The Wide World of Watches

There are two simple words that have, since 1971, been a symbol of quality and performance. Two words that appear on some of the world's most well-known watches: Swiss Made. The term is an important legal trade protection, but it's perhaps even more important as a marketing tool. For many people, the words' Swiss Watch' are simply a shorthand for quality.

Of course, while Switzerland is the most important global producer of luxury watches, the landlocked nation doesn't have a monopoly on ingenious and talented watchmaking. Come with us as we take a quick trip around the wide world of (non-Swiss) watches.

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Screenshot 2024-03-05 123631.png

Grand Seiko: One of Japan's finest — the Grand Seiko SBGA497

Grand Seiko: One of Japan's finest — the Grand Seiko SBGA497

Grand Seiko

Perhaps the best example of a watch brand outshining the Swiss at their own game is Grand Seiko. The history of Japan's premier watchmaker is deeply entwined with that of Seiko, the name first appeared on a watch dial in 1960, and for much of its more recent history, the brand was decidedly under the radar, only widely available (and recognised) in its native Japan. In fact, it's only been since 2017 that the brand has been entirely separate on a global scale. But in the few short years since then, Grand Seiko hasn't been shy in making its presence felt, rapidly becoming incredibly popular, especially in important markets like the United States.

The appeal of Grand Seiko is immediately apparent as soon as you handle one IRL. Their dials, which combine delicate colour and texture, are rightfully famous, as are their robust and smartly designed movements. The separate elements are all great, but as a cohesive whole, they're truly excellent.

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03 Atelier Watch6454.jpg

Atelier Wen: Two takes on the Atelier Wen Perception

Atelier Wen: Two takes on the Atelier Wen Perception

Atelier Wen

For a long time, Chinese watchmaking has been a shorthand for lower grade, industrial, and lacking in craft. Of course, at the same time, many Swiss brands rely on Chinese manufacturing for essential components, a hint that perhaps it's less a matter of quality, rather one of perception. There's an up-and-coming generation of brands that are working hard to challenge those perceptions, highlighting China's rich history of artisanal crafts, including watchmaking.

Atelier Wen is one of the brightest of these emerging stars. Launched in 2018, the brand combines Chinese craft, culture and technical expertise into models like the popular integrated Perception, which features hand-turned dials personally manufactured by the only Guilloché master in China and Asia, Master Cheng.


J.N. Shapiro: Exceptional engine turning on the J.N. Shapiro Resurgence.

J.N. Shapiro: Exceptional engine turning on the J.N. Shapiro Resurgence.

J.N. Shapiro

Continuing the theme of guilloché, the next stop on our global tour of watchmaking takes us to an unlikely destination — Los Angeles. Joshua Shapiro launched his first watch in 2018, and quickly gained critical acclaim for the complex and technically exceptional engine turning that dominates not just the dials, but also the movements and cases of Shapiro's creations. While Shapiro's early watches used third-party movements, his latest model, the Resurgence, boasts a movement made and finished in California (excluding jewels and springs).

America has a long history of industrial watchmaking, and that history has clearly inspired J.N. Shapiro, but watches like the Resurgence, with its impressive home-grown calibre, represent a new high watermark for American watchmaking.


Glasgow, in the west of Scotland, is another unlikely home for watchmaking. Yet it's this historic trade town that anOrdain calls home. Founded in 2015, anOrdain's watches are, at their heart, about the beautiful enamel dials painstakingly made in-house by anOrdain's growing team. These captivating dials manage to blend traditional crafts with a sophisticated design aesthetic and rapidly became a global hit, with popularity outstripping production and leading to very contemporary issues of allocation and waiting lists.

Rather than rest on its laurels, anOrdain has been busy consolidating, with its six locations centralising into a new factory, hoping to open its doors this year.


The final stop in our exploration of the watches of the world is Finland, the home of Stepan Sarpaneva. Sarpaneva spent his early career in Switzerland, honing his skills with some of the finest watchmakers of our age (including fellow Finn Kari Voutilainen), before returning home to set up his own shop. Sarpaneva's striking visual style, which blends an industrial aesthetic, ample luminous material, and one of the most distinctive moons in the business, ensured that the Sarpaneva's watchmaking would always stand out with contemporary Scandinavian flair.


No one is denying that Switzerland is the spiritual home of fine watchmaking, but never forget that talented watchmaking in the 21st century is a truly global affair.


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