Earlier this month, the watch bug bit me bad. I wasn’t in the mood to spend a lot of money, so I started looking around on the web for great looking, high quality watches that didn’t cost leg and an arm. I didn’t want to spend more than a $1000, but wanted qualities that one normally associate with luxury watches — thick sapphire crystal covers and Swiss movements — in addition to being classically stylish in the looks department.
Classically stylish – is my way of looking for things that aren’t quite defined by fashion trends. After all things that have lasting value have a few fundamentals – they marry function and form. Take plain white shirts are classic and stylish, depending on how you wear them. Much like a nice pair of boots, a Moleskin notebook or a Montblanc pen.
Nevertheless, in my research I discovered something unusual — there has been a quiet revolution of sorts going on in the watch industry. Thanks to awesome blogs such as ABlogToRead.com and Hodinkee, I discovered that there has been a mushrooming of US-based small, independent watch brands. (It is maybe so that I am just noticing the trend – after all I have not paid attention to watches, mostly because for past ten years, cellphone was became my watch.)
I remember driving past the big Bulova campus in Queens, New York. I associated them with watches that at best were cheap and gaudy, and at worst totally avoidable. These new brands are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They are not only affordable, but are iconic and stylish.
What is even cooler — many of them are based in my new backyard. California, it seems to be the favorite breeding ground of these new watchmakers. Like Jeff Kuo designed Xetum is based in San Francisco. Tsovet and Nixon are based in Southern California while Jorg-Gray, a brand preferred by President Obama, is based in Tustin, California. Then there are other brands like Lum-Tec, made by Weigand Custom Watch of Ohio.
These are design driven micro brands whose primary focus is being better not bigger. better. They are iconic and use technology to their advantage. And they are all chasing a new category – affordable luxury. (It reminds me of Apple as it started its renaissance.) Interestingly many of my friends are wearing these brands. I have come close to ordering a watch from Jorg-Gray, but I am not entirely done with my overall research. I will share my findings with you all. In the interim, if there are brands I missed, please leave a comment.