Most underrated watch maker?

Rolex gets all the attention. They have been a dominant watch brand for decades and occupied mindshare for both watch enthusiasts as well as the casual observer. And some casual observers might also know about haute horology brands like Patek or even AP. But for most people, they probably only know about brands that get mentioned in pop culture or songs, like (shudder) Hublot. 

So - what are some of the most underrated or under the radar watch makers, in your opinion?

For me, it’s Cartier and Grand Seiko. Grand Seiko is an easy one to pick on, because the casual observer gets thrown off by the inclusion of Seiko in the name. They perceive it as an affordable (and therefore, or poor quality) brand. But of course, that couldn’t be more wrong. And Cartier - because most people associate it with fashion jewelry, their historical contributions to watch making often get overlooked and most people don’t recognize their chops in the watch game.

So…who do you consider to be some of the most underrated or under the radar watch makers? 

Pictured here is my Cartier Santos in Large size. 

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Rolex has the variety the others don't. Cartier has the tank and Santos worth mentioning and GS has only a couple popular models. Casio outsells them all with crazy variety and not a lot of fanfare

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That Tom Brady is pretty underrated too.

There is no understanding of the word "underrated" that would include Cartier or Grand Seiko. What company displaced Omega as the second most popular Swiss brand last year:

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That little underdog Cartier.

What brand has captured the most market share worldwide since 2012? Why it's that horological food truck that is Grand Seiko.

And its not just sales, but also reputation and buzz. Those two brands have been the most written about and discussed non-Rolex brands for the past few years.

There are lots of underrated brands, just not these two.

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Cartier is cashing in on a lot of recent and well-deserved attention. I don’t think they are underrated any more. Grand Seiko seems to be the darling of the watch enthusiast world these days, for good reason, and positioning themselves into a higher price bracket, so in those ways they are no longer underrated. It’s also hard to say which brand is underrated because as @Aurelian notes, where matters a lot:

Location is a factor that most of us don’t consider. We think that in our interconnected world with internet commerce that we are exposed to just about every brand out there.  However, watch brands have targeted certain markets for historical reasons. At various times the center of the watchmaking world has been in England, Switzerland, the United States, Japan, and arguably China.  Not all of the brands produced in these countries had a worldwide reach. Waltham was never marketed in Germany. Mortima had no footprint in Latin America. For every global brand like Rolex and Omega there were scores of brands with limited markets like Atlantic, Cyma and West End.

But if I, here in the US, am pressed for an answer, I’d probably say Nomos.

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roberto

Cartier is cashing in on a lot of recent and well-deserved attention. I don’t think they are underrated any more. Grand Seiko seems to be the darling of the watch enthusiast world these days, for good reason, and positioning themselves into a higher price bracket, so in those ways they are no longer underrated. It’s also hard to say which brand is underrated because as @Aurelian notes, where matters a lot:

Location is a factor that most of us don’t consider. We think that in our interconnected world with internet commerce that we are exposed to just about every brand out there.  However, watch brands have targeted certain markets for historical reasons. At various times the center of the watchmaking world has been in England, Switzerland, the United States, Japan, and arguably China.  Not all of the brands produced in these countries had a worldwide reach. Waltham was never marketed in Germany. Mortima had no footprint in Latin America. For every global brand like Rolex and Omega there were scores of brands with limited markets like Atlantic, Cyma and West End.

But if I, here in the US, am pressed for an answer, I’d probably say Nomos.

To your point (or maybe mine), Mido is underrated in the U.S., but not in Mexico (its biggest market).  I think that most of Swatch's middle tier is both over and underrated depending on your market.

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I think what you say about Cartier might be more accurate for Chopard. Cartier is plenty talked about. Their LUC collection can be had for much under retail on the secondary market (=under-rated?). They make stuff from mid tier luxury watches all the way to some super high end Geneva Seal finished minute repeaters.

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Aurelian

To your point (or maybe mine), Mido is underrated in the U.S., but not in Mexico (its biggest market).  I think that most of Swatch's middle tier is both over and underrated depending on your market.

It often feels like you can’t view a telenovela mexicana without seeing watches from Mido on half the wrists.

At what point do we start treating these conglomerate brands like one brand? It feels like their masters coordinate them in such a way (especially determining which segments of which markets they can target) that they operate like one big brand.

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I dunno but it's not Cartier or Grand Seiko, both of  which are beginning to suffer from waitlist-itis and above retail price stupidity in many models.

It's probably something like Piaget or Breguet.  Exceptional quality, truly amazing movements in many cases and you never really have an issue getting it new at a massive discount to MSRP.

But according to most watch nerds.....Breguet is probably a century out of date stylistically and Piaget just makes nautilus clones....or some such.

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Edge168n

I dunno but it's not Cartier or Grand Seiko, both of  which are beginning to suffer from waitlist-itis and above retail price stupidity in many models.

It's probably something like Piaget or Breguet.  Exceptional quality, truly amazing movements in many cases and you never really have an issue getting it new at a massive discount to MSRP.

But according to most watch nerds.....Breguet is probably a century out of date stylistically and Piaget just makes nautilus clones....or some such.

I almost mentioned Breguet and Blancpain. Piaget is like Richemont's other jewelry brand. How about Zodiac being underrated?  Some folks write them off because they are owned by Fossil.

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MegaBob

I think what you say about Cartier might be more accurate for Chopard. Cartier is plenty talked about. Their LUC collection can be had for much under retail on the secondary market (=under-rated?). They make stuff from mid tier luxury watches all the way to some super high end Geneva Seal finished minute repeaters.

Chopard is a excellent one.  I occasionally forget that they create some lovely watches.  The LUC GMT one in black is pretty cool.

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roberto

It often feels like you can’t view a telenovela mexicana without seeing watches from Mido on half the wrists.

At what point do we start treating these conglomerate brands like one brand? It feels like their masters coordinate them in such a way (especially determining which segments of which markets they can target) that they operate like one big brand.

We may be nearing that point.  Remember when GM realized that there was no need to brand anything as a Pontiac? Well, if you can't get Breguet to sell, might as well make it a Longines.

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Aurelian

I almost mentioned Breguet and Blancpain. Piaget is like Richemont's other jewelry brand. How about Zodiac being underrated?  Some folks write them off because they are owned by Fossil.

Try other, other, other jewelry brand.

Cartier, then Van Cleef, Buccellati and finally.... Piaget.

Which is a shame because of their awesome history as a super thin movement maker.

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I always say this applies to Chopard as well.

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Edge168n

Try other, other, other jewelry brand.

Cartier, then Van Cleef, Buccellati and finally.... Piaget.

Which is a shame because of their awesome history as a super thin movement maker.

Reminds me… why do they call their watch the Altiplano? Because I don’t see a connection to the Altiplano. Closest it gets is Lula’s wrist (below). Plano it is, though.

Como é o relógio de Lula que custa 84 mil reais | VEJA
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I Citizen and Timex are underrated in the watch community, but not outside it. In the watch community people fall over themselves to heap praise on Casio, and Seiko, forgetting that they have competition. 

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To echo @Aurelian neither Cartier nor Grand Seiko have been “underrated” for a few years now and rightly so. Both have done very well. One does not have to scroll down very far on WC to see that both brands have won a significant share of the hearts & minds of WatchCrunchers. 

A more provocative thing would be to say on WC that Rolex is underrated. There. I said it.