Micro brands have slowly, yet steadily eating up market share in the affordable watch market. They have become a respected alternative to the established brands, but there are a few things that are good to realize before you actually buy a watch from a micro brand.
Scams are rare and can be avoided
Most micro brands either sell through their own website or through a crowd funding page like of Indiegogo. In either case, you probably end up buying a watch you have never seen before in real life, and you part with the money before it is even being delivered. Although scams happen, they are quite rare, and you can build in a bit safety by doing your due diligence. First of all, most micro brand owners are known by their name, so you can look them up on social media. Many of them are quite active and easy to find. When they sell through their own website, it shouldn’t be too hard to find people on social media who bought the watch before you and ask them about it. On crowdfunding websites, things are a bit more tricky, but also here you can see if the brand/owner has a track record. Also, when you only see computer generated images you should be a bit more cautious because often micro brand owners have prototypes made before they start their crowd funding campaign. This is an indication that they are most likely fully committed to the project, and offer a higher chance that problems in production are being dealt with before final production.
A micro brand is indeed….micro!
Most micro brands are indeed what the words says…..micro. They usually consist of a small team of people, down to two people or even a single person by itself. These are often passionate people, who dream of creating a watch and actually went through the steps to make it a reality. The vast majority of them still has a day-job, because starting a watch brand doesn’t rank very high on the get-rich-fast-scheme-list. Most of them are more than willing to talk to you, but sometimes it can take them a while to respond. That is because they are marketing/PR/R&D/production-department all in one. Most of the time they have a few things that they are really good at. Keep that in mind when their website is not 100%
Quality is hardly ever an issue
Especially in the last few years, the quality of watches by affordable microbrands has seen a steep increase. In fact, many of them now offer the same or even better build quality than Swiss watches in the same price range. There are a few reasons for that, with first and foremost that the Asian manufacturers, who can deliver quality parts on a budget, have become far more accessible. Sometimes microbrands use the same Asian suppliers as some well known Swiss brands, and when their sales are dwindling, these manufacturers have no problem accepting orders from microbrands to keep production up.
They might not be around forever
Of course, this goes for any brand, but since micro brands are often one-man operations, they have a tendency of going down far more easily than larger brands. The reasons for this are very diverse: sometimes the upfront investment, needed to fund the development of a new model, is a problem. In other cases they cannot invest the time anymore to develop their brand further, caught up in their day job or family affairs. In a few cases, there is also disillusion. Some think that creating and selling watches will make you rich fast (the opposite happens far more often) or consider it less fun then they initially thought. But is it a bad thing when the brand you bought a watch from
But is it a bad thing when the brand you bought a watch from disappears? Not really. You don’t buy affordable micro brands as an investment, but to enjoy them! People won’t recognize a micro brand the way they recognize a Rolex. They might be taken by the unusual design that many micro brand watches feature, but even when the brand itself is not around anymore you can still enjoy it. The fact is that no more will be made then, making your watch extra special.
Servicing puts a smile on your face
The vast majority of the micro brands opt for movements from Miyota, Seiko, Ronda or the occasional ETA. Movements that can be serviced by any competent watchmaker in a jiffy, for a price that probably doesn’t exceed the US$100,-.
That is of course when the micro brand didn’t put a Chinese made movement in it. Although many Chinese made movements are decent performers, there can be some quality issues and fix them outside of China is going to be a challenge. Most watchmakers outside of China are unable to get parts for these movements, making them a very tricky choice.
This point is also a bit tied up with the previous one. When a brand is not around any more cosmetic parts can become a problem. Many watchmakers are inventive enough to find a way around this, but sometimes they might not be able to fix or replace something. However, the chance of something like this happening are slim, and when it happens it is probably after years of having fun owning the piece.
Still ready for micro brand ownership? Check out our website, or dive into Watchisthis?! Magazine, where you can find in-depth articles on a wide variety of affordable (micro)brands. Read it for free here