Look, price tag and brand image are the main selling points for most watch fans when it comes to buying a new watch. (Okay, the choice of movement is not exactly unimportant, either.) Even if brand image is not synonymous with brand history, long-established watch brands usually have a more prestigious image than competitors who have only just popped up. Just think of industry heavyweights like Breguet, Vacheron Constantin or Patek Philippe.
However, also in the watch industry the exceptions seem to prove the rule. We present five watch brands that were only founded within the last five years, but are already at the horological forefront today.
DONE Watches is a project of the watch enthusiast and microtechnology engineer Thierry Clottu, who started his own brand in 2016 – after over a decade in the watch industry. For everyone wondering at this point where the name stems from: DONE hints at the value proposition Done in Neuchâtel.
After more than a year of research and development, he presented his idea of a perfect watch in the form of the MECHANICA ME1A: an elegant, modern and yet timeless piece. Each watch of the four collections is manufactured in Switzerland, boasts a high-quality finishing – e.g. Geneva stripes, blued screws etc. – and sets you back a three-digit price (for the entry-level models).
2015 was also the birth year of Monta. Although the brand is based in St. Louis, Missouri, the two founders Michael DiMartini and David Barnes decided to relocate production to Switzerland. Incidentally, the two of them have already had great success with the Everest Bands brand, manufacturing high-quality aftermarket rubber straps (for Rolex, Panerai, etc.), prior to Monta.
According to their own statement, Monta produces “Swiss tool, military and diving watches” – and it’s fair to say quite successfully so. Today the product catalogue already includes four collections, of which the diving watch line called Oceanking debuted first. In addition, there is the Skyquest, a model based on the Oceanking but with an additional GMT complication. Those who do not feel comfortable in the water or the air and prefer having a solid ground under their feet will take pleasure in the field watches of the Triumph and Atlas collections.
Prices for Monta watches start at $ 1,420 (just under € 1,200) for the Triumph on a rubber strap, which is quite fair considering the specs.
Baltic Watches, founded by the young Frenchman Etienne Malec, is a kick starter-financed watch brand from France. Malec’s passion for watchmaking can undoubtedly be traced back to his father, who once bequeathed him an extensive watch collection. This served Malec as a source of inspiration for his debuting two collections, HMS and Bicompax, which both launched in 2017. The big breakthrough came at the end of 2018 with the Baltic Aquascaphe.
The Baltic Aquascaphe is a vintage-inspired diver’s watch in a contemporary 38mm case that quickly turned into a real crowd-pleaser. Especially the Beads of Rice bracelet, the sandwich dial and the price-performance ratio convinced many watch fans, with the result that the watch was quickly sold out right after its launch.
By the way: If you want to find out whether the watch really delivers what it promises, make sure to check out out YouTube review.
MING is the brainchild of a watch collective of six friends and business partners, most notably the Malaysian Ming Thein. Thein completed his master’s degree in physics at Oxford University at the age of 16, before deciding shortly afterwards to pursue a career as a professional photographer. As such, he worked for brands like Jaeger Le-Coultre, Van Cleef & Arpels, Maîtres du Temps, Richemont and the Swatch Group. In 2017, however, he decided to produce watches under his own name.
The current MING lineup consists of four watches: While the 17.06 is a rather simple ETA-based three-hand watch, the 27.01 is already a step more sophisticated, as it is based on a heavily modified ETA Peseux 7001. This was followed in August 2020 by the brand’s first diver’s watch, the 18.01 H41, which was sold out within hours after its launch. Lastly, there is the 19.02, upping the ante big-time. It’s a world time watch, boasting an in-house caliber (with micro-rotor) entirely developed by Schwarz-Etienne, which sets you back around 11,000 Swiss francs. All watches come standard with straps supplied by the French luxury brand Jean Rousseau.
In 2019, after only two years into business, MING got accoladed: The model 17.06 COPPER won the GPHG Award in the category “Horological Revelation”.
Norqain only saw the light of day two years ago but has had an unparalleled head start. Behind the young brand is Ben Küffer, son of Marc Küffer, who has pretty much worked in the Swiss watch industry all his life and who was certainly able to help his son out with one or the other contact. It is also thanks to this circumstance (among others of course) that Norqain had a real head start from day one – a point that needs to be raised in all fairness.
Norqain is still completely independent and operates out of Nidau near Biel, where the company manufactures timepieces in the price bracket between 2.000 and 4.000€. After the production started in 2018, things went uphill quickly: The brand is not only distributed by Wempe since May 2019, but also recently started obtaining calibers from Kenissi – the company that manufactures Tudor’s inhouse calibers. In other words: While other watch brands still rely on calibres from Sellita, STP and Miyota in the early days (or their entire lives for that matter), Norqain already uses calibers in Tudor quality. Not bad at all!
It does not come as a surprise that venerable watch brands capitalize on their centuries-old history. However, those who can easily go without it, but not without quality and a coherent brand concept, are well advised to take advantage of the here presented brands, especially in terms of value for money.
No matter whether you’re into the watch industry’s top dogs or up-and-coming niche brands, make sure to head over to our shop.