Under The Radar Independent Watchmakers That Won't Stay Under The Radar For Long

Our Digital Content Coordinator, Alex Ballmer is having a look at the independent gems that will be offered to the upcoming Geneva Watch Auction XIV.

Our Digital Content Coordinator, Alex Ballmer is having a look at the independent gems that will be offered to the upcoming Geneva Watch Auction XIV.

By Alex Ballmer 

F.P. Journe, De Bethune, MB&F, Urwerk and many other indies are today in every collector’s conversation. However, the second wave of even more niche watchmakers is at the genesis of a new era of collecting rare and beautifully built timepieces. I’m having a look at those mavericks that are or were obsessed with their art and still unknown from the masses.

Derek Pratt for Urban Jürgensen – Open Face Tourbillon Pocket Watch - Lot 193

Scholars often talk about Derek Pratt has the greatest watchmaker of the past 50 years, but his work is still unknown to the public. He lived in Switzerland during most part of his professional’s life in a town near Zurich. But he was born and raised in Great Britain. Pratt was close to the one and only Georges Daniels with whom he had long telephone conversations each Sunday to talk about their challenges in the watchmaking world.

The reason for his almost anonymity could be explained by the fact that he never completed any of his oeuvres under his own name. He dedicated his talent to the newly reborn Urban Jürgensen & Sönner brand. Having a true passion for pocket watches, Pratt dedicated his time to create a dozen of sublime Tourbillon pocket watches such as the present one.

First, every inch of the watch is handmade by the master, not only the movement but also the case and dial. The cream silver dial features a recessed seconds indication at 6 o’clock and a recess power reserve indicator at 12. But the real magic happens by pressing the button within the crown, once activated the cuvette on the back opens and reveals the stunning movement. Inspired by Abraham Louis Breguet’s marine chronometer gear trains, the architecture of the movement was conceived to showcase the large Tourbillon cage on the lower part.

Whereas Pratt’s name was known until now only by the cognoscenti, with the increasing interest in independent watchmaking, it is time for his name to rightfully receive the high recognition it deserves as an incredibly talented watchmaker, scholar, and horological historian.

Pascal Coyon – Chronometre - Lot 82

Talking about the new wave of independent artisanal watchmakers without mentioning Pascal Coyon will be a big mistake. The watchmaker creates beautifully crafted and executed classical timepieces in his atelier in Bayonne, a lovely and festive town located in the southwest of France. After repairing clocks for several years, he decided in 2012 to launch his own chronometer wristwatch. Coyon’s goal was to offer a wristwatch with a superlative finish at a rather affordable price. To reach this goal, he used the workhorse caliber Unitas 6498 as the base, but after being blessed by heavy modification, the movement is hardly recognizable.

Of course, the finishing is heavenly realised and if looking closely the movement will reveal a viper head stamped on the base of the balance cock, demonstrating that the watch had undergone the Besançon Observatory trials. The production of this movement was low, thus the high interests of this specific model once it rarely appears in the market.

Christian Klings – N° 7 - Lot 118

Mentioning the name Christian Klings during a get-together surrounded by watch cognoscenti will always create the same reactions of excitement. The German born watchmaker is known to focus his handmade work on bespoke timepieces, often commissioned by savvy collectors and the result is always stunning.

The present watch N° 7 is the perfect watch to shine a spotlight on the refined work of Klings. The handmade movement features beautiful, frosted surface finishing, delicate bevelling, and mirror polished components. The hand-guilloché dial is made of 6 different parts and the chapter ring features hand-engraved roman numerals.

Owning a watch of that level of finishing made by an artist like Christian Klings is a defining moment for any collectors that have a strong connection with the artisanal art of watchmaking.

Thomas Prescher - Tempus Vivendi - Russian Eagle - Lot 195

The destiny of Thomas Prescher of becoming a watchmaker was not set in stone, as he was a naval officer before making any watches. Nonetheless, he worked hard and learned new skills quickly at IWC, Audemars Piguet, Blancpain & Gubelin before opening his own workshop in the small Swiss village of Ipsach to focus his work by creating bespoke timepieces for the connoisseur.

A quick glimpse at The Tempus Vivendi that is visible on the image will suffice to understand that it is a special watch. First, reading the time will require a little adjustment of habits for the wearer. The eagle’s wings indicate hours and minutes on two semi-circular sections on either side: the left for hours and the right one for the minutes. Besides telling time, the “Russian Eagle” which is hand engraved in gold with black nickel plating is the official coat of arms of the Russian Federation.

Thomas Prescher surely creates bold and stunning timepieces that will always have a level of finishing and engraving of the highest level.

Final Thoughts

Collectors that are into the world of independent watchmaking are surely already hoarding these above-mentioned timepieces. One could argue that those creations will one day (sooner than you think) join the exclusive club of: almost impossible watches to find in the market.

Photo Credit: © Jess Hoffman