If you are currently on the hunt for new members of your growing timepiece collection, chances are you know the names Cartier, Omega, Rolex, and TAG Heuer like the back of your hand. However, in reality, there are dozens of other watch labels out there that create outstanding timepieces with compelling designs, unparalleled precision, and superior longevity.
Perhaps you are the type of person who does not like settling for the mainstream, and who likes their time-telling accessories unique yet versatile. If so, here are fifteen obscure watch brands that should be on your radar.
15 Best Lesser-Known Watch Brands
1. Georg Jensen
Established by its Danish silversmith namesake, Georg Jensen, is one of the most unknown yet extremely artistic watch companies today. Georg Jensen is better known for its amazing line up of well-designed jewelry, cutlery, gift products, tableware and other home items made out of pure silver. That said, the brand also makes some fine wristwatches using high-quality stainless steel and sophisticated Swiss automatic movements. As a company heavily influenced by Scandinavian principles, Georg Jensen’s timepieces are sleek, breathtaking and elegant. These watches embody simplicity and focus on just the essentials of timekeeping.Famous Models
The brand ventured into the horological realm in the late 1960s with the release of the well-acclaimed Vivianna Bangle, made in collaboration with talented Swedish silversmith Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe. Equipped with a mirror dial, an odd-shaped bangle bracelet, and a hand-wound movement made by Chopard, the timekeeper screams fanciness and timelessness all at once. Today, the Vivianna Bangle watch remains one of the most quintessential pieces from Georg Jensen. One modern variant is the Vivianna Ref. 3575655_0, which comes in a 34mm stainless steel case with a diamond-studded dial and bezel. Powered by a Swiss-made Caliber ETA E61.031 that has a battery life of up to 49 months, it costs around $13,500 USD. This makes it the most expensive piece from the obscure Danish watch brand today.
2. Giuliano Mazzuoli
Next up, we have another luxury brand from Europe that excels in manufacturing fully-functional and stylish timepieces. This brand is perfect for sports timepiece lovers and those who have an eye for unusual concepts. Known as Giuliano Mazzuoli, this obscure watch company has a remarkable heritage under its belt. Its story began in 1949 when its namesake owner’s father decided to bring their family’s designs to life through various products. When Mazzuoli took the helm in the 1970s, the company shifted its focus to manufacturing planners, notebooks, and writing instruments with compelling appearances. Eventually, they also expanded to crafting bold watches with unique aesthetics.Famous Models
One version that stands out is the Manometro Compressed Polished Blue. This watch comes in a 45mm chunky stainless steel case and a bezel made out of the same material. Secured with a brown calfskin Florentine leather strap, it also features a beautiful blue dial. This dial is adorned with white railroad-like markings on the outer ring, Arabic numeral indices and luminous baton-style hour and minute hands. Priced at around $2,900 USD, this Giuliano Mazzuoli watch is water-resistant up to depths of 30 meters and relies on a 25-jewel automatic ETA 2824/2 movement.
Perhaps you want something with a little more attitude? Try the Trasmissione Meccanica Chronograph instead, which costs around $6,720 USD. Taking inspiration from an automobile transmission, this piece with a black strap has a stainless steel case with unusual patterned edges. It tells more than just the time by having a handy chronograph function as well.
Another obscure watch brand worth knowing is Junghans, which is a company based in Schramberg, Germany. The German brand began creating products bearing its own name in 1866 and soon became the largest clock manufacturer in the world, with around 3 million pieces produced yearly. Junghans finally decided to manufacture wristwatches in 1927, and eventually started crafting its own movements in the 1930s.
Oozing with precision, their watches are not only refined but also stylish enough to be worn at any occasion. With their vintage and commanding designs, extremely neat lines and impressive movements, it is no surprise why Junghans watches are popular among seasoned enthusiasts and lovers of classic aesthetics.Famous Models
Whether you are into chic dress watches or highly-robust timekeepers equipped with a few useful complications, Junghans has definitely got you covered. However, if there is one piece that encapsulates what the brand is all about, it would probably be the Max Bill watch. First produced in the 1950s, the Max Bill perfectly embodies the revolutionary Bauhaus art movement. It utilizes a unique, minimalist blueprint and numerous functionalities that make its wearers’ lives simpler.
One good contemporary example is the Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Ref. 27/4500.49. This piece comes in a 40mm stainless steel case paired with a silver-colored Milanese bracelet. Protected by a plexiglass crystal, its black dial has luminous Arabic numeral indices and pencil-style hands, two chronograph subdials at 12 and 6 o’clock marks, and a date-day indicator at 3 o’clock.
In terms of durability, this watch runs on a self-winding Caliber J880.2 movement with 48 hours worth of power reserve. Priced at around $2,200 USD, this Max Bill piece is also water-resistant up to depths of 30 meters, meaning it can easily withstand a few accidental splashes and raindrops.
Hailing from Belgium, Komono can be your next source of affordable watches made from superior materials. The youthful nature of this young and obscure brand is inspired by its founders Raf Maes and Anton Janssens, who are former snowboarders by profession. They officially introduced watches to their sunglasses and opticals brand in 2009, and have been making waves in the horological field since then.Famous Models
Eye-catching and stunning, the Komono Ray Legacy Nato Lunar is a great option if you are into understated and straightforward pieces that steal attention effortlessly. With its 38mm alloy case and nude-colored recycled webbing band, this dive watch can easily match any of your ensembles. Shielded by a tough mineral crystal, its black dial features white baton and Arabic numeral hour markers, stick-shaped hands, and a small seconds sub-dial sitting above the 6, 7, and 8 o’clock positions. In terms of its technical specifications, this $115 USD Komono watch runs on a reliable Japanese quartz mechanism and is water-resistant up to depths of 50 meters.
If the Ray Legacy is not enough to satisfy your thirst for minimalistic and versatile timepieces, you could always go for a slightly bolder choice, the Komono Mono Sky. The Mono Sky watch is available in many colorways, but the sky-blue piece is the most pleasing to the eyes. It comes in a polycarbonate case that complements the sky-blue silicone strap and dial, which is adorned with grey baton hands and hour markers. Protecting the watch’s quartz movement is a sturdy case back made out of stainless steel. You can cop this Komono piece for around $69 USD, making this one of the most affordable obscure watches out there.
If a customized timepiece sounds appealing to you, then Objest might be the answer to your prayers. From the dial, hands, and strap, down to the buckle, rotor, crown, and date window down, almost every detail of Objest watches are fully customizable. You do not have to worry about the design process since Objest offers lovely colorway, finish, and material choices that will surely fit all your needs and preferences.
This company also houses ready-made pieces designed in London and assembled by veteran watchmakers from Switzerland. Boasting minimalistic aesthetics. These unisex Objest watches also use top-tier engines made by either Ronda or ETA, so you do not need to worry about their durability at all.Famous Models
Looking for something that exudes a luxurious and an athletic vibe? The Objest Hach Grey Automatic is the right choice. Its 42mm DLC-treated stainless steel case guarantees protection from any kinds of scratches and bumps. Matched with a black numberless dial with three-dimensional patterns and thick rounded baton-style hands, this watch is effortlessly attractive. It also has a single vibrant yellow minute hand, which adds a youthful touch to the watch’s whole look. though the single vibrant yellow accent also adds a youthful touch.
This Swiss-made watch also has an exhibition case back and a grey strap made from soft Italian leather. Powered by a 25-jewel ETA 2824-2 automatic movement with 38 hours of power reserve, this Objest unisex watch will set you back by around $690 USD.
Let us take a break from European brands and take a closer look at this impressive but frequently unknown American watchmaker. Shinola‘s legacy officially started in 2011, with entrepreneur and former executive for Fossil, Tom Kartsotis. The founder had one goal in mind: to craft affordable and fully-functional American timepieces that could directly compete with watches produced by renowned Swiss manufacturers.Famous Models
From the build and finishes to the dial layout and style of the crowns, pushers and strap, everything about Shinola watches will remind you of the old times. One good example of a vintage-inspired timepiece from the brand is the Shinola The Runwell 47mm Ref. 20223880-SDT-010752541, which is priced at only $625 USD. As its name suggests, it comes in a 47mm case made out of sandblast PVD gunmetal and a hand-sewn brown Cattail strap. The matte velvet dial boasts a fierce midnight blue color, and is adorned with a small seconds subdial, silver Arabic numeral indices and sword-style hands.
As if these were not enough, this Shinola watch relies on a powerful Argonite 1069 quartz movement and has around 2 years worth of battery life. This striking piece is also available in many other colorways and sizes. It is an excellent, if somewhat obscure, choice for urbane men who wish to express themselves through their watch.
Coming from the northernmost town in Denmark, Skagen has been in operation since 1989. This obscure brand offers pocket-friendly and trendy timepieces suitable for any occasion. As proof of its growth over the past few decades, the company now houses other goods in their product lineup, such as handbags, jewelry, homewares, decors, and other accessories.
Attractive and streamlined, Skagen watches are generally for people who appreciate sustainable and timeless concepts. Besides having thin cases that feel light on the wrist, most Skagen watches sport colors that fall on the monochromatic or neutral side. Endorsing variety, many models come with leather or NATO straps but loyal consumers also love the Milanese bands designed personally by Skagen. Though they showcase minimalistic concepts, these Skagen watches pack a lot of features, ranging from open-worked dials, date and day components, chronographs and dual time.Famous Models
If you have been looking for a good monochromatic timepiece, the Skagen Ancher Ref. SKW6779 is definitely an excellent choice. This men’s watch comes in a 40mm case and a thin fixed bezel made out of 50% recycled stainless steel. This matches well with the beautiful stainless steel mesh bracelet with a safety mesh buckle. As a Bauhaus-inspired watch, its charcoal-colored dial is tidy and pleasing to look at. It features silver baton hour markers and luminous hands that glow brightly in low-light conditions. Powered by a simple three-hand movement, this Skagen Ancher piece is one of the best Skagen watches you can get, costing around $135 USD only.
Next, we have another chic and graceful watch, but this time catered towards the ladies. The Skagen Anita Ref. SKW2151 comes in a 30mm rose gold stainless steel paired with the signature mesh bracelet of the brand. What makes this Skagen Anita watch especially popular among women is its stunning silver sunray dial, which is adorned with Arabic numerals and dot indices, and baton hands in rose gold. Much like other Skagen watches, this piece also runs on a three-hand movement and is water-resistant up to depths of 30 meters. You can get it for $135 USD as well.
8. Thomas Earnshaw
English watchmaker Thomas Earnshaw was the man who simplified the production of marine chronometers back in the 1700s. This unknown brand, named after the esteemed watchmaker, excels in creating intricately-designed watches that fit the lifestyles of passionate adventure-seekers.
The dials and case backs of Thomas Earnshaw watches are mostly skeletonized and transparent, which lets users view the beauty of their movements. As a brand which likes utilizing retro themes and techniques, you will also notice that its watches have cases and straps that come in quintessential silver, black, gold and white hues. When it comes to performance, most Thomas Earnshaw watches rely on automatic movements and have simple time-telling capacities only.Famous Models
One outstanding watch from the brand is the Thomas Earnshaw Beaufort ES-8059-02. This watch comes in a 43mm gold-colored case and a brown strap made out of genuine leather. Showcasing the brand’s mastery of watchmaking, its insanely intricate dial features subtle lines and skeleton parts that allow wearers to admire the beauty of its movement. As if this unique design is not enough, this Thomas Earnshaw watch also runs on an automatic movement and has a water resistance rating of 50 meters. Priced at around $601 USD, this is one of the best-seller pieces from the obscure brand.
Alpina is a lesser-known yet still impressive watch company that started making history in the late 1800s. It built its underrated reputation crafting exquisite and classy sports watches.
Today, Alpina continues to impress with its robust yet sophisticated watches, which are perfect for people who equally prioritize form and function. Every watch that comes out of its factory undergoes various tests to ensure its effectiveness and reliability while faced with tough conditions. Despite being rather obscure, Alpina is a brand you can definitely trust if you are on the hunt for masterful but budget-friendly pieces that do not disappoint.Famous Models
If you are more of the old-school type, then you will surely love this brown diver from Alpina that is water-resistant up to a whopping 300 meters. The Alpina Seastrong Diver Heritage Brown AL-525BR4H4 has a 42mm stainless steel case in a bronze hue and a matching brown strap made out of leather. Protected by a sapphire crystal, its brown dial features rose gold indices and hands with beige luminous elements. Priced at around $1,827 USD, this Alpina Seastrong watch runs on a robust automatic movement that beats at 28,800 vibrations per hour.
Among the lesser-known brands listed here, this next one offers some of the most advanced timekeepers. Ball Watch Company, better known as Ball, is known for pioneering numerous horological innovations over the last 130 years. Originating from Cleveland, United States, this unknown watch brand deeply honors the American railroad industry.
Today, the brand continues to release state-of-the-art timepieces, made for all kinds of professional pursuits. Tough and compelling, Ball watches are equipped with extremely legible dials, sturdy straps, useful functions, and high-performing movements. Many of Ball’s tool watches also embody an athletic appeal that men will surely appreciate. One of the major inventions of the brand is the helium escape valve system, which allows watches to operate more efficiently underwater.Famous Models
For those of you who prefer subtle timepieces that are not too overwhelming, you can get the Ball Engineer III Pioneer Ref. NM2026C-S15CJ-BK, which retails at around $2,515 USD. It comes in a 40mm stainless steel case and a bracelet made out of the same material. Apart from the magnified date display, its black dial has baton-style and Arabic numeral indices, and dauphine hands, all fitted with tritium gas tubes. Together, they allow for great readability, especially in low-light conditions.
The Ball Trainmaster Standard Time Ref. NM3888D-S1CJ-WH is also a great option if you like dials with a simple but organized design. This $2,924 USD men’s Ball watch bears a milky white dial that matches well with its stainless steel bracelet. Aside from the stylized Roman numeral indices, the watch face is also adorned with a date window and playful blued steel hands. Performance wise, this Ball Trainmaster watch runs on a Caliber BALL RR1105-C automatic movement and has shock-resistance rating of up to 5,000 gauss.
Another excellent watchmaker that has been continuously impressing everyone with its magnificent creations is Festina. Founded in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1902, this relatively obscure watch corporation now includes brands like Candino, Perrelet, Lotus, Jaguar, and Calypso. Festina also has a huge global presence, maintaining production hubs in countries worldwide and selling about 5 million units per year. Festina is also well-known for its involvement with the cycling industry and for being the official timekeeper for the Tour de France from 1992 to 2016. The brand specializes inelegant dress watches and practical chronograph timepieces, perfect for modern men and women.Famous Models
Moving on to a more dainty option, Festina offers delightful pieces suitable for the ladies. One of them is the Festina Boyfriend Ref. F20403/1, which has a silver and rose gold color scheme that endorses supreme elegance. Priced at $207 USD, this piece features a 36mm 316L stainless steel case and a matching bracelet with rose gold links. Protected by a mineral crystal, its dial has stone-studded indices and baton hands coated with luminous elements. This Festina Boyfriend piece runs on an analog movement and has a water resistance rating of 50 meters.
Moving on, we have a relatively young, obscure brand from Münster, Germany, which produces distinctive and high-concept watches that fuse traditional and modern concepts. Known as MeisterSinger, this revolutionary company was established in 2001.
What makes MeisterSinger watches so distinct are its award-winning designs, vintage-inspired appearances, and contemporary details. Inspired directly by tower clocks from the 15th century, these watches only have one hand that tells the time instead of the standard two or three hands. While many of you may find this odd, this concept brought the brand fame and immense recognition among seasoned collectors. In fact, it also allowed the brand to win numerous awards from well-known horological award-giving bodies.Famous Models
For an affordable but highly dependable and solid option, the MeisterSinger Classic N°01 DM303_SV02 is the right choice. Its stainless steel case and domed sapphire glass guarantee protection from any kinds of scratches and impacts. Matched with an ivory dial and a thin black hand that sweeps smoothly over the Arabic numeral hour markers, this watch is effortlessly classic. Aside from a large, easy-to-grip crown that makes timekeeping easier for wearers, this Swiss-made watch has a water resistance rating of 50 meters. Priced at around $1,607 USD, this MeisterSinger Classic watch runs on a high-powered Sellita SW210 hand-wound movement.
Demonstrating what American watchmaking is about, Nixon began making waves in the industry in 1997. It started out by producing voguish yet dependable timepieces that would not break the bank. The brand started with only seven models, but slowly expanded its offerings in the succeeding years.
Nixon watches were initially crafted for a more youthful audience, who enjoy thrill-seeking and love being outdoors. Today, however, Nixon’s expanded selection of watches, along with its other fashion items like bags, accessories, and clothing, cater to people from different walks of life. These include professionals, casual wearers, and sports lovers.Famous Models
The Nixon Sentry Ref. A356-502-00 stands out due to its all-gold color scheme, and its brushed case and bracelet that look good even from afar. Embodying the phrase “simplicity is beauty”, its dial only has a simple date-day component and baton hour markers and hands. Apart from a three-link bracelet, this watch also features a Miyota quartz movement at its core. You can get this 100 meter water-resistant Nixon Sentry watch for only $275 USD.
If you are into futuristic and ultra-unique timekeepers that do not stick to the status quo, then you will surely love what this lesser-known Swiss luxury watch brand has to offer. Called SevenFriday, this young company lives by the principle of enjoying life as if everyday is Friday. Its products also embody this vision perfectly, which is why they are all unique and well-designed. As a lifestyle brand which prioritizes creativity and constant innovation, SevenFriday also offers eyewear, watch accessories, and apparels.Famous Models
One of the most popular SevenFriday watches is the P-Series Ref. P1B/01. It is a piece that can instantly spark conversations with its 47mm square-shaped case, case back and bezel, all made out of polished stainless steel. What’s more, it is protected by an anti-reflective sapphire crystal and is powered by a high-caliber Miyota 82S7 automatic movement. Retailing at $995 USD, the focal point of this SevenFriday P-Series watch is its ornate dial, which is adorned with black markings and a delicately skeletonized portion that gives wearers a glimpse of its inner mechanisms.
Another eye-catching timepiece is the 47mm S-Series Ref. S2/01, which costs $1,250 USD. Just like the previous model, it comes in a polished stainless steel case and bezel that match the embossed and padded black calfskin leather strap. Protected by a layer of anti-reflective mineral glass, its dial has antique brass PVD-coated metal all over its surface, as well as black texts that exhibit great legibility. With its tough machine-like exterior and extraordinary format, this SevenFriday S-Series watch is indeed worth getting.
Last but not the least is another British luxury brand, Bremont, which specializes in creating chronometers suitable for the members of the aviation niche. Fueled by its passion for British engineering, Bremont started producing watches equipped with numerous groundbreaking technologies such as the TRIP-TICK case, Bremont Anti-Shock, and the like. Most of the brand’s watches are reserved for the members of the armed forces, which serves as proof that they are indeed robust and reliable.
As proof of the brand’s excellence and commitment to superior watchmaking, they have even won numerous awards with their commendable designs. If you are looking for an obscure brand that houses timepieces worth every penny, Bremont is definitely the way to go.Famous Models
A good pilot watch from the brand is the Bremont ALT1-C Griffon-R-S, which costs around $9,220 USD. It comes in a 43mm stainless steel case and case back, with a black strap made out of leather. The dial is in a stark black color, decorated with Arabic numeral hour markers and Super-LumiNova-coated hands. Aside from bearing two-subdials for the chronograph function, it also has a date window at 6 o’clock and a sweep seconds hand. On the inside, this Bremont watch runs on an automatic Caliber 13 1/4”’ BE-50AE with 25 jewels and a 42-hour power reserve.
While the brand undoubtedly excels at creating pilot watches, they also make quality pieces perfect for dedicated explorers. One of them is the Bremont ALT1-WT-BL-R-S, which has a World Time function, in addition to its date, chronograph and UTC hand features. It runs on a Caliber 13 1/4”’ BE-54AE as well and is water-resistant up to depths of 100 meters. You can expect this hardy $5,000 USD watch to last you for years—perhaps even decades.
On the whole, lesser-known brands will make you realize that not all dependable timepieces worth collecting always come from acclaimed labels. They may be considered as underdogs for now but these obscure watch brands should not be underestimated. This is especially true given the massive amount of dedication, creativity, and meticulosity they put into their watchmaking process.
With their incredible passion for craftsmanship, it will be quite interesting to see how these unknown watchmakers will grow and what they will offer in the future. Given how these lesser-known watch labels give equal importance to design, performance, and innovation, it will not be surprising if they also become mainstream in the future. Either way, you can be sure that any piece that comes out from these obscure watch companies’ respective factories will deliver precise timekeeping and reliable dependability.
Photos from the aforementioned brands’ official websites, unless otherwise noted