June 16, 2022

The Rise of Independent Watchmakers in a Post-Pandemic Era

A true marvel in horological history

Independent watchmakers have always been lauded for their creativity, innovation, and passion for their craft. For far too many years, they have been put on the backburner and not received the recognition that they so rightfully deserved. The pandemic has changed this all.

In a post-pandemic era, watches are more in demand than ever before. Several groups with renowned watchmakers are witnessing unprecedented demand. The pre-owned watch market, especially for limited editions, is blooming at unprecedented levels. But the rise of known brands pales in comparison to independents.

Independent artisans and horological houses are in fact, finding it very difficult to meet the demand for their watches. With rising demands, each limited edition collection is sold out before they even hit the shelves. Timepieces that aren’t limited are now on waiting lists.

Delivery times are extended due to prolonged production cycles and trying to find the right parts. Each independent watchmaker makes use of the most unique parts and elements, which makes it difficult to produce watches on time. Where custom watches delivery time was just 4 months pre-pandemic, it has now increased to two years or three years in some cases. This has led some independent watchmakers to put a halt on orders.

Of course, the decision to stop production is to maintain the quality that these brands are known for. It didn’t make sense for them to forgo quality production parts to go for a mass appeal factor. After all, their uniqueness is their primary distinguishing factor.

What has contributed to this level of demand?

During the peak of the pandemic, lockdowns were commonplace and people didn’t have much to do except stay at home. A favorite destination of most is the internet and scrolling through social media. Independent watchmakers saw the opportunity and started targetting collectors online with content that differentiates them from known brands. From TikToks to Instagram Reels and Stories, watchmakers have given an in-depth look into their production process and the journey behind every watch. This has sparked the interest of many.

Moreover, collectors were unable to visit stores themselves or meet up with their peers to take notes on the latest masterpieces, hence social media was the perfect outlet for them to make the most of their hobby. Watchmakers such as Voutilainen craft stories through watches with artisan Kari Voutilainen II etching some elements himself. This grabbed the attention of the audience.

When it comes to famous brands, the post-pandemic surge truly diluted the landscape. The market was ablaze with mismatched prices and random waitlists. Those who love watches, and whose cabinets are already filled with legendary pieces, wanted to get themselves out of the confusion and opt for a more refreshing touch. Independent watchmakers made this possible.

These brands are on the receiving end of admiration now which is a stark contrast to where they were several years ago. They aren’t being cast aside due to being much too original or eccentric. Instead, this has become their main selling point. Limited editions, quality control, and adopting the digitization of the market in time have catapulted them to a newer pedestal. Now, they reap the rewards and we couldn’t be happier for them!

Where are these pieces being bought?

While part of the sales is online, opening it up to a wider audience might increase the demand even further. As mentioned, limited editions get sold out before they are even brought to the market. Customers are turning to any form of inventory still available, at authorized dealers, brand boutiques, and watch salons.

This is due to the fact that such boutiques pick up these pieces when they come into the market and keep them in stock. It’s a wonderful way to help independent watchmakers scale.

To conclude, it is indeed an interesting time for independents. While once upon a time, they would not have caught the eye of the right audience, they have now carved a permanent niche in the hearts of watch enthusiasts. We do hope that they keep expanding, but also maintain the originality that helped them set themselves apart. Let’s all take note and watch their wonderful journey unfold!