Oct 24, 2017

Micro-brands

How do you all feel about them? Increasingly I see a number of them making attractive offerings at reasonable prices, which is always a winning combination. That coupled with supporting an American venture makes me a believer in some of these.
I actually joined the Kickstarter for this Martenero today to get the discount -
https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/martenero-kerrison-introducing
Not certain which colorway I'll go with but a smartly designed watch with some nice little touches and a solid movement for around $400 is pretty hard to beat. The movement could be more interesting, but at this price point you cannot be super picky about things like that.
So how do you all feel about some of these brands? I personally am a fan, I'd love to add the new Oak & Oscar chrono to my collection, and I've long wanted an Autodromo Stradale of my own.
Oak & Oscar Jackson
Autodromo Stradale
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I went to a watch fair this fall and got to see offerings from Halios, Oak and Oscar, Autodromo, etc.

As with any watch, it helps to handle before buying. Since most of these watches have generic movements, a good chunk of the quality (or lack thereof) can be seen and felt in the finishing and details. But when you can't see the watches in person, I think the second best factor is to trust the humans behind the brand. Look for interviews with founders and watch reviews. If you buy the story, you'll buy the watch.

The best part of seeing the micros in a watch fair setting is getting to meet the folks (or one-man show) behind the brands. There's nothing quite like putting a face to a name and getting the sense of accountability they have for their product design, QC, and service (and even answering their own emails!). If they nail that, then they earn my respect as a consumer.

There are interviews with Dan Henry and Oak & Oscar on the Worn and Wound Podcast that illustrate this well. They both discuss their level of personal involvement with design and manufacturing quality control.

That said--I wouldn't mind a Halios Seaforth and an Autodromo Group B!


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Take plenty of pix if you visit their offices. Represent yourself as a correspondent for Massdrop. Do an interview.
Cloaca
Look at the most recent video - Chase has the whiskey ready and waiting for me.

https://www.oakandoscar.com/videos
This is a good get for Autodromo.

http://mailchi.mp/autodromo/new-from-autodromo-black-prototipo-brian-redman-dlc-2402057?e=bba2d8b3dc

As a fan of their watches, and the Ford GT program, I approve. These are all _very_ bold color choices, I don't know that I'd be able to pull it off. I'd just go with the Stradale.

Vroom vroom.
Vintage1982Benz
More on this from Hodinkee

https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/autodromo-ford-gt-endurance-chronograph-owners-watch-introducing
I think the Aquafin, a super-compressor automatic sapphire dive watch from Rebel in really nice. This is a couple of Ukrainian brothers in Brooklyn who hire Swiss watch guys and manufacture in Switzerland. They're selling via crowdfunding and on their website.

https://rebeltime.com


Here's an interview with one of the brothers that reveals a lot about how you'd go about starting a microbrand watch companay, if you had a little capital, at least, which I think these guys did:

https://www.wristwatchreview.com/2016/07/23/interview-with-a-watch-maker-reuven-lakein-of-rebeltime-watches/

He's aiming at eventually going the Weiss Watch route and doing assembly in the United States.


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Yeah, I like the silver aviator. I gravitated towards the diver because I'm on an automatic-only, no-chronograph kick right now. But the design is great, the numeral font, the hand design.
Cloaca
I just got into watches within the past few weeks. I'm on a I want everything phase right now 😂. I've been eyeing a lot of momentum watches' offerings as well
I spent a half an hour looking at screwball watches on Kickstarter. I'm not sure I could pull off this 46 mm Playskoolesque watch from Hal Robb:

Cloaca
I dig the design, all the colors on the black reminds of the Chromocron.

https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/chromachron-a-radically-new-approach-to-time
Vintage1982Benz
I like the design too, but stylistically I don't think I can personally sell it: I would look silly on me, but the execution of the design is excellent, down to the number font with the flat-sided zero and 9 and the only-slightly-eccentric 4.

Re the Chromachron, there are a bunch of other "radically new" approaches to watch time on Kickstarter.

I love the novel designs and the idea of micro brands in general and think supporting them is a great idea.

An observation that I have had is that the quality of the work is not on par with that of comparably priced watches from established manufactures such as Seiko, Tissot, etc

I think those bigger manufactures have perfected their process and also leverage economy of scale so they can deliver a higher quality (build and cleanness/perfection) at the comparable (or even better) price point.

So bottomline if you are not picky (i.e. little details and skirmishes don't bother you) and you don't drive your watches hard (i.e. take them off before playing tennis, or swimming, or action sports, etc) then these micro-brands are excellent. They are unique and different from everything else.

However if you are picky and you look at your watch dial closely, then you usually (per my experience) find little and minor defects here or there with them which will drive you nuts. Also if you like playing rough with your watches then they will break down rather easy (i.e. hands fall off, sometimes hour markers fall off, etc). So they are also not as sturdy as big-name watches either.
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Makes sense.
I think many of them look to a Miyota movement already - reasonably priced and with a proven track record. The ones I'm most interested in are doing a lot of this on their own, design wise, and then you are correct - outsourcing the movement and much of the assembly. Some are even working with people to design their own movements - see Oak & Oscar for example. As a result, their watches are priced as if you were buying a Swiss piece with hand made components.

http://www.oakandoscar.com/#best-craftsman

Martenero is one that collaborates more and uses the Miyota movement for the guts, but all design and assembly is done in New York City. I cannot recall where I had read it but they work with a family that is three generations of watchmakers.

A more comprehensive collaboration would be very interesting, but I don't know how open the Micros would be to it. I think a lot of these people left the larger corporate environment for a reason, so they can have complete control over the product and not have to compromise for the sake of marketing, cost cutting or whatever the case may be.

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