A square cased steel watch with sharp pink dial from Fears watches with black skeleton style hands and crisp art deco numerals on a black strap.
Hamish Robertson, Jun 11 2021

A Beginners Guide To Watch Microbrands

A Beginners Guide To Watch Microbrands

This blog has covered many different kinds of watch, mostly focussing on categories of use, such as Dress WatchesDive Watches, and even watches featuring a Moonphase. Over the next few weeks, we will investigate types of watch brands, rather than watches themselves. We will learn more about how the brands, or watchmakers, position themselves. We start by exploring the world of small watch brands that are interesting, varied and affordable, known together as Microbrands.

What Is A Microbrand

These brands are often set up by one person who has a passion to create a new watch. Only if they are successful will they make more. They focus on value for money, and target very specific design ideas. They can also be focused on function, such as making a new dive watch, or focused on one influence, such as racing cars. Many watch lovers enjoy supporting these companies as the founders publicise the creation process, showing the steps taken to create a watch from scratch. It is common for early supporters to give feedback to the creator and the founders of the company. Some companies make just a few hundred watches at a time. This leads to exclusivity despite keeping prices low. Only if the early sales and launches go very well do they invest in expanding production or adding new watches.

Examples of successful Microbrand watches include Undone Watches, Fears Watches, Baltic, and Dan Henry. All four companies started with a single watch design and built on their own success.

Baltic Aquascape

Baltic Aquascape

Affordable Luxury

Almost all Microbrands try to make their watches good value for money, and most will sell their watches for under USD $1000. To achieve this microbrands source parts from all over the world, often using assembly companies to put these parts together. The final casing and testing of the watch is sometimes done by the founder of the company themselves, wherever they are based. This is because for many microbrands it is important to say that the watch comes from a certain location or country. For this to be true, at least some assembly and shipping must happen there.

This is great because it means you might have a microband watch company near you. If you search for microbrands in your country you might be surprised how many there are. For example, this list of UK based microbrands is both long and highly varied, showing there is a huge choice for interested watch lovers.

Fears Brunswick

Fears Brunswick

Why Are There So Many Of Them?

The rise of Chinese manufacturing over the last 30 years has revolutionised most industries and watchmaking is no different. While design and engineering may be done overseas, the manufacturing of watch parts, movements and cases is mostly done in China for low-value watches. Today, Swiss-made parts and watches are only a small percentage of all the watches made worldwide. Only expensive watches from Swiss or Japanese companies are made in those countries. Everything else is made in China.

This means that there is a huge number of suppliers for anyone wanting to make their own watch. People can use the internet to research part suppliers, movement assembling companies, and shipping options. Much of this is very low cost, and a watch can be made and shipped for only a few tens of dollars.

It also allows for variety, as microbrand designers try to decide which parts should be high quality, which are design features, and which parts will be the main selling point for the new watch. For example, some brands feature sapphire crystals to cover the face, whereas most make do with lower-cost plastic. We wrote about the difference here.

Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver

Dan Henry 1970 Automatic Diver

How To Buy A Microbrand Watch

These brands are almost entirely sold and distributed online, often using crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter. There are plenty of reviews online, and much discussion of the relative merits of Microbrands in forums and on Social Media.

Searching for microbrands and online stores for them will unveil an enormous number, hundreds have been established in the last 10 years. The good thing about this is that there is something out there for everybody, and often at a very reasonable price:

  • Start by simply searching the term microbrand
  • Then focus on the type of watch you want
  • Then look at reviews and articles about that brand
  • YouTube is especially good for microbrand reviews

It is worth remembering that these are often very small companies, and errors and disappointments can happen. The excitement of wearing something very few other people have, and even being able to offer feedback to the founder directly, may outweigh the risk of buying from a new brand. We've written a broader guide to how to buy a watch online here.

Undone Cali Green

Undone Cali Green

Microbrands and The Watch Collectors Club

We at The Watch Collectors’ Club believe there is no best microbrand, and enjoy wearing Microbrand watches as much as larger brands with starry reputations and long histories. We like all watches, and love exploring the novelty, variety, and innovation across the world of watches. Over the next few weeks we will dive deeper into the Microbrand world, so please follow along to learn and explore with us. If you know anyone else who might be interested, please share this blog post, or tell them to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

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