In the world of watchmaking, where innovation and craftsmanship meet, independent watchmakers often stand out thanks to their unique concepts and meticulous artistry, and the year 2023 will see the launch of a series of fascinating timepieces, each one a testament to the creativity and craftsmanship of these independent artisans. Below is a curated list of the top ten independent watches of 2023, as seen through the eyes of independent watchmakers:
1) Marco Lang Zweigesicht-1
The Zweigesicht-1 is a horological marvel where tradition meets innovation. With its double-sided design, it is a testament to Marco's commitment to the advancement of watchmaking. The fine mechanical craftsmanship, the 34 mm Caliber ml-01 hand-wound movement in a 40 mm case, the openness of its visual proportions, the rose gold-plated movement back, the 14 carat gold gears, the blued screws, the large chamfered finishing of the bridges, and the shock-indication at 9 o'clock - the first of its kind in the industry - are some of the magnificent elements that make it a true collector's item. These are the elements that make it a true collector's item.
2) JN Shapiro Resurgence
The first fully "Made in the USA" watch since 1969. This watch also tells a story of resilience and innovation. The dial is made of thin stacked layers, and the layered dial looks incredibly well made. The sunken dial is reminiscent of an American pocket watch, but with an incredibly thin layer of mechanical engraving. "Made in the USA" has to be taken seriously again.
3) Hervé Schlüchter L'Essentiel Regulator
A perfect blend of contemporary design and traditional governor function. The craftsmanship and attention to detail make it a must for connoisseurs of both form and function, and Schlüchter has learnt the subtleties of movement decoration from Dufour, with a movement that displays a number of polished black steel, chamfered edges and polished countersunk apertures, featuring tubular steel bridges and wolfsbane teeth on the winding wheels, and is overly fussy about its handcrafted aesthetic.
4) Edouard Koehn Tempus II
The EK Tempus II is an open-ended monopusher chronograph with a movement produced in collaboration with Concepto Manufacture. It demonstrates the brand's dedication to precision and aesthetics. This timepiece is a harmonious blend of technical prowess and artistic expression. It's hard not to be one of the best monopusher chronographs with an open dial within CHF10,000!
5) Garrick S3 MK2
The Garrick S3 is a symbol of British watchmaking excellence. With its dedication to hand craftsmanship, this watch is not just a watch, it's a work of art. This timepiece combines the UT-G04 calibre with a high level of craftsmanship. It represents the pinnacle of Garrick ownership, with its polished black dial, bevelled edges and hand-crafted hands. The combination of aesthetic appeal and technical mastery sets it apart from the rest of the independent watch industry. Only 5 pieces are produced each year.
6) Atelier Haute Complication Dual Time Day & Night Edition
The brainchild of François-Paul Journe's protégé, Vladimir Negault, the Dual Time is the first of a series of five complications that are just a small but impressive demonstration of what is possible. The traditional dual time zone complication has been adapted to show the second time zone in 12 hours instead of the usual 24 hours. A unique feature is the day/night indicator arc at the top of the dial, below the 12-hour home time zone display. The unforgettable dial design, immediately recognisable even from 3 metres away, is what makes this watch so appealing.
7) PÖHLMANN-BRESAN Prestige
A timepiece that combines traditional craftsmanship with modern design. Its meticulous attention to detail reflects the brand's quest for horological excellence. The movement is a hand-wound calibre with an original architecture and a hand-finished wheel train above the mainspring bridge. It showcases a large balance wheel with a 14K gold eccentric and Breguet hairspring, a skeletonised wheel train plate, and meticulous finishes such as black polishing and sunray.
8) Kheama Arkhea
From the youngest member of the AHCI, Shona Taine, and one of the few female independent watchmakers to have won numerous competition prizes at the tender age of 25, comes a debut piece that fully reflects her artistic vision and passion for watchmaking, with a tourbillon, hours, minutes and date arranged with infinite subtlety, poetry and the lightest of touches. The date appears as a white dot through 31 openings on the aventurine dial. Against the same aventurine background, the beautiful, minimalist moon marks each of its phases. The design of this independent brand defies convention, making it a noteworthy member of the independent watchmaking scene.
9) Simon Brette Chronometre-artisans
The Chronometre-artisans is a masterpiece in the world of watchmaking, aptly named "Dragon Scale" by watch lovers in China. Recognised by the GPHG Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève, this exceptional timepiece, inspired by the ingenuity and refined craftsmanship of 20th-century watchmakers, offers a new expression of neo-classical watchmaking with its intricate mechanisms and sumptuously detailed decorations. The finely chamfered, hand-polished edges of the three-quarter bridges, or the mirror-polished concave screws set in solid gold sleeves, are all examples of skilfully drawn, contrasting and elaborate designs that emphasise the sense of visual depth.
10) Behrens Ultralight 11g
One of the top ten picks has to be a China brand, and without hesitation it would be the Behrens Ultralight. Behrens is constantly revamping its creations for the sake of excellence, and has even developed a new diamond carbon fibre material in the pursuit of lightness, all demonstrating the craftsmanship of independent watchmaking. When it was exhibited in Switzerland at the beginning of the year, it amazed the Swiss watchmaking industry, and even made it to the semi-finals of the watch competition organised by LVMH, so it can be said that it is the light of the Chinese watch brand!
These ten top watches represent the pinnacle of independent watchmaking, each with its own unique story, design philosophy and commitment to horological excellence.