Micro-brand Spotting: Top Chef Season 17

I have to start this article by admitting to the fact that despite a general disdain for reality TV, one of my favorite shows is Top Chef. I’ve been watching it since season one, I’ve never missed a season, I have even recently rewatched some of the earlier seasons just for the hell of it. Right now, Season 17 is currently airing, and every week I eagerly await each new episode. Naturally, as a watch guy, I also take notice of the watches the contestants and guests wear. Typically, there isn’t anything too unexpected. A Sub here, a Panerai there, though in the current season chef Kevin Gillespie prominently wears a Tudor Pelagos on a nylon strap, which Hodinkee beat me to the punch on writing up.

But the other week there was a watch that really caught my attention, as it took me some time to figure it out. On the wrist of guest judge and world-famous chef, Jonathan Waxman was a square watch with a bright teal dial… But what was it? Even better than immediately recognizing a watch in a movie or show is when it’s a puzzle that gets revealed slowly. When I saw Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, figuring out the watch Brad Pitt was wearing was like a side-quest just for me. So, during this week’s episode, every time I caught a new angle of the watch, which conveniently had several moments in frame, a bit more info was revealed.

Chef Waxman with a curious watch – image courtesy of Bravo

At one point I determined that it was a chronograph as there was enough detail to see pushers, and then sub-dials. Square case + chronograph = Monaco, right? That was my first thought at least, but there was something about that teal dial that made me think it wasn’t. Or, at least not a production model. Was it a custom Bamford?… Perhaps, but there was something familiar about it that made me think I had seen it before.

A clearer shot – image courtesy of Bravo

Then it hit me.

EMG Watches is a micro-brand that has produced a handful of watches, including the Nemo diver Brad Homes reviewed here, and some chronographs. Namely, the square-cased and clearly Monaco-inspired Horizon. Powered by the Seiko VK64 Meca-Quartz, it’s a 38mm, affordable take on this iconic motorsport style that while clearly similar, isn’t a 1:1 homage either. While this color is no longer available on their site, a quick flick through their Instagram revealed that this was most certainly one of their watches.

I have to say that while identifying the watches worn on the screen is always fun, it’s truly rewarding when it’s a micro-brand getting the spotlight. While a rare occurrence, seeing brands that aren’t mainstream flash across the screen, occasionally on the wrists of famous people, confirms that this hobby of ours isn’t limited to blogs, Instagram, and forums. Smaller brands have influence as well, and it’s growing. Oddly, it’s actually not the first time a microbrand has popped up on Top Chef as in season 14 chef Shirley Chung wore a Prometheus S80 (yes, I recently rewatched that season and took notice), giving me hope that we’ll continue to see more and more.

Chef Shirley Chung with the S80 – image courtesy of Bravo
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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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