Ahead of the Geneva Watch Days at the end of August and the European summer break, some independent watch brands have announced new watches.
And here are three of those eye-catching timepieces from independent watchmakers that recently caught my eye.
Fratello × Czapek & Cie. Antarctica Drake Passage Viridian Green
La Fratello × Czapek & Cie. Antarctica Passage by Drake Viridian Green is not the first watch that our friends at Fratello have made in collaboration with a watch brand – this honor belongs to the limited edition Omega Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday 2017. But it is the first to my knowledge made with an independent brand.
And do it this time with the popular Czapek & Cie. Antarctica was a great idea for Fratello’s predominantly sporty watch enthusiast audience. In 2020, Czapek & Cie. presented the Antarctic in two variations: a 99-piece Terre Adélie “subscription” edition which sold out very quickly and a ten-piece Orion Nebula edition with a hand-painted dial.
Having handled Czapek & Cie. Antarctica at Geneva Watch Days 2020, I can attest to the well-made nature and sporting appeal of this independent brand’s first foray into the steel sports watch market, a segment that has exploded in recent years.
The new variation, Fratello x Czapek & Cie. Antarctica Passage by Drake Viridian Green has a sober and clear style which, without trying to be a peacock, is anchored in the current trend of the green dial (“fruit within reach”, as its co-creator admitted). It is a solid and attractive alternative for people looking for a rare and independent steel sports watch.
Drake Viridian Green’s Antarctic Passage stainless steel case has a slightly barrel-shaped, vaguely retro-inspired shape that differs from the current market leaders in this segment. Instead of protruding tabs, the bracelet features a sharp break down, making it comfortable for a variety of wrists.
The presentation of the watch is clean and dynamic yet simple; it feels cohesive and will be rightly popular.
The movement is also incredible. Caliber SXH5 debuted in Antarctica in 2020, a movement that draws inspiration from historic pocket watches while being entirely modern. The SXH5 caliber is also intended as a basis for future developments and has a high torque mainspring which can be used to power further further complications.
Combining plenty of internal angles, the right amount of skeletonization, and a sandblasted blackish finish, the SXH5 caliber looks like a daring combination of classic watchmaking and modern production methods – something Czapek & Cie. has done well since its inception. This boutique brand was built on the concept of using historical inspiration to produce fantastic contemporary watches at a (relatively) affordable price.
The set provides a very high-end steel sports watch that will go unnoticed (a bonus for many consumers) and which is also powered by a single movement. Minimal and clean with just the right touch of flair, the Fratello x Czapek & Cie. Antarctica Passage by Drake Viridian Green is a clear price / performance proposition for me.
You can read the rather personal backstory of this watch on Fratello.
In short Fratello x Czapek & Cie. Antarctica Drake Passage Viridian Green
Case: 40.5 x 11.3mm, stainless steel with integrated quick-change steel bracelet
Movement: automatic caliber SXH5.01 with free balance spring, frequency 28,800 vibrations / hour / 4 Hz, power reserve of 65 hours
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; Dated
Limit: 50 pieces
Price: € 17,206.61 (excluding VAT); delivery starts in October 2021
Note: Comes with an extra rubber strap
Ming 20.11 Mosaic
A shooting star in the (relatively) moderately priced segment of independent watchmaking, Ming presents a new flagship watch and the first production benchmark with proprietary “Mosaic Dial” technology first seen in the 2020 20.01 concept watch.
The Mosaic dial is actually a 1.3mm high sapphire crystal disc adorned with a laser-etched multi-layered mosaic pattern developed over two years in association with DM Surfaces of St. Imier and the Manufacture Schwarz Etienne.
The new Mosaic dial of the Ming 20.11 features 2,650 squares formed by a linear diffraction pattern engraved on three different levels with a high power femtosecond laser. When using sapphire crystal in any capacity, a little breakage can be expected – it is a difficult material to work with, which makes the production process tricky.
Ming chose a Schwarz Etienne automatic movement with micro-rotor in a dark two-tone finish to offer a lovely contrasting background to the corundum chessboard of a dial – which remains fully visible thanks to the use of sapphire crystal hands guaranteeing that the dial remains the star of this show.
And a special surprise awaits owners at night when the light from HyCeram / Super-LumiNova X1 encrusted in the sapphire crystal dial reflects off the Mosaic pattern, some squares of which glow softly. The contours of the hands also shine for full readability.
For more information, please see www.ming.watch/products/ming-20-01-mosaic.
Ming Quick Facts 20.11 Mosaic
Case: 41.5 x 14mm, titanium with DLC coated middle case
Dial and hands: sapphire crystal dial with Mosaic laser engraving; hands and hour ring with HyCeram / Super-LumiNova X1
Movement: Schwarz-Etienne automatic for the Ming ASE.220.2 caliber with sintered tungsten micro-rotor, 86-hour power reserve, frequency 3 Hz / 21,600 vibrations per hour
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 50 watches in addition to an existing customer batch limited in time from July 5 to 9, 2021
Price: CHF 14’500 (excluding VAT), shipping costs included; delivery from February 2022
Note: Comes with two handmade Jean Rousseau straps, a leather travel pouch by Studio Koji Sato, and an LED flashlight to charge the HyCeram / Super-LumiNova X1
MB&F LM FlyingT Malachite
The fifth variant of the Legacy Machine FlyingT also features a green dial – but not just any: it’s instead made of malachite, an opaque stone with tonal natural green stripes.
LM FlyingT is MB&F’s first dedicated ladies’ watch and it caused a stir when it launched in 2019, winning every award imaginable, including – but not limited to – 2019 Watch of the Year at CH24.PL and the Ladies Complication Prize at the 2019 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
And now MB&F continues to introduce variations on the highly technical theme, here with a discreet diamond setting and the malachite stone dial. . . and a diamond at the top of the flying tourbillon, a single 0.035 carat jewel that revolves throughout the highly visible escapement.
While this watch is anything but modest (or understated for that matter), it continues to be a fascinating example of fine watchmaking in every sense of the word.
Further reading: MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT: A sensational ladies’ watch that is both technically and visually sparkling.
Quick facts MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Case: 38.5 x 20 mm, white gold set with diamonds
Movement: automatic caliber with three-dimensional vertical architecture, central 60-second flying tourbillon with diamond on top, four-day power reserve (100 hours), frequency 2.5 Hz / 18,000 vph
Functions: hours, minutes
Limit: 18 pieces
Price: 125,000 CHF / 145,000 $ / 118,000 € (excluding taxes)
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