Power List: The Best of Independent Watchmaking

Power List: The Best of Independent Watchmaking

Start your year off right with the leaders, the wonders, the visionaries and all the people in watchmaking who have make it such an incredible, fascinating industry. These are Power Lists.

In the past couple of years, there has been a tremendous thirst for independently made watches. What were once silent figures who labored in the shadows of their globally renowned competitors have emerged at the forefront of horology today, capturing the hearts and minds of both the seasoned collector and the wide-eyed newcomer as the ultimate expression of horological prowess.

In many ways, the very nature of independent watchmaking defies horological history, which in broad strokes is a story encompassing the manifold changes wrought by the forces of industrialization and democratization. It is the pursuit of horology as an art form, be it artisanal, conceptual, technical or artistic, without consideration for expense or time that separates them from the big players. And in developing a much more specialized line of inquiry where innate purpose holds the lead over commercial expectations, their influence on watchmaking is often directly inverse to their production output.

The history of independent watchmaking can be traced back to the late George Daniels, an English watchmaker who sustained the craft of mechanical watchmaking in an era when electronics and quartz technology threatened its existence. Up until then, the trade was largely characterized by an intense division of labor, but Daniels became the first watchmaker to master 32 of the 34 essential skills required in the construction of a mechanical watch. Most crucially, he dedicated his life to improving the heart of a mechanical watch and eventually succeeded in inventing the first practical escapement in 250 years that could supplant the Swiss lever on an industrial scale.

Dr. George Daniels (1926–2011)
Dr. George Daniels

But the path he traversed to bring the co-axial escapement to an industrial reality was one filled with trials and tribulations. In discussing his difficulties, he once expressed his hopes for the Swiss watch industry: “It would be rather nice if it [his new escapement] provoked them to do something, to think of some other way of going about their affairs and not just staying in business making watches for money and to hell with the development of it.” His life’s accomplishments inspired a future for works that do not bring a quick buck but are instead based on ideas with significant intellectual if not spiritual depth.

Thus, today we recognize the watchmakers who, like Daniels, work from an inner necessity to expand the boundaries of horology, ranging from the greatest independents of all time who have become the cynosure of all of horology today, to the latter-day stars who have made distinct developments in their chosen fields, and the up-and-coming watchmakers who have shown great promise in their debut work. All of these watchmakers began their careers modestly. Some have grown in stature while others are still on the cusp of broader recognition. Each one, however, has demonstrated a level of excellence in their respective branch of pursuit and it is by this indicator of merit that we present you this power list.

The Living Legends

Svend Andersen

Svend Andersen
Svend Andersen

Best known for co-founding the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI), along with his peer Vincent Calabrese in 1985, Andersen was one of the early independent watchmakers who specialized in custom and bespoke watches. He established Andersen Genève in 1979 and today is best known for creating some of the most beautiful worldtime watches on the market based on Louis Cottier’s worldtime system. A more significant but lesser-known accomplishment is his creation of a secular perpetual calendar for the wrist in 1996 that accounts for three future secular years that are not divisible by 400 — the years 2100, 2200 and 2300. Though Svend parted ways with Patek Philippe in 1979, he remained in contact with his former colleagues and was consulted on the secular calendar complication during the development of the caliber 89. Svend, however, felt that the secular calendar module was too complicated and began devising an ingeniously practical construction that allowed it to be fitted in a wristwatch, keeping the part count at a minimum.

Svend Andersen Secular Perpetuel Calendar from 1996
Svend Andersen Secular Perpetuel Calendar from 1996

Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, URWERK</ h2>

Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner
Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner

The introduction of Urwerk in 1997 saw the birth of one of the most radical watchmaking concepts of the 21st century that, in terms of kinetic effect and visual impact, have dramatically altered the whole experience of time. The company started by Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei has taken the concept of wandering hours on a remarkable journey of innovation and transformation. Their interpretation of the complication in the Opus V of 2005 gave the watch true dimension with its machine-celebratory architecture that displayed the hour satellite in all its three-dimensional glory along with a retrograde minute hand. At the same time, the duo has also demonstrated a special interest in the pursuit of flawless chronometry through genre-bending methods. In 2013, they unveiled the Electro Mechanical Control (EMC), the first watch with a built-in electronic rate monitor and a user regulation system, which drastically alters the wearer’s relationship with the watch. Later, the project culminated in the Atomic Mechanical Control (AMC), which sets and regulates a mechanical watch according to a paired atomic clock, achieving what Breguet had started more than two centuries ago with his Sympathique clock.

URWERK EMC
URWERK EMC
URWERK AMC
URWERK AMC

Maximilian Büsser, MB&F

Maximilian Büsser
Maximilian Büsser

The man responsible for institutionalizing independent watchmaking was none other than Maximilian Büsser who, through his seminal series of Opus watches at Harry Winston, gave rising independent watchmakers a larger stage to stand on. In 2005, he joined the thriving ecosystem he had helped foster and founded his horological think tank, MB&F. Since then, he has been a leading protagonist at opening up the constrained language of fine watchmaking with a bewildering variety of timepieces that put mechanics at the service of sci-fi aesthetics wherein time-telling seems like only an incidental by-product.

MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement EVO
MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement EVO
The M.A.D.1 Pink Dial Project unique piece, created for #ThePinkDialProject shattered all expectations.
The M.A.D.1 Pink Dial Project unique piece, created for #ThePinkDialProject shattered all expectations.

While the Horological Machines were wrist-mounted mechanical fantasies that smashed through design and engineering limits, the Legacy Machines, with their round cases and classic complications such as the tourbillon, perpetual calendar and, most recently, the chronograph, were an avenue for creativity to thrive under those limits. Equally progressive was his business model, which was ingrained in the company’s name. His practice of embarking on joint projects with fellow independent watchmakers, designers and professionals have not only birthed some of the most astounding works of mechanical conceptual art, but also helped foster a culture of recognizing talent instead of brands.

Philippe Dufour

Philippe Dufour
Philippe Dufour

There is perhaps no other watchmaker that embodies the ideals of traditional fine watchmaking as well as Philippe Dufour. Upon striking out on his own, he created the first Grande et Petite Sonnerie wristwatch in 1992 and subsequently introduced the last great innovation in a wristwatch of the 20th century in 1996, which was the use of double oscillators that are linked by a differential in the Duality. Then in 2000, he unveiled the Simplicity, a time-only watch that conversely housed the most tastefully shaped and beautifully finished movement in contemporary watchmaking. While many of his peers have grown in capacity, Dufour remains the prototypical watchmaker who crafts watches as a one-man operation and not a brand. Today, his watches are the most sought-after made by a living independent watchmaker.

Grande & Petite Sonnerie Wristwatch Number 1 in Yellow Gold
Grande & Petite Sonnerie Wristwatch Number 1 in Yellow Gold

Laurent Ferrier

Laurent Ferrier
Laurent Ferrier

Following a 37-year career at Patek Philippe, Laurent Ferrier developed one of the most lionized watch brands in 2008 that produces some of the most tastefully executed and sensuously beautiful timepieces on the market. They are characterized by high polished, fluid cases, elegant and highly nuanced dials, along with exquisitely finished movements with rounded anglage. Beyond that, he has also demonstrated a fascination for chronometry with the use of double hairsprings in his impressively constructed tourbillon movement as well as with realizing Breguet’s natural escapement in its truest form in the elaborately designed Micro‐Rotor movement. Thanks to LIGA technology, the pair of escape wheels in Ferrier’s movement are fabricated from nickel-phosphorus as a single part with vertical teeth that lock and unlock a detent made of silicon, giving it an exceptionally precise geometry and eliminating play between gears as well as errors in assembly.

Laurent Ferrier Classic Origin SHH Edition (Image: Revolution©)
Laurent Ferrier Classic Origin SHH Edition (Image: Revolution©)

Denis Flageollet, De Bethune

Denis Flageollet
Denis Flageollet

Since its inception in 2002, De Bethune has created some of the most saliently progressive watches in modern horology, not only in terms of aesthetic and material innovation, but also in the pursuit of better chronometry. Helmed by legendary watchmaker Denis Flageollet, its watches are amongst the few on the market in which every aspect of the transmission system, from mainspring to hairspring, has been reimagined and optimized for greater performance.

De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius Aérolite
De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius Aérolite
De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius Aérolite
De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius Aérolite

At the same time, the brand has pushed the boundaries of traditional complications in new directions with its spherical moonphase, high speed tourbillon, and chronograph with five central hands and an innovative, hybrid coupling system. Its deep focus on engineering — technical, technological as well as ergonomic — along with its striking design, has made De Bethune watches some of the most intellectually exciting and emotionally rewarding timepieces on the market.

Romain Gauthier

Romain Gauthier
Romain Gauthier

Founded in 2005, Romain Gauthier produces some of the finest, most creatively engineered time-only watches on the market, from the legendary Logical One, the most superlative and innovative fusée-and-chain watch on the market, to the Insight Micro-Rotor, which is amongst the most elaborately constructed time-only automatic movements in production. Most significantly, what sets his movements apart is how they are aesthetically constructed from the ground up with a clear motive to display an abundance of hand polished rounded bevels and sharp inward angles like no other in watchmaking. Today, a good part of Gauthier’s business also includes supplying components to other watch companies, including Chanel, which holds a significant but minority stake in his brand.

Romain Gauthier Logical One (Image © Revolution)
Romain Gauthier Logical One (Image © Revolution)

Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, Greubel Forsey

Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey
Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey

Greubel Forsey has, since the company was launched in 2004, pushed the limits of chronometry and craftsmanship to the extreme in a way few others have, while developing an inimitable three-dimensional style of movement engineering. The firm, founded by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, embarked on one of the most sustained tourbillon research projects since the invention of the tourbillon with the mission to adapt it to the wrist. This led to the development of inclined tourbillons. By mounting the tourbillon at an angle less than 90 degrees, the balance could avoid the most extreme gravitational effects in both the horizontal and vertical positions, while being able to keep the thickness of the movement within the realm of reason.

Since then, the pair has developed numerous other mechanisms dedicated to chronometry, from the high speed 24-second tourbillon to two inclined balance wheels or double- axis tourbillons with rates averaged by a constant-force differential. At the same time, they have also served up traditional complications with an innovative spin such as the GMT and Grande Sonnerie, the most forbiddingly complex of all complications.

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture
Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture
Greubel Forsey GMT Balancier Convexe
Greubel Forsey GMT Balancier Convexe

More recently, it has begun developing a line of sports watches dubbed the Convexe series that combines its elaborately finished, three-dimensional movements with ergonomic, 100-meter water resistant curved titanium cases. That culminated in the launch of the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture this year, which takes the pursuit of finishing and architecture to its summit.

Bart and Tim Grönefeld

Bart and Tim Grönefeld
Bart and Tim Grönefeld

Since 2008, the Dutch brothers Bart and Tim Grönefeld have produced a variety of unique mechanisms dedicated to chronometry and precision reading. Amongst the most notable is the One Hertz, the most elaborate deadbeat seconds watch on the market with two barrels and two going trains — one that powers the timekeeping function as well as a secondary double-sided lever escapement, which then releases the secondary gear train once per second. This was followed by the impressive Parallax Tourbillon with hacking central seconds and the hugely popular 1941 Remontoire with a governor that regulates the recharging of the remontoir every eight seconds.

Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf
Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf

Most recently, the pair introduced its first chronograph with the 1941 Grönograaf. It is amongst the rare few on the market with instantaneous jumping minutes and incorporates a governor to control the speed at which the hammers reset the hands. The hammers themselves are equipped with ruby rollers to reduce sliding friction. Apart from these wondrous solutions to traditional complications, Grönefeld has also established an unmistakable style of finishing. Their movements feature frosted steel bridges with a distinctive raised lip that is straight-grained on the surface, polished and beveled on the edges.

Vianney Halter

Vianney Halter
Vianney Halter

Independent watchmaking would not come to enjoy the diversity and dynamism it does today if not for a handful of watchmakers who laid the groundwork in breaking boundaries of design and movement construction. Amongst them was Vianney Halter.

Vianney Halter Antiqua (Image © Revolution)
Vianney Halter Antiqua (Image © Revolution)
The Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon Resonance with a triple-axis tourbillon housing two balance wheels
The Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon Resonance with a triple-axis tourbillon housing two balance wheels

In 1998, he presented his Antiqua wristwatch, an instantaneous perpetual calendar with a complex asymmetrical case that was revolutionary in its reverse-tech, steampunk design with four subdials, each within its own orthole framed with riveted bezels. The watch established a design language that Halter has come to be associated with. Later in his career, he began working on elevating chronometric mechanisms to a form of art in watches such as the Deep Space Tourbillon, one of the most visually impressive triple-axis tourbillon watches on the market, and subsequently the Deep Space Tourbillon Resonance in 2021, which had the most unusual construction of a resonance timepiece, where two balances are mounted in a co-axial configuration with a shared bridge connecting them directly to enhance the transfer of vibrations, while both hairsprings share a common stud holder. Most recently, he has introduced La Resonance, a pared back time-only resonance watch with a magnificently airy architecture characterized by pillars and outsized gears.

François-Paul Journe

François-Paul Journe
François-Paul Journe

One of the most influential watchmakers of our time and a technical genius, François-Paul Journe is largely responsible for reviving many 18th and 19th century chronometric mechanisms in watchmaking such as the remontoir d’égalité in the Tourbillon Souverain, the resonance system in the Chronomètre à Résonance as well as the High-Performance Bi-axial escapement inspired by Breguet’s natural escapement in the Chronomètre Optimum.

F. P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Ruthenium
F. P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Ruthenium
Chronomètre à Résonance
Chronomètre à Résonance

Like Daniels, Journe was deeply inspired by the work of Abraham-Louis Breguet and strove to emulate his mechanical elegance. This ranged beyond the essence of watchmaking to the development of complications. He has demonstrated a knack for executing complications in an inventive yet exceedingly practical way, most evident in watches such as the Centigraphe Souverain which, with the use of a decoupling mechanism, achieves a resolution of 1/100th of a second with a 3Hz balance, and the Chronographe Rattrapante, which adopts a humble and practical oscillating pinion. His distinctive style of design and engineering have left a lasting mark on watchmaking and appreciation for his work has only compounded in the last decade with secondary market values of his watches leaping to multiples of their retail prices.

Andreas Strehler

Andreas Strehler
Andreas Strehler

An immensely creative and talented movement constructor, Strehler is best known for his intricate, highly nuanced movement constructions, in which every aspect is designed from the ground up, from the organically shaped bridges to the gears with circular spokes. His most iconic timepiece is arguably the Sauterelle à Lune Perpétuelle 2M presented in 2014 that earned a place in the Guinness World Records as the most precise moonphase indication in the world, requiring a correction every 2.045 million years. Beyond that, he also created the Trans-Axial Remontoir Tourbillon that features a tourbillon with an unusual cage-mounted remontoir as well as a power reserve display that is driven by full-fledged bevel gear differential. At the same time, his company, UhrTeil, is responsible for some highly innovative movements on the market, including H. Moser & Cie.’s ingenious instantaneous perpetual calendar that can be adjusted both forwards and backwards via a single crown.

Sauterelle à lune perpétuelle
Sauterelle à lune perpétuelle

Kari Voutilainen

Kari Voutilainen
Kari Voutilainen

A classically trained Finnish watchmaker, Kari Voutilainen launched his eponymous brand in 2002 and has since risen to prominence for his exquisite handmade guilloché dials, superlative finishing as well as his cleverly constructed movements.

In 2005, he introduced the world’s first decimal minute repeater, a far more intuitive acoustic system that chimes the minutes in units of ten. More prominently, he introduced the Double Direct Impulse escapement in his Vingt-8 in 2011, which was inspired by Breguet’s natural escapement, having encountered it during his time as a restorer. Unusually in his movements, the pair of wheels that drive the twin escape wheels are hidden under the mainplate, so the escape wheels appear to be running mysteriously.

Voutilainen Vingt-8
Voutilainen Vingt-8

Beyond his brilliance as a watchmaker, Kari Voutilainen is rare among his peers for being equally savvy with his hands as he is with his business. Today, he runs a full-fledged vertically integrated manufacture with both dial and case makers, Comblémine and Voutilainen & Cattin, respectively. At the same time, he is on the verge of reviving Urban Jürgensen.

The Stars of Today

Konstantin Chaykin

Konstantin Chaykin
Konstantin Chaykin

Konstantin Chaykin’s dramatic rise to fame can be attributed to a comical but smartly constructed regulator-style watch he developed just four months prior to the Baselworld of 2017, after not being able to produce a working movement of the original watch he had planned on launching. Since then, his amusing Joker watches, where the character’s maniacal pupils indicate the hours and minutes while its hanging tongue displays the phase of the moon, have been met with surging demand, giving rise to myriad variants. However, the true extent of his genius is best exemplified by his other watches such as the Cinema, equipped with a miniature zoopraxiscope, as well as his immensely complex Computus Clock that displays the precise date of Orthodox Easter — an enormously difficult complication due to the complexity of encoding a 532-year cycle based on the Julian calendar in its program wheel.

Konstantin Chaykin Joker
Konstantin Chaykin Joker
Konstantin Chaykin's Cinema
Konstantin Chaykin's Cinema

Karsten Frässdorf, Montres KF

Karsten Frässdorf
Karsten Frässdorf

In 2016, German watchmaker Karsten Frässdorf founded Montres KF, specializing in custom and bespoke watches based around his impressive hacking tourbillon movement with a pillar construction. Deeply inspired by the feats of engineering in marine chronometers, his most striking accomplishment is reviving the compensation balance wheel, which once held the key to finding longitude at sea. The balance features his own patented design with a balance bar that extends as temperature increases, allowing a pair of curved arms to bend inwards, thanks to an additional invariable bar made of sapphire crystal. As the arms compress, rotational inertia decreases, causing the balance to oscillate faster as a result to compensate for a weakened hairspring. Additionally, the movement incorporates a novel hacking seconds mechanism that stops the balance from below. The system is compact yet notably complex, comprising of numerous parts. When the crown is pulled out, a forked brake lever is pivoted upwards and comes into contact with a ring that in turn presses onto a pair of springs affixed to the balance bar, stopping the balance reliably.

Bespoke Only Ei8ht Meteorite
Bespoke Only Ei8ht Meteorite

Bernhard Lederer

Bernhard Lederer
Bernhard Lederer

One of the most mechanically impressive watches to have emerged in recent years comes from Bernhard Lederer, a German watchmaker with a deep understanding of escapements. A founding member of AHCI, Lederer has spent a great deal of his career building complications in anonymity for other brands through his company, Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie et Micromécanique (MHM), while establishing his own line of watches called BLU, an acronym for Bernhard Lederer Universe.

Technical Breakthrough: Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer
Technical Breakthrough: Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer

The Central Impulse Chronometer represents a highly obsessive exercise in the pursuit of better chronometry. It not only incorporates the most efficient type of escapement ever invented, but also combines this with a pair of 10-second remontoirs, each located on the third wheel of each going train to ensure power is delivered in small controlled bursts. Developed by George Daniels as a solution to Breguet’s natural escapement, the independent double wheel escapement provides both double and direct impulse per cycle while being oil-free, making it superior to all known forms of escapements.

Rémi Maillat, Krayon

Rémi Maillat
Rémi Maillat

One of the most outstanding and intellectually exciting developments in astronomical watches in recent times is Krayon’s execution of the sunrise and sunset complication. The brand was founded in 2013 by Rémi Maillat, a movement constructor who had spent more than half a decade at Cartier as part of the fine watchmaking team led by Carole Forestier.

Sunrise and sunset displays are inherently limiting in terms of usability as they are latitude specific and have to be calibrated to the specific point on Earth where the owner is located. Any change in location would require modifications by the manufacture. As such, they are typically only found on limited edition or one-off timepieces.

Krayon Everywhere
Krayon Everywhere
Krayon Anywhere
Krayon Anywhere

The Krayon Everywhere is a significant development of the complication as it is able to display sunrise and sunset times anywhere in the world once the time zone, date, latitude and longitude of a location are set by the user. This was primarily achieved with an eccentric cam mechanism that was designed with an elongated slot in the middle to facilitate a greater deviation so as to encode a change in latitude. The movement is exceedingly complex, comprising a total of 595 parts, including four differentials. Rémi subsequently unveiled the Anywhere, a more affordable version of the exotic complication that is only comparatively simpler, displaying sunrise and sunset times for a single, fixed location.

Serge Michel and Claude Greisler, Armin Strom

Serge Michel and Claude Greisler
Serge Michel and Claude Greisler

Armin Strom is one of the few watchmakers today who create serially produced resonance watches. The brand was founded in 1967 by the eponymous Swiss watchmaker before it was bought over by Serge Michel’s family in 2006. Today, the company is helmed by Michel and his childhood friend Claude Greisler, who is responsible for the brand’s technical developments.

The Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance of 2016 marked a major leap forward in the history of resonance watches, as it built and improved upon earlier efforts and experiments by strengthening the coupling structure between two oscillators.

Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance
Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance

In fact, it has developed such an optimal and reliable method to achieve resonance to the extent that a large part of its mechanical identity is built on this single solution. Its secret lies in a patented clutch spring that links the outer terminal curves of both hairsprings to provide a more direct and robust connection, effectively inducing the phenomenon without having to rely on the transfer of vibrations to a shared mainplate. This is one of the fastest, most efficient methods of achieving resonance in a wristwatch on the market. Its relative simplicity in construction, reproducibility, robustness and reliability represent an altogether different level of achievement that remains unrivaled by any of its ilk. And beyond its functional benefits, the unique and incredibly elegant motion of the clutch spring is a sight to behold.

Raúl Pagès

Raúl Pagès
Raúl Pagès

Raúl Pagès made the fateful leap to independence in 2012 after stints in restoration work both at Parmigiani, where he was tasked to preserve historical pocket watches, clocks and automata, and at the Patek Philippe Museum. His first project as an independent was the incredible pièce unique gold and enamel Tortue automaton made from 352 handmade components. He then launched his first wristwatch, the Soberly Onyx, with a finely decorated Cyma pocket watch movement in 2016. But his newly launched timepiece, the Régulateur à Détente RP1, would prove to be the most significant, debuting an elaborately finished in-house movement with a unique detent escapement. In contrast to the Swiss lever escapement which provides two indirect impulses per cycle, the detent provides a single direct impulse to the balance in one direction, allowing a high degree of detachment and hence more precise timekeeping. However, as the balance performs its wide supplementary arc, any shocks may disrupt its momentum. To address this, Raúl Pagès developed a patented safety roller on the balance staff that catches the detent lever, preventing it from unlocking the escape wheel in the event of a shock.

Régulateur à Détente RP1
Régulateur à Détente RP1

Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat, Petermann Bédat

Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat
Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat

Petermann Bédat was founded by a pair of now-30-year-old watchmakers, Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat. The duo first met at watchmaking school in Geneva and spent their formative years at A. Lange & Söhne. In 2017, they established a workshop in Renens, right next to Renaud et Papi, the renowned technical powerhouse now owned by Audemars Piguet.

1967 Deadbeat Seconds
1967 Deadbeat Seconds

With the help of Dominique Renaud, the co-founder of Renaud et Papi, the young watchmakers constructed the caliber 171 for their inaugural timepiece — the 1967 Deadbeat Seconds. The watch is one of the most visually impressive deadbeat timepieces on the market. Whereas a deadbeat seconds is more commonly achieved with the use of a one-second remontoir or, the simplest of all, a star-and-flirt mechanism, the 1967 Deadbeat Seconds relies on a secondary escapement that is driven by the fourth wheel of the movement. It uses a double-sided anchor to control the locking and unlocking of both escape wheels, creating a dramatic yet elegant motion. In addition, the movement as well as the dial are finished by hand to an exemplary standard with numerous inward and outward polished bevels.

Sylvain Pinaud

Sylvain Pinaud
Sylvain Pinaud

In 2019, after working as a prototype technician for many large brands, Sylvain Pinaud struck out on his own with the launch of the Monopoussoir Chronograph, which had a notably complex case and an openworked dial that revealed the entire horizontally coupled chronograph mechanism, developed and finished by Sylvain himself. This year, he unveiled the Origine, a time-only but more elaborately finished watch with an unusual design layout characterized by an offset dial driven by the barrel, and an indirectly driven small seconds subdial with a large three-armed free sprung balance of his own design located at six o’clock, held in place by a black-polished bridge. While it is only his second watch, its build quality and decoration hold great promise.

Origine of Sylvain Pinaud
Origine of Sylvain Pinaud

Rexhep Rexhepi, Akrivia

Rexhep Rexhepi
Rexhep Rexhepi

At 35 years old, Rexhep Rexhepi has become one of the greatest and youngest success stories in watchmaking. A prodigious Kosovan watchmaker, he apprenticed at Patek Philippe at the tender age of 15, before joining BNB Concept and subsequently F.P Journe. In 2012, he founded Akrivia at the age of 26 and started by producing tourbillon movements with a regulator display or chiming jump hours housed in large, modern cases. Though they were finely finished and highly impressive, his greatest breakthrough only came in 2018 with the launch of the widely acclaimed Chronomètre Contemporain. The watch featured a classical case with a grand feu enamel dial and a time-only movement that properly showcased his unstinting dedication to artisanal handcraft. It was an instant hit that vaulted him to stardom.

Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain
Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain
Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain II
Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain II

Beyond his horological talent, Rexhepi has also demonstrated an acute commercial vision, particularly in understanding the importance of vertical integration. In 2019, he established a casemaking workshop led by Jean-Pierre Hagmann, one of the most fabled casemakers of the late 20th century, with the goal of producing all cases in-house. This year, Rexhepi unveiled the Chronomètre Contemporain II, a sequel to his cult watch. It features a new movement that is once again finished to an exemplary standard but this time, has twin going trains, each powered by its own barrel, along with an independently driven deadbeat seconds with hacking and zero-reset functions.

Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith
Roger W. Smith

The only watchmaker to work as an apprentice and alongside the late George Daniels, Roger W. Smith produces some of the finest and most coveted examples of handcrafted horology today, using what is commonly referred to as “the Daniels Method.”

George Daniels and Roger W. Smith
George Daniels and Roger W. Smith

For more than two decades now, he has been working in the splendid isolation of the Isle of Man, making no more than 10 watches a year. During this time, he has also made significant improvements to the co-axial escapement invented by his mentor. While the escapement was so named for having a pair of co-axially mounted escape wheels, Smith began simplifying its design by integrating the two sets of tooth profiles in a single escape wheel, one responsible for impulsing the balance roller directly while the other impulses the lever stone. This enabled the escapement to maintain greater concentricity and annularity. Smith would go on to optimize its design for low inertia by reducing its mass, thereby ensuring more efficient power transmission to maintain the oscillation of the balance.

The Up-And-Coming

Théo Auffret

Théo Auffret
Théo Auffret

Since he emerged a winner of the 2018 F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition, alongside Rémy Cools and Cyril Brivet-Naudot, Théo Auffret has introduced the Tourbillon à Paris, produced as a souscription watch to help get his brand off the ground. The movement is impressively constructed and finished, playing a central role in the design of the dial. The minutes are indicated with a central hand while the hours are displayed on a subdial at five o’clock, leaving the large tourbillon and barrel exposed and secured in place by large finger bridges. The rear of the watch features two beautifully shaped finger bridges, one of which supports a massive third wheel, decorated with polished beveled spokes and sharp interior angles. Most recently, he introduced the Tourbillon Grand Sport, featuring a completely openworked dial and a more elaborate case to accommodate an integrated strap. The tourbillon movement has been modified with central hours and minutes, a seconds hand mounted on the tourbillon cage, and a power reserve indicator at four o’clock.

Tourbillon Grand Sport
Tourbillon Grand Sport

Cyril Brivet-Naudot

Cyril Brivet-Naudot
Cyril Brivet-Naudot

Cyril Brivet-Naudot is, in many ways, the archetypal independent artisan who makes watches entirely by hand out of raw materials. Based in France, the promising young talent made his debut four years ago with the Eccentricity wristwatch and subsequently launched the Eccentricity Réserve de Marche in 2021. Though inspired by 19th century pocket watches, both timepieces feature a highly unusual regulator-style time display characterized by a tiny hour subdial nestled within a rotating minutes subdial. The minute ring is attached to a clear sapphire disk that is mounted on the second wheel of the movement, thus completing one revolution every hour, with the current minute indicated by a fixed, blued steel pointer.

Eccentricity Réserve de Marche
Eccentricity Réserve de Marche

Crucially, the movement incorporates an improved version of an eccentric escapement invented in the 19th century by chronometer maker, Louis Richard. Notably, the free eccentric escapement was designed to combine the locking and unlocking system of the Swiss lever and the frictionless operation, as well as the single direct impulse of the detent escapement. While the balance wheel is displayed symmetrically to the time display on the dial, the escapement is located on the back of the watch due to its complex construction, comprising 19 parts made entirely by hand.

Rémy Cools

Rémy Cools
Rémy Cools

At just 25 years of age, Rémy Cools is one of the most gifted independent watchmakers on the rise. The French watchmaker first entered the scene when he became one of three contestants who emerged victorious in the F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition in 2018 with his Mechanica Tempus Pendulette Tourbillon desk clock and subsequently completed his tourbillon school watch after 1,000 hours of labor. Upon graduating from the Lycée Edgar Faure in Morteau, he did a brief stint at Greubel Forsey where he worked on the Hand Made 1, before setting up his own workshop in France. In 2020, he unveiled the Tourbillon Souscription — an evolution of his school watch — that was sold through a subscription program whereby collectors had to make a deposit for future delivery. Produced almost entirely by hand, the watch is characterized by an elevated and vertically aligned subdial and tourbillon with a free sprung balance. Distinctively unusual, it features a pair of planar crowns on the caseback in the form of swiveling tabs for winding the mainspring and setting the time, respectively. Most notably, the movement is decorated to an exceptional degree with numerous inward angles on the barrel bridge and finger bridges, with jewels set in polished countersinks. Even the gears have polished beveled spokes and sharp inward angles. Having just completed delivery of the series of nine watches, he is in the midst of producing the final evolution of his tourbillon watch.

Tourbillon Souscription
Tourbillon Souscription

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