After the glut of fresh timepieces that poured forth from April’s Watches & Wonders event, the biggest names in watchmaking are enjoying a bit of a break. But for those of us still hungry for more, there is no better time to appreciate some of the fine work that our own homegrown brands have been steadily putting out in small but lovingly made numbers.
01 | Feynman Timekeepers
Not having to answer to a board of directors or worry about market trends is a huge boon to creativity. It’s what gives watches from Feynman Timekeepers their quirky personality. Founded in 2018 by Lim Yong Keong, the micro-brand launched to astounding success on Kickstarter, with its debut collection, the Feynman One, receiving full funding within an hour.
The Feynman One and its follow up dive watch, the Feynman Cove, are generally considered men’s dress watches, but its latest series is something wholly different. Project Coalesce was devised to be Singapore’s first metiers d’art watches, and created with the combined skills of four local artisans. The champleve enamel dials, inspired by Peranakan culture, were executed by enamelist Charlotte Hoe, the leather straps are courtesy of Ng Shuyi of Yi Leather, the additional beaded straps are the work of beadwork artist Raymond Wong, and the watches are assembled by local watchmaker Alvin Sim.
Each of the three variants — Lotus, Peony and Peacock — will be a limited edition of just six pieces, but the brand won’t be stopping there. There are already plans for the next lineup of Project Coalesce watches to feature marquetry dials and will continue to draw from Singaporean heritage.
If you prefer the classic Feynman style, the recently released Feynman Fjord is an explorer-themed watch that features an inner rotating compass ring and the return of the signature lizard-shaped seconds hand.
02 | Zelos
We’ve grown so accustomed to the Swiss giants bragging about their world-firsts in watchmaking that it may surprise you to learn that there are brands right here that are on the cutting edge of innovation, too. Zelos claims to be first watch brand to use meteorite bezels and Timascus cases (made from a titanium composite version of Damascus steel), and these are just some of the unusual options offered with its high-end mechanical timepieces.
The seven-year-old brand was founded by Elshan Tang, who was already planning to turn his passion for horology into a business since his university days. Just six months after graduation, he set up a Kickstarter for his brand, and funding for his first three collections were overwhelmingly positive. Today, Zelos Watches has produced more than 20 different models that have included dive watches, GMTs, tourbillons and chronographs, in over 100 colourways, with preorders now taken directly on the brand’s website.
A major draw is value. Zelos Watches use movements made by well-known players like ETA, Seiko and Miyota, and have designs and complications that haute horlogerie enthusiasts will find familiar and pleasing, but their price tags are a fraction of what luxury brands are asking. One of the references from its latest collection, the Mirage 2, features a hand-wound movement with an eight-day power reserve from La-Joux Perret housed in a sapphire crystal case, and retails for US$8,900 ($12,000). By comparison, Hublot’s entry level Big Bang Unico Sapphire is going for US$69,000.
03 | Keaton Time
Where many dive watches like to emphasise their toughness with no-nonsense, no-frills designs, Keat Tan had a different idea for his brand, Keaton Time. This new entrant to the micro-brand scene has just launched its “artistic divers” on Kickstarter in July, with a mission to change the way you view the popular tool watch.
These are certainly not your typical divers. Faceted lugs, hands shaped like knife blanks, titanium cases polished to a mirror-like finish and a knurled 12 o’clock crown set are some of the features that set the Keaton Keris apart. Several models pay tribute to the historic wavy blade they are named after — the keris or kris (a distinctive and asymmetrical dagger from Indonesia) — with damascus steel cases and dials.
The dials, too, aim to be bold. What appears to be a simple sunray pattern on the K1-1 and K2-1 references will turn into quite the light show in the dark thanks to a fully lumed base. The wood used for the limited edition K3-1 came from reclaimed trees that have fallen during heavy storms, and have been crafted by woodworker Lyn Ng of Studio Mu Yu.
There are currently seven models in the collection, each one measuring 41mm wide and 13.7mm thick, powered by the Miyota 90S5 automatic movement, and water-resistant to 300m.