The world is becoming more and more homogenous. People are increasingly eating and drinking the same things, obsessing over the same overpriced device from Apple and wearing the same branded clothing and watches. The pro-globalisation folk will tell you this homogenisation will lead to increased peace. Now, I'm all for peace; indeed, I would say I was a big fan of peace, but it's all a bit boring, isn't it?
This week we celebrate independent watchmakers, those plucky underdogs fighting against the big brands and their big advertising budgets. And they don't get more plucky than MB&F, a collective of like-minded souls committed to making the watch world infinitely less dull and uniform with watches such as the HM5 On The Road Again (below left). Concep-tualised by MB&F founder Maximilian Busser and designed by celebrated watchmaker Eric Giroud, the HM5 is inspired by the supercars of the 1970s, as evidenced by the slats that cover much of the zirconium body, evoking the back of a Lamborghini Miura. The dial is more of an instrument panel with jump hours. Although the watch looks simple, "under the hood" MB&F has created a complex movement - designed by Chronode - that gives 42 hours of power and has a curious battle-axe rotor, which can be seen through the transparent caseback. The MB&F HM5 On The Road Again is priced at HK$500,000 and limited to 66 pieces.
Also fighting the good fight against dull watches are the Baumgartner brothers (Felix - not to be confused with the skydiver - and Thomas) and Martin Frei, who together form Urwerk, a brand that combines cutting-edge technology with futurism, industrial chic and an H.R. Giger Alien aesthetic. Urwerk's UR-210 (below right) is another triumph of inventive thinking, with a new complication, the Winding Efficiency Indicator, linked to the power reserve and displaying how much kinetic power you have pumped into the automatic movement. Simply put, this complication is designed to make you up your movements to keep the watch ticking, making it perhaps the most expensive exercise tool ever created. The 43mm case is made of titanium and steel, giving it a nice robustness, and the 3-D dial design contains all the usual Urwerk madness of retrograde, satellite minutes and hours. The Urwerk UR-210 is priced at HK$1.2 million.
Finally, we have Gronefeld of the Netherlands, another firm fronted by siblings. Bart and Tim Gronefeld cut their teeth in fine watchmaking at Audemars Piguet (Renaud et Papi). For their eponymous brand, the brothers have created quite a stir with the One Hertz Techniek, which has an independent "dead seconds" complication for increased accuracy. This complication died out with the advent of quartz movements, but Gronefeld has revitalised it with a modern twist and extra helpings of complexity that are sure to please watch fanatics and physics students alike. The design of the watch is arresting, with the open-worked dial giving a full view of the watchmaking craft. The 43mm case comes in grade 5 titanium and the watch comes with an alligator leather strap. The dial face is a rash of subdials: independent dead seconds at the seven o'clock position; hours and minutes at the two o'clock position; a power reserve indicator at the 12 o'clock position; and a winding setting indicator at the three o'clock position. The Gronefeld One Hertz Techniek is limited to 30 pieces in either a natural finish (HK$549,000) or black DLC-coated Nocturne version (above; HK$583,000).