Everything you need to know about French independent BalticBorna Bošnjak
We’re closing out the Baltic launch week with a bit of an overview of the French brand. Baltic’s founder, Etienne Malec, is a long-time watch fan, inheriting the bug from his father, a photographer and collector, leaving behind a suitcase of hundreds of iconic pieces – Seamasters, Navitimers, El Primeros and more. With such a backstory, it’s a surprise his entrepreneurial beginning wasn’t in watches, having founded a glasses brand before delving into watchmaking in 2017. Initially launching with two collections, the art deco-inspired HMS and Bicompax, Baltic has now expanded their offering with the Aquascaphe and its numerous iterations, and more recently the MR01 and Tricompax, the latter stemming from a stunning limited edition. Let’s take a closer look at the brand’s current offering and the way a Baltic piece comes together.
French design and assembly
As mentioned previously, Baltic is based in France – Besançon, to be specific. Much like Geneva or Glashütte, Besançon is a watchmaking town, and one with long-standing historical significance. The town’s observatory was a crucial location for timekeeping trials, offering chronometric certification from the late 19th century, before shutting down in 1970. Re-established in 2002, the Besançon Observatory certifies only up to 100 watches per year, making the most of technology and using atomic clocks, rather than the stars, to test watches from Voutilainen, Laurent Ferrier etc. Besançon is also the birthplace of Lip, one of France’s best-known watchmakers, as well as a long-time home of L. Leroy, an oft-forgotten gem of French watchmaking with a fascinating story. Baltic’s Besançon ateliers are responsible for assembly and regulation of components, the majority of which are produced in Hong Kong, with accessories coming from Italy. This kind of transparency is rare, and mostly reserved for the microbrand/independent sector, even though outsourcing high-quality production, especially to East Asia, is extremely common all the way up the horological ladder.
Lots of movements to choose from
As for the movement side of things, Baltic relies on three main avenues – Switzerland, Japan and China. Sellita movements can be found in the Tricompax chronographs, more specifically the manually wound SW510-M, which has seen plentiful use in independent brand chronographs, including our own collaboration with Nivada Grenchen. For the Aquascaphe GMT, Baltic is using the automatic C125 from Soprod, the movement maker currently owned by the Festina group. The HMS-002 and Aquascaphe (bar the GMT) ranges are all Miyota-powered, the former sporting the 8315 and the latter going for the high-beat ETA-rivalling 9039. Finally, the most visually appealing movements found in Baltic watches are in the Bicompax chronograph and the Calatrava-esque MR01, both coming from China. The Bicompax sports the famous Seagull ST1901, essentially a Chinese-made clone of the ancient Venus 175 calibre, made with the same tooling sold to China by the Swiss.
Then there is the MR01, which uses a micro-rotor Hangzhou CAL5000a. It’s handsome movement, albeit industrially finished, and realistically the only option if you want an affordable modern micro-rotor.
For more detailed information on Baltic’s watches, you can check out the overview of the brand’s collections here, or read further for our favourite coverage of Baltic, including their surprise gatecrashing of the 2021 edition of OnlyWatch.
The Baltic Aquascaphe Bronze Brown is another vintage-inspired hit
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How Baltic became the microbrand that gatecrashed Only Watch
Was the Baltic Aquascaphe GMT the freshest microbrand travel watch of 2020?