In the luxury watch space, a brand’s long history is often touted as an advantage as it signals experience, longevity, and continued relevance. Some of the most recognized fine timepiece houses are well over a century old and some are even more than two. Yet, as old as watchmaking is, there’s always room for new companies with fresh ideas. Take for example these four brands that, despite their young age, are carving out their own spaces as the face of modern haute horology.
Established in 1997, the co-founders behind URWERK are master watchmaker Felix Baumgartner and chief designer Martin Frei. The name URWERK is a combination of the Mesopotamian city of Ur—the birthplace of the sundial, the first device to measure time—and “werk,” the German word for work or create. From the outset, Baumgartner and Frei wanted to bring originality to the fine watch landscape by presenting innovative time displays on their creations. However, it was the 2003 launch of the futuristic-looking UR-103.01 that put the brand on map. Since then, the company has continued to surprise, delight, and shock onlookers with contemporary interpretations of what a mechanical watch can be, while amassing a tribe of URWERK enthusiasts and collectors.
After two decades of working in the watch industry, Richard Mille founded his eponymous brand in 1999 with the goal of creating “racing machines for the wrist.” Taking design, mechanical, and material cues from the aviation and automobile industries, Richard Mille the brand launched its first model in 2001, called RM 001 Tourbillon. Sporting the now-signature modern tonneau shape, the RM 001 Tourbillon set the tone for what the contemporary watchmaking company would offer the world—ultra-modern, ultra-shock-resistant, ultra-technical, and ultra-lightweight wristwatches with price tags that only few could afford. With a massive roster of brand ambassadors that wear Richard Mille watches out in the real world (whether playing tennis, driving Formula 1 cars, or swinging golf clubs), these high-end yet robust timepieces are constantly pushed to their limits.
Both exceptionally talented watchmakers, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey first met in the 1990s when they worked for Renaud et Papi, a company specialized in ultra-complex watch movements. In 2001, Greubel and Forsey co-founded CompliTime to develop innovative complications for top watch brands. Finally, in 2004, they established Greubel Forsey and the now-iconic Double Tourbillon 30° Contemporain Vision was the company’s first offering. By manufacturing less than 100 pieces a year, Greubel Forsey focuses on inventing groundbreaking watch mechanisms and producing radically creative and complicated watches. The co-founders’ vision has paid off as the boutique manufacture has picked up a slew of industry awards and plenty of fans in its short history.
Following a successful career turning around companies like Jaeger-LeCoultre and the watchmaking arm of Harry Winston, Maximilian Büsser founded his watch brand MB&F in 2005. An abbreviation for “Maximilian Büsser & Friends,” MB&F puts collaboration with independent watchmakers at the forefront—a tactic Büsser successfully executed when creating the Opus series at Harry Winston. Today, MB&F is known for their wildly unconventional timepieces, aka “Horological Machines,” that seamlessly blend childhood nostalgia with futuristic tendencies. With names like Aquapod, Space Pirate, and The Fifth Element, each limited-edition release from MB&F enforces the company’s ethos to create mechanical art.