5 New Watches From Independent Watchmakers At Watches & Wonders 2021
Here we are once again drooling over the latest watches to come out of Watches & Wonders, sadly from afar as the watch industry is still social distancing until the wider world is all vaccinated and ready to party! No matter: after the last year and a handful of watch events held virtually, the brands are working together to present some incredibly cool pieces.
Quill & Pad is covering everything that is awesome, and today I highlight five pieces from some of our favorite independent brands that have just been released. From sapphire crystal-encased tourbillons and constant force fusée and chains to stunning art pieces, these watches span genres and the spectrum of collector dreams.
H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Centre Seconds MEGA Cool: a watch for exploring
First up is a watch that would be at home both in a casino in Monte Carlo and diving off the coast of the Mediterranean: the H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Centre Seconds MEGA Cool edition. A limited Pioneer Centre Seconds edition, the MEGA Cool features a beautiful Blue Lagoon fumé dial and comes with the choice of strap or a steel bracelet that appears to integrate perfectly into the case. The watch is designed to be an outdoor watch that still enjoys some of the finer things.
The case has recessed lugs with a machined texture to give it a bit more of a rugged appearance, yet it has a fully polished bezel with a finely brushed case middle and the same graceful curves found on most Moser watches.
The dial color, Blue Lagoon fumé, is a vibrant blue-green reminiscent of the turquoise waters found surrounding the most exotic islands in the world. The hour markers are perfectly polished indexes with a small dot of Super-LumiNova around the outer edge, providing a balance of haute horlogerie and practical functionality.
This continues with the three-dimensional hands stemming from a black base with applied strips of Globolight, a ceramic composite containing Super-LumiNova, allowing the hands to shine brightly when charged. Combine these details with the impressive 120 meters of water resistance and the choice of the Kevlar strap or a sturdy H-link steel bracelet and you have one pretty versatile watch.
You can also choose an alligator skin strap and wear it with your suit to the gala, and that is the best thing about the Pioneer Centre Seconds MEGA Cool: it is so chic that it can go from the mountains to the depths to the dance floor and never look out of place.
And since it is H. Moser & Cie, you know that you’ll be getting some of the best independent watchmaking in the industry with the reliable and well-crafted Caliber HMC 200, an in-house automatic movement boasting 72 hours of power reserve and typical H. Moser quality. If you have had your eye on the Pioneer Centre Seconds and want something that is a little extra (or MEGA) cool, this is definitely a watch for you.
For more information, please visit www.h-moser.com/product/pioneer-cs-mega-cool.
Quick Facts H. Moser & Cie. Pioneer Centre Seconds MEGA Cool
Case: 42.8 x 10.6 (at crystal edge) mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber HMC 200, 72 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Louis Moinet 8 Marvels of the World box set: the watches for the billionaire world traveler
The next watch is actually a group of watches, a special edition collection of art pieces from independent rebel spirit Louis Moinet. The collection uses the incredible Caliber LM 35 as the base, a gold medal winner at the last International Chronometry Competition.
The movement is a fantastic base for any watch, and Louis Moinet often prefers this movement to provide a solid base for the more artistic pieces. A stunning 60-second tourbillon with 72-hour power reserve, you really can’t ask for much more to power pieces focusing on artistic crafts.
The watch dials and cases all feature globally renowned marvels spanning the last 6,500 years and three continents. The locations represent cultures that are both vastly different and yet share the important feature of being iconic examples of humanity’s achievements. The techniques employed run the gamut of skills from engraving, stone setting, marquetry, miniature painting, grisaille painting, enamel, bas relief engraving, and other unique variations on these techniques.
There are eight different watches, each a unique piece, and each aesthetically related to the culture and location it represents. The first piece depicts the Colosseum in Rome and uses engraved gold steps to surround an array of rainbow sapphires and a center of onyx. The case sees 202 arches engraved into its bezel and case middle, a fitting representation of such an amazing structure.
The next piece highlights the Blue Mosque in Istanbul with mother-of-pearl inlays, miniature-painted hand engravings, and towering three-dimensional minarets for a breathtaking presentation. Upping the game even more, the third piece focuses on the ancient city of Petra and uses the grisaille technique consisting of multiple layers of varying shades of the same color to create a realistic stone façade for the incredible desert location.
The fourth piece identifies with the Pyramid of Khufu and relies on stone marquetry, hand engraving, enamel, and a special transparency technique to apply mysterious hieroglyphics.
This fifth piece features the Taj Mahal, crafted with a combination of marble marquetry, hand painting, and engraving to create a rather faithful rendition of one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
The sixth piece takes us to the Great Wall of China, featuring a stunning piece of hand-engraving combined with gem setting for a remarkable dial.
Not to be outdone, the seventh piece hops over to Rio de Janeiro and the Christ the Redeemer statue. Even though it is the most modern location depicted in the series, the relief engraving, enamel ocean and mountains, and miniature painting combine to transport you straight to Brazil’s Mount Corvocado.
The final piece stays on the South American continent but heads west into the Andes to find Machu Picchu, and it is fantastic. Made from a variety of stone marquetry, hand-engraving, and miniature painting, the green terraces and stone buildings stand against a mountain made from Yowah Nut opal. The entire presentation is a terrific cap to the collection. And what a collection it is!
These pieces are not sold separately: this is a package deal, all coming inside a handmade burr elm travel trunk with an inlaid silver Fleur de Lys. As such, this is the most expensive release I’m covering today, but since it’s actually eight award-winning tourbillons with world-class handcrafts, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For more information, please visit www.louismoinet.com.
Quick Facts Louis Moinet 8 Marvels Of The World
Case: 47 mm, 18-karat gold
Movement: manual winding Caliber LM35, 72 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 8 unique pieces sold as a set
Price: CHF 2.5 million
Purnell Escape II Absolute Sapphire: a watch for a mechanical speed freak
Next up is one of the fastest triple-axis tourbillons in existence, developed in collaboration with Eric Coudray and now set in a ridiculously hard-to-make sapphire crystal case. Oh, and there are actually two of the incredibly fast triple-axis tourbillons side by side. It’s all found in the Purnell Escape II Absolute Sapphire.
You may be unfamiliar with Purnell, but this independent has been making extremely bold tourbillon watches for a few years after releasing the Spherion, which has now morphed into the Escape II.
The fastest triple-axis tourbillon, also developed by Coudray, is found in the MB&F LM Thunderdome, but it only beats the one in the Purnell by a couple of seconds in speed. However, the MB&F only has one triple-axis tourbillon while this Purnell has two, making it the world’s fastest double triple-axis tourbillon and possibly one of the most mechanically insane watches you can buy.
The tourbillon’s inner cage rotates in a blazing fast 8 seconds, followed by 16 seconds for the middle cage, and 30 seconds for the outer cage, meaning the inner cage is basically on the tumble cycle day in and day out.
But if the mechanics aren’t enough, then we can take a look at the case because it is also not a simple creation. When the brand was first launching the original Spherion, the case is what constituted a majority of the development time due to its complexity. And now that same complexity has been transferred into a completely solid piece of Swiss made sapphire crystal.
Where before this watch’s case offered an awesome view of the massive and speedy tourbillons, now it is not unobstructed in any way. What’s more, the tourbillon cages are all diamond set (insanity), the offset sapphire crystal dial features baguette-cut sapphires as hour indexes, and the movement is powered by six mainsprings providing 32 Newton/mm of torque.
This is one incredible watch.
For more on the mechanics of this double triple-axis tourbillon setup, please see The Purnell Escape II Double Tourbillon Comes To Life.
For more information, please visit www.purnellwatches.com.
Quick Facts Purnell Escape II Absolute Sapphire
Case: 48 x 19 mm, sapphire crystal
Movement: manual Caliber CP03 with two spherical triple-axis tourbillons with titanium cages, six mainsprings in four barrels, 32 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; power reserve
Limitation: unique piece
Price: $1 million
Ferdinand Berthoud Régulateur Squelette FB RS: a watch for chronometry lovers
Oh, Ferdinand Berthoud, why must you tempt me so with your exquisite horology that I won’t ever be able to own? It’s just rude – or awesome. I’m going to go with awesome.
The brand new Régulateur Squelette FB RS is a watch based on a movement designed to be used in your choice of case, either the newer round case first seen in the FB 2RE or the typical octagonal case familiar to Ferdinand Berthoud.
The FB-T.FC-RS caliber is a constant force tourbillon movement powered by a fusée and chain and also happens to be a skeletonized movement, the first from this brand.
While the movement is skeletonized, there is still a portion of the dial that is obscured – from 8 to 3 o’clock – so you aren’t staring at wrist hair like some skeleton watches allow. But, really, that isn’t the point of this watch: it’s all about the mechanics like every Ferdinand Berthoud watch.
The regulator layout is very easy to read once you get used to it with the central hand keeping track of the running seconds, a subdial at 12 o’clock tracing the minutes, and a small window at 2 o’clock that shows the hours slowly passing by.
There is a patented power reserve indicator at 10 o’clock, possibly one of my favorites in the industry, based on a spiral spring, a truncated cone with follower finger, and some clever levers to translate the three-dimensional movement gearing into easy-to-read rotational movement of the indicator hand.
This is easier to see from the rear, right next to the awesome tourbillon, though the show is really stolen by the fusée-and-chain mechanism.
Truly, this watch follows the Ferdinand Berthoud strategy of making watches that make grown men weep, and now the brand is making a new commitment to its collectors with the release of this movement. From here on out, the Chopard-owned brand will now explicitly state the lifespan of movement production so collectors know the rarity of what they are buying.
The FB-T.FC-RS caliber will only ever be made in 20 examples, and buyers will have the option of having them in the original 1RS octagonal case or the more traditional 2RS round case. Once 20 examples are cased and sold, that exact movement will cease production, keeping it a very limited piece.
Luckily I won’t have to worry about its limited availability, but if you are in the market for an incredible piece of chronometry, you may want to hop on this one.
For more information, please visit www.ferdinandberthoud.ch/en/notre-collection/chronometre-fb-rs.
Quick Facts Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre Régulateur Squelette FB 1RS.6
Case: 44 x 13.95 mm, octagonal carburized stainless steel
Movement: manual winding Caliber FB-T.FC.RS with 60-second tourbillon and constant force fusée and chain, 53 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Limitation: 20 movements total for both case styles
Price: CHF 235,000
Quick Facts Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre Régulateur Squelette FB 2RS.2
Case: 44 x 14.26 mm, round pink gold
Movement: manual Caliber FB-T.FC.RS with 60-second tourbillon and constant force fusée and chain, 53 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Limitation: 20 movements total for both case styles
Price: CHF 244,000
Greubel Forsey GMT Sport: a watch to claim the throne as king
I understand that all design and aesthetics are entirely subjective and arbitrary, but when it comes to Greubel Forsey, it just is the king for me. I know you might argue differently, and it’s okay that you are wrong. We can’t all be right on everything.
All jokes aside, the new Greubel Forsey GMT Sport is the horological and aesthetic juggernaut that is hard to beat in my book. The movements, finishing, style, quality – nothing falls short on a Greubel Forsey.
This is also why Greubel Forsey’s watches usually fall into the “grail” category even for the most well-heeled collector. The boutique brand doesn’t make a ton, they are insanely expensive, and the waiting list is lengthy.
And the newest iteration of the GMT Sport is not going to lessen these issues: it is an update for the already popular GMT Sport released in the fall of 2019.
This latest iteration of the Greubel Forsey GMT Sport sees a few small changes and one big change. The dial (and other details) have become a rich blue color, finally embracing the “blue-dialed sporty watch” trend that still has no chance of turning this watch into “just another one of the bunch.”
That is and will always be impossible for Greubel Forsey, so the blue can just be what it is: a gorgeous color on that movement. Another small change is the elimination of the engraving along the bezel, the designers this time opting for a clean, polished look. I actually prefer the engraving, but this isn’t a make or break for the watch because of what comes next.
And that is the big change: the strap, or should I say bracelet. For the first time in the brand’s history – and courageously following on from the controversial steel bracelet of A. Lange & Sohne’s Odysseus – Greubel Forsey has entered the arena with its own version of integrated bracelet, and it is a solid entry into the category.
Adding aesthetic recesses like on the case and matching/following the details into the links shows how the design was holistically considered when developing the bracelet. It feels as if this was the first iteration of the GMT Sport before it was offered with a rubber strap.
No matter what, this watch is a stunner and another piece of unobtanium to add to my list, but also perhaps the most incredible watch I’ve covered today. In case it is within your budget and you can’t wait to get your hands on it, you should know the first watch with a bracelet from Greubel Forsey is limited to just 33 pieces.
For much more on the Greubel Forsey GMT Sport, please see Greubel Forsey GMT Sport: Object Of Desire.
For more information, please visit www.greubelforsey.com/en/collection/gmt-sport.
Quick Facts Greubel Forsey GMT Sport Limited Edition
Case: 45 x 15.7 mm, titanium; 100 m water resistance
Movement: manual winding movement with 24-second, 25-degree inclined tourbillon; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency; 72-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; second time zone, rotating globe with universal day and night, universal time (on reverse) of 24 time zones including summer and winter time, power reserve
Limitation: 33 pieces
Price: CHF 520,000 plus applicable tax
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Hello, while these are all amazing timepieces….they focus on the extreme high end of the watchmaking arts. Why not provide an example of more “affordable”pieces from McGonigle, Sarpaneva and Garrick as examples. Not all of us have endless wealth…something closer to reality for the “masses” might be in order when discussing independents!! Cheers, Steve
The article was titled “5 New Watches From Independent Watchmakers At Watches & Wonders 2021” and none of thee brands you mentioned participated in Watches & Wonders 2021. On another note, as much as I love McGonigle watches, I don’t think by any stretch they could be considered affordable, Habring2 might fit better in your examples. But you do bring up a good point and we will look into an article highlighting relatively affordable independent watchmakers as that’s a great topic with fantastic watches.
I had the good fortune to visit John in his Ireland studio a few years ago. He and his brother John build amazing works of mechanical art. And yes, while starting prices at $50K are not exactly “affordable”, they are a far cry from $500K and up. The Habrings offer an excellent option from an independent making couple. Their COS system is very impressive. My goal is to eventually own a more affordable yet no less desirable independent timepiece! Cheers, Steve