Horological Highlights Of The 2023 Windup Watch Fair In New York City
It’s a good time to be a watch enthusiast. No, actually, it’s a great time to be a watch enthusiast. Although the enormous number of brands currently in existence might be overwhelming, it’s also a good thing. More brands mean more options for style, price, quality, and uniqueness. More brands also mean more intense competition and the need for each to excel in something, whether it be coming up with particular colors, movements, or techniques to assemble dials. In 2022, I was blown away by the sheer diversity and creativity of the brands I saw at the New York City edition of the Windup Watch Fair. A few weeks ago, for the 2023 edition of this event, my mind was doubly blown away.
About a year ago, I highlighted the booming of GMTs and everyday timepieces. While these two trends have not died down, they have evolved. Micro and independent brands still make GMTs, but they are different. They have better movements, better finishing, and more creative designs. Everyday watches still exist, but they look more elegant, unique, and even odd at times. Everything I saw in New York City this time was just better. This means brands have been hard at work, creating better watches. And this can also be seen in the more intricate and broad-reaching marketing campaigns they have embarked on. There is, therefore, more of everything. In this article, I’ll share some key highlights of the 2023 Windup Watch Fair in New York City.
Keep in mind that these are the watches that caught my attention the most and which best exemplify where micro and independent brands are headed next. There were close to 90 brands at the fair, most of which made watches, and there were thousands of models to look at.
The Isotope Moonshot
José Miranda’s Isotope is the type of brand that always surprises us. It’s impossible to predict what he will be working on next, and nobody saw the Moonshot coming. Thus far, Miranda has made GMTs, pilot watches, and divers. And although one could have expected to see a chronograph appear in the brand’s catalog, yeah, we didn’t picture the Moonshot. The constant in Isotope’s offerings is that there is no constant. Each new model that Miranda creates does not correlate with the previous one. The Hydrium Pro Norblad which Brad reviewed does not look like the Old Radium Bronze Pilot that Nacho wrote about. Furthermore, the dial layout of one diver does not match that of another diver. While many brands strive for consistency to build brand awareness, José embraces unpredictability and a healthy dose of oddity.
The Moonshot is powered by a regulated Landeron 73, and the Grade 5 titanium case measures 41mm across. Personality-wise, it’s another UFO that I found to be instantly charming, from the fumé dial with its horizontal lines and the partially skeletonized hands to the massive case, pushers, and, obviously, the unique sub-register construction. Instead of tiny hands cruising around the dials, we find decorated three-quarter plates. The center of each opening on the plates points at the information we want to see, whether it be the running seconds or elapsed time on the 30-minute or 12-hour counters.
The Moonshot will have various dial options, and the first one is slated to be announced in December of this year.
The Vero Forest Service Kinetic
I love the quirkiness and out-of-the-box thinking of Vero, whether it be the Workhorse that Thor reviewed, the Smokey Bear, or the Meridian Manual Wound. At Windup, Vero introduced a new model, the Forest Service Watch. Following a Smokey timepiece, it makes sense that the brand would partner once again with an iconic American institution. One key feature of the Forest Service is the Epson Seiko PX82A Sustainable Series movement. In other words, it is a kinetic caliber in which the movement of the wrist recharges a battery by way of a tiny electrical generator. That’s super cool. The watch has a 39mm diameter, a 45.2mm lug-to-lug length, an 11.85mm thickness, and an 18mm lug spacing. It will come in four colors. The estimated retail price is US$450, and you should hear more about it very soon.
The Nivada Grenchen Antarctic 35mm
If you are like me and obsessed with faithful recreations of vintage military watches, then you’re gonna love this one. Somewhat inconspicuously, Nivada Grenchen announced a new 35mm Antarctic, a 1:1 copy of the original worn by the members of the US Navy’s Deep Freeze 1 expedition to the South Pole in 1955/56. Wow! It was love at first sight for me as I was taken aback by how faithful it looked to the original. To me, this is the perfect example of a well-made recreation of a vintage gem. It comes complete with polished applied markers, lume plots, polished dauphine hands, and a manual-wound caliber. This model measures 35mm in diameter and 10.1mm thick. It will be powered by the hand-wound Landeron 21. The estimated retail price is US$850, and it’ll be available sometime in the spring of 2024.
The Oak & Oscar Humboldt GMT Titanium
When I think of GMT watches, I think of travel, comfort, and reliability. In other words, if I were to sport a GMT, it would have to be a comfortable piece of travel horology. The fact that many GMTs tend to be on the larger and/or heavier side precludes me from traveling with one (I have a small wrist!). So it only made sense for Oak & Oscar to release a titanium version of the popular Humboldt GMT. Made of Grade 5 titanium, it only weighs 74 grams, which is impressive given its 200m depth rating. Dimensions-wise, it measures 39.5 wide, 46.8mm long, and 12.5mm thick, which means it will look good on many wrists. It is powered by a Swiss-made Sellita SW330-2 caliber, and the new green dial is matched with a new green rubber strap. It retails for US$2,250.
The Bravur Team Heritage
Another brand that caught my attention was Bravur. I reviewed its cycling-inspired mechanical chronographs a while back, and I mentioned the dressy BW003 here. The Swedish brand certainly has a knack for making sports watches that offer something a little different. The newest and upcoming release, the Team Heritage, portrays itself within the same spirit. In good Bravur fashion, there will be three models, each paying tribute to legendary cycling teams. The watch in question will have a 37mm diameter and a Sellita SW200-1 caliber inside. The version pictured below is one of the three and the most sober one. Bravur’s Team Heritage will be announced sometime in March 2024 and retail for around US$1,250.
Windup Watch Fair NYC 2023
Last year’s Windup showed that micro and independent brands were committed to making GMTs, ones that rival old-name brands in terms of value, design, and just plain fun. These include, for example, the spec monster Nodus Sector GMT and Lorier’s charming Hyperion, which retailed well below US$1,000. Well, this year, brands decided to kick things up a notch by making GMTs better and more complex, from popularizing flyer GMTs with the Miyota 9075 caliber to improving the quality of manufacturing and finishing. From what I saw, polished surfaces are prettier, bracelets are better constructed, and hands have sharper edges. Cases come with hard coatings, dials with better lume, and crystals made of highly domed sapphire.
Dive GMTs get some love
The other novelty is GMT divers. I don’t know about you, but I grew tired of brands adding a fourth hand to a dive watch and swapping the dive-time bezel for a GMT one. Sure, that allows us to track another time zone, but we can no longer time a dive (or anything else). This year, it was nice to see that several brands are integrating the GMT function without negatively affecting the watch’s original purpose. Three models in particular grabbed my attention — the Lorier Hydra SIII, the Heinrich Taucher 2 GMT, and the Laco Hamburg GMT DIN 8330. Each has a style of its own, melding perfectly into each brand’s design language. Furthermore, all of them offer proper diving and dual-time functionality.
The Lorier Hydra SIII is the most affordable of all three, carrying a price tag of US$599. Two versions exist — a classic in blue and white and a badass, blacked-out Zulu one. Both share the same 41mm × 46mm × 14.6mm dimensions and use the same Miyota 9075 flyer GMT caliber. The Heinrich Taucher 2 GMT comes in three versions (silver, black, and blue) and retails for €1,349. It measures 41mm wide, 42.83mm long, and 14mm thick, and it is powered by Sellita SW330-2 Élaboré caliber. The Laco Hamburg GMT retails for €2,390 and has a 43.5mm diameter, 49.8mm lug-to-lug length, and 13.6mm thickness. Powering it is a Top Grade Sellita SW330-1 caliber, and it meets Germany’s DIN 8330 requirements for pilot watches. In other words, it is resistant to shocks, water, and magnetism in addition to being ultra legible, among other requirements.
This year’s Windup Watch Fair in New York City was, according to the organizer, the largest one to date. Almost 90 brands presented, and attendance peaked at 2,000 people on the second day. That’s many watch nerds in one space all at the same time, a sort of heaven for me. As mentioned in the introduction, micro/independent brands won’t cease to surprise us. Each year, they’re becoming more creative and more daring, and they continue to offer better value with each new release. While I wasn’t able to mention all the brands that caught my attention in this article, I highlighted the few models that truly left me speechless. But I would like to know your thoughts on my selection. If you attended the show, what caught your eye? Please share your comments below.