Some of the most innovative watchmaking today comes from the ranks of independent artisanal brands like Urwerk, MB&F, Christophe Claret, and HYT— the “new guard” that demonstrate the most cutting edge of horology (many of these independents formed the “Carré des Horlogers” represented at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, or SIHH).
Undeniably, many of the watches are a bit over the top aesthetically, employing hydro-mechanical liquids, rotating prisms, and unique complications to tell the time. Some look as though they’ve been pulled off the dashboard of an exotic super car, while others look like they’re straight out of a comic book. I wouldn’t blame you if you mistook HYT’s Skull Watch for Tony Stark’s Iron Man arsenal. But design and personal preferences aside, you cannot deny the technical prowess of these brands and their creations. These watches will take your breath away and often require a mortgage to acquire. Starting at $80,000, they’re not for the faint of heart—or wallet.
I recently had a chance to meet an individual who may be the next generation of these artisans. Allow me to introduce Karel Bachand, the “newest” new guard. Bachand is a young man (some might even say he’s still a kid) working out of his home. He has no industry experience, just a background in engineering and 3D printing. And while many of the new guard hail from Switzerland with rich horological pedigrees, Bachand is from the high-tech San Francisco Bay Area. I recently spent some time with Bachand to discuss his brand, Barrelhand, and his latest project, the Project 1.