In an age where the mass production of almost anything can be achieved with such great levels of detail and precision, and at such rapid speeds, traditional craftsmanship becomes highly valued by informed individuals. It goes without saying that watchmaking is one industry in which this notion is more than true, and for obvious reasons. Since mechanical watches are currently experiencing something of a renaissance, so to speak, we’ve been introduced to a number of great watchmakers that are crafting watches that could be considered works of art. Through the increased emphasis on hand-executed detailing, and their entirely different approaches to how watches are meant to be created, the independent watchmakers of haute horology are developing limited yet extremely devoted followings in today’s market, and justifiably so.
To give you just a taste of what the vast world of independent horology has to offer, we’ve picked three great manufactures, all of which are producing some of the most fascinating watches of the modern age.
F. P. Journe
F. P. Journe’s eponymous brand has gained quite the reputation over the past few years for respecting the established watchmaking techniques of the 18th century while still ensuring modern reliability. Journe continues to live up to this reputation by producing almost all the components necessary to build his watches in house, to control the quality of the inputs—a strategy that is best expressed by Journe’s Latin motto: “Invenit et Fecit”, or “invented and made”. With an annual production of just under 900 pieces per year, and only a small team of watchmakers on hand, FP Journe’s watches are quite rare, making ownership less about day-to-day recognition and more about the appreciation of fine watchmaking.
Some of the brand’s most desirable pieces include the “entry-level” knockout that is the Chronomètre Bleu, a tantalum-cased, time-only piece with an especially mesmerizing dial, and the Tourbillon Souveraine—a genuinely gorgeous watch featuring one of the most impeccably finished tourbillons on the market, along with a dead seconds complication. In addition to those two, another piece, the Chronomètre à Résonance, has also become a favorite of Journe devotees. It was first introduced in 2000 as one of the brand’s earliest product lines. Its expertly finished movement features two balances that create an effect known as “Resonance” which helps improve accuracy. This feat of mechanical and horological excellence has truly made it the icon of modern watchmaking that it is today.
H. Moser & Cie
Like many other brands today, H. Moser & Cie isn’t necessarily the same brand as when it was first founded because of the tough times brought on by the quartz crisis, but the levels of quality and scrupulous attention to detail of the manufacture’s earliest days are still being met, if not surpassed. Due to the brand’s notable incorporation of additional barrels into movements, advanced in-house-produced hairsprings, and a wide number of exquisite movement surface finishings, they’ve communicated that not only do they strive to produce beautiful products, but products that are exceptionally made and that will stand the test of time.
In addition to their incredible “fumé” dials, which react to natural light with a beautiful shimmering effect, Moser is revered for their advanced perpetual calendar, which can most impressively be adjusted both forwards and backwards — a feature that is extremely rare even in the world of haute horlogerie. Ultimately, what collectors love most about Moser is that their designs are understated and elegant, while their complications are simply designed and functional – a perfect balance for discerning individuals.
Laurent Ferrier may be seen a newcomer to the industry with his own venture, but he’s no stranger to fine watchmaking, seeing as he worked as one of Patek Philippe’s top watchmakers for over 30 years, and his tenure at Patek and the knowledge he acquired is certainly visible in his latest works. Ferrier’s highly celebrated collection of watches is known as “Galet”, and the offerings within it are produced in a number of variants, all bearing details reminiscent of watches from the 1930s and 1940s, while also making use of cutting edge materials like silicon. In order to maintain such high standards, Laurent Ferrier also produces their timepieces in very limited quantities. This of course will make tracking down certain models slightly more difficult, but well worth it in the long run.
Though all of these brands may each take their own individual approaches to producing timepieces, they do have a few things in common. Each brand understands the fact that, as technology advances, the older and more physically involved watchmaking techniques are becoming obsolete, and it is their job to keep the craft’s purest forms alive. By stressing the importance of the never-ending pursuit of perfection, brands like these continue to create watches that constantly redefine what exactly is meant by haute horology.