“In Today’s episode, you can expect a wide range of different microbrand dress watches, ranging from the Beaufort Aerotimer, to the Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki, and all the way to the F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu.”
Best Microbrand Dress Watches
- Beaufort Aerotimer Automatic
- Makina Uriel II
- Zelos Nova 38MM Aventurine
- Sternglas Naos Automatik
- Pelton Sector
- Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki
- Ophion 786 Vélos Radial Blue
- Ming 27.02
- F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu
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 on 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 dress 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 Worth It?
But before we continue with the best microbrand dress watches, I first want to answer this question, which I get a lot. Are microbrand watches worth it? Yes, Microbrand watches are definitely worth your money. Let me explain why. Microbrands usually invest a lot of time, effort, and money into their watches, and most of the time, they are driven by passion and the desire to create something new, therefore bringing innovation into the watch industry. This is something the more established brands cannot really do, due to their customer base and due to their brand policy. And, of course, there are same bad apples out there, that are solely in it for the money, but I’m comfortable saying that most microbrand watches are worth your money.
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 dress watches.
Beaufort Aerotimer Automatic ($739)
First up is the Beaufort Aerotimer Automatic. Inspired by the 1930s era of the vintage California Dials, this watch offers quite a unique take on dial compositions. But before telling you more about its gorgeous dial, let’s look at the brand behind the watch. Beaufort. Beaufort is a New Zealand-based watch company, that was founded in 2018, and named after the ‘Bristol Beaufort’, a WWII torpedo bomber that was mainly operated by the British, Australian, and New Zealand Air Forces. Basically, Beaufort fuses a variety of WWII-era design cues with modern features, in order to create a high-quality modern wristwatch.
And the Beaufort Aerotimer is a perfect example of that. The watch features a 316L stainless steel case, which measures 40mm in diameter, 11.45mm in thickness, and 48.5mm from lug to lug. For my personal taste, a 40mm dress watch that measures 48.5mm from lug to lug, is a little bit too big. But thanks to the sleek dial design and the leather strap it is presented on, the watch will probably wear a little bit smaller than on paper. Speaking of the dial, the dial is based on the vintage California Dial, a dial that consists of half Roman and half Arabic numerals. In the case of the Beaufort Aerotimer, this means that its turquoise-colored dial features a mixture of applied, black Roman and Arabic numerals, a minute and seconds rail on the outside, Feuille-styled luminous hands, and a date window down at 6 o’clock.
The watch is powered by an automatic Sellita SW200-1 movement, which is known to be highly reliable, accurate, and to provide 38 hours of power reserve.
For a price of $739, you will get yourself a fancy and strikingly beautiful watch, that is half dress and half everyday watch. You will also support Beaufort, a microbrand that is as good as they get in this price range.
Specifications: Price: $739, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 11.45mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200-1 movement, Power Reserve: 38 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Makina Uriel II ($599)
Next up is the Makina Uriel II. I will be honest here, I just recently discovered this brand myself, while I was doing some research on the best microbrand dress watches out there. And I’m very glad I did end up stumbling across Makina and their watches. Because I think that this Filipino watch company is doing some cool work. And the watch that made it onto this list today, the Uriel II, stood out from the crowd, thanks to its stunning design and very modest price tag.
As you can see in the picture above, the Makina Uriel II has a very unique case shape, which, would be best described as a 40 mm stretched cushion-shape case, made from hand-polished stainless steel. And while I’m not able to tell you how the watch will wear on your wrist, due to missing specifications, I can tell you however that, from a design perspective, they did a good job. Beginning with the burgundy red, hand-assembled guilloche dial, which is made of brass with a finely granulated texture. Completing the art-deco look, are the Dauphine-styled hands, applied and polished hour indexes, as well as the sleek white minute rail, that runs on the outside of the dial.
Through the half-open caseback, you can see the automatic Miyota 821A movement, relentlessly beating at 21,600 BPH. The movement features 21 jewels and provides around 42 hours of power reserve.
I personally think that, for its $599 price tag, the Makina Uriel II is a great choice when it comes to choosing a reliable, classy-looking, and mechanical microbrand dress watch.
Specifications: Price: $599, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 11.45mm, Lug-to-Lug: 48.5mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200-1 movement, Power Reserve: 38 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Zelos Nova 38MM Aventurine ($949)
For the next watch on this list, we will board a plane from the Philippines and fly 2,355 kilometers (1463 miles) northeast, arriving at the buzzing city of Singapore. Because guess where the next microbrand on this list is coming from, exactly, Singapore. For most of you out there, the brand Zelos will sound familiar. In case it doesn’t, let me give you a short introduction. Zelos was founded back in 2014, and, since then, has launched 3 very successful Kickstarter campaigns, which funded their first steps in the watch industry. And this is what ultimately led to the 2020 launch of their first dress watch. The Zelos Nova 38mm. And this is the watch we are going to take a closer look at today.
The Zelos Nova 38mm Aventurine features a brushed stainless-steel case, which measures 38mm in diameter, 8.5mm in thickness, and 44mm from lug to lug. Let me just tell you how good it feels to write down case measurements that are under 40mm. This ladies and gentlemen is what we call a well-proportioned dress watch. Not too small, not too big, just perfect. Speaking of which, the dial of the Nova 38mm Aventurine comes close to perfection as well. The dial is colored and textured to look like a clear sky during the night, with bright stars all over it. Honestly, this is something I would expect from a brand like Jacob & Co. but certainly not from Zelos. But don’t get me wrong, I love it. It’s a very bold move from Zelos, which, according to the feedbacks from the watch community, completely paid out. Complementing the mid-night blue colored dial plate, are polished indexes, tapered hands, and a secondhand sub-dial just above 6 o’clock. And topping it all off is a sapphire crystal
Powered by the automatic ETA 7001 movement, the Zelos Nova 38mm has a reliable movement, a very cool design, and a modest price tag. What would you want more from a microbrand dress watch?
Specifications: Price: $949, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 8.5mm, Lug-to-Lug: 44mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic ETA 7001 movement, Power Reserve: 45 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Sternglas Naos Automatik ($445)
Coming up next is the Sternglas Naos Automatik. Like their German competitor Nomos, Sternglas specializes in creating minimalistic dress watches, that adhere to the typical Bauhaus style. Sternglas was founded back in 2016, by a guy named Dustin Fontaine, who wanted to create highly attractive watches, that are affordable for a broad range of watch enthusiasts. And in the past few years, he made good on that promise, releasing a whole portfolio of both quartz and mechanical watches.
And the Sternglass Naos Automatik is probably the most famous and most respected mechanical watch from their lineup. This watch features a polished stainless-steel case, which measures 38mm in diameter, 12mm in thickness, and 43mm from lug to lug. I’m very happy to see that Sternglas decided to make this watch in a 38mm case size and honored the inofficial dress watch rules. Anyway, as cool as those case proportions may be, let’s take a closer look at the dial of the watch. The crisp white dial features black index hands, imprinted hour and minute markers, as well as a date window at 6 o’clock. And that’s it, there isn’t more that is going on the dial, which, I think, is the reason the Bauhaus style is so famous and beloved in the community. Bauhaus-designed watches are just very simple, clean, and very pure. Protecting that handsome dial is a sapphire crystal.
The watch is equipped with an automatic Miyota 821A movement, which beats at 21,600 BPH and provides around 42 hours of power reserve.
To sum it up, for a price of just $445, you will get yourself a very handsome and reliable watch, that will serve you very well as a dress watch in your microbrand collection.
Specifications: Price: $445, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 12mm, Lug-to-Lug: 43mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Automatic Miyota 821A movement, Power Reserve: 42 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Pelton Sector ($1,499)
With the next watch on this list, the Pelton Sector, we are leaving the affordable watch territory and are opening the gates to the more costly part of the microbrand watch world. But before we get into what that means, let me introduce you to Pelton and their watches. The US-based watch company Pelton was founded back in 2016, and pride themselves in manufacturing their own cases, crowns, and bracelets. And the Pelton Sector combines all of that pride in one, handsome package.
The Pelton Sector features a stainless-steel case, which measures 40mm in diameter, 9.9mm in thickness, and 47mm from lug to lug. And while I’m not that happy about the 40mm case diameter, I think that the combination of the slim profile, the clean and symmetric dial design, and the blue leather strap, will make this watch wear smaller than it looks on paper. That being said, I still would have preferred if they managed to size the watch down to 38-39mm. But hey, you can’t have everything, right? But what we can have, is a cool-looking dial. The ruthenium (greyish, dark shade of blue) colored dial features a sector design with alternating bead blasted and circular brushed surfaces, nickel-plated leaf hands, as well as a date window at 3 o’clock. The beautifully polished, stainless-steel bezel complements the dial nicely and acts as a perfect holder for the dial-protecting sapphire crystal.
Inside of the case beats the automatic ETA 2824-2 standard grade movement, which was tested and regulated in-house by Pelton, and offers 38 hours of power reserve.
Priced at $1,499, this watch certainly isn’t cheap, especially considering it’s a microbrand. But I personally think that this watch, thanks to its design, movement and finishing quality, is worth the price that they are asking for. And let’s be honest, I think every watch on this list is worth their price tag because if not, I wouldn’t have done my job right.
Specifications: Price: $1,499, Case Size: 40mm, Thickness: 9.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 100m, Movement: Automatic ETA 2824-2 standard grade movement, Power Reserve: 38 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki ($1,738)
Next up is the Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki. 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. And the Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki was exclusively created to celebrate the anniversary of the company and its philosophy.
The Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki features a high-polished, 316L stainless steel case, which measures 37mm in diameter, 7mm in thickness, and 43.5mm from lug to lug. Complementing the shiny stainless-steel case is Kurono’s signature anniversary radial sunburst patterned dial that features an array of colors, ranging from a vermillion red, all the way to a touch of purple, that can only be seen if the lighting condition allows for it.
The color of Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki’s dial was inspired by the Japanese crested ibis, a propitious bird that is regarded as a symbol of happiness and good fortune in Japan. The dial also features highly polished sword-shaped hands, a stainless-steel rail, which I saw for the first time in my life, and the Kurono Tokyo Logo just above the center of the dial. All in all, the construction of this stunning dial took nearly a year, which included everything from ideation, to sampling, to production, to the meticulous finishing process. Fun fact, the Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki holds the record for the highest number of prototype samples made during the manufacturing of one single watch.
But as with everything in life, you can’t have it all. Right? And the same goes for the Kurono Anniversary 朱鷺:Toki. While it features one of the most refined, detailed, and beautiful dials I’ve ever seen, the same can’t be said for its movement. And don’t get me wrong, the automatic, premium-grade Miyota 90S5, is a good and reliable movement. But it just isn’t as exciting as the rest of the watch.
Then again, this watch has a retail price of only $1,738, which, considering its overall finishing quality, is not that much. Honestly, when I first saw this watch and wasn’t yet aware of its price tag, I thought that we are talking about a price range from $5,000 to $10,000. Boy, was I surprised.
So, to sum it up: Stunningly beautiful case, bezel and dial, awesome history, okay-ish movement, and immense value for money. I don’t think that I have to add anything more to that statement. It speaks for itself.
Specifications: Price: $1,738, Case Size: 37mm, Thickness: 7mm, Lug-to-Lug: 43.5mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Automatic premium-grade Miyota 90S5 movement, Power Reserve: 40 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
Ophion 786 Vélos Radial Blue ($2,820)
Coming up next is the Ophion 786 Vélos. Previously featured in the best microbrand of 2021 article, this watch is a recurring guest on this blog. When I first discovered them during some research for the previously mentioned article, I was immediately caught by their vintage flair and refined designs. And for those of you that aren’t yet familiar with Ophion, let me enlighten you. Founded back in 2014, Ophion has its roots in Spain, a country that is associated more with paellas and good wine, than with watchmaking. But hear me out, while the ideas and inspiration come from Spain, the actual manufacturing process is happening in Switzerland and Germany. The man behind Ophion, Miguel Morales Ribas, is a watch enthusiast himself and created this brand with the goal in mind, to offer high-quality timepieces that take influence from some of the traditional high-end watchmaking practices.
And the Ophion 786 Vélos is a perfect example of that. The watch features a hand-polished stainless-steel case, which measures 39mm in diameter, 10.45mm in thickness, and 47mm from lug to lug. This rather short lug to lug distance is primarily thanks to the short lugs, which make the 786 Vélos feel very compact. But let’s take a moment to talk about the dial. Because it’s just fantastic. The watch features a deep blue, radial brushed dial texture, which is the basis for the blue Arabic numerals, the nickel-plated hour hand which is named the Vélos (Greek for Arrow), and gives the watch its surname Vélos, as well as the curved Ophion logo just below 12 o’clock.
The Ophion OPH 786 Vélos is powered by a sophisticated hand-wound movement, which has been modified with custom main bridges and balance wheels. The impressive customizations allowed the movement to have a power reserve of 5 days, which is something that only a few watches on the planet have to offer.
For a price of $2,820, you will get a near-perfect dress watch, with great proportions, great design, and a great microbrand that is behind it.
Specifications: Price: $2,820, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 10.45mm, Lug-to-Lug: 47mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Hand-wound movement, Power Reserve: 5 days, Crystal: Sapphire
Ming 27.02 ($5,000)
Moving on to the Ming 27.02. And let me tell you this much, this isn’t your ordinary timepiece or even your ordinary dress watch. For those of you that know Ming, you will probably know where I’m going with that, and for those of you that don’t, let me tell you a little bit more about the brand. Founded back in 2017, Ming is a horological collective formed and funded by a group of six watch enthusiasts from around the world. The group is headed up by Oxford-educated physicist, Ming Thein, who left his corporate jobs behind and decided to pursue what he really cares about, photography and watches. And this is what ultimately led him to build his own watch company. Ming specializes in bringing together extravagant and innovative design, and traditional watchmaking.
And this philosophy can be observed quite easily when looking at any of their watches, like the Ming 19.02 Worldtimer, which I featured in another article about Microbrands, or the Ming 27.02, which is the watch we are going to look at right now. The Ming 27.02 features a stainless-steel case, which measures 38mm in diameter, 6.9mm in thickness, and 43.9mm from lug to lug. Similar to the featured dress watches from Zelos and Sternglas, the Ming 27.02 has near-perfect measurements. I’m especially impressed with the 6.9mm thickness. But as nice as the case may be, the real star of every Ming watch out there, is its dial. The Ming 27.02 features a black gradient sapphire dial with laser etched and white-filled indices, a light blue Clous-de-Paris ring with stamped guilloche, as well as the Ming-typical hands. I think it’s fair to say, that Ming produces some of the best dials out there. The thought, care, and eye for detail are just out of this world.
With that masterpiece of a dial, it’s easy to forget that there is even more to this watch. The movement. The Ming 27.02 is powered by the automatic MING 7001.M1 movement, which is based on a heavily modified ETA 7001, that was altered to include new bridges and a new baseplate. The movement provides around 42 hours of power reserve.
To sum it up, the Ming 27.02 is an absolute stunner of a watch. The price of $5,000, that you will have to pay to get one, is hefty, but not without reason. In fact, with its heavily modified movement, the awesome design, and the spectacular dial, I would say it’s worth it.
Specifications: Price: $5,000, Case Size: 38mm, Thickness: 6.9mm, Lug-to-Lug: 43.9mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 50m, Movement: Automatic MING 7001.M1 movement, Power Reserve: 42 hours, Crystal: Sapphire
F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu ($25,500)
Last but not least, the F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu. Now, I know what some of you are asking yourself right now. How on earth is F.P. Journe a microbrand? Well, while it technically isn’t a microbrand like Pelton or Zelos, F.P. Journe is still a very young and independent watch manufacturer. Both points would indicate that F.P. Journe is some kind of a microbrand. And, of course, they didn’t launch a Kickstarter campaign or a lavish social media advertisement. But technically, they still can be considered to be a microbrand. A very expensive and very sophisticated microbrand, but a microbrand. Either way, if you agree with me or not, the fact is, the F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu is a fantastic dress watch, and I want to tell you a little bit more about it.
The F.P. Journe Chronometre Bleu features a beautifully polished, Tantalum case, which measures 39mm in diameter, 8.6mm in thickness, and 45.8mm from lug to lug. For those of you that are like me and had to google what a Tantalum case actually is, here is a short overview as described by F.P. Journe on their website. “Tantalum is a rare dark grey metal with blue overtones, so named for the “Torment of Tantalus”, a reference to Greek mythology. Tantalum is mainly used due to its extremely high resistance to corrosion and wear, and its biocompatibility.”
True to its name Chronometre Bleu, which means blue in French, the color blue is a very dominant aspect on the dial of this watch. In fact, except for the white Arabic numerals, the F.P. Journe-typical hands, the logo, and the minute and seconds markers, the whole dial is colored in a deep, very vibrant blue color. And if you had enough of that blue color, just turn the watch on its back, and look through its open caseback at the marvelous, 18kt rose gold movement, which is hand-wound, features twin barrels, the F.P. Journe freesprung chronometre balance, and provides around 56 hours of power reserve.
I won’t tell you what a great watch the Chronometre Bleu is. I think every watch enthusiast that is familiar with F.P. Journe’s work, will know that. And yes, this isn’t your typical microbrand dress watch. It’s probably also way out of budget for most of us watch enthusiasts and collectors, but since I have enormous respect for F.P. Journe and the work they do, I wanted to include them on this list.
Specifications: Price: $25,500, Case Size: 39mm, Thickness: 8.6mm, Lug-to-Lug: 45.8mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 30m, Movement: Hand-wound F.P. Journe in-house movement, Power Reserve: 56 Hours, Crystal: Sapphire
And that’s it for today. Those are the best microbrand dress 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 dress watch.