In our last look at elegant and classic independent watchmakers, we showed you impressive timepieces from brands like F.P. Journe, H. Moser & Cie, and Laurent Ferrier. We also discussed the old world techniques that are still being used to manufacture these traditionally crafted, yet modern works of art.
The aforementioned watchmakers are currently among the most popular brands in the market for independent watches. So, in this next installment of the series, we’ve decided to focus on a few names that may be less known by the average watch enthusiast, but are changing the way collectors and experts think about classic watchmaking in the modern era.
One such name is Habring², a small, independent Austrian manufacture run by Richard and Maria Habring. While they have only been making watches since 2004, the Habring name has stood for excellence in watchmaking for many years. Before founding his eponymous brand, Richard Habring was a successful watchmaker who worked with large, well-established brands like IWC and A. Lange & Söhne.
During his time at IWC, Habring’s genius was demonstrated by the development of a rattrapante module for base movements – and he did this in an astonishing period of just under two years. This module, later called “Doppelchrono” by IWC, would ultimately define Habring²’s entire watchmaking ethos: to produce reliable, complicated watches, and sell them at relatively affordable prices, offering tremendous value. Later on, the same module was used in producing Habring²’s Doppel collection of split-seconds chronographs.
This notion is best demonstrated by their incorporation of high-end complications like dead beat seconds and foudroyantes into watches below the $10,000 mark, and by their new Felix watch, which makes use of the brand’s first in-house movement, the Habring² A11B.
Similar to Habring², Kari Voutilainen runs a really small watchmaking operation, consisting only a handful specialists and himself. Luckily, Voutilainen is very well trained, having attended the world-renowned watchmaking school of Tapiola in Finland and the International Watchmaking School in Switzerland. In Switzerland, he completed the WOSTEP complicated watch course, which truly solidified his love and respect for high-end, complicated vintage watches.
Following a period of time in the famed restoration department of Parmigiani, and later as the Head of Complicated Watchmaking at the WOSTEP School of Watchmaking, Voutilainen launched his own independent brand of rare, high-quality watches in 2002. Most notably, Kari has created a number of watches using vintage calibers, which he breathes new life into by disassembling, beautifully refinishing, and expertly restoring them to ensure that they run even smoother and more accurately than before.
Voutilainen called these watches “Observatoire” after the vintage observatory grade movements that power them. He produces them in a number of handsome variants. Through his work revitalizing the great scientific calibers of yesteryear, Kari Voutilainen has shifted the focus of important collectors towards the past to study celebrated calibers like the Peseux 260. He’s also designed his own movements according to similar visual and mechanical principles, which we see in watches like the stunning Vingt-8.
Unfortunately, these masterpieces are highly demanding to produce and therefore not only very expensive, but also extremely rare.
To fully understand this newly-founded independent haute horology brand, one must look back to the early days of German watchmaking. In 1878, Moritz Grossman founded the German School of Watchmaking in Glashütte. In its day, the school was highly regarded for its course material and accomplished graduates and it can now be viewed as an institution that kept a wonderful craft alive throughout the years.
In 2008, watchmaker and industry veteran Christine Hutter was inspired by the story of this man and the legacy that he left behind with his watchmaking school, so she began to create extremely elegant and aesthetically restrained watches under his name, using a number of in-house movements. In their 8 years, they’ve already made a name for themselves as a full-fledged manufacturer and we can’t wait to see what the future will bring.
One of the brand’s most exclusive and curiously constructed timepieces made quite a stir in the watch world in 2014, when a media outlet reported on the use of human hair in place of a stop brush in the Benu Tourbillon. A stop brush is used to stop the tourbillon when setting the time to ensure accuracy. Given the soft and pliable properties of human hair, its use makes sense, and is just one example of the manufacturer’s spirit of innovation.