Coming up with five new small brands is easy. The market is flooded with new brands that all try to create their own success. But in the world of watches, getting your name out there is tough. Additionally, the challenge to remain relevant and profitable is an even bigger mountain to climb. But there are watch brands out there whose watches have become hot property. Let’s take a look at five that currently are the talk of the town.

Creating a list of five successful small brands is easy. But before we dive in, it’s good to elaborate a bit more. There is a big difference between the small high-end brands and the small, more affordable brands. For this list, we will focus on the latter. Watches that do not require bottomless pockets but can be hard to get. This brings us to the second criterium: the sell-out factor. Sure, a sold-out limited production run is by no means a guarantee for success. Especially not if the limited run is in small numbers. But it definitely is an indication of the “hot property” status of a brand. So we’ll take into account as well.

And a third thing is whether we hear people talking about the brand, either positively or negatively. Any PR is good PR, right? If your watches are talked about by watch enthusiasts, it’s probably a good sign that you are on the right path to success. In all seriousness, these are just five of the brands that we have covered and see being successful in their own way. On top of that, they have created watches that yours truly really likes. So let’s not wait longer and get started with a list of the five hottest small brands currently out there.

Aquastar Deepstar Re-Edition Watch 6

1.  Aquastar

When Mike and Balazs visited the Fratello offices in the summer of last year, Mike brought the new Aquastar Deepstar with him from Germany. And from the moment he gave it to me, I was sold. The Deepstar is a recreation of an industry classic that was introduced in the 1960s. The original Deepstar measured a modest 37.5mm skin diver case, and the re-creation features a 40.5mm case with a 50.5mm lug-to-lug. Its buffed-up size is not favored by people who like to stick to the original when it comes to a re-creation. But I have to say, with the new dimensions, the watch fit my wrist like a glove, and it played a pivotal role in why was love at first sight.

It will be great to see what they come up with next.

The Aquastar Deepstar was one of my favorite overall releases of last year. It’s the perfect size for my wrist, it has great quirky looks, and the attention to detail and the finishing are top-notch. I strongly suggest that you check out Mike’s article on the Deepstar if you haven’t already. Now, what is the indication of its success? Aquastar decided to create the Deepstar with a black, blue, and grey dial and strap. All three came in a limited production run of 300 pieces that sold out quickly. Currently, there is a version with a green dial and green strap available on pre-order. It will have a limited production run of 200 pieces, and I do not doubt that it will sell out as well. It will be great to see what they come up with next.

2. Unimatic Watches

The people that know me saw this one coming a mile away. Unimatic Watches has been one of my favorite brands of recent times. Ever since I got my hands on two of their Modello Uno models last year, I have been a fan of their minimalist approach to watch design. In an interview I did with one of the two Unimatic owners, Giovanni Moro explained that their philosophy is based around the idea of getting rid of any form of decoration. While you could argue whether a diver needs a diving scale, leaving that of the bezel has certainly led to some fascinating results. My personal favorite is the Modello Quattro U4-A.

Their limited-edition releases sell out instantly.

With this unique approach, Unimatic has attracted a varied audience of people to their brand. As Moro explained, it’s a mix between watch enthusiasts and more fashion-minded people. But they do have one thing in common: a great appreciation for the brand’s experimental character. To find out if things work, it’s best to try, right? And that has been a great part of the success of Unimatic. Giovanni Moro and his partner Simone Nunziato — both industrial designers by trade — are not afraid to challenge the boundaries. As a result, most of their limited-edition releases sell out instantly. Especially most of the spectacular collaboration pieces tend to sell out in a matter of minutes. So whenever a new watch is released, you have to be quick.


3. Laventure

The third brand on this list is Laventure. I had never heard of this young brand until our Managing Editor brought his two Laventure watches to the Fratello HQ somewhere in early 2020. Rob owns a stainless steel Marine with a green dial and a bronze Sous-Marine with a black dial. Both of them look very nice, are very well built, and they show how much effort Laventure founder Clément Gaud puts into each of his releases. But even after seeing both of Rob’s watches, I could not have predicted what would be next because the Laventure Transatlantique GMT released in the summer of last year was an incredible next step for the brand.

We will definitely not hesitate to join the party.

This is the single one watch I tend to look up online once in a while and stare at in all its glory. What makes it so special for me? It’s a combination of those glorious retro-inspired looks, the use of unique colors, and the addition of a GMT complication. That is making it sound fairly simple, but it’s all about the details here. The shades of green, the handset, the bracelet are all perfect to my taste. Because the two versions that came out — one with a green dial and one with a white dial — were only produced in a limited run of 50 pieces, they sold out quickly. I know that both Tomas and I greatly regret being late to the party. And if the next release is anything as good, we will definitely not hesitate to join the party.

MING 18.01 H41 Watch 7

4. MING Watches

Without a doubt, one of the most popular small brands currently out there is MING. The brand founded by Ming Thein has released some of the most popular and stunning-looking releases of any brand recently. Our own Mike actually owns the MING 18.01 H41 diver, and you can read in his review of the watch how incredible he thinks it is. And this kind of enthusiasm can be found with any of the people that own a MING watch. All of them will tell you how incredible the watches look, how much detail went into designing the watches, creating the incredible dials, and picking the right movements. There is a reason that MING is the brand on everyone’s lips.

In a world of retro-inspired re-issues, MING really is a breath of fresh air.

I personally love the style of the MING brand. Whenever you see one in the wild, you immediately know it’s a MING. In a world of retro-inspired re-issues from archives that one has ever heard of, MING really is a breath of fresh air. But within that typical style, the team at MING can create great variation and new perspectives with every release. It’s also why it’s hard to pick one absolute favorite. I love more than just one release. Mike’s 18.01 H41 diver is brilliant, the 19.02 World Time is amazing, and the 19.05 is spectacular. All of MING’s releases are produced in small numbers and sell out immediately. So trying to get your hands on one is an adventure itself.


5. Nivada Grenchen

The last brand on this list is another famous brand from the past. On the same trip that Mike brought the Aquastar Deepstar, our own Balazs brought two re-issues of the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver. Balazs complimented the two Chronomaster Aviator Sea Divers he had in for review for being the re-issues closest to the original watch. The Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver is the perfect rendition of the original that came out in the 1960s. And the brand offers the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver in a variety of options. They come with different dial executions, the choice of a manual wind or automatic movement, and a variety of straps and bracelets.

The brand has just made a second series of the Chronomaster available.

But the brand hasn’t stopped there. Recently Nivada Grenchen also brought back the iconic Depthmaster that Balazs reviewed. It’s a completely different-looking watch that also has tremendous appeal and comes with a great story. And the most recent release has been a special limited edition of the Chronomaster equipped with the legendary Valjoux 23VZ movement. The brand will produce 25 pieces with a panda dial and 25 pieces with a reverse panda dial. All of them will probably have sold out by now. But for the people that missed out on the original release of the Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver, the brand has just made a second series available on their website. But you have to be quick, as these are also limited in production and will go quickly.

There you have it, a list of the five hottest affordable small brands currently around. I’m sure there are brands that you would like to see on this list. Please let us know in the comment which other brands should have also made this list.