Written by Brian Cheong | Asia Tatler | 31 May 2018
From Singapore and Japan to Russia and Germany, these niche watch players have their own individual quirks that allow them stand out in style.
This Swedish brand aims to “reinvent the classic watch”, a mission ably fulfilled by its clean and minimalist aesthetics that would fit right in with the crowd at Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera town it is often inspired by. Think sleek ceramic dials, faceted hands as well as brushed and polished round cases endowed with dependable Japanese Miyota movements.
Launched last year, the brand works closely with Studio Divine, a Swiss multi-disciplinary design agency, on the creation of its watches that deliberately expose the inner workings of the battery-powered quartz movements. While previous models laid bare the copper coil, its latest, Cable Z, boasts a tangle of red, yellow and blue cables on the dial in a cheerful ode to electricity.
Based in Pforzheim, Germany, this manufacture has a proud history of making pilot watches, with old-style chronometer timepieces still being produced as limited editions today. Elements associated with aviation watches such as large numerals and onion-shaped crowns (for better grip between gloved fingers) are present, with the collections distinguished by three different watch faces - the simple Model A, Model B with a double ring for hours and minutes, and Type C that comes with a chronograph.
March LA.B combines the laidback California surfers’ vibe with French design heritage. Made in France with HQs in L.A. and Biarritz, this unusual marriage has resulted in a truly elegant range of watches with 60s and 70s references - and just a touch of rebellion, for instance the position of the crown at ‘4’.
Stanley Kubrick’s seminal sci-fi 2001: A Space Odyssey is credited as for the germination of this Singaporean watch brand that attempts to reimagine the way we look at time. Its first model, the OD-1, achieves that with a broad and thick case, as well as a dial with a distinctive ‘X’ bar across it, the latter a reference to the Space Station V in the film. Eschewing the traditional hands, two rotating discs with hour and minute numerals function as time indicators.
REC has a singular passion - iconic cars. So much so that it actively seeks out salvaged parts of these vehicles and incorporates them into every single one of its watches. Ford Mustang, Porsche 911 and Mini Cooper have contributed recycled bits while REC’s limited editions have featured collaborators such as world champion drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr on the P-51 RTR watch that is composed of carbon parts of the latter’s drift monster.
The Russian brand shot to fame with its Gagarin range that pays tribute to the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin who also wore a Sturmanskie watch on his zero gravity expedition in 1961. Back on Earth, Sturmanskie continues to dabble in extreme adventures, creating watches for exploring North Pole (the Artic collection) and deep sea diving (Stingray).
TACS has mastered the art of transforming the mundane such as transistor radio, camera lens, salt & pepper shaker and geometry (yes, the branch of mathematics) into smart watch designs. For instance, the Day & Night model features a 24-hour dial divided into ‘day’ (the upper half) and ‘night’ (the lower half) with only one hand for time indication. Simple yet novel, it is no wonder that design-philes are lining up for more from this Japanese brand.