For this week’s edition of The Cultivated Wrist, we’re taking a look at watches from independent brands. What’s an independent brand? These are small, sometimes fewer than 5 person operations, that operate outside the bounds of corporate ownership such as the Swatch Group or Richemont. Watches from these brands are generally released in small batches, but what they lack in volume, they make up for in personality. With little in the way of bureaucratic approval processes, watches from independent brands tend to lean into artistic execution a little harder. We’ve picked out a selection of our favorite examples currently live on StockX.
François-Paul Journe is a prolific independent watchmaker based in Geneva that’s known for his artful take on classic complications such as triple calendars and tourbillons as well his work pushing the boundaries of movement design with watches such as the Chronomètre à Résonance. The Octa Calendrier is a special watch for F.P. Journe as it represents the brand’s first recognition from the GPHG in 2002. The watch features a unique dial design that’s instantly recognizable as a Journe, with the hour, minute, and second cluster residing on the right side of the dial, and the triple calendar complications at the left. We love the knurled detailing on the crown, a signature of Journe watches. There’s an Ask of $45,000 currently listed on this special watch.
De Bethune may have recently sold a majority stake to an investment consortium, but their watches from recent years are hallmarks of what makes independent brands so interesting. De Bethune made their name by creating three-dimensional design and structural elements for their watches, from the floating lugs, fleshed out hands, and complications that incorporate items like full spheres to display the phases of the moon. The DB25 here is one such example with a black and white moon sphere installed at 12 o’clock within the dial. The rear of the watch is a mix of classic finishing techniques and futuristic shapes layered over the bridges. It’s out there, and we love it. Once you feel the floating lugs on your wrist, it’ll be tough to wear anything else. There’s a current Ask listed at $48,500 on this example.
Moser & Cie have developed a beautiful contemporary design language that embraces simplicity and efficiency. Under the surface are some serious watchmaking chops, however. Not only are they using their own original movements, they even manufacture components usually outsourced, such as the hairspring. The average passer-by may not take a second glance at one of these watches, but if you come across a watch person, they’ll likely sneak in for a closer look. The Endeavour is a simple three-hander with a large date window situated at 6 o’clock. If you’re looking for more of a view, flip it over and you’ll find a gorgeous hand wound caliber HMC 342 on full display. This example has an Ask listed at $35,000.