Pretty from within and without: 3 examples of non-Swiss haute horlogerie

By Montredo in Lifestyle
February 21, 2020
Pretty from within and without: 3 examples of non-Swiss haute horlogerie

We present three watch brands that can easily hold their own against their Swiss counterparts:

3. Grönefeld from the Netherlands: Two brothers in the service of watchmaking

Horological Brothers is the name chosen by the two man team from the Netherlands, Bart and Tim Grönefeld. Though watchmaking genes can be traced back in the Grönefeld family tree over 100 years, today’s success is all on the Brothers, who only started creating their own designs in 2005. And the success has indeed been considerable: the watchmaking duo has already received two GPHG awards, in 2014 and 2016.

What makes their watches so special? Does “everything” count as an answer?

Without wanting to get lost in the details of how technically sophisticated the Brothers’ watches actually are (tourbillon, deadbeat second, Remontoire and so forth and so on), they exemplify the ideal high-end niche brand à la Kari Voutilainen or Laurent Ferrier. Their watches are perfectly made, have their own design language and break new ground precisely because of their independence.

Dieses Bild hat ein leeres Alt-Attribut. Der Dateiname ist Remontoire_White.png
The Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire.

Watches made by the Horological Brothers are not for some Johnny-come-lately with more money than sense. Indeed, anyone who chooses a Grönefeld watch has most likely enjoyed a long and well established passion for watches, and now wants a product far removed from any mainstream and a brand unbeknownst to even some self-proclaimed watch experts.

2. Lang & Heyne from Dresden: tribute to the German nobility

Sure, when it comes to the finest watches from Saxony, the savvy reader automatically thinks of A. Lange & Söhne from Glashütte. And with good reason: their watches are veritable masterpieces, far superior to most of the competition in terms of technology and aesthetic. That said, a look outside the box and beyond the usual suspects may nevertheless pay off most handsomely.

Lang & Heyne is a watch manufacturer from Dresden that has existed since 2001. Launched by Marco Lang and Mirko Heyne, the house has quickly earned a reputation as a real underdog, flying deep under the radar, but one all the more appreciated by real connoisseurs.

Dieses Bild hat ein leeres Alt-Attribut. Der Dateiname ist Lang_Heyne.png
This beautiful piece goes by the name of Anton.

The first thing you notice about Lang & Heyne watches is the characteristic triple band lug, with which a further link is attached to the watch case at both 12 and 6 o’clock. Other peculiarities are the classically inspired dials, all of which hearken back to names steeped in history. With a Lang & Heyne you can keep company with Friedrich III or wear Augustus on your wrist. (For those interested, a complete list of available names can be found here.)

Venerable old names, superior core values. With a meticulous attention to detail bordering on the ridiculous, every and every watch is outfitted to the max. From the tourbillon to the one-push chronograph to the built-in calculator to a calendar which can remember up to 12 anniversaries or birthdays, these watches have it all. Prices start in the five-digit range, which is totally justified given the level of sophistication.

1.Roger Smith of the Isle of Man: maintaining a very special heritage

The Isle of Man – crown property of the English crown and only slightly larger than the city-state of Bremen – is an island of contrasts. On the one hand is the extreme noise and outlandish danger of the legendary Isle of Man TT, for which motorcycle racers are happy to risk life and limb, and on the other hand we find the watchmaker Roger Smith, whose sport is infinitely more quiet and contemplative.

The native Englishman runs a watch workshop there on the Isle, in which he produces his namesake watches. Smith once had the supreme privilege of mentoring under George Daniels, the legendary watchmaker and father of the co-axial escapement. Those who have learned from the best have golden prospects for their own future, and this certainly is the case for Roger Smith

Dieses Bild hat ein leeres Alt-Attribut. Der Dateiname ist Tourbillon_Commission_No._1.jpg
Tourbillon Commission No. 1 © SJX Watches

The gifted watchmaker’s creations are undoubtedly among the best in the world. And the patience exhibited by Smith in creating a single watch will be equally important to a prospective buyer, as the Manx horologist only completes 10 watches a year. The reason is very simple: with a vertical integration of 98%, almost every component of the wristwatch is made by hand, and this according to the highest quality standards.

The watches themselves are as complicated as their names are basic. The collections are known, with a striking lack of pretense, as “Series 1,” “Series 2” or simply “The Great Britain,” but behind the name you will find watchmaking art par excellence. Regardless of whether it’s a three-hand watch, moon phase, power reserve display or full calendar, these timepieces represent the entire range of complications, and their finish, executed using time-honored ornamentation techniques, is on the same superb level. It just doesn’t get any better.