Watch shopping in your #wfh sweats? Us too. It’s not just the big brands’ latest releases and vintage grails that are earning a spot on our wish lists, though. Microbrands—that is small, independent brands producing limited runs of new watches—can be just as interesting as the big players, offering unique designs and workhorse movements at very appealing prices. Here are a few of our favourites.
A love of vintage watch design is at the heart of this French brand, which was founded in 2017. One look at their beautifully simple designs and it’s easy to see how they managed to raise over half a million Euros in startup funding via Kickstarter, and have since become one of the most beloved microbrands on the scene. Assembled in France with Japanese-made Miyota movements, exceptional attention to detail and prices well under $1,000, their small but growing lineup is a whole lot of vintage-inspired value for the money.
Founded right here in Canada by a couple of vintage watch-loving legal professionals, this brand is named for its simple declared mission: to make watches people love. Their first release, limited to just 300 pieces is the Mission 1. Its steel case is a very wearable 39mm, with a sturdy Miyota movement, a winding crown offset at 4 o’clock and a dial embellished with an uncluttered mix of numerals and markers. It also comes with three interchangeable straps, including one in saddle leather that promises to patina beautifully over time.
This Italian brand launched in 2016 with a minimalist dive watch aptly named the Unimatic Modello Uno. Details like a 316L stainless steel case, a self-winding Seiko movement, screw-down crown and water-resistance to 300m give it all of the appeal of a name-brand diver, at the very reasonable price of about $500 USD. Their latest release is the Modello Tre, a fetching black DLC-coated chronograph equipped with a SuperLuminova dial, a Seiko quartz movement, and a black nylon NATO-style strap. Like every Unimatic release it’s a limited edition (just 300 pieces in this case) ensuring you’ll likely be the only person you know flexing one.
There are a good few microbrands on the market celebrating the aesthetic and historical connection between cars and watches, but none are as flamboyant as Gorilla. Founded by a pair of veteran watch designers, Gorilla brings a unique combination of watchmaking expertise and design savvy to their line of colourful sport watches. Among their latest releases is the Fastback GT Drift Elise, a yellow and green tribute to a storied British racing livery, with a unique “wandering hours” movement made in Fleurier, Switzerland.
Scotland has never been a centre of watchmaking, but that doesn’t stop this Glasgow-based startup from creating some very cool specimens. Aside from geography, what sets Anordain apart is its clever use of enamel, which give its dials a unique texture and sheen in a range of rich colours. The Model 1, a simple three-handed, time-only watch, comes in a range of colours from Iron Cream to Post Office Red, with a case back engraved with a customizable map of Scotland or your choice of text.