Having been thrust into an uncertain time of reputable dispute with the withdrawal of the Swatch Group from Baselworld, many now question what the future of the watch industry will look like. Some, like Ulysse Nardin’s CEO, believe that the path lies is connecting with the consumer, to create a less elitist and more welcoming environment.
For many independent watchmakers, disenchantment with the corporate giants of watchmaking is nothing new. They have long thrived in their flexibility, allowing them to forge stunning works of art with an incredible level of personal input and unconventional flair. This freedom of creativity produces some of the most desirable timepieces on the market and ones which any real watch enthusiast should aspire to get on their wrist.
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Maximilian Büsser, a former executive at Harry Winston, founded the Geneva-based MB&F in 2005, after leaving an industry he fast became disillusioned with. Breaking the chains and starting (what he likes to call) a revolution in watchmaking, MB&F’s approach to haute horology is that of avant-garde artists. “Respecting tradition, but never constrained by it, we reinterpret traditional, high-quality watchmaking into three-dimensional kinetic sculptures.” Indeed, they describe the timepieces as machines and some look as if they have been created by an advanced alien life form. Either way, there is no denying that MB&F has truly embraced the concept of watchmaking as an art form as the brand continues to take the industry into new unexplored frontiers.
As the son and grandson of famed watchmakers, Ferrier had a name that bore incredible weight in the industry. Laurent Ferrier, himself, grew into a force to be reckoned taking up the role as the former creative director of Patek Philippe and overseeing the launches of some legendary collections. However, he truly rubber-stamped his legacy in 2010 when he ventured out into the wilderness of independent watchmaking alone. “I nurtured a dream of making watches that represent my horological values — simplicity, precision and pure, uncluttered beauty.” Ferrier’s experience in design, technical research and watch exteriors shine in his work and vividly demonstrate both his assiduity and his inventive nature.
Essex-born Peter Speake-Marin founded his Swiss watchmaking brand in 2002 after years of working in antique watch restoration London and developing high-end complications for Renaud & Papi. Speake-Marin produces timepieces that reflect both an excellence in Swiss watchmaking with a touch of English design elements. Time-honoured artistic techniques used by the London based company, combined with the best of traditional craftsmanship from the continent culminate in a wholly unique brand.
Marco Lang runs this family based company which he founded with the talented watchmaker apprentice Mirko Heyne in 2001. “The path between the initial design of the watch and the final product is long and exhausting sometimes,” states Lang. “However, it’s a great pleasure for me to manage this path step by step, to create artworks on my own which live longer than me.” The manufacturer has remained boutique and exclusive with a staff of only 15 people and producing only around 50 timepieces a year. They attribute their uniqueness to the highest level of manual skill and knowledge of their experienced employees, starting with the construction and manufacturing of the components of the movement, hands and cases to the finishing. In doing so, Lang and Heyne have kept long forgotten technologies alive such as their renowned method of silver grinding.
Partners Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey joined forces in 2004 with the aim of approaching watchmaking in a wholly inventive way. With art at the core of their innovation, Greubel tackles issues of design and creation, while Forsey excels in watchmaking technicalities. For them, each creation writes a new chapter in the art of watchmaking. This involves inventing original mechanisms to improve performance – such as those featuring tourbillons, inclined double balance wheels or the mechanical computer – and to jointly design the original architecture that will house them. “We are sculptors of time, choreographers of the passing hours and architects of watch movement – with a screwdriver for a brush, a propelling-pencil for a quill, and steel or gold as our supports.”
Having grown up in a traditional watchmaking neighbourhood in Geneva in the 1950s, Antoine Prezuiso had his fate dealt to him. “When I played in the narrow streets, I would tinker with watchmaking tools and components for watch movements that the little watchmaking workshops had put out on their doorsteps to be picked up for disposal,” he told WatchTime in an interview. Since 1991 Antoine Preziuso has been producing one-of a-kind timepieces and his creativity in the watchmaking field was doubly rewarded at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2015. In his workshop nestled in the Geneva countryside, he develops precious timepieces that combine the extreme technicality of mechanical complexity and an original aesthetic signature that soars above trends. Preziuso’s creations are distinguished by a unique blend of Latin artistry and design flair doubtless stemming from his family origins, along with skilled Swiss workmanship resolutely inspired by his native city of Geneva.