When it comes to brand recognition, watches are kind of like cars. Most folks can really rattle off only a few when asked – Rolex, Omega, Breitling, Timex, Swatch, Seiko. That, in our minds, is a kind of small tragedy. There are an incredible amount of watch makers out there that produce sharp, attractive looking timepieces that anyone would be proud to include as their everyday carry.
Whether they are assembled right here in the U.S. or are built in the shadows of giants in Switzerland, each has their own, unique offering. Be it the old stylings of cars and airplanes from the turn of the century, reflections of art-deco stylings of the 1920s and 1930s, or brash and in your face exposed complications – we are sure that you’ll be able to find something that speaks to you here in this list of watch brands that should be on your radar.
Armogan, like lots of its peers, draws much of its inspiration from a period when aviation and the automotive industry were just beginning to push the limits of engineering and human bravery. Watches were used as vital instruments for recording speed among many other things, and as a result, they mimicked the dials and dashboards of the vehicles in which they were used. Only two styles are offered from the company: their “Spirit of St. Louis” watch, and their Le Mans – both of which come in a bevy of face colorings.
A brand born in Hawaii and built for the year-round surfer. Their watches are inspired by and meant to thrive in daily surf sessions and rompings around town after the wind picks up and the swell has dropped out. One of the organizing principles for the founders was to offer a better watch for less. While that can sometimes be dangerous and result in a cheaper feel and build, Aulta has managed to offer nothing but quality and a sharp look with all of their offerings.
If you couldn’t already glean from the company name, Autodromo kind of has a thing for automotive culture. Started by a designer and a lifelong car enthusiast, the line of watches have gained the favor of even the pickier watch enthusiasts out there thanks to their sharp, 1970’s influenced look. Watches are a big part of what they offer (buyers can choose from five styles), but not the only thing. They also make and sell their own sunglasses and driving gloves.
Yet another standout automotive-inspired watch brand. These watches come in at a bit more of an accessible price point than others but also offer up something you wouldn’t usually see on a petrol-inspired watch – the ability to dive down to 200 meters.
Hands down one of the more eccentric picks on our list. Eone got started as a clever and sharp looking timepiece solution for the blind. The “hour hand” on this watch is actually a magnetic ball located around the outside of the watch, while the “minute hand” is a ball that rotates around the middle. The design has proven to be so popular that this small innovation has turned into a full-blown company that now offers a variety of different colorways and looks.
When you think dive watch, you think Rolex, Victorinox, Citizen. These fantastic watches more often than not come with a price-tag that matches their prowess. Halios, however, has managed to make more than one dive watch that both operates incredibly well and doesn’t break the bank. With three different models – all with unique designs – the brand stands out as a great pick for the guy looking to save a bit and still get all the utility he needs.
Jack Mason is a Texas-based brand that should most definitely be on your list of watches to consider when you find yourself in the market. Founded by a couple of friends who had spent the majority of their professional lives in the retail and wholesale industry, all of their timepieces boast a sharp look to them that are rivaled only by their reasonable prices.
Some watch companies have movements that are unique to them, while others have superior design. Lum-Tec has something a little different; a standout MDV technology that gives off an incredibly bright glow from the watch face. The brand uses a special photo-luminescent material that they layer 8 times for easy reading, even in total darkness.
Martenero, based out of New York City, looks to differentiate themselves from their peers and the larger players in the industry by offering up sharp, high contrast watch faces that make use of attractive colorings. And while these aren’t completely made in the U.S. (their Miyota movement is sourced from Japan) they are all assembled right here.
Oak and Oscar
Based in Chicago, this young brand takes special care of every single detail their watches feature. Up until this point they’ve only released 2 – but each took hundreds of hours to design and fabricate and features gorgeous leather straps sourced from Horween. Given this quality over quantity ethos, only 300 of their most recent watch was released. So with only a few left, we suggest you go for it before they’re all gone.
Seven Friday, in a word, is brash. Their watches are wild. They eschew the classic watch look for a loud and in your face look that is equal parts artistic, mechanically complex, and masculine. There is a larger market for watches like this, but usually they are populated only by incredibly expensive brands. Seven Friday, on the other hand, is a more accessible – albeit still expensive – choice. They offer up four different styles as well, each with varying colorways.
Shinola, at this point, can’t really be described as just a watch brand. They do so much more than produce handsome timepieces. Just look through our archives and you’ll see everything from a power strip to a Bocce Ball set. Yet, with that being said, the watches they do produce are stellar. While there has been some controversy over how ‘American Made’ they are – every watch they produce is hand-assembled in their Detroit factory. Whether you are looking for a classic field watch, a tachymeter, or even a dive watch – they have it, and they look great.
Created just 10 years ago by an avid outdoorsman – these watches follow a simple principle: tell accurate time and remain easy to read even in inclement weather and dark conditions. While these watches don’t endeavor to be the most expensive or fancy out there, it is hard not to think a little more highly of them given the fact that they are based in Jura Arc, a town located right between Geneva and Basel.
Tsovet prides themselves in being of the moment. The Southern California-based brand takes a cue from their surroundings and constantly looks to produce timepieces that are both quality but forward looking and well built. With a wide variety of styles to choose from – all incredibly well made – it is hard to find something from them not worthy of praise.
Weiss is quite possibly one of the most exciting American watch makers, period. We’ve highlighted a lot of domestic brands on this list, but none of them are as close to creating a fully in-house automatic watch as Weiss is. As of right now – all automatic movements are sourced from outside of the country, making it so companies can really only claim that their watches are assembled here in the U.S. While Weiss isn’t quite all the way there yet, they seem closer (and more intent) than any other maker on becoming a supplier of domestic movements. As for their individual watches; they are stand out, simple, clean, and take their inspiration from Los Angeles’ classic art deco architecture.
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