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Watches & Wonders 2020: The Independents

This is a tough year for the entire industry, but these independent watchmakers are no pushovers.

Watches & Wonders 2020: The Independents
H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner

Given the current climate of uncertainty, it takes courage to continue launching products when you don’t quite know if they will receive the attention that they will deserve. The pressure is particularly intense for the independent watchmakers of the world, whose production quantities are very limited, and business generally more precarious than the big watchmaking giants.

At this year’s Watches & Wonders, there were few independents who chose to go on with their launches as planned, but those that did launched some pretty impressive timepieces.

01 | H. Moser & Cie.

Normally producers of “very rare” minimalist dress watches (and the occasional tongue-in-cheek timepiece made of cheese), H. Moser & Cie. has chosen to expand its watchmaking vocabulary with the creation of an entirely new collection called the Streamliner, which incidentally also represents H. Moser’s first venture into the ultra-competitive luxury steel sports watch segment of the market.

The watch, which has an entirely new case, bracelet, movement, and dial, draws its inspiration from the sleek, aerodynamic trains of the 1920s and ‘30s. The inspiration is most evident in the rounded ergonomics of the cushion-shaped case and its integrated bracelet, whose wavy links also resemble many vintage watches from the 1970s and ‘80s. Moser’s signature fumé dial, racing track counters, and thick hands also add to that vintage legibility-first aesthetic.

The Streamliner was built with a flyback chronograph complication, with the two pushers unusually positioned at 10 and two o’clock instead of the usual two and four o’clock — the off-centre crown takes the four o’clock space instead. According to Moser, the Streamliner is also the world’s first automatic chronograph with a central display to feature a flyback function for the minutes and seconds. The integrated chronograph calibre housed inside the watch is no slouch and boasts a completely new construction that makes use of several watchmaking innovations. It was developed especially for Moser from scratch by Agenhor, a Swiss movement developer led by renowned watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. As is characteristic of H. Moser & Cie., quantities of the Streamliner are very limited and only 100 are available worldwide.

Overall, we would say that H. Moser & Cie. has succeeded in creating an unusual and appealing proposition in a notoriously hard-to-crack segment of watchmaking.

02 | Laurent Ferrier

Yet another competitor in the hard-to-crack luxury sports watch segment is Laurent Ferrier, who is better known for creating classical watches with excellent mechanical movements. Its new Grand Sport Tourbillon is its version of a sporty luxury watch. Technically, the Grand Sport Tourbillon was first launched in May of last year with just 12 pieces on a rubber strap, but this year has seen the brand introduce a version on an integrated bracelet with a new dial colour — but also with just 12 pieces.

Design-wise, the Grand Sport Tourbillon features a 44mm stainless steel case topped with a cushion-shaped bezel and paired with the aforementioned integrated bracelet, designed with three rows of links. The overall design is simple and classic, but as always, the devil is in the details — note the impeccable adjacent vertical satin finishing and mirror polishing. The dial of the watch is blue, with darker hues around the edge, paired with orange Superluminova hands and indexes that contrast sharply but still lend a sophisticated look.

The calibre housed within the Grand Sport Tourbillon is, as with the initial release, the manual-winding LF 619.01, which is also found in the brand’s Classic Tourbillon — the winner of the 2010 GPHG for the year’s best men’s watch. And in case you’re wondering where the tourbillon is — you’ll have to turn over the watch to view it through the caseback. Laurent Ferrier’s discreet design DNA means that the tourbillon is prized more for its mechanical value, rather than its mesmerizing movement on the dial.

03 | Speake-Marin

Following the launch of the One&Two Openworked Hours & Minutes and the One&Two Openworked Dual Time in the last two years, it should probably come as no surprise that Speake-Marin has chosen to launch the third One&Two Openworked watch. This time, however, the chosen complication is the 60-second flying tourbillon.

The collection was named One&Two primarily because of the presence of the small seconds dial situated between one and two o’clock that has been present in every watch in the collection up to this point. In the new One&Two Openworked Tourbillon, it is the namesake complication that takes that spot, making Speake-Marin the only watchmaker that has its tourbillon positioned there. Technically speaking, having the tourbillon at that position creates complications for movement development, since the tourbillon cage has to first go through the time-setting module. It cannot be denied, however, that it is a visually interesting watch, particularly given the diagonal symmetry between the barrel and the rotor at 10 and five o’clock respectively.

The new movement has also been paired with a new version of Speake-Marin’s Picadilly case, which has now been modified to have the straps be integrated closer to the case and to further recess the crown within the case to improve its ergonomics. Plus, the case has been made thinner and compensated for with a boxed sapphire glass.

This timepiece won’t be for everyone, but for those who appreciate a good mechanical complication with unusual aesthetics, the Speake-Marin would make a decent proposition.

(Image: Speake-Marin)

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