Heritage watchmakers are symbols of luxury, but unconventional brands are capturing longtime collector Winston Koo's attention

Brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin dominate the headspace of watch collectors due to their exceptional quality and historical significance. These names have been around for decades and, in some cases, centuries. They’ve come to define today’s industry, but they’re not the only purveyors of exceptional timepieces.

Winston Koo started collecting watches in the early 1990s, amassing as many as 200 at one point. These days, after years of typically favouring mainstream maisons that combine impressive craftsmanship with traditional design, he's experimenting with independent watchmakers.

His newfound fondness for unconventional timepieces is rooted in their creative design, which appeals to those who aren’t afraid to attract attention. Here are a few of the eccentric brands he's recently added to his collection.

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Co-founders Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei have been pushing the boundaries of mechanical watchmaking since 1997. Urwerk’s Swiss-based team, known for its innovation, has mastered the arts of 3D-modelling and micro-engineering, among others, cementing the company’s reputation as a trailblazer.

Its “satellite” system—first seen on the Opus V, a collaboration with Harry Winston in 2005—pioneered a complex three-dimensional dial within which three cubic satellites mark the model’s display hours. For 2019, Urwerk unveiled the self-winding UR-105 CT Maverick, which features this signature movement alongside an ultra-masculine bronze bezel that develops a finish over time that’s unique to its wearer.

Push the sliding tab to discover the Maverick’s inner mechanism, including a new open-worked carousel that, according to Baumgartner, depicts the brand’s “evolving style.”

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Singer Reimagined

Petrolheads will probably be familiar with Singer Reimagined because of its sister company, Singer Vehicle Design, which was founded in 2009 to revamp the ageing Porsche 911. Drawing inspiration from iconic sport watches from the 1960s and ’70s, Singer Reimagined rethinks high watchmaking by combining the automotive and horological worlds with the help of Italian designer Marco Borraccino, who was previously head of design for Panerai.

Its Track1 Hong Kong Edition won the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) in 2018, in part because of its AgenGraphe calibre, which brings all of its chronograph functions to the centre of the dial. Singer Reimagined hasn’t had a bad start for an industry newcomer, and is already busy promoting its fascinating FlyTrack Concept.

A clear descendant of the Track1 model—it boasts the same pilot-inspired tonneau-shaped case—the FlyTrack’s central sweep-seconds hand can be zeroed and restarted immediately, and the hand-wound calibre operates at 21,600 vibrations per hour with a 52-hour power reserve. Impressive.


In 2010, Belgian industrial designer Benoît Mintiens combined the words renaissance and essence to coin his brand’s name, Ressence. The watchmaker is best known for its signature three-dimensional Ressence Orbital Convex System, or ROCS, which services the constant rotation of three sub-dials set rather like moons around a planet.

Comprising 215 parts, the complication is driven by a customised self-winding calibre that has been specially restyled to suit different designs. The maison’s latest Type 3 model notably turned heads earlier this year, thanks to Ressence’s advancements in reducing light refraction, which can distort the dial’s clarity.

The Type 3’s oil-filled upper half allows legibility from every angle as well as greater performance efficiency, and is made possible by a magnetic transmission that connects it to the dry lower half, which is where the calibre is located.

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Swiss entrepreneur Patrick Berdoz’s revolutionary idea to use liquid to indicate time resulted in the launch of HYT in 2012. While there have been water clocks for thousands of years, no one had figured out how to create one that was wrist-size. So with three partners, including a nuclear engineer, Berdoz worked to establish HYT as the industry’s foremost producer of hydromechanical timepieces.

These watches use two flexible reservoirs—one with a coloured liquid; a transparent liquid in the other—to power each day’s hours, minutes and seconds. The result is a breathtaking marriage of science and technology, as depicted in HYT’s new model H0 Time is Precious. Made from monocrystalline silicon that has been laser-cut to achieve a state-of-the-art marquetry effect, the dial has 63 mirrored facets, each slightly tilted, which results in a shattered-glass design that reflects the movement of the wearer’s wrist.

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