Opinion is always varied when it comes to something as personal as a watch but there are some designs that have will remain permanently etched into cultural relevance. Whether it be down to their zeitgeist defining style or simple elegance, these watches have stuck around and had a traceable impact upon the world of microbrand watches.
As is often the case when giants move and make history, smaller companies and designers will follow in their wake, innovating on top of innovation and creating new variations that sometimes outshine the original. This piece, done in collaboration with Swiss Watch Trader will take a look at some of histories greatest designs and how the microbrands of today have incorporated their innovation into their own designs.
The Omega Seamaster 300 ST, Undone- Basecamp Range and the Draken Kalahari
The Omega Seamaster is a vintage gem that has huge historical appeal to any space buffs and a rugged adventurous edge not often present in the luxury watch industry. It’s this broad appeal combined with a unique niche that makes the Omega Seamaster 300 ST a true classic, relevant in any list on the subject.
The Omega Seamaster began a trend of sturdy fabric handles and utilitarian design that struck a chord with the modern watch enthusiast and has had a lasting impact upon microbrand design culture. This is clear in ranges such as Undone’s Basecamp Range and the Draken Kalahari, branded as being for the urban explorer and military personnel respectively.
The impact of the Omega Seamaster is evidently not isolated to design alone. With its original purpose of being for the sailing community and later affiliation with NASA, the Seamaster successfully embedded itself into military culture and spawned future microbrands that serve a younger, more adventurous clientele.
The Rolex Daytona Cosmograph and the Stoic Chronograph
The Rolex Daytona Cosmograph was an extraordinary jump forward in precision, utility and price for the premier watchmaker and due to Rolex’s ability to lead the industry, many contemporaries followed their lead.
The Daytona Cosmograph’s identity was always inextricably linked to the world of racing and the imagery that came with this association was enough to make the Daytona a bestseller that would endure for generations. So much so that by 2017 over 60 years after it’s initial release a Daytona Cosmograph owned by famous Indycar owner/driver, Paul Newman, became the single most valuable wristwatch ever sold at auction. Fetching over 17 million US dollars at an extraordinary open auction. The fact that this particular watch was neither particularly rare or especially valuable (when compared to Rolex’s of course) is a testament to the mythos that a Rolex can create.
Much has changed since the 1960s however and as watch fashion has veered towards slimmer, less ostentatious pieces, a number of microbrands have adapted the Rolex Daytona’s distinctive style for the modern era. A notable example of this riffing on Rolex’s themes is found in the Stoic Chronograph.
Stoic is a relatively new Mircrobrand founded by Peter Speake Martin, the original founder of the revered swiss manufacturer, Speake Martin. Riffing on Rolex’s iconic panda style by reversing the colouring of the face and dials the Stoic catches the eye with its subtly detailed colouration. Its most immediately noticeable homage, however, is its triple chronograph design that pays respect to the classic but slims its form down to suit a more refined modern audience.
The Breitling Chronograph 1915 and the Megir Chronometer
The Breitling Chronograph represents a watershed moment in the history of watch design and utility. By 1915 the demands of trench warfare had intersected with the changing fashions around timekeeping and the need for a practical and sturdy watch had never been more urgent...enter Breitling. Safe in the relative peace of Switzerland Breitling was able to develop a truly revolutionary timepiece, one that was reliable enough to be worn in combat and had the extra utility of two chronographs for keeping track of time-sensitive tasks such as fuse lengths and field operation coordination. After the war, Breitling’s popularity exploded as the wristwatch became the newest acceptable piece of men's fashion and none had proved more reliable than the Breitling Chronograph.
A hundred years later and Breitling’s innovation is still felt just as keenly around the world, Chinese manufacturer Megir’s attempt at homage is evident in their 2008 Chronometer. With just a $30 price tag this certainly isn’t the most desirable item on the list but it’s a great place to start if you’re wanting a stylish watch but lack the funds for a true Breitling.
The Chronometer's face is packed with Breitlings influences upon microbrands, its subtle triple chronograph and information-packed face speak of Breitling's innovation, while it's leather strap tell a story of a company steeped in tradition. Megir might be considered a knock-off brand by most watch collectors but the faithfulness of their design speaks of a company that is still interested in artistry. For just $30 It’s hard to imagine getting anything more for your money.
The watch industry might seem rigid to the untrained eye, and it just might have been in the absence of innovative microbrands. What makes these time so exciting, however, is the presence of innovation in the shadows of industry giants.