5 exciting contemporary microbrands to watch in 2024 5 exciting contemporary microbrands to watch in 2024

5 exciting contemporary microbrands to watch in 2024

Tom Austin

Microbrands are one of the easiest ways to get into watches. Usually, they’re affordable, accessible and offer a wide variety of choices when it comes to style, functionality and, importantly, technology. For decades, we’ve relied on the biggest watch companies to drive the space forward. Their extreme R&D budgets allow them to explore material and manufacturing processes with apparent ease. Things are different today, however, due to prototyping and design methods being much more inexpensive and, indeed, faster and more accessible. This means that a new breed of microbrand is emerging, moving away from the brief of what a classical wristwatch must look like.


Kollokium K P No01

While doing this, I have to spend a lot of time looking at watches, as you can imagine. So much so, seldom does a wristwatch stop me in my tracks. However, this was definitely the case when I stumbled across the Kollokium K,P-No01 while scrolling Instagram. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the incredible dial. Consisting of 468 hand-applied, lume-tipped cylinders, positioned with differing diameters and heights to create a wonderful textured depth. Reminiscent of relief nail artwork by Gunther Uecker, the dial ripples with an almost blurry appearance until you look closer and see what’s really going on. It’s powered by a La Joux-Perret G101 automatic movement with 68 hours of power reserve and features an industrial-style elastic strap.

Kollokium K P No01 lume

Then there’s the case – a 38mm steel sculpture, die-cast instead of CNC machined, resulting in beautiful, softly textured surfaces. Consisting of two parts, a cylindrical body with a hexagonal base combining the sculpted lugs, it’s an ingenious and technical design from GPHG-winning designer Barth N. Nussbaumer. Responsible for some of TAG Heuer’s Autavia range, along with Victorinox’s I.N.O.X and Petermann Bedat’s Reference 2941, Barth joined forces with two friends to create Kollokium. 99 “friends and family” pieces have already been distributed, with a full production run due to come soon in 2024, I cannot wait to get some wrist time with the K,P-No01. That dial lume has me biting my fist in anticipation.


Barrelhand Project One

Being an engineering buff, I was fairly early on the 3D-printing hype a few years ago. In the early days, in many ways, it was clunky, challenging and time-consuming. Often you would struggle to make components which had the strength and tolerances required to make anything remotely functional in real life. Of course, this is very different today. With material advancements, manufacturers can now play with sintered, 3D-printed metals, which, for the most part, are equal to, and in some cases, outperform conventional methods. This is precisely what Barrelhand have done with their watches. Implementing titanium 3D-printing to produce impossible case structures featuring internal lattice features and ultra-complex designs.

Barrelhand Project One lug

Initially, their 10-piece run of the Project One sold out remarkably quickly, and marked the world’s first 3D-printed movement bridge. It’s an unconventional piece, taking seven years to develop and costing $30,000. However, it showcased what direction the US-based brand are going in, bringing additive manufacturing to the forefront of watchmaking and showing what’s now possible. Their next production piece is the more mainstream-focused “Monolith”, featuring a monobloc titanium, 3D-printed skeletonised case surrounding a more conventional Sellita SW300-1b movement. We don’t know much about this watch just yet, but it’s an exciting prospect which is releasing in Q2 2024.

Blok Watches

blok 33 fuchsia magenta pink 3

A kids watch? Are you crazy? Hell no. Blok arrived on the scene in 2022 with the 33, a watch aimed at kids which provided kids with an actually tough watch that could withstand everything our little watch beaters can throw at them. The interesting approach starts with the colourful one-piece injection moulded cases. Featuring a left-handed crown (to help prevent kids from knocking it when running around) and fixed lugs, meaning there will be no spring bar failures here. The dial is thoughtfully laid out for learning to tell the time and grasp the concept of time passing. The brand is the brainchild of Neil Ferrier, the visionary design engineer behind the remarkable design agency Discommon, with a history of industrial design at the likes of Oakley, amongst others. His outside-the-box approach to design has helped create a brand which fills a hole in the market perfectly and helped introduce a new generation to the world of watches.

Blok 37 teaser
Teaser of the upcoming 37mm Blok

Following the 33’s success, it was shortly followed by the 31. This features an even smaller case with integrated lugs and a bezel. Blok have positioned themselves well in this niche area, creating simple, high quality, and durable watches for active kids who are learning to tell the time. There is a catch, though… adults want one too. We have it on good authority that there is indeed something in the works for this, potentially a 37mm Blok with all the fun aspects of the smaller models, sized up for us bigger kids. Knowing Neil’s tenacity when it comes to delivering something special with meticulous levels of detail you rarely see anywhere, you don’t want to miss this. Don’t keep us waiting too long, Neil!


Argon Space One styles

The great thing about microbrands is that they can sometimes surprise you with something reminiscent of a piece so rare and out of reach for most and give you an opportunity to wear a piece of that inspiration. Launched via Kickstarter in early 2020, the SpaceOne went quickly from the unknown to being propelled into the spotlight when it reached its funding point within minutes on the platform. Just now, as promised, early funders are receiving their watches and are proudly being shared all over Instagram. What makes the brand interesting? Inside, the watch is relatively run-of-the-mill, with a Swiss Soprod P024 calibre movement, but the jumping hour module on top was built by Theo Auffret’s workshop – an independent star in the making.

And then, there’s that case. Available in titanium, stainless steel or forged carbon fibre and a multitude of finishes, the 52mm wide case is quite the wrist statement. Firstly, we should probably point out the elephant in the room – at a glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that the watch is a De Bethune Dream Watch 5. That Star-Trek-style teardrop shape is certainly reminiscent of watches of that stature, including that of MB&F’s collection too; however, look a little closer, and there are some distinguishing features, such as the display window being on the opposite side, for a start. Everyone loves an underdog, and even more so a rebellious one, and if an up-and-coming brand can ruffle the feathers of the old guard, it’s worth paying attention to in my book. With a lot of the limited edition watches now in the hands of collectors, there’s a possibility that they may become extremely rare indeed, especially so if the brand enters cult status.

Otsuka Lotec

Otsuka Lotec No6 No7 5

Hidden away in a small workshop in Tokyo is Jiro Katayama, a self-taught watchmaker who produces fascinatingly unique and beautiful wristwatches under the name Otsuka Lotec. While they are only sold in Japan at the moment, the brand is planning to branch out into global exports in the near future due to extremely high demand. It’s easy to see why, too, as they are some of the most unique and interesting timepieces on the market today.

Otsuka Lotec No7 5 manufacture

The current lineup consists of the No. 6 and the No. 7.5, both with very different styles. The No. 6 consists of a retrograde mechanism to allow for a fan-type time display, instantly flicking the hour and minute hands back to zero at the turn of each hour. While this is mated to a perfectly adequate Miyota 9015 automatic movement, everything else is hand-made by Katayama. The industrial stainless steel case is 42mm, with an exhibition caseback and classic wire lugs. The finishing is typical of what you would expect from the artisanal hand of a Japanese master craftsman. This also goes for the No 7.5, which takes uniqueness to the next level. It has a perfect blend of futuristic style combined with the jewel-like precision of 1950s cameras, the kind of manufacturing you just don’t see today. Again the No. 7.5 uses a Miyota movement, this time an 82S5, but modified allowing the hours to automatically jump in the fisheye lens crystal. A little smaller at 40mm, the No. 7.5 is my favourite of the two, with its MB&F-like level of uniqueness and attention to detail. 2024 sees a new model waiting in the wings, and I can’t wait to see what comes from Katayama’s imagination.