Micro Brand Ideals

What makes for a perfect microbrand?  I know there are not clear distinctions between microbrands, independents, ect., but if you like that world what do you value most?  Seems like a balance between value proposition (materials, finishing, movement relative to price), distinctive designs, and maybe enough history for it to at least be likely to hang around for a while.  What else?  I've dived into Formex and Farer and love them, then I picked up a Tribus on a big discount and love it less.  Any thoughts?

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For me, a micro brand has to have build quality near to, or matching entry Swiss watches(Hamilton, Tissot, etc.), a design that isn't too "out there", and it needs to not have a NH3X movement... 

I dislike needlessly thick watches, and I dislike watch designs that will age poorly over a few years. 

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Exploiting their strengths and minimising their weaknesses relative to legacy brands.  Being agile, innovating aesthetically, quickly bringing styles to the market that the legacies can't due to heritage, branding or other constraints.  i.e. not just endlessly churning out catalogue-cased dive watches.

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The dirty secret is most of the micro brands tend to use the same couple of companies to execute and general contract the manufacturing. For example; If I have a little money and want to make a series of watches, I contact a company like WALCA. I work with them on a design idea and price point. Based on the price point, they work with suppliers for case, movement, dial, hands, custom rotor, etc. The more budget the higher quality of parts. They can also take care of the manufacturing, etc. SO MANY microbrands are basically this, I could throw out specifics, but that would not be fair, but safe to say it is the majority of the ones under $2000. 
 

Again, there is nothing wrong with these watches, I have some, but to me (personally) there is also nothing special about most of these once you realize that is the process. Note, not picking on any of these manufacturers, because they do the same for some high end watches; again the more they spend, in theory, the better the product.

What separates the good ones is the personal craftsmanship. IE, the effort put into hand making an AnOrdain dial. The hand-built work of a Dornbluth or Habring. The designs of the like of Lundis Bleus or Sartory-Billard. I do not even mind when they use ETA or higher-end Miyota movements, but it is the personal touch that drives it. 

I've draw a personal line in the sand with the NH movements. There is a lot of good value watches with that movement. However, more times than not, that is a sign of what I detailed above, and they chose that movement to stick to a certain price point, which is absolutely fine if you are shopping in that range.

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I think a microbrand/independent really needs to bring something fresh to the table. Whether it's design language, use of color, materials, or community engagement, something needs to separate them from the many other competitors. It's not enough to make a good watch- there are dozens of really well made but uninspired brands out there. I don't want to read about "your passion for watches" and then see generic, vanilla designs. 

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What I look for in a microbrand is personality, attention to details and flair. Micro brands like Kurono change dial colors and keep pretty much same design elements. AnOrdain again different dial colors but same watch design elements. They are in many ways a one trick pony and good at it. They have a limited run every year, and you feel the exclusivity in owning one. If you want a lot of designs to choose from you need. to look at bigger brands. 

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Thanks everyone - seems like authenticity is a priority.  A well-made, high value watch is relatively easy these days for a microbrand to produce, but it needs a unique purpose through its design and philosophy.  It goes to the artisan/craftsman side of watchmaking - put passion and thought into creating something unique...  It is like wine in these respects I think...  And, like wine, the trouble is that microbrands that succeed in this become really difficult to get a hold of - and when you do you are certainly paying for it relative to the other microbrands.  Of course, that is a very enjoyable pursuit :)