Top Watch Collectors and Their Favourite Indies

Top Watch Collectors and Their Favourite Indies

Gary Getz

Gary Getz

Gary Getz is a lifelong timepiece enthusiast and established watch collector, photographer and author. In his professional life, he is CEO Emeritus of innovation and breakthrough business strategy consulting firm Strategos and an extensively published business author. In the watch world, he is a regular columnist on watch website Quill & Pad, a member of the Academy and former jury member of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.

In addition to owning a collection of select contemporary and vintage watches from major brands, he is particularly dedicated to supporting the work of today’s leading and emerging small independent watchmakers.

Gary Getz's collection

If you were stranded on a deserted island, which indie watchmaker do you hope to meet there?

Given the location, I’d have to say Stephen Forsey. There are many of the independents who are great to spend time with, but Stephen is at or near the top of the list; and as he lives largely off the grid in Switzerland, I think he’d be quite a handy guy to have around for survival purposes.

Pet peeve about indie watchmakers/making, if any.

The delays! A watch that our group commissioned several years ago with Kari Voutilainen was pushed back several times due to component sourcing issues, I waited 3.5 years for my Asaoka Tsunami, and it’s been over two years since my deposit went in on the Rexhep Rexhepi Chronomètre Contemporain. That said, it’s great when the watches finally arrive!

Why do you think we are seeing a renaissance of independent watchmaking? Why are people reconnecting with independent watchmaking right now?

I think it’s a natural consequence of more enthusiasts becoming mature in their tastes and appreciating the work of these artisans; social media has certainly been a factor in making indies’ work more visible; and I think the deeply personal stories behind the independents’ creations and struggles resonate with many people in these times of enforced isolation.

Who is the hottest indie watchmaker?

Right now I’d say Rexhep Rexhepi; while other young guns have emerged since Rexhep’s and Akrivia’s last new references, all eyes are on him for the introduction of his second-generation RRCC with the case made by Jean-Pierre Hagmann.

Name a watch by an indie watchmaker you are lusting after.

I wish I had gotten in on the Petermann Bédat dead seconds watch before it sold out! Strictly my error, and I’m hoping to be on the list for one of their next watches.

The holy grail of indie watches, according to you, is…

That’s easy: the Grande et Petite Sonnerie by Philippe Dufour.

Who’s the most underrated indie watchmaker in your book?

Konstantin Chaykin. He’s become famous for his whimsical Wristmon pieces like the Joker, but he’s a serious innovator with mind-bending watches like the Cinema with its whirring miniature movie display and astounding clocks like his Computus Easter — the most complicated clock ever made in Russia, incorporating among many other indications a true computed display of the date of Orthodox Easter.

Konstantin Chaykin's Cinema
Konstantin Chaykin's Cinema

Describe your collection in three words.

Eclectic, personal, evolving. If I received an allocation for a fourth word, it would be selective.


Raj Asarpota

Raj Asarpota

Raj Asarpota is chief financial officer for a medical device company by day, and a passionate watch collector the rest of the time, otherwise known as @chicago_watch_lover on Instagram. He started his watch collection roughly over three decades ago, and to date, it mostly consists of pieces from marquee brands. “Watches tell time and stories; they create conversation and are beautiful objects, which is the reason I started my collecting journey some three decades ago,” he shares.

If you were an indie watchmaker, who would you be?

Max Büsser of MB&F. His ability to collaborate and create horology art for the wrist is absolutely amazing!

Name a watch by an indie watchmaker you have a love-hate relationship with.

The HM3 by MB&F… I love it on my friend’s wrist yet I don’t think I could pull it off.

MB&F HM3

Complete the sentence: Independent watchmakers are…

Rock stars in their own right.

The holy grail of indie watches, according to you, is…

A Kari Voutilainen with tourbillon. There’s nothing prettier than a Kari dial.

Kari Voutilainen Tourbillon-6
Kari Voutilainen Tourbillon-6

Who’s the most underrated indie watchmaker in your book?

Grönefeld.

Who is the most overrated watchmaker?

Richard Mille.

Are we seeing a renaissance of independent watchmaking?

I believe watch collectors are fatigued by the hype of the modern pieces with a lopsided demand and supply equation. Therefore, true watch collectors who are discerning in their approach are gravitating to independent watchmakers that are producing unique movements, dials and innovation that make for more interesting timepiece collecting. Finally, the advent of social media has thrust independent watchmakers into the limelight through a platform that never existed before, providing them access to a larger community of watch collectors.

Name your favourite pieces in your collection.

Two watches from that collection that I cherish most are: the Patek Philippe Nautilus reference number 5712R, purchased at the Tiffany store in San Francisco about a decade ago. This was the “pre-hype” period before Instagram and social media blew up the watch collecting game. My wife and I simply entered the store, pointed at the watch in the case that I liked, was able to purchase it and walked out the door. The ability to acquire a ‘Tiffany stamped’ Patek with no drama, no fuss and no groveling invokes a time where collecting was true to term with no future return on investment and hype consideration involved. Another favorite is the Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 purchased in the summer of 2019. The CODE grabbed my attention as a new introduction from a maison that was innovative, different and something that could add dimension to my collection.


Geoffrey Hess

Geoffrey Hess

A dedicated watch collector for decades, Geoffrey Hess has developed a broad knowledge across vintage and modern timepieces, especially vintage sports watches. His current engagement with Phillips auction house as an international specialist follows the completion of his tenure as CEO of Analog/Shift, a platform for vintage timepieces recently acquired by Watches of Switzerland. An active member of the watch community for many years, he has engaged with collectors and enthusiasts around the world and proudly founded and staged the acclaimed Rolliefest collector’s gathering in New York City in 2019.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, which indie watchmaker do you hope to meet there?

Trapped on a desert island, I would want to meet a revered legend. A “GOAT” [aka Greatest of All Time]. A craftsman who not only made masterpieces, but who paved the way for future independent watchmaking to blossom. I think most collectors would agree that the icon is Philippe Dufour.

Pet peeve about indie watchmakers/making, if any.

If I had to articulate a pet peeve, it might be with respect to transparency. Transparency not only with respect to price and why a watch is retailed at a particular price point, but also with regard to materials and the source of the components of its movement.

Why are we seeing a renaissance of independent watchmaking, and why are collectors reconnecting with independent watchmaking right now?

In this instance, I think of three nouns: confidence, admiration and relationship.

Confidence that comes from having the watchmaker himself managing the company. That can, of course ,relate to creativity and the way in which a watch company designs and builds its watches, but it can also relate to the financial side of the business and the management of how watches are sold, including limiting production levels so that supply remains low and demand can match or exceed it.

Admiration that stems from collectors admiring the watchmaker who has the guts to put his own personal reputation on the line by becoming independent. In turn, that, too, can inspire confidence that what you are collecting has a foundation of high quality because an individual’s integrity is behind it. “Putting a face to the name” rings very true with independent watch collecting.

A relationship that’s built from having direct contact with the watchmaker. It’s the ultimate in “business-to-customer” relationship. I think at one time, service from independent watch brands was a fear in the collector’s community, whereas now it’s ironically become a bigger part of the allure, specifically because the collector can often communicate directly with the watchmaker, and in some instances even personalize a piece to become unique. There’s something very attractive about buying the vision of an individual, as opposed to the work understandably touched by marketing and design committees from a larger brand.

Who is the hottest indie watchmaker?

I think the “hottest” indie watchmaker at this moment is Rexhep Rexhepi. Now in his mid-30s, he started at an incredibly young age with an apprenticeship at Patek at age 15. With a relentless attention to detail, I think he’s understandably perceived as a future legend. I liken buying his watch to pulling a LeBron rookie card out of a pack in 2003.

Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain
Akrivia's Tourbillon Hour Minute AK-02

Name a watch by an indie watchmaker you are lusting after.

A Dufour Duality. But I’m not alone. With its twin escapements, in my humble opinion, it’s amongst the most coveted time-only wristwatches ever made. Since 1996, there have been nine in the world.

Philippe Dufour Duality

The holy grail of indie watches, according to you, is…

Identifying the holy grail of independent watchmaking for me is difficult, but I’d look to a Dufour Grande Sonnerie minute repeater. The groundbreaking original run in 1992 had only four and took almost three years to create.

Dufour Grande Sonnerie Minute Repeater

Who’s the most underrated indie watchmaker in your book?

Habring², because of the value proposition. Handmade quality, thoughtful presentations, truly limited collections, but with an unusually and genuinely affordable price point. Plus they also collaborate to make exciting watches, as they did with industry veteran and friend William Massena of Massena LAB.

Describe your collection in three words.

“Under the radar.”


James Lamdin

James Lamdin

James Lamdin is the founder of Analog/Shift and the director of vintage and pre-owned timepieces for the Watches of Switzerland Group. He is also a founding partner of the RedBar Group. His editorial work in watches has appeared in numerous industry and lifestyle publications and he is regularly quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ and Bloomberg. His other interests include peaty single-malt whisky, slow cars and witty bio captions.

If you were an indie watchmaker, who would you be?

It may be somewhat of a stretch, but I’d like to think I would be Laurent Ferrier. Not only does he have an incredible style and detail-oriented approach to horology, but he has a passion for motorsport and was a winning racing driver. Also his first car was the same make, model, year and color as mine!

Name a watch by an indie watchmaker you have a love-hate relationship with.

MB&F HM2. Outstanding design and mechanical prowess, and also the first MB&F I ever had an opportunity to play with. Ultimately too big to wear and not terribly comfortable, but completely awesome. I hate that I love it so much.

MB&F HM2

Independent watchmakers are…

Carrying the torch of horological passion forward for a new generation.

The holy grail of indie watches, according to you, is…

Part of me would love to have a pièce unique, a Dufour or an Akrivia perhaps — but my heart skips a beat whenever I see a Ferrier Galet Square Double Spiral Tourbillon….

Who’s the most underrated indie watchmaker in your book?

Back to Laurent Ferrier here. I think part of the common indie design language these days is ultra over-styled avant-garde stuff. I truly believe it is harder to do “simple” well than overly complex designs, but most of the popular indies are really busy and loud in their execution. Ferrier’s work is subtle, precise and exceptional. Also, a big nod to Fiona Krüger who is an absolute genius and leading a charge to remind people that watches can be purely fun and artistic, and don’t have to be taken so seriously.

Who is the most overrated watchmaker?

Probably any of the so-called “indies” who are backed by giant corporate or group money, but portray themselves as destitute start-ups to win hearts and minds. Not naming names…do your research!

Why do you think we are seeing a renaissance of independent watchmaking?

I think for the same reason vintage is as popular as it is — these things have a story, a handmade quality, and a romanticism about them that you just can’t get from a mass-produced timepiece from a big group. There is a tough-to-pinpoint emotional X factor here that drives us.

Describe your collection in one line.

Old and new, high and low. Lots of stories. Some of them even keep decent time.


Auro Montanari

Auro Montanari

Auro Montanari has been collecting and studying vintage watches for 40 years. He still spends many hours browsing through watch shops, old libraries, museums, flea markets and auctions. He is a true horological scholar and serious collector of the highest order. Montanari is perhaps best known to watch lovers by his pseudonym, John Goldberger, and as the author of 100 Superlative Rolex Watches, Patek Philippe Steel Watches, Longines Watches, Longines: Legendary Watches, A Journey into the Deep, Omega Watches, Time to Race and Time to Wear. He is also a member of the Conseil Cultural Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie and advisor of Phillips.

If you were an indie watchmaker, who would you be?

I would like to be Philippe Dufour! He is a really great artist and artisan with an uncompromising approach to watchmaking; he created the most perfectly finished watches.

The Philippe Dufour Simplicity, 37mm in rose gold (Image: phillips.com/watches)

Independent watchmakers are…

Great artisans that brought a breath of fresh air in the watchmaking industry.

The holy grail of indie watches, according to you, is…

The white gold two-train minute repeating grande and petite sonnerie wristwatch with white enamel dial manufactured by Philippe Dufour in 1995 and the George Daniels Space Traveller pocket watches.

Philippe Dufour Simplicity
George Daniels Space Traveller

Who’s the most underrated indie watchmaker in your book?

Professor Thomas Engel, a German scientist who researched plastics and polymers and obtained in his career some 120 patents in the field. But organic chemistry was not his only passion; he was also a Breguet collector and he published the book, A. L. Breguet: Watchmaker to Kings. In the mid-’70s, Engel started to produce great pocket watches with Breguet DNA; he was completely an autodidact! He passed away a few years ago.

Thomas Engel pocket watch

Who is the most overrated watchmaker?

Nobody! Maybe not the watchmaker but his watches — the Simplicity by Philippe Dufour. The prices reached lately at the auctions are completely insane! Mr. Dufour is one of the few independent watchmakers whose creations sell for higher prices on the secondary market as compared to original retail price.

Why do you think we are seeing a renaissance of independent watchmaking? Why are people reconnecting with independent watchmaking right now?

The collectors are always looking for unique watches and lately they can find them in the independent watchmakers’ portfolios. For a collector, to meet and talk with the watchmaker that produced by hand your personal watch gives an “aura” that you just could not describe. For more customers, an independent manufacture visit is like a visit for a kid to a candy shop!

Describe your collection in one line.

A wide collection built with passion and knowledge.


Arvid Prevo

Arvid Prevo

Arvid Prevo’s day job has him moving “people-filled metal tubes” through the air at high velocity, but he is happy to have his feet on the ground in the universally accepted nation of watchmaking: Switzerland. An organizing member of RedBar Switzerland, he is an active participant of several watch-related chat groups and watch forums. You may know him by his more famous moniker @opus_d on Instagram.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, which indie watchmaker do you hope to meet there?

Max Büsser would probably have the most interesting stories to tell and prevent us from dying from boredom. However, I suppose that our best chance of finding our way back would be with Rémi Maillat, inventor of the Krayon Everywhere. And he better have one of his watches with him.

Pet peeve about indie watchmakers/making, if any.

There are a few, and I think that some of them are structural issues related to the watch industry in a broader context:

High entry level prices. Though justified in most cases, the prices these products demand will offer a collector a whole array of other choices, including those from more established competitors and famous brands, if you can get them. Of course, the trouble is that the desired models from brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet are simply not available at retail anymore. So when a collector would set his sights on a pre-owned GMT, Nautilus or RO, he quickly moves into a price territory where he can get something REALLY special and unique. This issue is the same whether the independents ask 10,000 or 100,000 for a watch.

What really gets to me is that a lot of younger watchmakers have a problem expressing their creativity while working for established brands, where most of them go to get their experience. Many of these watchmakers have some really great ideas and they wish to work on exciting stuff, not just polishing or chamfering watch parts. With the larger established brands, it would take these watchmakers an excruciatingly long time before they are even allowed to get near the juicy grand complications. From the side of the brands, it is also understandable: they have their own reputation to lose. These brands often cannot accommodate the young watchmakers’ creativity.

What I would like to see is a way for young watchmakers to be able to display their talent while still gathering their experience and honing their skills at established brands. Perhaps something along the lines of what Toyota did or does — allowing employees to use some of the company resources to design whatever they want. There are many obstacles for young watchmakers: you need to hone your skills but you can’t do that on your own because nobody knows you and nobody wants to take risks and spend big bucks on a “hobby project watch.” So you work for a company in the watch industry to hone your skills and to build up some sort of a name for yourself. You spend all your time on your work or task dictated by your employer, leaving you little or no time to work on your own ideas. Once you get to the point where you have enough skills and a name, you can go about it on your own. In order to do so you need financial resources to start creating your workshop, especially if your goal, as it should be, is to make the whole watch in-house. Once you have your workshop and all the materials needed, you can finally start working. While you are working, you do not have time to engage in marketing yourself and your product — a product that is not yet finished and cannot be shown or demonstrated.

The pride, dedication and honor many watchmakers possess for their craft often makes them want to produce watches with the highest levels of finishing, because they know that they will be identified through their end result. However, top quality is not always a necessity to create an appealing competitive independent product; as we have seen with the already now legendary Joker. This watch does not excel in watchmaking finesse but is instantly recognizable and retailed under 10K. In his case, the price made the Joker/Chaykin proposition a no-brainer and both the sold-out original steel and titanium versions are nearly impossible to find. Let it be said that Chaykin also makes very amazing, special and unique complications.

Succession. Finally, many indie watchmakers still depend on the one watchmaker who created the watch or brand. Succession plans are not always clear which is an important issue when dealing with very unique or very complex movements that cost five or six figures.

Why do you think we are seeing a renaissance of independent watchmaking? Why are people reconnecting with independent watchmaking right now?

I think the main driver is social media, which has helped independents to get better exposure and engage more directly with collectors. Today there are more ways than ever before in which watchmakers and collectors can connect with each other. The interest in watches and the art of watchmaking in general have also drastically increased over past years, boosted by social media. Influencers and enablers such as Anish Bhatt, Wei Koh, Hassan Akhras and many others have contributed to elevating independent watchmaking. They have single-handedly brought these watches and their makers to the attention of collectors who previously would have had a hard time discovering them. They were instrumental in stimulating the awareness and desirability of niche products by illustrating the how, what and why that makes these watches so special in their own right.

For a variety of reasons, young watchmakers start out independently quicker than before. Some feel that the road to independence via traditional channels, building up your experience working for established brands or watchmakers, takes too long. Some watchmakers feel that working for others prevents them from turning their dreams and visions into reality because their ideas and visions do not fit within the concept of the brand or watchmaker they are working for.

Who is the hottest indie watchmaker?

Rexhep Rexhepi. His is the name on everybody’s lips. The super hottest indie watchmaker on the planet right now, with an incredible story and plenty of experience under his belt.

Rexhep Rexhepi
Rexhep Rexhepi Chronometre Contemporain

Name a watch by an indie watchmaker you are lusting after.

I can’t name just one watch because each watch is different and special and in its own league. The answer to that question is, and should be, a very subjective one as it very much depends on whether the artist has created a watch that strikes that emotional chord.

In no particular order of preference:
• Chronomètre Contemporain II by Rexhep Rexhepi.
• 1967 Deadbeat Seconds by Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat which has just won the GPHG Horological Revelation Prize 2020.
• Ornament by Michiel Holthinrichs. Michiel Holthinrichs is hot because he makes affordable watches in his own atelier and found a way to embrace new technologies in the manufacturing process.
• Vault by Mark Schwarz, who has turned his dreams into a smoking-hot reality with a watch with a fully rotating movement and a novel way of displaying the time that has never been done before.

1967 Deadbeat Seconds by Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat
Holthinrichs Watches RAW Ornament - Pale Gold
Vault by Mark Schwarz

The holy grail of indie watches, according to you, is…

I suppose the closest description, for both collectors and watchmakers alike, of what a holy grail of indie watch should be is: a watch that is 100 percent created by a single artist from concept to finish, including all parts (except the strap, and preferably without the use of CNC techniques). Right now, I can only think of the Dufour Simplicity as my holy grail.

Who’s the most underrated indie watchmaker in your book?

Simon Brette. Another up-and-coming watchmaker who is still in the very early stage of his watchmaking career but already very accomplished. You may not yet know his name but you most likely already have seen some of his creativity without knowing. Expect to hear more from him.

Describe your collection in three words.

Eclectic. Subjectively supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

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