The Coolest New Watches from Our Favorite Microbrands

And more that saw at the WindUp and WatchTime watch shows in New York.

silver watch laying on glass with black lava stones around it
Courtesy

Watch enthusiasts that seek out the new and unique had a veritable smorgasbord to browse in New York City over the next-to-last weekend in October. The trade shows WindUp and WatchTime took place concurrently and bustled with collectors, casual fans, media and industry professionals. The tables, booths and display cases, of course, were also brimming with watches — new and recent releases that, in aggregate, reflect an industry in stride.

What both shows have in common is a focus on watches you don’t often have the chance to see in person: at WindUp were many microbrands and startups that sell online and don’t have physical retail locations where you can try them on. (There were rumors Claire Danes was in attendance, low-key browsing affordable microbrand watches with her husband.) Meanwhile, about 18 blocks away at WatchTime, one could find some of the most exotic and mind-blowing high-end horology produced today.

We got to see and try a ton of cool new watches, but we also got to talk to brand founders, owners and representatives. The takeaway? It wasn’t so much a show of trends (though GMT watches, colorful dials and integrated bracelets are still going strong), and more so a reflection of a healthy, confident and diverse industry.

A number of once affordability-focused brands are looking to up their game, improving their product, refining their brand, moving upmarket and even investing in the likes of in-house movements. There were even a significant number of prototypes of upcoming watches we can't show you yet — but we're excited to share them with you when they're ready.

In the meantime, the watches below have got us excited and we'd even venture to say they include some of the most notable of the year.

Brew Method Chronograph

Brew Method Chronograph
brew-watches.com
$425.00

As always, Brew is bringing a playful, designy approach to affordable watchmaking with its Method Chronograph. Like all Brew watches, its concept is built around coffee. And like some of them, it takes an approach to the chronograph's mostly anachronistic timing functionality to make it useful in modern life — especially if you're a barista (or avid coffee brewer). Yes, rather than the typical tachymeter or such, the spiral scale on the dial here will help you time different brewing methods for espresso, French press, pour-over and cold brew. It comes in yellow and blue dial variants.

  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Movement: Sellita SW220-1 automatic
  • Water Resistance: 100m

    So Labs Layer Two

    So Labs Layer Two
    so-labs.co
    $965.00

    Of all the watches at the shows, this is the one I keep thinking about — like an '80s pop song stuck in your head, in a good way. So Labs is an offshoot of Chicago-based microbrand Astor & Banks, and it was conceived a couple years ago with a similar design to that which you see here, but as fun quartz watches with transparent plastic cases and $175 price tags. The designs were striking, but now they've been rendered in metal with Swiss automatic movements, and the result is like nothing else out there. They come in five vibrant colorways, each compelling. I'm especially smitten with the black DLC Obsidian Frost model.

    • Diameter: 40mm
    • Movement: Sellita SW220-1 automatic
    • Water Resistance: 100M

      Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Ceramic

      Zodiac Super Sea Wolf Ceramic
      zodiacwatches.com
      $1,695.00

      $1,700. That's really not bad for a fully ceramic-cased dive watch, not to mention one that looks this good. It's still got the old-school dive watch vibes Zodiac is known for — but sleeker. Inside the ceramic case is a steel inner case for structural support, and inside of that is an STP 1-11 automatic movement. In person ceramic has a different feel than, say, a black DLC coated steel case: it's highly comfortable, lightweight and silky smooth. Ceramic tends to be a rather premium material in watchmaking — and not something you see coming from smaller brands like Zodiac.

      • Diameter: 40mm
      • Movement: STP 1-11 automatic
      • Water Resistance: 200m

        Yema Wristmaster Micro-Rotor

        Yema Wristmaster Traveler
        yema.com

        If you've been paying attention to Yema, its integrated-bracelet Wristmaster watch might look familiar. But it's what's inside that the notable newness. We saw prototypes of the brand's new movement it's calling "manufacture," which features a micro-rotor and even DLC colored plates to match the different dial colors. It describes the movement as 80% French and 20% Swiss, the escapement being the only part not produced locally. It would be a big step for a brand like Yema and, yes, cost more than their current collections. But one cool thing that microrotors mean: thin watches, and we always love that.

        • Diameter: 39mm
        • Movement: Yema Morteau 20 automatic
        • Water Resistance: 100m

          Bell & Ross BR-X5

          Bell & Ross BR-X5
          bellross.com
          $6,900.00

          Bell & Ross announced that it was joining the small but growing group of brands using movements produced by Tudor's movement manufacturer, Kenissi. They're not off-the-shelf Kenissi movements, however, and rather ones exclusively made for Bell & Ross to their specifications. Some of the movements characteristics are visible right on the dial, with a prominent indicator for its power reserve of 70 hours. Also noted on the dial is that it's been COSC chronometer-certified, a first for the brand. It all comes in the latest generation of Bell & Ross's "urban" collection, the BR-05, and though there are several cool variants, we were particularly drawn to that with a baby blue dial and matching rubber strap.

          • Diameter: 41mm
          • Movement: BR-CAL.323 automatic
          • Water Resistance: 100m

            Seiko 5 Sports Ultraseven SRPJ79

            Seiko 5 Sports Ultraseven SRPJ79
            seikowatches.com
            $79.00

            Okay, there were numerous great Seiko watches on show, but in order to avoid a Seiko-heavy roundup we're just highlighting this very cool new variant of the Seiko 5 Sports. It's a tribute to a Japanese superhero show from the 1960s, but you don't have to be a nostalgic, middle-aged Japanese salaryman to find the watch itself pretty cool. It's just another example (also see its Honda and Rowing Blazers collabs) of the great stuff the brand is doing in its entry level range.

            • Diameter: 42.5mm
            • Movement: 4R36
            • Water Resistance: 100m

              Vulcain Cricket

              Courtesy
              Vulcain Cricket
              vulcain.ch
              $3,920.00

              The Vulcain Cricket is an absolute watchmaking legend. It's been around for many decades and reissues aren't new, but the brand is recently under new management — the same people who also recently resurrected the Nivada and Excelsior Park names. What they do best is direct reissues of vintage watches, and that's what these (technically) new Crickets are. They come in two collections, Tradition and Classique, both featuring multiple variations, 36mm and 39mm sizes — and actual vintage movements with the Cricket's defining feature: a mechanical alarm.

              • Diameter: 36mm, 39mm
              • Movement: Vulcain Cricket manufactured V-10 hand-wound
              • Water Resistance: 50m

                Serica 8315 GMT Chronomètre

                Serica 8315 GMT Chronomètre
                serica-watches.com
                €1.00

                A field watch, a diver and now a GMT: every watch Serica makes seems carefully considered — and we're fans of each. The GMT is the latest and it builds on the brand's dive watch design, as well as some traditional GMT features. Yet, like other Serica watches, it feels utterly unique. Yes, it has a bicolor bezel (ceramic), but in stark black and white it's got a striking look on the wrist that's unlike anything else that readily comes to mind. It also features a COSC chronometer-certified automatic movement, a first for the brand.

                • Diameter: 39mm
                • Movement: Soprod C125 automatic
                • Water Resistance: 200m

                  Farer Chrono Classic

                  Farer Chrono Classic
                  farer.com
                  £2,195.00

                  It's hard to even keep up with Farer's ongoing stream of solid releases. One thing we love about the brand is that they don't just release updated versions of existing watches, but are regularly introducing completely new designs. And they tend to be damn attractive, not least for the brand's signature splash of color. All this is represented in Farer's new (officially launching November 11) Chrono Classic. It's a callback to vintage chronographs with only two subdials, but enlivened by vibrant and contemporary feeling hues. It's powered by a Dubois Dépraz Top Grade automatic movement.

                  • Diameter: 39mm
                  • Movement: Dubois Dépraz DD2022 automatic
                  • Water Resistance: 100m

                    Minase Divido 2.0 Ice Blue

                    Minase Divido 2.0 Ice Blue
                    minasewatches.ch
                    $4,120.00

                    Minase is trying to carve out a space among modern Japanese watch brands. It competes in a price point around several thousand dollars, uses Swiss movements, takes pride in its case finishing and offers a unique look that focuses on a case architecture that leaves windows open to the dial and movement. It builds upon these core principles with interesting dial executions, and the Divido 2.0 Ice Blue has a fascinating effect to its dial reminiscent of some of Grand Seiko's nature-inspired creations. It has a hand-painted urushi dial with a texture that almost looks like brush strokes.

                    • Diameter: 40.6mm
                    • Movement: ETA 2892 automatic
                    • Water Resistance: 50m

                      Laco Flieger-Chronograph Kiel.2

                      Laco Flieger-Chronograph Kiel.2
                      laco-watches.com
                      $2,650.00

                      One of the traditional, go-to brands for pilot's watches, German watchmaker Laco is bringing more aviating goodness. The Flieger-Chronograph Kiel.2, as its name suggests, is a pilot's chronograph with a historically based look and layout derived from the familiar Sellita SW500 automatic movement. Despite a larger diameter, its case has been slimmed down and we found it highly wearable. It comes in a traditional black version but the stark white dial is striking and offers strong legibility.

                      • Diameter: 43mm
                      • Movement: Sellita SW500 automatic
                      • Water Resistance: 100m

                        Monta Skyquest

                        Monta Skyquest GMT
                        montawatch.com
                        $2,190.00
                        $1,850.00 (16% off)

                        We just had to check out their controversial new version of the Skyquest GMT. It's controversial because it visually steers the collection closer to its obvious Rolex inspiration, but Monta has always been obviously inspired by Rolex. That means more than aesthetics, though, and the quality and details were right in line with what we've come to expect from one of our favorite microbrands.

                        • Diameter: 40.7mm
                        • Movement: ETA 2893-2 (or Sellita SW330-1) automatic
                        • Water Resistance: 300m

                          Glashütte Original SeaQ Chronograph

                          Glashutte Original SeaQ Chronograph
                          $13,900.00

                          Those who have followed German watchmaker Glashütte Original for years didn't often associate the brand with the likes of sporty dive or tool watches. But the SeaQ line announced in 2019 started to change that. Now, the SeaQ is getting even sportier with the addition of a flyback chronograph. Both types of watches tend toward chunky proportions, so its unsurprising that when combined the result is hefty on the wrist. Hefty but wearable, even on my bony 6.5-inch wrist. Its quality and solidity leaves an impression, and you can see its beautiful, silicon hairspring-equipped in-house movement (what you're paying for) through a sapphire caseback.

                          • Diameter: Glashütte Original 43.2mm
                          • Movement: 37-23
                          • Water Resistance: 300m

                            Montblanc Star Legacy Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph

                            man wearing a montblanc watch while reading a newspaper
                            Courtesy

                            Montblanc's unique take on the chronograph is a tribute to the chronograph's inventor, Nicolas Rieussec. It's made to reference Rieussec's original device by using two rotating subdials to record the elapsed time — a quite different method than that used by most modern chronograph watches which, of course, use hands. It's exceedingly easy to use and read. The collection has been around previously but new versions see a welcome reduction in case size from rather bold 44.8mm to significantly more wearable 43mm. It also offers dual time zones. So this is a complicated watch with an in-house movement making its price feel pretty reasonable.

                            • Diameter: 43mm
                            • Movement: Montblanc MB R200 automatic
                            • Water Resistance: 50m
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