07/2023

Internet brought many changes in the watch industry, and perhaps the most important has been the micro-brands, small boutique companies selling online preferably “homage watches”, in the spirit of (ISO) historical models, once withdrawn from the lines of their original manufacturers. In comparison with the respective vintage models, homages have better quality, are practically usable and their prices are multiple times lower. Fully legitimate most of the times, despite falling in the same discussion with the counterfeit watches (replicas). Although they are certainly copies of pre-existing designs, homages are branded or “sterile” (anonymous), and their brands are the last to blame for any kind of negative connotation. Most of the historical brands have an established tradition in coping each other, primarily ROLEX, with the last one being the most innovative of all for coping itself and introducing the more affordable sibling TUDOR models since 1946!

Returning to the origins of micro-brands, all started at the late 1990s, with 4 individuals claiming the protagonist roles, Takeshi “Ken” Sato (PRO-LEX/RXW), Eddie Plats (PRECISTA), Roland Kemmner (KEMMNER) and Bill Yao (MK-II). They focused on reviving legendary models like Radiomir, Mark-XI, Fifty-Fathoms, early Submariners, Seamaster-300, Type-I/II, based on the original abandoned designs, under their own brand names. From those emerged later, my photos indicate models from VORTIC and WILSON WATCH WORKS from the United States, HALIOS from Canada, STEINHART from Germany, GERLACH from Poland. Most micro-brands are distinguished because they have expanded their lines beyond the strict “homage recipe”, and introduced “unknown” countries in the horological map. Their biggest contribution though is that the traditional brands have been forced to re-evaluate their history, and have brought back their heritage models!

PRO-LEX Subpro and MK-II Paradive (sterile) photos are credited to www.watchuseek.com

GS