Guides Watches

The Best Microbrand Watches to Buy in 2023

Boldr Venture Singularity

From funky impulse buys to accessible haute horology, these are the best microbrand watch releases to know about this year… so far it may have had some stigma in the past but the word ‘microbrand’ is these days, in watchmaking at least, shorthand for creativity. It stands for the small, independent makers, the designers willing to stamp their unique aesthetics onto their watches and the innovators putting the big horological players to shame. It’s also an ever-shifting sea of new timepieces that needs a bit of guidance to navigate properly.

So here we are, with our selection of the finest microbrand releases available in 2023. Whether you’re after a professional standard diver (or something well-beyond professional, for that matter) or something eye-catching for daily wear, we have you covered. And to make life easier on your wallet, we’ve put everything in order of price, impulse buys this end, more serious price tags the others.

Here is our list of the best microbrand watches of 2023. Click the links below to search by price.

Under £500

Bernhardt Watch Company Corsair Diver

Bernhardt Watch Company Corsair Diver

A pioneer of direct-to-consumer watch selling – yes, it didn’t always exist and that makes us feel old – a large part of Bernhardt’s reputation was built on the superb Corsair, of which this is the latest version. The lovechild of a dive watch and pilots’ watch, the Corsair is named after the F4U Corsair, a fighter that saw action in the Pacific theatre of WWII. Practically, its specs land more on the seaside, with solid depth resistance and an eye-catching two-tone 60-minute bezel. It’s a lot of watch for not a lot of money.

Case/dial: 42mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Miyota calibre 9015 automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
Price: $389 (approx. £315)

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Vario VERSA Dual Time

Vario VERSA Dual Time

Many a microbrand have embraced Art Deco aesthetics over the years, but few have taken on the horological icon of the movement that is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Enter the Vario VERSA which, like the prestige equivalent, can flip (this time vertically) between dials, with a different time zone on each. Aesthetically it’s slightly more curved than pure Art Deco, inspired as it is by the Streamline Moderne train, but let’s be honest, if you’re looking for a cool, affordable alternative to the Reverso, this is the quartz- equipped slice of versatile vintage style you’re looking for.

Case/dial: 40mm height x 26mm width stainless steel case, dual reversible dial
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: 2 x Ronda Slimtech 1062 quartz movement with 6-year battery life
Strap: Blue alligator leather
Price: £356

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Alkin Model 2 Blue Dial

Alkin Model 2

It can’t be a year in microbrands without a reimagining of a classic dual-crown compressor, and the Model 2 from Alkin is a fun tribute. It’s not a true compressor, but with 300m water resistance it has more than enough depth for your average diver. With its oversized numerals, high-contrast black-on-white look, and sandwich indexes, it’s an eye- catching (and wallet pleasingly accessible) tool watch. Oh, and if that weren’t enough, the entire dial is lumed. How’s that for low-light visibility?

Case/dial: 41mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 300m (30 bar)
Movement: Miyota 9039 automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
Price: £415

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RZE Ascentus GMT

RZE Ascentus GMT

We’ve come to expect three things from Singaporean microbrand RZE: cool, colour, and accessibility. It’s something they nailed with their titanium Valour collection and now they’re doing it again, this time across multiple time zones. A quartet of pieces – though the standouts are obviously the yellow and tiffany-adjacent blue – in the brand’s signature UltraHex titanium are as robust as they are lightweight, finished with one of the most comfortable micro bracelets around. The GMT is told via the orange central hand, while the 24-hour bezel can be turned a la the GMT-Master II. What more is there to say? We love it.

Case/dial: 40mm diameter titanium case with UltraHex™ Coating
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Seiko SII NH34 automatic movement with 41-hour power reserve
Strap: Titanium bracelet
Price: $549 (approx. £450)

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BOLDR Venture Singularity

BOLDR Singularity

Our editor’s favourite microbrand release of 2022, Boldr’s darkly cool Singularity is a testament to the brand’s signature tool watch practicality with a modern twist. The dial uses Musou Black paint, second in darkness only to Vantablack, with orange-lumed hands floating above. It’s as alluring as a black hole, on top of being an incredibly wearable field watch. Hell, it even has a full titanium case, all for a price that puts many major brands to absolute shame. It’s going to be a big 2023 for Boldr.

Case/dial: 38mm diameter titanium case with black PVD coating
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Seiko SII NH35A automatic movement with 41-hour power reserve
Strap: Titanium with black PVD coating bracelet
Price: £379

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BALTIC MR01 Salmon

BALTIC MR01 Salmon

Yes, yes, Baltic are on the borderline when it comes to microbrands (they entered Only Watch, for example) but they still tick all the boxes that define one. Elegant 44mm case in point, the MR01. It’s not just a handsome dress watch with a vintage textured salmon dial – though it is of course painfully good-looking – but it houses a superb micro-rotor movement, something you rarely come across anywhere near this price point. The only downside? Expect a bit of a wait to get one on your wrist. The good news is that it’ll be worth the wait.

Case/dial: 36mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)
Movement: Hangzhou CAL5000a automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Calf leather or stainless steel bracelet
Price: €545 (approx. £480)

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BWG Isaria Isar Green

BWG Isaria

Living up to the name on the dial, the Isaria is inspired by the river of the same name that runs through Munich, and there’s no doubt a lot of love and attention has been lavished on the model. The intensely faceted case and prominent lugs that extend around the case (a signature of the brand) ensure it has a unique silhouette, while the wavey dial echoes the movement of its namesake river. Rather than your usual workhorse calibre, BWC have opted instead for a Landeron L24 manufacture. It’s the most subtle point of difference in this watch, but it’s a good one.

Case/dial: 42.2mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Landeron L24 manufacture automatic movement with 40-hour power reserve
Strap: Rubber strap with stainless steel buckle
Price: €555 for the first 50 pieces (approx. £490) or €1,555 (approx. £1,365)

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£500 – £1,000

Studio Underd0g Watermel0n

Studio Underd0g Watermel0n

While it’s not the newest design in Studio Underd0g’s line-up, it is a good part of the reason the microbrand has become a British success story. And these days, there’s even more to it than it’s namesake combination of green, pink, and watermelon textured dial. Last year Studio Underd0g made a conscious drive to bring things back to the UK. So, every Swiss-made movement is overhauled by British watchmaker Horologium and every strap is from the Strap Tailor. But hey, if all you love about it are the colours, that’s fine too.

Case/dial: 38.5mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Seagull ST-1901 manual movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Handmade Epsom calfskin leather
Price: £500

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Technik 4X Radiator Pro

Technik 4X Radiator Pro

Technik 4X are specialists in the incredibly niche area of dual display hybrid watches. The term hybrid is used in many ways in watchmaking, but what it means for the Radiator Pro wristwatch is that it’s equipped with not one but two movements. Both are from Japan with the righthand display powered by the NH05B automatic calibre from Seiko and the lefthand display the VS17A Solar Quartz movement from Epson. It makes for an incredibly intriguing display, housed within a 44.5mm stainless steel case, that can be used as either a dual time display or as a nerdy way of tracking the comparative accuracies of the two movements.

Case/dial: 44.5mm diameter stainless steel case with IP-black plating
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Seiko NH05B automatic movement with 40-hour power reserve & Epson VS17A Solar quartz movement
Strap: IP-black plated mesh stainless steel bracelet with additional red leather strap
Price: CHF 599 (approx. £539)

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Axia TimeSofia II

Axia TimeSofia II

Proving that titanium can work just as well on a more classical watch as it can on something in the field, the Sofia II walks the thin aesthetic line between elegant and sporty. The tiered blue or black dial might look simple, but with lume-filled indexes, a colour-matched date wheel and a circular brushed finished, it shines in the details. Equipped with a cut-above Sellita Elabore movement and offering a pair of straps (including this handsome NATO option) and complimentary engraving, it’s the complete timepiece package.

Case/dial: 40.5mm diameter titanium case
Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW360 Elabore automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Genuine alligator leather with additional colour matches NATO strap
Price: $795 (approx. £650)

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Circula ProTrail

Circula ProTrail

What do you want from a field watch? A rugged, hard-wearing case, sure. Anti-magnetism? If you’re a true explorer, of course! Sapphire glass and scratch resistance to keep it looking its best would be good, too. That’s not just what we want; that’s what the watch community want too, whose 6,500 votes were crowdsourced into the Circula ProTrail. A stunner of a field watch with a specs sheet to match, the Pforzheim-based brand has knocked it out of the park and, while the Old Radium edition is limited enough to sell out quick (99 pieces) the other editions are just as cool.

Case/dial: 40mm diameter titanium case
Water resistance: 150m (15 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW 200-1 Elaboré automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Nylon sailcloth
Price: €755.46 (approx. £670)

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Wolkov Designs Wolkov W22 Onyx

Wolkov Designs Wolkov W22 Onyx

Wolkov is a brand that first made a name for itself in 2018 with their revolutionary modular, snapping lug design that made it easier than ever to change your watch strap on a whim. The W22 follows this principle and is available in three colourways, this is the Onyx variant. The concept behind the W22 was to create a striking and unique shape that stands out from competitors. Hence, the highly original oval case in high gloss stainless steel and the distinctive dial display that has a central hour scale and peripheral minute track.

Case/dial: 37mm width stainless steel case
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW200 automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Red Polyamide with additional light brown leather strap
Price: $950 (approx. £790)

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Isotope X Scottish Watches Hydrium Alba

Isotope X Scottish Watches Hydrium Alba

With its instantly recognisable lacrima (the teardrop on the dial) and rugged style, the Hydrium is a modern microbrand icon and in their partnership with Scottish watches, Isotope have built the cleanest, sharpest version yet. The podcast hosts being more patriotic than William Wallace, the so-called Alba, named after an ancient name for Scotland is in their flag colours of white enamel and blue highlights. Finished with a 120-click bezel with a black insert and backed by 300m water resistance, it’s as practical as it is crisply cool.

Case/dial: 40mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 300m (30 bar)
Movement: Landeron automatic movement with 40-hour power reserve
Strap: Blue FKM rubber
Price: £840

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Tolentino Undici 11

Tolentino Undici/11

The debut timepiece from Neopolitan watch brand Tolentino ticks all the boxes you’d want from a professional-level diving watch. The rugged case has 200m water resistance; the rotating diving bezel has an ultra-hard ceramic insert, and the screw caseback and safety clasp combination means you don’t need to worry about a worst-case scenario. The fact that it’s also a looker, with its contrasting minute marker and, in this case, high-contrast blue bezel, means you’re not just buying it for the specs. Though at this price point, it’s tempting for those alone.

Case/dial: 40mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement with 41-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
Price: €980 (approx. £865)

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Neucarl Sept Mai Berlin Edition

Neucarl Sept Mai Berlin Edition

Designed to echo the colourful vibrancy of the German capital, the Berlin Edition of Neucarl’s seminal Sept Mai has all the architectural touches and curvaceous, tactile case that’s made the brand’s debut such a success. A combination of deep black, white and electric blue makes for a bright, eye-catching design in more ways than one. Finished on a canvas strap with blue contrast stitching and backed by a workhorse Swiss movement, it’s a retrofuturistic classic in the making.

Case/dial: 41mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Swiss manual-wind movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Black sport sailcloth
Price: £876

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Moels and Co 528 Silky Rose

Moels & Co 528 Silky Rose

With enough mid-century flair to fill a ‘best of the 1960s’ playlist, Möels & Co’s signature, broad TV-shaped design is a statement piece without the price tag. There’s a good reason it won gold at the A’ Design Award & Competition. In this particular case, the lines branding from the middle of the off-centre layout are set on a background of perfectly retro burnt orange dial with a horizontal satin brush. There’s nothing else like it built during the past decade at least, and the 528 is hard not to love.

Case/dial: 45mm width stainless steel case
Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW200-1 b automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel mesh bracelet with additional buffalo leather strap
Price: £946

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Olivier Meylan The Players Edition SPORT

Olivier Meylan The Players Edition SPORT

With an extraordinary heritage and strict limited editions, on paper Olivier Meylan look like a serious prestige brand. And while they certainly have some historical cache, it’s tempered by a far more accessible price tag than you might expect. Take the Players Edition SPORT. A dark, monochrome watch with all the industrial stylings of a sports luxe icon – visible screws, an integrated bracelet – and a black marble dial, it’s a seriously solid piece. Backed by the chronometric accessibility of an ETA movement, it’s a lot of watch.

Case/dial: 42mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Swiss ETA movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet with additional rubber strap
Price: £899, limited to 25 pieces

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£1,000 – £2,000

Dumoreau DM02 Silver

Dumoreau DM02

Dumoreau is a California-based microbrand established as a creative outlet for award winning architect and product designer, Carlo Aiello. It’s a passion project in every sense and that really shows in the classic aesthetic of the DM02. It features a 39mm round case in stainless steel that contains a dial with a concentric circle pattern design. It’s inspired by the natural flow of life and is evocative of Japanese zen gardens. While Dumoreau is American, they work closely with brands across Europe, such as Roventa-Henex and Matteo Torre to ensure quality production of the watch and its strap.

Case/dial: 39mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW210-1 automatic movement with 42-hour power reserve
Strap: Black Saffiano leather
Price: $1,250 (approx. £1,010)

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Oceaneva Deep Marine Explorer III

Oceaneva Deep Marine Explorer III

Any watch that can head down to 3,000m deep is a pretty serious piece of kit that’s usually made from huge chunks of intimidating steel without a hint of frill. But 3,000m water resistance in bicolour? Now that’s a lot more fun. Don’t worry, US-based Oceaneva have opted for plating rather than solid gold, so it has all the practicality and accessibility of steel, just with the kind of aesthetic quirk that defines the boat-to-boat-club vibe. It’s built like a tank, looks like a sports car, and dives like a submarine. Oh and it’ll set you back a lot, lot less than a Submariner.

Case/dial: 42mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 3,000m (300 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement with a 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
Price: $1,299 (approx. £1,080)

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Depancel Tangerine Chronograph

Depancel Tangerine Chronograph

Did you think we could make it through a microbrand guide without a tachymeter-equipped racing chronograph? For shame. At least in this instance the Tangerine, Depancel’s follow-up to last year’s successful Allure, is a winner. With a big eye layout and blood orange details, it’s an intensely modern, aesthetically technical timepiece backed by a customised ETA movement. As racy as a hot lap around the Baku Street Circuit, you’ll need to be just as quick to nab one of the ultra-limited 100 pieces available.

Case/dial: 43mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
Movement: ETA 7753 calibre automatic movement with 48-hour power reserve
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet or blue calfskin leather strap
Price: £1,795, limited to 100 pieces

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Escudo Ocean Seacrest Preto e Bronze

Escudo Ocean Seacrest Preto e Bronze

Following on from their debut, explorer themed seafaring timepiece, the latest edition of Escudo’s luxuriously handsome diver is this time in partnership with ambassador Jose Fonte – and has serious Tudor vibes. The rugged, bi-colour steel and bronze construction paired with the brand’s signature details (their compass point indexes being a highlight) it’s way more accessible than it looks. Or feels, for that matter.

Case/dial: 39mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW200-1 automatic movement with 38-hour reserve
Strap: Veg Tan Italian leather
Price: £1,600

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R Paige Wrocket Deco Black

R Paige Wrocket Deco Black

As the name suggests, R Paige take their Art Deco inspirations very seriously. Not only is the dial of their new Wrocket a gorgeously appropriate mix of black guilloche and brushed rose gold, but the case it’s set in is all ready to join the champagne laced party with intricately stepped lugs. High in contrast, high in style and high in roaring 20s glamour, it’s just a shame it’s limited to just 10 pieces.

Case/dial: 44mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: DB-6 calibre manual wind movement with 168-hour power reserve
Strap: Brown or black suede or brown or black alligator leather
Price: $1,750 (approx. £1,415), limited to 10 pieces

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Artel Rotec Sky Series

Artel Rotec Sky Series

Fresh off the back of their V Series success, Artel Rotec are bringing a touch of pared-back elegance to the usually sporty tonneau case shape. With a smaller, 38mm size and stainless steel replacing their previous Richard Mille-esque carbon composite, the models are complete with a trio of dials. There’s an emerald green version with Arabic numerals, all very classical, and a pair in black and silver with simpler arrow indexes. Beautiful as the green is, our choice would be the monochromatic silver number. It’s sporty, streamlined and sophisticated – not an easy balance to strike.

Case/dial: 38mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Artel calibre AR068 automatic movement with 50-hour power reserve
Strap: Navy blue FKM rubber
Price: $1,950 (approx. £1,620)

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Vieren Black Croc

Vieren Black Croc

Vieren is a Canadian microbrand founded in 2020, although while they’re relatively new to the scene, the founder’s family has been involved in watchmaking for over 30 years. As a result, Vieren use all the traditional techniques of Swiss watchmaking, with watches like the Black Croc housing the ETA-2671 Automatic movement. It also has a black crocodile leather dial, matching the strap, putting the unique texture of the material into the spotlight.

Case/dial: 27mm width stainless steel case
Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)
Movement: ETA-2671 automatic movement with 44-hour power reserve
Strap: Black croc embossed leather
Price: $2,850 (approx. £2,268)

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DWISS M3W Wandering Hours

DWISS M3W Wandering Hours

While it may have its genesis in the early days of horology, wandering hours as a display is synonymous with haute horology, be that Urwerk or Audemars Piguet. DWISS on the other hand are bringing the complication to the masses with the M3W. The trio of rotating satellites with which to read the time off the scale at 12 o’clock float on top of a skeletonised dial to show off the various wheels underneath. It’s a visually intense amount of watchmaking, especially in this crisp, white version with a rubber strap, for a less-than-intense price.

Case/dial: 42mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 200m (20 bar)
Movement: Sellita SW-200 automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: White silicone rubber
Price: $1,990 (approx. £1,650)

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£2,000 – £8,000

Oligo Blue

Oligo Blue

There’s streamlined, there’s minimal, then there’s Oligo, a brand whose singular timepiece is so stripped back, the hands aren’t even attached. As a mystery watch, we’re assuming the hands are suspended on sapphire crystal discs, with bright chrome hands over a fantastic azure dial. Honestly, we’ve not seen a microbrand release like it. It also happens to be eco-friendly, with the watch built entirely in French Switzerland with recycled steel, while the packaging is made in Geneva and the vegan straps in Italy via a collaboration with ColaReb. It’s at the top end of the microbrand market in price, but fortunately it’s up there in just about every other facet as well.

Case/dial: 41mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)
Movement: Soprod M100 automatic movement with a 40-hour power reserve
Strap: Vegan ecosuede leather
Price: CHF 2,300 (approx. £2,050), limited to 40 pieces

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Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante Automatisk Kronograf

Von Doren Il Tempo Gigante Automatisk Kronograf

Not just one of the best microbrand releases of the year, the petrol-blooded Il Tempo is among the best chronographs, full stop. The new watch is a 1970s-flavoured racing chronograph inspired by Norwegian stop motion film, The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix. If you’ve not heard of it, don’t worry, until now neither had we. The watch is defined by an impressively proportioned case in a colourful, quirky take on a retro racing stopwatch, pared back for daily wear. Equipped with an engine from La Joux-Perret, you’ll need to keep your engines warm to snag one of the under-600 pieces.

Case/dial: 41mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: La Joux-Perret calibre L112 automatic movement with 60-hour power reserve
Strap: Black racing leather
Price: €2,995 (approx. £2,600), limited to 577 pieces

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Paradisi RP 01 Titanium

Paradisi RP 01 Titanium

Italy and dive watches go hand-in-hand, from the early days of Panerai to the host of Florentine-flavoured beaters that followed in their wake, most of whom have left. Unlike many of the others though, Paradisi isn’t just Italian in style, but backs up that heritage with a full grade five titanium case and 1,000m water resistance. It’s not small at 44mm of industrially machined, intensely utilitarian metal, yet pared back in the way that only a solid tool watch can be.

Case/dial: 44mm diameter titanium case
Water resistance: 1,000m (100 bar)
Movement: ETA 2824-2 calibre automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve
Strap: Isofrane rubber or leather
Price: From €3,200 (approx. £2,800)

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Shaumburg Watch MooN Werewolf Limited Edition

Shaumburg Watch MooN Werewolf Limited Edition

Microbrands are generally synonymous with hands-off, third-party built accessibility, but Saxon-based Schaumburg have something to say – howl, maybe – about that. The horror-themed timepiece has been entirely hand-engraved which, given the monstrous scene completed with a bat-silhouetted blood moon and golden eyes, is pretty damn impressive. Packed with a modified Sellita, it’s also a good deal more accessible than you’d expect from a metiers d’art limited edition. It might be a long time until Halloween, but Shaumburg’s is still a tempting bit of wrist candy.

Case/dial: 43mm diameter stainless steel case
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: SW-11 automatic movement
Strap: Black alligator leather
Price: €7,352 (approx. £6,480), limited to 25 pieces

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.