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Introduction

Its 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.

One-stop-shops

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

Designers

Casemakers

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.

Quartz and analog-digital

I have to be vague, but I can vouch for these two personally.

Everything else/outsourcing

Modification / customization companies

For if you want modifications to a watch you already have, one-off. New hands, lume, bezel, Cerakote, etc.

Hands

Dials & redials

Case refinishing and replating

If you have a a plated or coated case, I've read excellent reviews of the work at replateit.com from Christian at the watch guy repair blog.

For DIY finishing, K&H links to Merard, looks pretty good.

Lume

There are two choices here, tritium tubes or Superluminova. Tritium is expensive and a major hassle, as a warning, so you almost certainly want superluminova.

  • 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.

Movements

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.

Materials suppliers

(Many of these links are cribbed from Montres) Parts, movements, tools, gaskets, etc, etc.

NAWCC also has a huge list of suppliers

Design Software


(Image credit: RGM via Alibre)

Crystals

  • 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.

Anti-reflective coatings

  • 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.

Bracelets

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.

HKTDC

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.

Commentary

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.

19 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for putting this together, this site is amazing. Ive spent a long time looking for some sort of guide to finding the ins and outs of watch manufacturing and sourcing. I spend some time searching through the forums on watchuseek and so many people shoot down anyone posting about starting a watch company. Some people are cool and helpful but i feel like most don't have clear cut idea or can offer places and systems for getting watches made. So this is site is great. By the way my name is steve i run a micro watch company that does watches and accessories for young people that are into street wear. My business is reaching a point were we want to make higher quality watches than whats currently in our line so ive been doing research on manufacturing and outsourcing to get some new pieces made for a fall collection. Check out the site if you want to know a little bit more about us www.ragrok.com but i would love to see more post on making your own watches or finding manufacturers that can create watches with low  MOQs.

    Great Post Paul, Look forward to reading more.

    Thanks 
    Steve A

  2. Anonymous

    great resource. thanks

  3. Anonymous

    Thank You for the great information...I am experiencing the same issues trying to start my own line...from knock offs in China...to MOQ...If I find anything I will contribute...

  4. Anonymous

    I'm having a hell of a time finding cases to fit Miyota movements, namely 8205, 8215, 8N24, etc.  Do you have any information on this at all?  I'm at a total loss.  I've looked everywhere.

    1. Not offhand, sorry. Have you asked the casemakers on the list? (Longio, etc)

  5. Anonymous

    I'm going through lists such as this one (and others I've found) ploddingly contacting them for information.  I'll keep doing it.  Thanks for responding to my question above.

    Cheers!

    Keith Wiley

    http://keithwiley.com

  6. Anonymous

     

    My husband is interested in making his own watch so i thought i'd try and get a watch making starter kit and book - could you recommend anything?  This site looks really helpful for when he gets into it all bit a more seriously.  thanks.

    1. Anonymous

      I'd start with level one of the timezone watch school. That'll let him try out assembly and understand movements better. Cost is $99 plus materials, about 2-300. http://www.timezonewatchschool.com/WatchSchool/

  7. Anonymous

    Dude this is awesome.  AWESOME!  Thank you so much for putting this together.  I can't tell you how valuable this information is to me.  Really great!

  8. Anonymous


    Has anyone else tried making their own watch line? I've currently designed 2 watches (through a contact in China) and they turned out great. Problem is, the watch is similar to another line but the whole face and markings have been changed. I'm looking into legal stuff right now about what I can/can't do but just checking if anyone else has tried to make their own line!

     

    Nick

    1. That's a risk with the Chinese companies right now. OWC had all sorts of trouble with this; he'd improve his case design and Furitime would have his changes in their next publicly available revision. 

      No idea on legal recourse, no one I know of has even tried. Seems to be a cost of doing business.

      Best of luck, and do post here.

  9. Anonymous

    Very Helpful Info You put up, Thanks, I wanted to ask how would you create a mini metalic logo for the display?

     

  10. Anonymous

    Hello,

    I'm a graphic designer and am looking for a company that can reproduce my artwork onto a high quality brand watch.

    Can you suggest any?

    Thanks,

    Bob

    1. Try 121time, they have a program in place for that.

  11. Anonymous

    Dear Bob,

    sent me a mail with what you want in perticular. Are you looking for a company that will produce the watch. Or just make your designs work in a case, fitting movement etc?

    wvdkloet @hotmail.com

  12. Anonymous

    I am currently working on a watch inspired by aviation instrument panels. I have done avionics my whole adult life so this is the choice of direction. I am working with Furitime. So far so good waiting for delivery of the prototypes now. Min order is 300 watches

  13. Anonymous

    Hello

    If you are looking for a manufacturer or supplier of own branded swiss made quality watches please send your enquiries to me

    We can offer high end one offs to larger quantities, we are working on some revolutionary designs and materials choices.

     send your enquiries through to me on pbcustomwatches@gmailcom

     

  14. Anonymous

    Have been in contact several times with Palladim but they claim they do not have time for new projects.

    In general Swiss manufacturers make all parts in Asia and only final assembly in CH + double the price.