Notable Watchmakers, K-O

We’re half-way to completing our review of the watch manufacturers, from the most popular watch brands, to rare and boutique watches. Today sees the big guns of Omega and Longines under the microscope, as well as new favourites such as Linde Werdelin and the two Maurices (Mauriac & Lacroix).

Watch Manufacturers We’ll Be Discussing:

  • Konstantin Chaykin
  • Linde Werdelin
  • Longines
  • Maîtres du Temps
  • Maurice de Mauriac
  • Maurice Lacroix
  • MB&F
  • Omega

Old Hat?

In today’s blog discussion, only 2 of the watch brands from the list above bring with them a reputation of over a century: Longines (1832) & Omega (1848). The question is – could these watchmakers now be considered old hat?

Well, put it this way – when compared to the new high-flyers of Linde Werdelin and MB&F (we’ll get to them later), these long-established brands should count their lucky chickens they have such a strong heritage to fall back on. As we have seen from previous articles, prestige is key, and Longines & Omega have that in abundance. With a strong sporting association, their vintage watches will certainly hold (if not exceed) their original value.

Take Omega as an example – their 1920s designed caliber 321 movements were so robust that they were chosen by NASA for its first manned spaceflight missions. Indeed, Omega have Buzz Aldrin to thank for making their Speedmaster Professional Chronograph the first watch to be worn the Moon.

Fast-forward to today and the same watches are still doing a great job – but they aren’t pushing groundbreaking horological barriers. As a case in point, take Longines’ latest creation, the Silver Arrow (based on a timepiece from the 1950s of the same name). It’s no coincidence Longines are looking back to past successes rather than forward. While these two brands will continue to pull their weight, any watch aficionado will tell you true value lies with their vintage watches.

New Concepts

While Longines and Omega continue to chug along, new manufacturers, or to be more precise, watchmakers, are re-thinking the way timepieces are conceived. Maitres du Temps, MB&F and Maurice de Mauriac are all examples of these.

To start with, Maurice de Mauriac are a very interesting brand indeed, becoming a bit of a talking point with today’s horologists. On the one hand they are dismissed as copycats, AskMen blogger ‘The Watch Snob’ describing “his Chronograph Modern [as] basically just an IWC Top Gun” while, “the fonts on their dials look like they came right off a Richard Mille”. Certainly, most of the component parts are sourced from a production line shared by many other watchmakers.

However, on the other hand founder of the brand, Daniel Dreifuss, insists he “designs and constructs each timepiece slowly – for the most challenging clients in the world” while watch blogger Ben Clymer insists, Maurice de Mauriac is rare in “actually [making] watches on-site… a unique brand that allows its clients to… pick and choose the design of their watch so that each piece is 100% unique and custom-made”. So while the movements may not be bespoke, the watches certainly are – in this way Maurice de Mauriac is establishing a niche within the industry.

Then we come to Maîtres du Temps, launched as recently as 2008, which makes some of the most expensive luxury watches on the market today. Their philosophy is based on bringing the brilliant minds of master watchmakers together to create exclusive timepieces. Branded as Chapters, each watch is the lovechild of a different horological partnership, where watchmakers are handpicked to produce the next chapter in their story. A novel idea, and one which already commands respect across the board.

Finally, with a huge future ahead of them, is MB&F. Founded by Maximilian Büsser in 2005, the brand has already achieved huge success at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2012, where their Legacy Machine N° 1 not only won the Men’s Watch Prize category, but also the Public Prize. Their concept is slightly less game-changing than the two previously mentioned, but equally profound: “to design and craft each year a radical and original horological masterpiece”. And they’ve done that well, also winning the Design & Concept Watch Prize in 2010 with Horological Machine N° 4 Thunderbolt, thus proving they are anything but a one-hit wonder.

Leading The Pack

It is not essential to change the concept behind your business for success in the watch industry. Style and innovation, when done well, are enough in their own right to instill brand identity and value.

When compared to watch companies founded in the 19th century, Maurice Lacroix is still a fairly new brand (established in 1975). They are the kind of small boutique company which produce timepieces industry professionals would be happy to wear on their wrist – and that can only be a good thing. Despite having their own movements, they are also more affordable than similar watches of other manufacturers. This makes Maurice Lacroix an honest manufacturer, not bumping up prices for a brand name. Perversely this, added to the fact they make 1000s rather than 100s of watches a year, will probably mean they are not a great monetary investment. Which is a shame – because there’s nothing to say these watches, money aside, won’t stand the test of time.

Leading the way in terms of style is Linde Werdelin, another luxury watch company supplying watches for watch-fans. They are only 10 years old but have already produced some amazing watches, concentrating on developing sophisticated digital instruments for skiing and diving. You could say they are as cool as Rolex, without actually being Rolex. Just see this, the Oktopus as an example – it can survive at 1,111m below sea-level!

Weird & Wonderful

Now we come to our headline act, pictured at the top of this blog. Previously, we mentioned that the main players in the watch industry were based in Switzerland, with a small percentage pulling their weight in Germany. Breaking this mould is Konstantin Chaykin, a Russian watchmaker unashamedly making Moscow the centre of all production.

Even younger than Linde Werdelin, we really can’t predict the future of this new brand. What we do know is that Konstantin Chaykin is shaking things up, with previously unseen complications and radically different designs. These include a perpetual calendar which indicates the dates of Easter (incredibly complicated since this depends on the date of the first full moon following the Spring Equinox) and latest model the Decalogue Rega, which measures the smallest measure of time – 44 milliseconds. Known as a ‘rega’ or ‘haref ain’ – from the Hebrew for “the twinkling of an eye” – this is featured on the first ever Jewish calendar perpetual wristwatch.

Key to all Chaykin’s creations though, is the transparency of the design. Nicknamed the ‘mystery’ complication, watch hands appear to be suspended in thin air – we just don’t know how he does it. Or maybe we don’t want to spoil his secret…

Until next time…

Clocking off, Ed Hallinan and the borro team.

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