Microbrand Watch Reviews, Features, & Comparisons

What is a Microbrand Watch?

When most people think of a watch, they think of large and well-known brands (such as Swatch, Hamilton, Tag Heuer, Casio, Seiko, etc.).

A microbrand is, by definition, a small independent watch brand. There are “large” microbrands (such as Cadence or Christopher Ward), but most are small-person companies that utilize third-party manufacturers to bring their designs to life. Some microbrands, such as Nick Harris’ Orion, have in-house watchmakers, but these are the exceptions as opposed to the norm.

The growth of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter has made it possible for small teams of “non-watch people”, such as designers or engineers, to get their watch design or brand funded. In our eyes, this is a fantastic opportunity for the watch market to grow and enjoy new ideas.

We like showcasing quality watches from up and coming watch brands. Our reviews and brand features are found here- enjoy!

Review: MQT Horlogère Suisse Essential Four Gent

Review: MQT Horlogère Suisse Essential Four Gent

Priced at $229 USD as of the time of this review, the Essential Four Gent affords its wearer versatility via sapphire glass, a clean and minimal face (surprise!), and a quick-release leather strap. Style is conscious and reserved, boasting a good degree of attractiveness. Also worth noting is the use of the Swiss-made ETA 955.412 quartz movement, which alone allows the Essential to stand out compared to other microbrand watches following a similar formula.

So, while the Essential Four Gent is similar in nature to others, it stands above the majority due to its attainable price, excellent construction, and affordability. Let’s dive in and check it out in more detail.

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On the Wrist: the Spinnaker Bradner

Not long ago I reviewed the Overboard, a 1000m overbuilt dive watch that can go deeper than you’d ever take it. At the same time I received the Overboard I also took delivery of the Bradner, a casual-wear moderately sized automatic watch that carries a 150m / 500ft water resistance rating. Not bad.

I like the Bradner’s casual style and wrist presence. Let’s take a closer look.

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Hands-On: BOLDR Venture

BOLDR Supply Co. is releasing the Venture – a sub-$100 Swiss-quartz powered watch – with an expected ship date of November of this year. Pre-orders are taking place right now. They asked if I’d be interested in showing the Venture to my readers, and after assessing the watch hands on, I am happy to give you a look.

This is a pre-production unit, but if it’s representative of the final product, the Venture will be a good watch to buy.

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On the Wrist: James McCabe Heritage Automatic II

Here’s an automatic from James McCabe with the same case and similar aesthetics as the Heritage Retrograde. While the dial loses a few complications, the watch itself gains a Miyota automatic that is nicely decorated and shown off via a mineral exhibition caseback.

Despite an entry-level movement, the Heritage Automatic is a solid watch to consider if you’re wanting something distinctly styled and still 100% watch. If you want to add an inexpensive automatic to your collection, and you want that watch to be something special, well, you’ll want to keep reading…

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Scurfa Watches Diver One

Several weeks back a reader emailed me asking if I’d ever seen a watch from Scurfa Watches hands-on. Scurfa, a microbrand based out of the UK, is owned by Paul Scurfield. A North Sea pressure diver, Paul created Scurfa in order to build dive watches that gave divers high-end capability… but at an affordable price.

Scurfa is a two-person brand – my favorite kind of company – and so I decided to buy a Diver One Blue and get my feet wet. Let’s dive in.

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Undone Urban Tropical Sahara

UNDONE is an independent brand that has taken a unique approach to their watches: customers can customize their watch – changing cases, dials, casebacks, and even engraving initials – via UNDONE’s website watch builder. Fans of customization rejoice!

Priced at $345, the Urban Tropical Sahara is within the scope of what most would consider a “nice watch”. This is the first UNDONE I’ve seen hands-on, so let’s not waste any time in having a closer look.

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DuFa Aalto Regulator Hands-On Review

Those looking for historical horological significance will likely overlook DuFa. Deutsche Uhrenfrabrik – aka, DuFa – is a brand that has flown underneath the radar, as they compete in a sea microbrands and Kickstarter success stories. In today’s environment, it’s difficult to differentiate yourself and there are a lot of up and coming indie brands out there. But DuFa stands out, and so do their watches.

Take, for example, the Aalto Regulator I have here. The German roots of its style are undeniable – clean shapes, a bold face, and minimal distractions – and the mechanical heartbeat, care of the Miyota 8217 automatic ticking within, is found in hundreds of watch models the world over. A blend of sophisticated style and practical engineering- very German.

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Hands-On With the James McCabe Heritage Retrograde

Six weeks back I received an e-mail from Drew Meyer, who represents several watch brands. Among them is James McCabe, a highly-stylized microbrand that is doing what brands like Lucien Piccard should have done. Not long after that e-mail, the Heritage Retrograde arrived at my doorstep – courtesy of Drew – and it has commanded my interest ever since.

As the photos within this review will undoubtedly show, the Heritage Retrograde – a sub-$300 quartz casual watch – is among the most excellently styled (and stylized) watches I have come across in a good long time (if not ever). The real question is: is it a good watch? I suppose you’ll have to read on to find out.

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Brand Feature: Jones New York

A month or so back, CWT sent me four watches from their exclusive brand, Jones New York. JNY is a brand of inexpensive quartz timepieces with a focus on fashion and style. As such, watches themselves are fairly standard quartz timepieces: they are powered by Japanese-sourced quartz movements and are made of standard materials.

I put them behind my lens and started snapping. As you can see, they’re very photogenic and I got some really excellent shots. Check them out below, with Melissa’s opinion on them.

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Mileneal Classic Hands-On Watch Review

Ahh, that new watch smell- gotta love it! Here on my desk is the Mileneal Classic Rose Gold White, which is – you guessed it – a classically-designed watch in rose gold and white. Smartly dressed, affordably priced, and available for pre-order now on Kickstarter, you may be asking yourself: is this micro worth my money? Is it it a smart buy? Why should I buy it? All good questions, and ones I hope to answer in this hands-on review.

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Oath Black Tie Review

In a price point dominated by the Weekender, Seiko 5, and other affordable heavyweights, it’s easy to overlook the microbrands out there offering something different for the same money. You’d be forgiven for doing so, but the omission can be a real shame. Take this Oath, for example: currently on sale for $50 (shipping included, $110 regular), it’s an ultra-affordable quartz that’s definitely worth your eye.

In true WYCA fashion, I warmed up the Tamron macro and got to shooting. Let’s check it out.

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Dan Henry 1970 Review

The limited edition 1970 by Dan Henry is a surprising piece. While it has some minor quality control items (I must stress that they are minor), the rest of the watch is composed and well executed. I’m a big fan of its looks, and I love how the theme has touched every part of the watch in a subtle, classy way. It’s a stand-out piece, especially when you consider its $250 price tag. This is as great watch that’s worth your consideration.

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Hands-On With the Eldon Interchangable Watch

If this is your first encounter with an “interchangeable watch”, it’s pretty simple: you can swap out the face, or case, or straps easy and without having to use tools. Popping out the dial is as simple as unscrewing the bezel and switching it out, and changing straps is easy thanks to the quick-release spring bars. If you’re someone who likes to tinker or customize, this is your watch.

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