This is article 2 of 2 (check out part 1 here). The micro brand watch has become increasingly popular among novices and enthusiasts alike. In December, I noted the Most Inspiring Micro Brand Watches of 2016 in the Micro Brand Watch Awards. This article is a continuation of that spirit by introducing and continuing to provide updates on micro brand watch companies.
These are NOT endorsements, nor I have not had a chance to personally try all of these watches. Rather the purpose is to introduce and inform consumers so they can wade into the micro brand watch world with an idea of some of the companies out there — I always leave the buy/sell/hold recommendations to stock analysts and consumers. Which micro brand watch you buy depends a lot on which type of customer you are. Regardless of what a founder claims about their brand, your perception of their brand and what you are looking for in a watch will ultimately dictate your preference. Therefore, I try to offer a wide array sampling of the micro brand watches out there. Happy reading!
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Weiss Watch Company
Weiss Watch Company was founded and is owned by Cameron Weiss. He is one of the few American companies that is mass producing watches. They are located in Los Angeles, California. Weiss produces some watches with Swiss movements and others that use the Weiss Caliber 1003 that is Made in America (you can read more on his Made in America watches here). Weiss has recently released the American Issue Field Watch Green Dial with the Made in America Cal 1003. Weiss says of the watch:
This Special Issue timepiece includes our CAL 1003 movement from our new production line with a higher beat rate of 21,600 BPH paired with a re-engineered mainspring and the addition of a hacking feature that stops the sweep second hand when the crown is pulled out for setting. Developing these three elements advances the accuracy of our timepiece. The movement is rhodium plated and visible through an open case-back enclosed in sapphire crystal. The revised dial design is machined from naval brass and hand-painted in military green with latte accents proudly declaring our Los Angeles, California heritage.
The watch is limited to 50 pieces with a price of $1,995 and is available at the Weiss Watch Company website.
Vortic Watch Company
Vortic Watch Company is an American micro brand watch company out of Colorado, USA. They were also one of the 2016 Micro Brand Watch Awards for their use of 3D printing in producing watches. They use vintage American-made movements from the late 1800s and early 1900s (similar to RPaige who we covered in Part 1 of this article). Vortic is currently launching their American Artisan Series 2.0. I had previously had a chance to try their version 1.0, which uses 3D-printed stainless steel case (shown below).
Their new 2.0 uses titanium cases (also 3D-printed) with the case construction no longer being in two parts (as the version 1.0 was). I had a chance to try out the new version 2.0 for a week. You can check out my video review below. One cool thing they are doing with their website is they are including an online “watch builder” website that allows you to customize your watch with movement, dial, hands, and case color and they will build and send you the watch. This new series comes in two sizes: 46mm or 49.5mm. The watches start at about $1000 and go up from there.
You can shop on their website at vorticwatches.com
Straton Watch Company
I recently learned about Straton Watch Company through an article in aBlogToWatch, who I sometimes publish articles with. I thought they were making great looking watches so I reached out to the company’s founder. Kyle started out as an amateur watch designer living in Switzerland. He designed and produced his first racing inspired watch, the Vintage Driver Chrono, in 2012-2014 that was modeled after his love for his 1977 Alfetta GT and the vehicle’s tachometer.
This first watch raised $160,000 on Kickstarter, putting this watch easily among a rare few highly successful Kickstarter campaigns (read here for my analysis of watch Kickstarter campaigns). Kyle recounts getting started with his first watch:
In 2014, I came across crowdfunding and figured it would be a viable way of starting the business. When I designed the Vintage Driver Chrono (lets be honest I am not watch maker) I simply designed the watch made for me. My first watch was relatively simple in its design as was the tachometer of the car. I never imagined the success it would have after 35 days on Kickstarter, funding around $160k. It’s rare if you read the comments section on Kickstarter of other projects to see very few (if not any) negative comments or feedback; my first was was huge success and even to this day it is selling steady via my website.
His most recent project is the Curve Chrono, a 70’s inspired piece (I have seen the 70’s design coming up as a theme among micro brand watches, with it being the basis for TiMe22’s also successful Kickstarter. The 70’s design theme is a throwback to the curves and shapes of Art Deco, which I have written a whole article about that you can read here). This latest release by Kyle raised a stunning $236,467 on Kickstarter as of 2/25/17 (the campaign ends March 5, 2017). Consumers vote with their wallet, and despite the skepticism consumers naturally have of Kickstarter projects, Kyle has shown twice that he knows how to design what consumers want and they “vote” for his watches.
The Curve Chrono comes in both 44mm or 40mm case sizes, multiple dial/color combinations, and the movement used is primarily the Seiko VK64 meca-quartz hybrid. These two watches, plus a third model are available on the Straton website.
Mark Carson – Individual Design
Mark Carson and his company Individual Design, design watches that are inspired by Mark’s home, Hawaii. He also frequently partners up with watchmaker Richard Paige for collaboration projects. Recently, Mark released the Ka La watch with a Koa wood dial. Koa wood is the soul of Hawaiian ‘aloha’ spirit, being one of the most famous products of Hawaii, and some would say it is one of the most beautiful woods on earth. Mark says:
Koa also means brave, bold, fearless, or warrior. Typically harvested only from dead fall trees, the supply of koa is limited with a corresponding high cost per board foot. The most coveted is “curly koa” which has figuring that typically runs 90 degrees to the grain. These “tiger stripes” are the product of stress introduced into the wood while the tree was growing. Often they are on the underside of where a branch meets the trunk. These curls are a naturally polarized material where the light and dark portions of the stripes “move” as you change the angle of the light. Only a small percentage of koa wood is curly, hence curly koa wood is prized and often used for musical instruments such as guitars and ukuleles, jewelry boxes and fine furniture.
This watch is truly Mark’s passion project due to the nature of the wood and the work he does to inlay this native Hawaiian wood into the face of the watch. Mark says of the process:
Unlike some cheap wooden watches, the koa wood used for in a Ka La Koa watch is a rare commodity and is strictly sourced, selected and finished by hand. Lesser watches with wooden cases and bracelets subject the exposed wood to daily hazards. In contrast a Mark Carson Ka La Koa watch has its precious koa wood safely under a sapphire crystal and stainless steel case, ensuring decades of wearing and viewing pleasure. While combinations of cases finish, hand color and straps may be freely chosen for these custom timepieces, the most popular combination is a stainless steel case with blue hands paired with a blue alligator strap and stainless steel deployment buckle ($1,700 USD). Production is naturally limited by the rareness of suitable koa wood and the hand finishing required for each unique watch.
Mark says his watches have a “Swiss movement but a Hawaiian soul.” Below are some pictures of Mark’s latest creation. This watch and others are available for purchase on his website.
This concludes the Winter 2017 Micro Brand Watch update. If you missed part 1 of this 2-part series, make sure to check it out here to read about six other micro brand watch companies.