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03/14/2022
 6 minutes

The Top 5 Watch Brands That Fly Under the Radar

By Jorg Weppelink
Grand-Seiko-Under-the-radar-2-1
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Prices for luxury watches are constantly increasing, and models from industry titans like Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe are becoming almost impossible to purchase at normal prices. As a result, people are having to seek out watches from other names to fill the gap left by the big brands. However, it’s not just high-end manufacturers that have become more expensive and difficult to get. More affordable watch labels are also increasing their prices, meaning many popular models are no longer in the same price range. 

It can sometimes be tough to make the right choice if you are looking for a watch in this environment, but there are still some brands out there that fly under the radar when it comes to the general public. Some of them are relatively small and new, while others have been around for quite some time and have a great history to look back on. Let’s take a look at five watch brands that are currently underrated and deserve more attention beyond the world of dedicated watch connoisseurs. 

1. A. Lange & Söhne

The A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1: brilliant design meets high-end technology 
When we talk about the highest level of luxury watchmakers, most people will mention Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Vacheron Constantin is the third watch brand that completes the classic trilogy of Swiss watchmaking. However, when it comes to watchmaking brilliance, the German brand A. Lange & Söhne is definitely part of the same conversation. Watch aficionados liken the brand from Glashütte to Patek Philippe and name both as the best the world of watchmaking has to offer. To the broader public, however, A. Lange & Söhne tends to fly under the radar. That being said, I have to admit that more and more people are starting to realize the absolute brilliance of this watchmaker. 

A. Lange & Söhne was revived in the early 1990s and has since created some iconic timepieces that combine the absolute best in both design and watchmaking technology. Their most iconic model is the Lange 1, with its remarkable yet brilliant dial design based on the rule of thirds and featuring off-center elements. A second fantastic timepiece is the Datograph, the brand’s famous and much-praised chronograph, which features a characteristic outsize date window. Yet another testament to the manufacturer’s brilliance is the Zeitwerk, which boasts a digital time display despite being a mechanical watch. These are just three of the “made in Germany” models this brand has to offer, all of which represent the absolute best in the world of watchmaking. 

2. Grand Seiko

Grand Seiko: a favorite among watch enthusiasts
Grand Seiko: a favorite among watch enthusiasts

The second name on this list is Grand Seiko. This brand released its first watch in 1960, following Seiko’s decision to have two of their factories compete to develop the best wristwatches in the world. The first was Daini Seikosha, where King Seiko watches were produced. The second factory was the Suwa Seikosha factory, which made watches under the Grand Seiko name. However, both of these names disappeared when the quartz crisis hit. Grand Seiko returned in 1988 in a quest to show the brilliance that Japanese watchmaking was capable of. Seiko also recently revived the King Seiko name by introducing their first new model. 

Many die-hard watch fans were really excited to see the return of Grand Seiko. Over time, the name became synonymous with technologically sublime watches with design roots in the 1960s, all of which are created by the best Japanese watchmakers and finished to a level almost unmatched in the entire industry. This reputation has made Grand Seiko a favorite choice of watch enthusiasts looking for something other than a Rolex or Omega. While the Swiss competitors have the edge when it comes to fame and representing the luxury sector, Grand Seiko has a more technical image focused on creating the absolute best in watchmaking. That is why it has taken the company longer to land on the radar of a wider audience. In 2017, the manufacturer became a stand-alone brand to grow further as a separate entity. Grand Seiko has done so successfully and has slowly but surely become a recognized name known for creating outstanding timepieces. 

3. Bvlgari

The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo: Italian luxury meets Genta-inspired designs
The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo: Italian luxury meets Genta-inspired designs

Most of you will probably know Bvlgari as an Italian luxury jewelry brand. As a result, the brand is perhaps more associated with the world of luxury fashion than luxury watches. Still, when it comes to timepieces, Bvlgari definitely has a history of creating some amazing models. The first jewelry timepieces the brand produced date back to the 1920s. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the brand focused on wearable watches for everyday use. The Bvlgari Roma, Bvlgari Bvlgari, and Bvlgari Aluminum are three of the brand’s iconic older models. Then everything changed in 2010 when the legendary, cutting-edge skills of Gérald Genta and Daniel Roth were integrated into the Bvlgari name. 

Since 2014, Bvlgari has released a string of record-breaking Octo Finissimo models that have demonstrated the manufacturer’s incredible watchmaking skills. The first was the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, the world’s thinnest tourbillon. In 2016, the Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater became the world’s flattest minute repeater, and the Octo Finissimo Automatic followed in 2017. The latter was the thinnest automatic watch in the world and perfectly showcased that the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo line is part of a select group of watches that are worthy successors to Gérald Genta’s illustrious trio, the most successful of which are the Royal Oak and the Nautilus. In the years after, the brand continued to break more world records with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic, Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic, Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton Automatic, and Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar. This makes for a total of seven watchmaking world records, which more than demonstrates the exceptional watchmaking prowess achieved by Bvlgari. 

4. Sinn

Sinn: tool watches made in Germany
Sinn: tool watches made in Germany

The fourth name on our list is the German brand Sinn. This Frankfurt-based watchmaker was founded in 1961 by Helmut Sinn. Sinn has long had a reputation for creating outstanding technical timepieces for professionals. As such, the brand has become a favorite among watch enthusiasts who love a timepiece packed with amazing technology and boasting impressive  specs. Thanks to their functional brilliance, Sinn watches have even made it to space. This is obviously the ultimate proof that Sinn is a special watch brand. When Lothar Schmidt took over in 1994, he focused on creating even more technically impressive watches. 

Despite the emphasis on function, Sinn has created some very iconic timepieces over the years. For instance, they have a great-looking chronograph in their collection, the 103, which dates back to the 1960s. Helmut Sinn also secured the rights to produce a timepiece with a slide rule when Willy Breitling sold his grandfather’s company and its machinery back in 1979. It is, therefore, not surprising that one of the brand’s classics, the Sinn 903, looks like the Navitimer. Other watches became iconic thanks to both their design and functionality. The Sinn 140, the 156/256 “Bund” chronographs, the EZM-models, the 144 GMT, and the U-series are all testaments to Sinn’s brilliance. 

5. Tissot

Tissot: traditional watchmaking on a budget
Tissot: traditional watchmaking on a budget

Our final pick for watch brands that fly under the radar is Tissot. This brand date can trace its roots back to 1853 when the company that would later become Tissot was founded in Le Locle, Switzerland. Over the years, Tissot has made a name for itself as one of the leading Swiss watchmakers. In 1853, Tissot introduced its first mass-produced pocket watch; in 1904, they created a timepiece for Czar Nicholas II; and in 1930, they released the world’s first antimagnetic watch – an important step in timekeeping history. A watch with 24 time zones, the Tissot Navigator, followed in 1953, as did the world’s first plastic mechanical timepiece, the Tissot Astrolon, in 1971. In 1985, Tissot released the Rockwatch, a model made from alpine granite. 

As you can see, Tissot has plenty of history – and exceptional timepieces – to look back on. Currently, Tissot offers a great variety of watches in their lineup, showcasing both the incredible history of the brand with vintage-inspired timepieces and the will to keep innovating with their T-Touch collection. Last year, the brand released a home run with their new Tissot PRX. This slim sports watch with an integrated bracelet is the best affordable alternative for people wanting the look made famous by Gérald Genta and his Royal Oak and Nautilus. It is just one of many great wallet-friendly releases that we hope to see from Tissot. With a rich history and some incredibly iconic designs, the brand definitely deserves more attention.  


About the Author

Jorg Weppelink

Hi, I'm Jorg, and I've been writing articles for Chrono24 since 2016. However, my relationship with Chrono24 goes back a bit longer, as my love for watches began …

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