Some watch brands get all the credit, while others deserve more than they get.Do you know the most underestimated Swiss watch manufacturers?This six-pack – Cartier, Chopard, Glashütte Original, Nomos and Tissot – does a great job.All six are extremely innovative and have a huge range of in-house-manufactured calibers. But the greater public of watch collectors and aficionados may not realize all that these brands are doing. Therefore,I will show you these brands right now.
Cartier has a history so rich that it would take several tomes to tell the brand’s entire story. Early in the 20th century, Cartier was an early adopter of the wristwatch and cooperated with the best movement manufacturers. Since 2009 Cartier has focused intensively on developing high-end and extremely creative in-house calibers. Carole Forestier-Kasapi, the head of the brand’s movement production, and her team of developers and master-watchmakers are responsible for more than 30 new in-house calibers. Many of the innovations presented through the Cartier ID One and ID Two concept watches were world-firsts. Cartier has also shown expertise in materials engineering: it has plans for an innovative approach to protecting its movements from magnetic fields. The brand operates out of several ultra-modern factories, the most impressive of which is in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Unfortunately, Cartier is still seen by some as a jewelry brand with minimal legitimacy in manufacturing wristwatches for men. The opposite is true! Cartier offers a variety of useful and/or so-called small complications as well as absolutely high-end timepieces. The Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Second Time-Zone Day-Night watch shown here is a good example of the brand’s creativity in working with a small complication.
Chopard has the same image problem as Cartier: many see it as a maker of bling-bling jewelry and not as a successful watch manufacture. However, the brand’s L.U.C movements have been entirely developed, crafted and assembled at Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier since 1996. Chopard’s range of calibers is huge and includes all complications, big and small, as well as a high-speed escapement. Some of the movements are even manufactured to the rigorous specifications of the Geneva Seal and the Fleurier Quality Foundation. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, one of the presidents of Chopard, is the mastermind behind these developments. He also spearheaded Fleurier ébauches, a Chopard subsidiary that manufactures a variety of movements at lower price points and equips a growing number of Chopard wristwatches with 100% in-house calibers. The new Chopard Superfast sports watches are the best example: the collection includes an in-house automatic caliber, an in-house automatic caliber with power reserve, and even an in-house automatic chronograph caliber. Scheufele also invested in his own hairspring production many years ago, by buying 25% of the shares of Atokalpa. But the question is: who knows about all this? I do not understand why Chopard does not make even more effort to let the world know what it’s capable of. The Chopard L.U.C 1963 Chrono PuristS Edition shown here is a limited edition done for the PuristS watch forum.
Why include Tissot here? Because Tissot was the pioneer of smartwatches! In 1999, the brand had already started to manufacture a so-called smartwatch. The Tissot T-Touch was the world’s first smartwatch and today still is one of the smartest quartz watches. The T-Touch also was the first tactile multi-function watch in the world. By touching the crystal at particular positions you could access its functions. Tissot has kept improving the T-Touch year after year; the 2014 edition includes a solar panel on the dial. The Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar offers a perpetual calendar with indication of day and week, two alarms (one for the week, the other for the weekend), two time-zone indicators for holiday trips, weather forecast with barometric pressure, an altimeter, a chronograph with lap and split times and a logbook, a compass, a timer, an azimuth and regatta function and a backlight. I am sure we can expect to see further smartwatches coming from Tissot. But also in the mechanical sector Tissot is very active and totally underestimated. The Powermatic 80 Automatic caliber is manufactured by ETA and is exclusively used by Tissot at the moment. This movement has the potential to kick Rolex from the COSC throne. Rolex is the leading company in terms of calibers sent to COSC for certification, but Tissot could easily send many more than 800,000 movements to COSC. The Powermatic 80 caliber is manufactured at a large scale and is of such outstanding quality that it can easily pass the COSC test. Tissot watches with the movement start at around $1,000. Since this Swatch Group brand already has turnover of more than $1 billion, it really belongs among the big players in Switzerland. Tissot still acts very quietly and therefore is totally underestimated. The demand for its watches has increased dramatically because of the attractive price point and exceptional quality. If this sleeping giant really wakes up, anything could happen. Here are the Powermatic 80 movement and the 2014 Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar mentioned above.
Glashütte Original, as the name already tells us, does not manufacture in Switzerland but in Glashütte, Germany. As a result, Glashütte Original always stands in the shadow of Glashütte’s best-known brand, A. Lange & S?hne. Even though Glashütte Original is owned by the Swatch Group and has developed its own style, many still inaccurately classify it as a knockoff of Lange’s designs. However, Glashütte Original today is a highly innovative manufacture with a huge variety of calibers, including almost all small and big complications. The quality of its movements is truly flawless. This year Glashütte Original finally presented its big missing link: the integrated automatic chronograph Caliber 37-01. In my eyes, Caliber 37-01 belongs in the top tier of chronograph movements in Germany and Switzerland. Even more appealing to collectors and aficionados, Glashütte Original offers steel versions of most of its high-end watches, making them much more affordable and accessible. A. Lange & S?hne doesn’t have a single steel watch in its collection, so its entry price is much higher than that of Glashütte Original. With all these wonderful in-house movements and its own original design, this brand deserves much more attention in the world of high-end watchmaking. I’m still waiting for the rise of Glashütte Original.
Another brand from Glashütte that is absolutely underestimated. Most only know Nomos for its minimalist design. The saying is: less is more.Absolutely,however this is not true when it comes to the brand’s calibers! While many other design brands just buy any hand-wound and/or automatic movement to put into their cases, Nomos manufactures them in-house. The brand started its own movement manufacturing very early; since then it has extended its collection of calibers to include some small complications. By the way: Did you know that Nomos has even developed and manufactured a tourbillon? Yes, the brand sold it exclusively to Wempe to be used in the Wempe Chronometer Tonneau Tourbillon wristwatch. This year Nomos presented its own escapement including balance and balance spring. This giant step forward makes Nomos totally independent. While many in the industry struggle to secure suppliers for balance springs, Nomos has begun incorporating its new escapement into its first models and is on the way to integrating it into all its watches. This is a big deal, and now’s the time for Nomos to let the world know that its watches have more than a great minimalist exterior. The Nomos Metro was the very first watch the brand equipped with the in-house escapement.