“In Today’s episode, you can expect a wide range of different microbrand chronograph watches, ranging from the Dan Henry 1937, all the way to the Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 1”
Best Microbrand Chronograph Watches
- Dan Henry 1937
- Lorier Gemini
- Unimatic U3 Classic
- Baltic Bicompax 002
- Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver
- Farer Carnegie
- Christopher Ward C65 Chronograph
- Oak & Oscar Jackson Big Eye
- Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 1
What Are Microbrand Watches?
Microbrands have become one of the fastest-growing aspects of the mechanical watch market, in some cases even surpassing the big players in the watch industry. Most of these brands use their online presence and their websites as their main source of distribution, allowing them to reduce third-party costs by interacting directly with the customer. I personally like this development in the watch industry. The increased level of competition in the watch business means that the big players have to get more creative and innovative to stay relevant. This in turn equals more great options and more value for us watch enthusiasts and customers.
But because of the relatively low barrier of entry, it seems that every day a new Microbrand is popping up, be it on your Instagram feed or crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. I’m sure it wasn’t long ago since you got the latest ad of some new brand, trying their best to stand out in this competitive market. Maybe you are not able to keep up on which brands are delivering on their promise and which are just blowing hot air in your direction. And this is totally understandable. So, for that reason, I wanted to give you some guidance and have therefore created this series in which I will feature some of my favorite microbrand watches each and every week. I choose each model and brand based on their value for money and the innovation they bring into the watch industry. And, today, we are looking at 9 of the best microbrand chronograph watches.
And if you are interested in more Microbrand watches, I recommend checking out the Microbrand topic overall, to get some additional inspiration and context.
Are Microbrand Watches Good?
But before we continue with the best microbrand chronograph watches, let’s first address a question that I get quite often. Are microbrand watches good? Yes, Microbrand watches can definitely be considered good, reliable, and high in quality. Let me explain why. Microbrands tend to invest a lot of time and thought into their watches, in certain cases years go by, without any production processes happening. This has one main reason. Usually, microbrands are founded by a very passionate watch enthusiast, that appreciates the quality that a good watch brings with it. Therefore, they want to make sure that every little detail is perfect, which, most of the time, results in a very thought-through and lovely timepiece. Microbrands are also in the unique position to offer you more watch for your money since they tend to sell only via their online channels, hence they save quite some money due to them not needing physical selling points, like a store. Christopher Ward would be an excellent example of that. So, to sum it up. I personally think that Microbrands can be, and usually are, of very good quality.
So, now that I’ve covered everything that is to cover, let’s dive straight into today’s episode, in which you can expect nine of my favorite microbrand chronograph watches.
Dan Henry 1937 ($270)
As the seasoned reader of this blog surely knows, the next watch on this list already made a lot of appearances on Horologisto. Of course, I’m talking about the Dan Henry 1937, which admittedly, was featured in quite a lot of articles that I’ve written over the past few months. But it’s not because I’m uncreative or lazy, it’s just that for its price point, the Dan Henry 1937 is a watch that cannot be overlooked. Period.
And for those of you that are now asking who and what Dan Henry is, let me give you a quick overview. The person that founded the Dan Henry brand, is, you’ve guessed it, a guy named Dan Henry. Dan Henry is an avid collector of vintage timepieces, who, as of today, has over 1500 vintage watches in his collection, some of them are considered to be among the most iconic and sought-after timepieces of the last century. After realizing that most watch enthusiasts out there would never be able to afford the prestigious watches he collected, he launched his own brand, which offers vintage-inspired watches, at a very reasonable price point.
And the Dan Henry 1937 is a perfect example of that Philosophy. The watch features a brushed stainless-steel case, which measures 38mm in diameter, 12.7mm in thickness, and 46.1mm from lug to lug. I love that the watch has a 38mm case, it goes to show that Dan Henry really cares about bringing vintage-inspired watches to a broad range of enthusiasts. Overall, we can observe that microbrands tend to make their watches smaller because they know that those 45mm watches aren’t really what most of us want. Just try it out for yourself, compare the case sizes of the microbrand chronograph watches on this list, to chronograph watches from more established brands. It’s quite interesting. Anyway, before we go too deep into conversation about case sizing, let’s take a look at that handsome, Art-Deco-styled dial of the Dan Henry 1937. The black dial features an onyx sector pattern with silver applied numerals and tachymeter, subdials with a 60-min chronograph and 24-hour indicator, as well as leaf-shaped hands. And the sapphire coated mineral crystal that sits on top of it all, makes sure that nothing happens to that pretty dial.
The watch is powered by the Seiko VK64 Mecaquartz movement. What is a Mecaquartz movement you ask? A Mecaquartz movement combines part of a mechanical movement with parts of a quartz movement. The mechanical part of the movement ensures the sweeping motion of the central chronograph hand, while the quartz part of the movement takes care of the rest.
So, for a price of $270, you might not get a purely mechanical movement, but you will get a very nicely designed watch that will wear very comfortably on a range of different wrist sizes.
Specifications: Price: $270, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 12.7mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46.1mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Seiko VK64 Mecaquartz movement, Power Reserve: Quartz, Crystal: Mineral with sapphire coating
Lorier Gemini ($499)
Next up is Lorier and their Gemini model. Lorier first appeared on my radar after I watched a video from “The Urban Gentry”, where TGV spent minutes gushing over their Neptune model. And after being impressed by the looks and specs of the Neptune, I went on and did some digging of my own. And that’s when I discovered their cool portfolio of watches and their background story. Lorier (pronounced lor-yé) was founded in New York City and is run by Lorenzo and Lauren Ortega, a couple who is aiming to create vintage-inspired watches with a modern twist. Ever since their first release back in 2018, Lorier earned a lot of respect and love within the watch community.
And the Lorier Gemini had definitely its fair share in the rise of the brand. The Lorier Gemini features a stainless-steel case, which measures 39mm in diameter, 12.6mm in thickness, and 47mm from lug to lug. I’m personally very pleased to see that they managed to keep the case under 40mm, which considering the chronograph movement, isn’t something you should expect. But they did it anyway, and as I said, I’m glad so. Besides its conservative case sizing, the Lorier Gemini also has other distinctive vintage design features, which remind us of the brand’s design philosophy. Take for example the crisp white dial, which features two vintage black sub-dials, and an arrow-shaped chronograph hand, which to be honest, reminds me of the Rolex Daytona. Rounding off the classic look is the 24-click bidirectional bezel, as well as the domed hesalite crystal.
Inside of the brushed case, ticks the hand-wound Seagull ST19 movement, which beats at 21,600 BPH, and provides approximately 40 hours of power reserve.
And there you have it. A mechanical chronograph, delivered on a metal bracelet, a sophisticated design, very pleasant dimensions, mechanical movement, and all that for only $499. Need I say more? I think not.
Specifications: Price: $499, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug-to-Lug: 45mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Hand-wound mechanical Seagull ST19 movement, Power Reserve: 40 hours, Crystal: Hesalite
Unimatic U3 Classic (Approx. $615)
Coming up next is a watch from Bella Italia. The Unimatic U3 Classic (UC3 for short). Known for creating good-looking, minimalistic timepieces, which also boast some impressive specs, the Italian-brand Unimatic is a rising star within the watch industry.
And the Unimatic U3 Classic chronograph embodies the Unimatic spirit to near perfection. The UC3 is part of the new Unimatic permanent Classic series, a series of 4 watches that, unlike other Unimatic releases, aren’t limited. The Unimatitc U3 Classic features a brushed stainless-steel case, which measures 41.5mm in diameter, 13.7mm in thickness, and 51mm from lug to lug. The straight lugs effortlessly hug the beginning of the black NATO strap, which the watch is delivered on. In a typical Unimatic manner, the decoration of the dial is kept to a bare minimum, it only features simplistically painted hour markers, two sub-dials, which indicate the seconds measured by the chronograph complication, as well as the 24-hour time, and the central chronograph hand, which is kept as understated as possible. Since Unimatic specializes in making diving-capable timepieces, the UC3 features luminescent coatings on all time-telling components, as well as screw-down Chrono pushers, which enable the watch to be water-resistant up to 300 meters.
Powered by the Meca-quartz caliber Seiko VK64, the watch features a special movement, which combines a mechanical movement with a quartz movement. What does that mean you may ask? Well, the mechanical part of the movement ensures the sweeping motion of the central chronograph hand, while the quartz part of the movement takes care of the rest. And I know, we aren’t the biggest fan of quartz watches. But hey, for a watch that will only cost you 525 euros (Approx. $615), has a chronograph complication and a very nice design, Mecaquartz is all we can ask for.
Specifications: Price: EUR 525 (Approx. $615), Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 13.7mm, Lug-to-Lug: 51mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 300m, Movement: Meca-quartz caliber Seiko VK64 movement, Power Reserve: Quartz, Crystal: Sapphire
Baltic Bicompax 002 ($639)
The seasoned reader of this blog knows by now, that the microbrand Baltic is a recurring theme on my blog. And rightfully so I must add. But no worries, I won’t bother you again with the Baltic Aquascaphe, today I have another model in mind, which I personally find as cool as the Aquascaphe. Let me present to you, the Baltic Bicompax 002.
Inspired by watches from the 1940s, the Baltic Bicompax 002 features a stainless-steel case, which measures 38mm in diameter, 12mm in thickness, and 47mm from lug to lug. Now, for those of you wondering why they named this watch “Bicompax”, let me enlighten you. By the way, I didn’t know either before doing some research on it, so don’t worry. The term “Bicompax” refers to chronographs with two registers, which was the typical design of 1940s chronographs. In the case of the Baltic Bicompax 002, the left counter displays the permanent second, and the right-hand side displays a 30-minute counter. Other than the two subdials, the silverish, art-deco-inspired dial, also features printed Arabic numerals, a circular brushed chapter ring, as well as black Feuille hands.
The chronograph is powered by the hand-wound Seagull ST1901 movement, which can be marveled at through the open case back, that you can have for just 25 euros extra. Little advice from me, the 25 euros are definitely worth it, especially if you enjoy the beauty of a mechanical movement.
As you may have guessed from the way I wrote this part of the article, I really like the Baltic Bicompax. I like the art-deco-inspired design, I like the case proportions, and most of all, I like that they went for a hand-wound movement, which, on top, can be admired through the open caseback. All in all, hat off to Baltic!
Specifications: Price: $639, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Hand-wound Seagull ST1901 movement, Power Reserve: 40 hours, Crystal: Hesalite
Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver ($1,950)
Coming up next is the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. Loyal readers of this blog may know that Nivada Grenchen was already a topic in an earlier article, where I talked about affordable alternatives to the Paul Newman Rolex Daytona, and that I’ve spoken very highly of them in that article. A brand and a watch that has quite a sentimental value to me, since both my grandparents worked at one of Nivada’s factories, right after they immigrated from Italy to Switzerland. To this day, both my grandparents tell a lot of stories from that time, which as a watch enthusiast, is very interesting to hear. But we are not here today to talk about my family, are we? We are here so that I can tell you a little bit more about the revival of one of Nivada’s greatest chronographs, they’ve ever produced. The Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. A vintage-inspired chronograph, that pays tribute to the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster, a watch that was in production from the late 50s, until the end of 1970. This watch was loved by vintage collectors and enthusiasts and was the go-to watch for someone looking for an affordable vintage watch. And to the delight of virtually every watch enthusiast out there, Nivada Grenchen decided to bring back this icon of a watch.
Now that you had to endure this history lesson, let’s take a closer look at the specs of the modern version of the watch. The Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver features a polished stainless-steel case, which measures 38mm in diameter, 13.75mm in thickness, and 49.5mm from lug to lug. Complementing that vintage-inspired case is the gorgeous black dial, which features cream-colored luminous indexes, a detailed tachymeter scale on the outer rims of the dial, brown-ish subdials at 3- and 9’clock, cream-colored, luminous hour and minute hands, as well as a vibrant orange second hand, which gives the dial a well-needed pop of color. All in all, it has a very thought-through and complete dial design, which looks nearly identical to its 1960s ancestor. Completing the vintage look is a black aluminum bezel insert, as well as a double-domed sapphire crystal.
The watch is powered by the hand-wound Sellita SW510 M BH B movement, which provides around 58 hours of power reserve. Can I just add how cool it is that they went for a hand-wound mechanical movement? It just adds a whole other level to that overall vintage look and feel.
To sum it up, for a price of $1,950, you can get your hands on a revived version of one of the greatest chronograph watches produced in the 1960s, which, not only looks nearly identical to its predecessor but also features a hand-wound mechanical movement, which strengthens its vintage ties even further.
Specifications: Price: $1,950, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 13.75mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Hand-wound Sellita SW510 M BH B movement, Power Reserve: 58 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Farer Carnegie ($1,955)
We move on from the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver, a dominantly black colored watch, to the Farer Carnegie, a very colorful chronograph, where the color black is not to be found in any aspect of the watch. Named after David Carnegie, the only UK Olympiad to have won a medal in the 1928 Winter Olympics that were held at the base of the Bernina pass in Switzerland, the Farer Carnegie is designed to pay tribute to the unique architecture of the Swiss Bernina region.
The Farer Carnegie features a brushed stainless-steel case, which measures 41mm in diameter, 13.5mm in thickness, and 44mm from lug to lug. Thanks to its very short lug to lug distance, this watch will wear considerably smaller than it looks on paper, which, for a chronograph that takes its inspiration from past eras and wants to bring in a vintage feeling, is quite a good thing. On top of that case sits the dark blue, ceramic bezel, which features an engraved tachymeter scale. Being hugged by that glossy bezel is the matte teal dial, which features three different, dark blue sub-dials, luminous polished steel batten hour markers, dauphine styled hour and minute hands, as well as a bright red, central chronograph hand. Topping it all off, is a box-cased sapphire crystal, ensuring maximal scratch resistance.
Inside of the case beats the automatic, Swiss-made Sellita SW510 BH Elaboré movement, which was customized to feature a skeleton framework and a bespoke high-end bridge with an engraved Farer monogram pattern.
If you are looking for a colorful and mechanically powered chronograph from a microbrand, and don’t want to spend more than $2,000, this is the watch for you.
Specifications: Price: $1,955, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 13.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 44mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic, Swiss made Sellita SW510 BH Elaboré movement, Power Reserve: 58 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Christopher Ward C65 Chronograph ($1,995)
Coming up next is another 60s inspired chronograph watch from a microbrand. The Christopher Ward C65 Chronograph. Known for being the world’s first online-only watch brand, Christopher Ward was founded by three friends, Mike France, Peter Ellis, and Chris Ward back in 2005. The idea of making their own watches, came to them, while they were enjoying a gentle boat trip down the river Thames. And as they all were fascinated by horology and everything that surrounds it, the decision was made that they want to start a watch business. And after more than a year, on June 2nd, 2005, they launched their brand out of a converted chicken shed on a farm in Berkshire, England. And ever since then, they rode on a wave of success, now even creating their very own movements and continuing to provide awesome watches for rather affordable prices.
And their C65 Chronograph is a perfect example of that philosophy. Inspired by the classic regatta watches of the 1960s, this watch features a dial like no other watch on this list. The deep blue dial features a bi-color 30-minute sub-dial, that is activated with the start of the chronograph stopwatch function, a 60-seconds sub-dial, applied and polished hour markers, a white tachymeter scale at the edge of the dial, as well as a vibrant orange central chronograph hand, that is activated by the push of one of the screw-down pushers on the side of the case. Thanks to those screw-down pushers, the C65 Chronograph is water-resistant up to 150 meters, which, once again, points to its heritage as a yachting and sailing watch. Hugging that handsome dial is a blue, unidirectional bezel that is made from aluminum, and which is sitting on top of the 41mm stainless steel case.
The watch is powered by the automatic Sellita SW510 BHa movement, which has an accuracy of +/- 20 seconds a day and provides 48 hours of power reserve. Those of you that paid particular attention to the movements of the last 3 watches on this list (this one included), you may have noticed that they all use the same Sellita SW510 base for their movements, which, in the $1,500 to $2,000 price range of microbrand chronograph watches, seems to be go-to movement.
So, for $1,995, you will get yourself a 60s inspired yachting-chronograph, that offers a reliable movement, a cool dial design, and, on top of it all, comes from one of the most well-established microbrands out there.
Specifications: Price: $1,955, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 15mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.1mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 150m, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW510 BHa movement, Power Reserve: 48 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Oak & Oscar Jackson Big Eye ($3,150)
Coming up to the second last chronograph watch on this list, the Oak & Oscar Jackson Big Eye. Oak & Oscar is a familiar name within the microbrand community and is known for its contemporary designs and high-quality finishes. Founded back in 2015, by Chase Fancher, who left an unfulfilling corporate job to start Oak & Oscar and become a successful entrepreneur, the Chicago-based company quickly gained traction within the watch industry and managed to get itself featured in countless watch magazines and blogs. And so in mine.
The Oak & Oscar Jackson Big Eye features a brushed stainless-steel case, which measures 40mm in diameter, 14.5mm in thickness, and 46.4mm from lug to lug. Considering the 46.4mm lug to lug distance, the watch will wear very comfortably on a wide range of different wrist sizes, which is a huge bonus point for me, and countless other watch nerds with slimmer wrists. But as cool as the case proportions may be, let’s look at the real star of the watch, the dial. The dark grey, grainy textured dial features two differently sized sub-dials, which track both elapsed minutes and hours, a light grey, wrapped tachymeter scale, a minute tracks with orange accents, as well as the bright orange central chronograph hand, which adds a lot of charm to the, otherwise, monotone dial.
Powered by the hand-wound Eterna Caliber 39 flyback chronograph movement, the Oak & Oscar Jackson Big Eye not only has a very sophisticated and thought-through design, but also a very cool, hand-wound movement, that will serve you very well.
Specifications: Price: $3,150, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 14.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 46.4mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Hand-wound Eterna Caliber 39 movement, Power Reserve: 60 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 1 ($3,680)
And for the last contender on this list, we have the Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 1. Kurono Tokyo is an independent watchmaker that bases its operation out of Tokyo, Japan, and was born with the vision to create high-quality, Japan-made luxury timepieces that share the design DNA of celebrated independent Japanese watchmaker Hajime Asaoka’s exclusive handmade atelier watches. Kurono first appeared on the radars of watch journalists, enthusiasts, and collectors, when they launched their first model back in 2019, a re-edition of an old classic. And ever since then, the small watch atelier Kurono has made a name for themselves and is an excellent representant for the Japanese watchmaking culture.
The Kurono Tokyo Chronograph 1 features a stainless-steel case, which measures 38mm in diameter, 13.9mm in thickness, and 47.75mm from lug to lug. Complementing the beautifully polished case is the breathtaking dial, which features polished steel studs that indicate hours, two concentric guilloche patterned sub-dials on 3- and 9 o’clock that indicate elapsed time and seconds, black and silver rings that culminate in a detailed tachymeter scale at the edge of the dial, as well as the stunning, high-polished hands, that Kurono is so renowned for. Best described as a work of art, the dial composition was masterminded by one of Japan’s most gifted watchmakers and designers, Hajime Asaoka.
For the Chronograph 1, Kurono Tokyo chose the automatic Seiko NE86A chronograph movement. Labeled as one of Seiko’s most premium calibers, the 311-part movement, combines traditional chronograph features like a column wheel, vertical clutch, and a magic lever winding system, with a unique three-pointed hammer system that starts, stops, and resets all three wheels simultaneously. Beating at a frequency of 28,800 BPH, the movement provides approximately 45 hours of power reserve.
Priced at $3,680, this limited-edition chronograph features one of the most beautiful and detailed dial designs I’ve ever seen in my life. I already highly praised Kurono in the last microbrand article about the best microbrand dress watches, and this time it’s no different. Stunning design, great care and thought, awesome movement, and a very fitting price tag. All in all, hat off to Kurono.
Specifications: Price: $3,680, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 13.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47.75mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Automatic Seiko NE86A chronograph movement, Power Reserve: 45 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
And that’s it for today. Those are the best microbrand chronograph watches you can buy in 2021. If you think otherwise, please let me know in the comments below, and tell me about your favorite microbrand chronograph watch.