Low Overhead, Low Prices, Powerful Watches
13 Boutique Watch Brands to Know
Watch shopping at a brick-and-mortar retailer or a boutique really only scratches the surface of the watch world. There are literally hundreds of online retailers, or internet boutiques, just as worthy of the praise received by brands like Rolex, Omega, Breitling, and the like. These are small-scale production brands that exclusively sell their own watches online, without a physical store, from less than $500 to well above $10,000.
If they’re so great, why haven’t you heard of them? Well, internet boutiques spend hardly any money on marketing. Selling directly to consumers means the overhead normally used for marketing, retail locations, and sales staff doesn’t need to be paid for with high prices.
But the vastness of the internet paired with this lack of advertisements makes it hard to find these online watchmakers. Below, we’ve broken down some of our favorite internet boutique brands, along with their best offerings, so that you can start your web-based hunting right.
What started as a way to sell custom parts to Seiko owners looking to mod their wristwear has since grown into a venerable brand of tool watches known for their bombproof builds and attention to detail. Based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, MKII draws from its nearby rich heritage of American watchmaking. The Paradive is the timepiece that has garnered MKII most of its fame. Based on a design found upon the wrists of US Special Forces agents, it embodies Yao’s original intent with MKII: to produce second iterations of classic timepieces, using modern materials and movements.
While a name change isn’t usually the best way to maintain brand equity, it doesn’t seem to have hurt operations for the key collaborators at Stevral (which was once Benarus), Steve Laughlin and Ralph Schreiner. Stevral timepieces remain a forum favorite thanks to consistent build quality, classic designs with a twisst, and small, 100-batch runs. The Moray 42mm ($720) is a perfectly sized, 1,000-meter-rated deep-sea dweller that keeps up with dive watches five times its price. We’re also big fans of the beefy, 47mm Megalodon in Bronze ($950).
Bradley Price’s Autodromo an industry darling. Thanks to Mr. Price’s addiction to all things racing, each release from Autodromo has roots that stem from a period of the sport’s various glory days. His latest creation, the Group B Evoluzione, is a CNC milled masterpiece of case and dial design. If something more classic and refined is your style, the Stradale is an excellent choice.
Like Autodromo, Belmoto’s watches take inspiration from vintage cars and motorcycles; unlike Autodromo, Belmoto makes dive watches. The man behind Belmoto, Dion McAsey, also runs Magrette timepieces, a New Zealand-based boutique dive-watch brand with some serious chops of its own.
Currently there are two releases available from Belmoto: a Mecha-Quartz-powered chronograph dubbed the Track-Day, and a self-winding Miyota 9015 powered road-tripper called the Tourer — both of which boast a 200-meter depth rating.
Founded by Jason Lim in 2009, Halios focuses on dive watches that truly max out the bang-for-buck ratio. Typically falling in the $600-$700 range, the Vancouver-based company sets itself apart from common homage divers with unique design elements. This has paid off; since its first release, Halios has consistently sold out production run after production run.
The Tropik SS ($650), possibly Lim’s most impressive release yet, is the perfect dressed-up diver that still maintains functionality, and it’s available in black or blue colorways. Powered by the increasingly popular Miyota 9015, it’s one of the best values under $1,000. Currently, only a white-dialed version is available but the Tropik B, a bronze cased variant is now back in stock.
Amidst a mass of young watch companies utilizing the internet for direct sales is relatively ancient watchmaker, DOXA. Dating back to 1889, DOXA’s early connections link them to racing, but it’s diving that has brought DOXA to where they are today.
DOXA’s line has stretched well beyond the 300T, their first diver and, according to them, the world’s first dive watch (although that’s more of a technicality). But the recognizable aesthetics remain intact. The 800Ti ($2,790) may be the ultimate DOXA in the current lineup, as it pulls from the most popular elements from their other watches. At $2,790, it’s firmly in the mid-tier of pricing — but you’d have a hard time finding a more capable diver at a lower price point.
Our picks continue on the next page