IntroductionIts incredibly hard it is to find suppliers for amateur and small-volume watch designers, tinkerers and those considering making their own watch. I'm willing to provide advice, design reviews, watch reviews and similar, for either an hourly rate or in exchange for review watches. I'm in it for the watches, as you might have guessed!
Please feel free to email me with additions, comments or to ask about consulting.
Small run of customized watches
I've had a few emails asking for a source of 100-ish customized inexpensive watches.
- Moment Watches, which I found via "Dear Coffee, I love you". DCILY had a run made and they look decent. (Have not seen one in person).
- Butler Watche Co, found via this WUS post. Custom designs and engraving.
- 121 Time private label is quite good. ETA 2824 movement. Minimum order 50, with fewer for more expensive watches. This is their 'private label' site, which is targeted at low-run customized watches, mostly for companies, but it might be a good way to do an initial proof-of-concept, Kickstarter/fundraiser production. See Watch examples.pdf for details and samples, some quite elaborate. In addition to the basic movements, they also have the ETA 7753 and 2892 - good stuff.
One-off and low-volume custom designs
- 121 Time has a few different cases plus quartz of mechanical (ETA 2824 mostly) They contacted me on 1/28/16 with an updated URL and the promise of a review sample... yay! From the PDF they sent me, they have other mechanical movements based around the ETA 2892 and maybe the Dubois-Dupraz modules. I've now gotten mine (early 2016) and, review pending, its a very nice watch and a very fair price. Recommended.
- Undone Watches is similar to 121 Time, they have a case (appx 42mm by 52mm by 16mm) you can build a custom watch around. I'm not a cyclops fan, but reviews are strongly positive and they do have a wide variety of dials, colors and finishes. Lots of pics on their Instagram feed.
- Just found this April 2012, Fewsome is a really slick way to produce a single watch, with optional diver case and/or custom dial. Prices from $160 for a basic automatic, around $200 for a diver. Looks good. Basic Miyota 8205 movement.
These will work with you to do the entire thing. Design, sourcing, movements, etc. The most expensive option, of course.
Switzerland & Germany
- 121 Time does private label - As of 1/28/16, the CEO emailed me an updated link, for which I give him major plaudits. He is going to send me a coupon for me to design a custom watch, so expect blog posts and a review.
- http://www.montrichardwatch.com/ - reader tip 2/17, seems to be full OEM/ODM with ops in both China and Switzerland.
- Swiss Custom Watches - reader tip Sep 2015. MOQ 500, roughly 200CHF each.
- On Twitter, Jon Edwards recommends Rovent-Henex as "The discrete brains & brawn behind thousands of Swiss watches for many familiar brands." (sic) They claim to be the leading producer, and manufacture in both Switzerland and Hong Kong.
- Palladium AG Mid-to-high-end Swiss, I have some of their watches and rate them quite high. On my short list if I were to start a watch company.
- Cattin and Cie used to make Christopher Ward (including my Malvern) and are a great place to start. The early CW series were (and are) superb values, implying that Cattin is reasonably priced for good work.
- As of 2011 or so, Christopher Ward is now using Synergies Horologeres, as made the superb Christopher Ward C11 Automatic. A step up in quality.
- Ickler does OEM as well
- Via Horozima, Swiss Blanchefontaine looks interesting. MOQ 300, not bad.
Hong Kong and China
- Montrichard seems to be a full solution, complete with market research. Sent to me by a reader, I have no direct experience with them yet.
- Fullswing makes Helson and Armida - very very good stuff, and well priced. See my Helson Blackbeard and its review.
- Furitime does OEM/ODM, used to make OWC Watch Company. I've heard from a friend that I trust that Furitime's pictures include cases they didn't make: Specifically Halios and Korsbek. Those are not Furitime, and so at this I do not recommend Furitime.
- Giovino (The folks behind Praesto)
- MPI Limited Great website, looks very promising as a partner company.
- Million Smart Enterprises (See the CWIW entry)
Unknowns and read-abouts
- Via this thread, I found RafflesTime who has all sorts of parts - dials, movements, bracelets, spacers, etc, etc. Pages and pages of stuff.
- Helenarou has kits, movements, complete Rolex homages and offers to do custom work.
- Golay-Spierer make luxury bespoke watches. See also this.
- NAWCC list of custom makers
Casemaking is often quite difficult. Machine tooling and line production setup both cost big bucks, so if you're starting out expect to have to choose a case from a catalog or spend a heckuva lot of time getting one made to order.
- Longio (Also does complete watches)
- Fullswing (These two are from TLex) As noted above, they also do full OEM work.
- ochs and junior uses
- Fricker (Discussion about same here) Kobold and Dievas use Fricker.
- SUGGood reputation as well. Sinn cases are from SUG.
- Ickler Excellent reputation, see their house brands Archimede, Limes, Defakto and Autran & Viala.
- From Jason's post, 'Lang Louis' makes cases for Baume & Mercier. No website, but this page does have an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Might be worth a shot.
- WatchTime lists Oreade.
- http://www.helenarou.com/ seems to carry cases and homage parts
Quartz and analog-digital
I have to be vague, but I can vouch for these two personally.
- Founder's Workbench (via RWW) has free legal documents and lots of tutorials on hiring, regulations, IP law and other issues a founder must deal with.
- http://www.freelancer.com/ Logo, perhaps, backroom?
- http://www.shopify.com/ Killer solution for e-commerce web site.
- Using google adwords to start a business
- Ermano does assembly (see this post.)
Modification / customization companies
For if you want modifications to a watch you already have, one-off. New hands, lume, bezel, Cerakote, etc.
- Motor City Watch Works (with review of same). I've sent my MIH watch to him for case refinish and lume, which is the highest praise I can offer.
- Fiedler makes hands for Baume and Mercier
- WatchTime says that Universo is "the king of watch hands". High praise!
Dials & redials
- Undone also does custom dials.
- Posei is a Hong Kong dialmaker.
- Fehr SA does dials for Cartier, Bvlgari, Panerai, Carl F Bucherer and others (source).
- Montremo makes dials for Baume and Mercier (hat tip to Hodinkee). From the video, probably also for Breathing.
- I think Lum-Tec will do OEM dials as well, see http://www.wiegandwatches.net/services/
- Belaire Watch Company, 800-223-1654, recommended on Horology Matters mailing list for redial work.
- Kirk Rich Dial, recommended in this thread (redials)
- Stern Creations
- Cadran'or, website uncertain. This and Stern Creations are found via this EurporaStar article on dialmaking and this post.
- Jurgen's Germany looks quite promising for redials.
Case refinishing and replating
- RC Tritec sells lume, binder, does prototypes and is a good place to start. They also do tritium.
- LumTec is awesome; they sell premixed lume via eBay.
- For tritium tubes and watch subcontracting, try Bonding Ltd in Hong Kong. They rock.
- NoctiLumina has lume kits that look excellent. Mixing bowls, lume, pigments, binders too.
This area is changing rapidly, mostly due to ETA's decision to stop selling movements and ebauches. Start with this killer page from Prometheus Watches for a complete rundown of the alternatives. Just magnificent information, and huge props to Prometheus for honesty.
- ETA - increasingly difficult to buy
- Vaucher now does low-volume private label starting at 990CHF. Professional Watches has a nice writeup.
- Accurat K1 family is another movement startup that looks very promising.
- Soprod A-10 is an excellent choice - they actually sell in small volumes and will customize. Or at least they used to; as of May 2013 I'm told that the MOQ is now 1,000. Guess they got too popular.
- Liaoning now makes an ETA 2824 clone called the SL3000, new as of June 2013.
- Concepto (via PW) is a new company with 70 variations of the ETA 7750. Looks very promising.
- Sellita (ETA clones)
- Time Module HK, not sure if only Seiko movements or their own as well.
(Many of these links are cribbed from Montres) Parts, movements, tools, gaskets, etc, etc.
- Cousins (UK)
- Ernst Westphal (Hamburg, DE)
- Ferreel & CO (CA)
- Jules Borel (MO) (I've bought from him several times)
- Otto Frei (CA) (Ditto)
- Lancaster Horlogical (PA)
- Livesay's (FL)
NAWCC also has a huge list of suppliers
(Image credit: RGM via Alibre)
- TellWATCH appears to be the gold standard. Their sample videos are very impressive - 3D plus dynamic simulations, vis of strain, etc. Cost unknown, Windows-only, French-language.
- Hurni Engineering (found via this article) specializes in watch design software - probably Autocad-based.
- Alibre is what RGM uses, high praise:
- Google SketchUp seems to work as well:
(Image credit: Nick Slater)
Check out the thread for more pictures.
- BobCAD-CAM is also mentioned.
- Discussion thread
- I found http://www.crystaltimes.net via a WUS for-sale post, they carry sapphire for lots of Seiko SKX and similar. Also available with AR coatings and prices seem reasonable.
- From 5/2010 Watch Journal, R.Montavon is one of the high-end Swiss sapphire makers.
- According to a now-404 WatchTime article, Swiss company Stettler Sapphire AG produces the best dive watch crystals, for brands like IWC, Breitling and Panerai.
- GS Supplies makes custom crystals, in sapphire, mineral and acrylic.
- Stettler Sapphire is the highest of the high-end suppliers, complex shapes and machining.
- Econorm is probably the best out there. Their site vanished, as of 10/2014, leaving link here in case I find a new one.
- 2geeks will do single crystals for 50 Euros if you want to add AR to an existing watch.
- Winox Holdings (found via TimeZone, video here on YouTube) claims to have made a chunk of the 'Swiss' bracelets sold last year. Their video is impressive.
Presentation cases & shipping boxes
- natpak Found via Twitter, natpak looks decent for boxes and presentation material.
- Luxury-pak For European market
- Chippenhook does watch and jewelry packaging - looks good also.
For less-expensive watchmakers-to-be, the one conference to hit is HKTDC (ttp://hkwatchfair.hktdc.com/), every September in Hong Kong. Umpteen zillion square meters of exhibitors for parts, components, movements, complete watches, ODM/OEM, you name it and more. It took me 4 days just to /see/ all the booths!
HKDTC also has a good online directory for online shopping and previewing.
The HourTime podcast has a good episode with Jeff Kuo of Xetum watches, where he discusses design, sourcing and more. He's a little vague on specific companies, but overall an excellent tutorial and well worth a listen.