While major companies like Amazon continue to dominate certain markets, gone are the days when the major share of most industries was owned by a select few companies. A significant number of watch enthusiasts continue to purchase pieces from Rolex, Swatch, Fossil and Seiko, but just as many are now boosting their collections with the Ophions and Laventures, or backing crowd campaigns to secure their LIV, Traska, and VARIO.
These ‘microbrands’ aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and with good reason. Defined by Wikipedia as “independent watch companies that have an output of about 300-2000 watches per year,” though they have smaller teams and production capacities, many produce high-quality timepieces that rival those of luxury brands at a much lower price point. And if you’re worried about scams, it’s now easier to ensure you’re getting what you pay for using a little due diligence and research. Poor reviews and bad customer service is much harder to cover up with the pervasiveness of social media and blogs.
Should you decide to take the leap, VARIO has created this quick, detailed guide that can help you find your new favorite watch with the least amount of hassle. You’ll also see why it’s a very good idea to continue to support microbrands moving forward. Keep reading to get the full breakdown.
Inspired by a unique combination of Chinese mythology and the vintage Bauhaus aesthetic, the fully funded VARIO Eclipse Watch from Kickstarter has free worldwide shipping!
Some microbrand watch companies purchase standard pieces and spare materials, put minimal effort into customization, and resell the end product to customers who aren’t too fussy about what they put on their wrists. Generic products are a staple in most industries, and for every name brand watch, there are thousands of lesser-known alternatives. But for every one hundred of those alternatives, there is an indie team designing gorgeous, one-of-a-kind timepieces that collectors will treasure for years to come. These are the companies driving the microbrand revolution. Plus, if you decide to make one of their products a family heirloom, it’s much more likely to be the only one of its kind that your friends and family will see during their lifetime.
If you’re looking for a regular run-of-the-mill watch, purchasing one from a microbrand company can help you save, especially if you see a similar design being sold elsewhere for more. However, you also run the risk of cut corners and cheaper components that might result in a watch that needs to be scrapped after just a few months. This is where research is helpful, especially if you have access to real, unpaid reviews online. Generally, watchmakers that have put serious thought into the construction and design of their end product will have unique, memorable branding and pieces you won’t find anywhere else. Crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter are great platforms to discover up-and-coming brands and their stories. Our VARIO Eclipse Watch and Empire Watch were fully funded on Kickstarter.
The Empire Art Deco Inspired Handwound Dress Watch features all custom made parts, a choice of handwound and automatic movement, sapphire crystal and a luxurious Italian leather watch strap.
How Affordable Is Too Affordable?
If a watch sold by a reputable brand costs around $1000, you probably won’t find a watch of the same quality being sold for $20 somewhere else. While microbrands usually have great prices, if it seems too good to be true, we suggest doing some additional research on other watches within that price range and with some of the same features. Good-quality components will always cost a little extra, and while microbrand watches can provide significant savings, they still need to account for materials and labor.
Regardless, most microbrands do manage to cut a significant amount of overhead cost by selling exclusively online, shipping directly to the client, and avoiding the expenses of much larger companies who have to account for the additional services of middlemen. In these instances, you can end up with luxury-grade watches at a steal, especially if you manage to snag your favorite pieces on sale!
Get A Feel For Your Favorite Styles
If you’re just getting into watch collecting and want to build a catalogue that fits your taste, choosing from microbrands is a great middle-ground between dishing out thousands of dollars on a piece you might later regret buying or settling for generic pieces that fail to stand out. Furthermore, with the flexible prototyping and manufacturing that small-scale production offers, innovation-driven microbrands are better able to roll out new styles and refine existing features based on feedback, and you might be able to find several unique options from a single online store.
It doesn’t stop at watches either. You’ll find that quite a few microbrands have branched out into watch straps, bracelets, and watch accessories. In addition to its flagship Eclipse and the rest of its watch collection, VARIO also carries travel watch cases and a wide selection of watch straps available in Harris Tweed, Italian leather, Cordura straps and more.
Our Single Pass Cordura watch straps are made from 1000D Cordura® heavy duty nylon that offers the comfort you deserve and completes the tough look your timepiece desires.
When Quality Control Is Good, It’s Really Good
Watch lovers who prefer handmade pieces tend to be big fans of microbrands, as individual watches receive greater quality control due to the slower production speed. Your watches are also truly unique, as many of these brands will fashion each piece by hand rather than on an assembly line. Because microbrands create a smaller number of watches each year, there is also greater incentive to ensure each piece functions perfectly, as it accounts for a bigger percentage of revenue.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Give the brand a phone call or send them a message via email or through their website. A hands-on customer service approach is a great way to gauge whether the company is invested in your experience with their products, though due to their small size you might want to give them some leeway with their response time. It may just be one person handling all inquiries. You can also check the experiences and reviews posted by other customers online.
Our genuine handmade Harris Tweed straps bring heritage and style together to meet your needs.
The handwoven tweed is backed by soft leather providing comfort that you expect from an exceptional strap.
Supports Small Businesses
A huge percentage of the markup on some expensive watches comes from nothing more than their brand name. The designers and manufacturers haven’t added anything particularly unique to their creations, and the quality of their pieces is the same as much lower-priced microbrands, yet they continue to raise their prices simply because it is something they can get away with. However, with recent innovation, the watch industry and many others are seeing smaller brands give larger competitors a run for their money.
Many of the microbrand companies trending right now were started by watch-lovers. Earlier we mentioned that crowdfunding is a great way to find up-and-coming watchmakers, and a quick browse through popular, fully-funded watch campaigns will show that they tend to have been created by persons with a genuine passion for timepieces and design who wanted to share something new and unique with the world. By purchasing microbrand watches and helping to grow these companies, you’re ensuring that the industry will continue to be influenced by a diverse set of creators, and that there will be even more options to choose from in the near future.
Remember, all the biggest watch companies started as a microbrand. The key to their success is customers like you.
We hope you found this article helpful. Have questions or comments? Send an email to email@example.com.
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