causing pretentious watch buyers to cast judgment against those who dare have fun with their expensive objects of status. After all, they didn't spend $10,000 to have the guy next to them get more attention from their Hawaiian Pizza watch.


Studio Underd0g Watch
Image Courtesy of Studio Underd0g

The genius behind the Studio Underd0g mantra is their uncanny ability to layer the "fun" on top of an incredibly well-made watch, with incredible detail, that happens to sprinkle the fun on top. The depth, texture, and color palettes evoke playfulness, but not thoughtlessness. One look at both the dial and encased movements and you know these are also intentionally purposed, Mix in fan feedback into future designs and top it with philanthropy and you have an Underd0g no more. These creations take the cake for the most eye-catching and most conversation-starting pieces in watchmaking, for good reason. After all, what good is a hobby without anyone to share it with?


Studio Underd0g watch
Image Courtesy of Studio Underd0g

 

TRASKA


TRASKA Watch
Image Courtesy of TRASKA

Traska Founder Jon Mack turned tragedy into triumph in 2018 when he founded the brand after a prized vintage diver was ruined during a carefree dive off the coast of Vietnam. While his watch was ruined, the urge to create a watch with a timeless aesthetic that could handle all activities, both accidental and purposeful, was born. Traska's first model, the Freediver threw the company right into the deep end after a successful Kickstarter campaign and has gone through five iterations to get in its current state.


TRASKA Watch
Image Courtesy of TRASKA

The lineup has expanded to keep pace with the growing following, and Traska has done its best to fill the gaps that enthusiasts want to be filled. The Freediver was followed by the Summiteer, the Commuter, the Seafarer, and the Venturer. Each model is a direct response to the various tasks that wearers want from their tools. While, according to Traska's about page, your friends may not have heard of them, if they happen to ask you can give them the short sell here: TRASKA watches are not flashy or mainstream, valued for craftsmanship and passion. Grown from community support, shared among those who appreciate design and quality.


TRASKA Watch
Image Courtesy of Traska

 

SERICA


Serica Watch
Image Courtesy of Serica

We have mentioned this a few times in some other articles about other watches and brands, but sometimes you see something and instantly think "this is special". While some watchmakers rely on the marketing of their brand story, Serica just puts out products that demand attention via nothing but their beauty and craftsmanship. In an age of flashes in pans and the necessity to garner attention and prey on that attention instantly, the French brand focuses on the opposite, a Field of Dreams approach if you have it. If you build it, they will come.


Serica Watch
Image Courtesy of Serica

Serica, founded in 2019 by Jérôme Burgert and Gabriel Vachette, creates beautifully unique mechanical watches blending robustness, technical sophistication, and refined aesthetics across 3 collections, all while meeting high chronometric standards. ALL of the current offerings from Serica are COSC certified, which is unheard of in the microbrand/independent watch space. This is the type of thing that we, as watch lovers, well, love. Companies that look to move standards forward and keep the larger industry following suit are necessary to foster growth in any arena. Serica is doing that with both its technical mastery and essentialist aesthetic.


Serica Watch
Image Courtesy of Serica

 

ISOTOPE


Isotope Watch
Image Courtesy of Isotope

Watchmaking is most definitely an art. While most watch brands aim to express their art through subtleties and movement decorations, Isotope chooses to be direct. Founded in 2016 by José and Joana Miranda, Isotope aims to create uniquely creative and affordable designs that are purposely pushing watchmaking boundaries. Combining pop culture, art deco, art moderne, and brutalist design, they offer visually striking watches. With innovative production and ethical practices, Isotope redefines watchmaking from its headquarters in Henfield, England.


Isotope Watch
Image Courtesy of Isotope

Though based in the UK, Isotope watches primarily take form in Switzerland and follow strict production processes that allow Isotope to be proud of both the object and its creation. If you have any interest in art, you can recognize the main inspirational pillars that guide Isotope's artistic vision. No longer is watchmaking reserved to being held in traditionalist designs, and we're happy that brands like Isotope can continue to carve out new appreciation for the niche.


Isotope Watch
Image Courtesy of Isotope

 

SHERPA


Sherpa Watches
Image Courtesy of Sherpa

Watches, like any, if not all physical products were born out of necessity. And like many physical products, the world evolves past the point of needing the product as originally intended. Look no further than the cell phone and dive computer as watch displacement tools. When necessity no longer drives consumption, something else does. In the case of watches, human emotion, and brand heritage fill the gaps left by technological innovation. Founder Martin Klocke and his team at Sherpa Watches understand this to its core. We'll get there.


Sherpa Watch
Image Courtesy of Sherpa

Sherpa offers two revived models from the past with their Ultradive and OPS watches. These models, inspired by mid-sixties Enicar S.A. designs are diver watches that now feature the requirements to meet today's standards in reliability and functionality thanks to the German and Swiss-based Sherpa team. But that's not all: the aforementioned emotion is coming. Featuring a unique Mantramatic movement, engraved with a traditional Tibetan Buddhist mantra "OM MANI PEME HUNG", these watches emit vibes of love, wisdom, and compassion imperceptible to the naked eye but felt on the wrist. Now that's how you do heritage and emotion.


Sherpa Watch
Image Courtesy of Sherpa

 

VARIO


Vario Watch
Image Courtesy of Vario

Vario was founded in 2016 and offers a diverse range of watches and accessories to enhance your style and collection. Designed with sophistication, quality, and fun in mind, each of their products reflects meticulous attention to detail. Based in Singapore, their products combine exclusivity with affordability, reflecting their commitment to quality and design. With limited production runs and individual inspection in Singapore, each Vario timepiece is a unique and enduring investment. Unlike most watch brands, Vario offers a corporate gifting service that allows for personalized modifications to suit your group or corporation's spirit, with wholesale options available.


Vario Watch
Image Courtesy of Vario

While Vario offers a variety of products including incredibly well-made German and Italian leather straps, their watch designs are what caught our attention. Their 1945 D12 and 1918 Trench & Medic elicit strong WWI inspiration while their 1918 Pilot brings forth an offset enamel dial with a crown at the traditional 2:00 position. In many lineups of microbrand watches you may see one model that deviates from the traditional form, but Vario seemingly brings an entire catalog of designs not used in mass production for decades. We can respect the courage it takes to recreate a modern interpretation of well-love vintage designs, and Vario does it with the best of them.


Vario Watch
Image Courtesy of Vario

 

anOrdain


anOrdain Watch
Image Courtesy of anOrdain

Another UK-based watch brand that hails from the architectural and art-loving Glasgow, Scotland, anOrdain focuses on a very specific feature that sets them apart. The Opaque enamel dial is the star of the show here and anOrdain wants you to know all about it. The Scottish brand goes to great depths to explain both the processes and the artistic requirements needed to create these amazing dials. Based in Glasgow’s Templeton Building, anOrdain's multidisciplinary team of designers and makers oversees all elements of their watches.


anOrdain Watch
Image Courtesy of anOrdain

anOrdain's founder, Lewis Heath conceived the notion of blending modern design with traditional craftsmanship for a watch company during a visit to Loch an Ordain in the Scottish Highlands. Not only was Lewis dedicated to creating a product that reflected his visions, but he was equally determined to facilitate a cohesive and collaborative approach to design. anOrdain operates on the understanding that design concepts evolve quickly, often sparked by workshop experiments or accidents. Each anOrdain project undergoes numerous iterations, blending diverse ideas, creative backgrounds, and manufacturing expertise into the final watch design.


anOrdain Watch
Image Courtesy of anOrdain

 

NOMADIC


Nomadic Watch
Image: Balance & Bridge

“Made in Belfast” is not a phrase typically adorned on the dial of your favorite watch. Still, it's a welcomed addition to an industry that has been traditionally in a Swiss and Japanese stranglehold. Nomadic watches hail from Northern Ireland and bring tales of the country’s rough seas, expansive shorelines, and highland landscapes to watchmaking. NOMADIC's marquee pieces, the Turas 914 and Murai 401 explore both ends of the Irish expanse with their nods to both classic dive and field watches. 


Nomadic Watch
Image Courtesy of Nomadic

Founded in 2021 by Peter McAuley, Nomadic aims to “Make Progress”. By pairing local precision watchmaking with tales of those who inspire their pieces, you can be sure that you’re getting a quality product with incredible thought and attention.  As we’ve discussed before, the ability for watches of this quality to come from lesser-known horological hot spots is what makes the world of microbrands and independents fascinating. For those looking to pay homage to the heritage of Irish explorers and wayfarers, look no further than NOMADIC to quench your thirst for exploration.


Nomadic Watch
Image Courtesy of Nomadic

 

FURLAN MARRI


Furlan Marri Watch
Image Courtesy of Furlan Marri

Andrea Furlan, a Swiss industrial designer, and Hamad Al Marri, a watch collector and artist from the Middle East, joined hands to establish Furlan Marri, uniting their passions and expertise in watchmaking. Andrea's journey, marked by stints with renowned brands like Chopard and Hublot, intertwined with Hamad's lifelong fascination with timepieces, forged the foundation of their collaboration. Rooted in Andrea's inheritance of his grandfather's watchmaker's cabinet and Hamad's cherished gift of an Omega Seamaster from his father, Furlan Marri pays homage to familial legacies while embarking on a quest to craft watches that tell compelling tales.


Furlan Marri Watch
Image Courtesy of Furlan Marri

Driven by their shared vision, Furlan Marri aspires to offer meticulously crafted timepieces that weave together tradition and innovation. Their commitment to transparency extends from sourcing to production, with components curated from Hong Kong, Japan, Italy, and France. Embracing direct customer engagement, they involve enthusiasts in the design process and maintain an open dialogue through social networks. With Geneva as their creative hub, they meticulously design and prototype their watches, ensuring each piece reflects their dedication to detail and excellence. Through continuous refinement and collaboration, Furlan Marri endeavors to captivate the world with watches that stand as testaments to timeless craftsmanship and storytelling.


Furlan Marri Watch
Image Courtesy of Furlan Marri

 

We hope you enjoyed this trip through the land of incredible microbrands and some of their offerings. If any of these resonated with you, we hope you give them a chance. There is something special to exploring up and comers and supporting creators that are putting together these fantastic packages.


Let us know your thoughts and as always, thanks for stopping by. We hope this helped you find your next watch.


Balance & Bridge

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