Guides Watches

The Ultimate Microbrand Guide: Dress Watches

Classical over retro, timeless over contemporary, these pieces might be modern in manufacture (mostly) but they’re a swansong to a bygone era of elegant, ideal-for-dress watches.

anOrdain Model 1 Green Fumé

anOrdain Model 1 Green Fumé

Scottish brand anOrdain is synonymous with exquisite enamel dials and the best of them is the Model 1 Green Fumé The textured, almost organic glassy grain of the vitreous enamel starts bright and vibrant at the centre before darkening to near-black around the edges. Paired with gold Arabic numerals inspired by Highlands cartographic maps and a charming minute track, with the 5-minute markers running through the numerals, it’s like nothing else in this price range. A true stunner in all circumstances.

£2,100, available at anOrdain.

Baltic MR01

Baltic MR01 silver

Baltic are one of those brands that will likely outgrow the title of microbrand in the next year or two because frankly they’re already in the big leagues. The concept behind the Micro-rotor MR01 is that it’s classic. Which is something that comes across in the dimensions of the stainless steel case with its diameter of 36mm and smooth integration with the hesalite crystal. However, where the MR01 excels is the dial, which is very characterful with an off-centre small seconds and distinctive Breguet Arabic numerals.

£460 (currently out of stock), available at Baltic.

Olivier Jonquet Capitane Marine 4

Olivier Jonquet Capitane Marine 4

Like an old marine chronometer, this exceptional cushion-cased masterpiece from independent French watchmaker Olivier Jonquet is something else. A 43.5mm polished stainless steel case paired with a light white enamel dial and black Breguet numerals, it looks like it should cost five times what it does. The manual wind movement comes courtesy of ETA and, to seal the deal, only 200 of this edition will be made. This is pure French class from Olivier Jonquet, as we’ve come to expect.

€1,890, available at Montres OJ.

Gane Type C

GANE Type C

While it’s certainly not a traditional dress watch, the Gane Type C is at home in all the situations where a dress watch is required. Ultimately, the lasting impression is one of Art Deco aesthetic. The two piece construction of the dial with CNC milled grooves for hour markers creates a geometric display that wouldn’t be out of place in the 1920s. Especially when taken in combination with the stylised font of the brand name on the inner dial at 12 o’clock. It’s incredibly charming in an off-kilter manner.

$555, available at Gane.

Kurono Toki

Kurono Anniversary TOKI

First and foremost, the Toki is a stunningly beautiful watch. The time-only piece features a sunburst copper dial that has been painstakingly painted in shades of crimson and vermillion red to create a gentle gradient of coral colours. Hajime Asaoka, the mastermind behind Kurono, was keen that the colour should be uniquely Japanese, so for inspiration he turned to the crested ibis. It’s a culturally significant bird in Japan, whose feathers appear to turn peach coloured when viewed from beneath as it flies overhead – a colour called toki-iro. Good luck getting your hands on one.

$1,738, available at Kurono.

Von Doren Treasuremaster

Von Doren Treasuremaster

While the 39mm stainless steel cases mirror the previous Runde collection, the dial of the Treasuremaster is slightly more nuanced. It still maintains some of those jewel tones – restricted for now to green and blue rather than the yellow, magenta and aquamarine – but with a more, for want of a better phrase, grown-up addition of an inset chapter ring in a light grey. Paired with a yellow second hand and sword shaped hour and minute hands slathered with blue lume, the overall effect is downright lovely.

€795, available at Von Doren.

Circula Classic Automatic Redgold

Circula Classic Automatic Redgold

If there’s one thing that goes effortlessly well with a dress watch, it’s red or rose gold. And that’s precisely what makes the Circula Classic Automatic Redgold so charming, with its 39mm stainless steel case with red gold PVD. It complements the minimalist style of the white dial with baton indexes and small minute track. It’s also very accessible as it houses the Miyota 9015 automatic calibre, which has a power reserve of 42 hours. A solid work horse movement.

€335.29, available at Circula.

Firle Sennen Automatic Navy & Gold

Firle Sennen Automatic Navy & Gold

The striking contrast between the Firle Sennen’s navy dial and its 40.8mm case is designed to evoke images of the rugged Cornish coastline. The dial is made from enamel in two tiers is the deep waters perfect for surfing and the rose gold plated, stainless steel case is the glorious sunshine of the all too brief English summer. It houses the STP1-11 automatic movement, visible through an exhibition caseback. It’s based on the Sellita SW200-1 and has a 44-hour power reserve. But that dial case combo is the real killer here.

£460, available at Firle Sennen.

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Red

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Red

Released to celebrate Chinese New Year, this 1940s-styled beauty combines lucky red with pure, bright white – the English translation of Hao. The delicate layout and Chinese are stunning and it’s hard not to find Atelier Wen’s beautiful simplicity appealing. It’s the same inside, too, with a custom-made SL-3006 automatic movement keeping it ticking. The finishing touch is a deep caseback engraving of a Kunpeng, a mythical animal that doubles as an allegory for the concept of yin and yang. This may be a firmly Chinese watch, but it more than holds a candle to the Swiss way of doing things.

$790 (currently out of stock), available at Atelier Wen.

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.

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