Meet the independent watchmakers who combine imagination, talent and taste in their superlative designs

In the second part of our series on independent watchmakers, Louis Moinet and Laurent Ferrier show us the spectacular results of going it alone.

The Louis Moinet Memoris chronograph stands at a crossroads for the brand, celebrating the bi-centenary of the world's first chronograph, invented by Louis Moinet in 1816, and the brand's rebirth a decade ago in the hands of Jean-Marie Schaller.

By Rebecca Doulton

Far from the madding crowds visiting the big brands and their luxurious booths in Baselworld's main hall, the Baselworld Palace is the domain of independent watchmakers, giving visitors a chance to meet the makers. The Palace, which is far from palatial and more like a wedding tent, is buzzing with indie creativity and the watches are as varied as they are surprising - from classical iterations to those that would look perfectly at home in a science fiction setting.

Louis Moinet watches are one of my indie favourites. The alchemist behind the brand is watchmaker Jean-Marie Schaller, whose fervid imagination and passion for Jules Verne have led to the creation of a watch universe of elaborate mechanical engines and sophisticated steampunk aesthetics. There is a story behind every timepiece, often with dials made from the most unusual and out-of-this world materials, including meteorite from Mars and fossilised dinosaur bone.

Read more on independent watchmakers at Baselworld 2016

This year, Louis Moinet watches presented an extraordinary chronograph - the Memoris - a watch that has turned the conventional chronograph upside down and inside out. The reasons are compelling: two years ago, Schaller discovered evidence that the founder, the genius watchmaker Louis Moinet, was in fact the true inventor of the chronograph in 1816, a distinction many watch brands would love to possess; the other reason being to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the brand's rebirth.

Schaller decided to invert the standard approach to chronographs and display the entire chronograph mechanism on the dial as the star of the show, with the time function relegated to second place. This complex 46mm mono-pusher, presented in limited editions of rose and white gold, is the first chronograph watch - as opposed to a watch with a chronograph - in history.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the incredibly elegant timepieces from Laurent Ferrier watches - the kind you can't imagine tiring of. The maker, Laurent Ferrier, comes from a lineage of watchmakers and worked at Patek Philippe for 37 years before deciding that his talents merited their own showcase. Simple, elegant and inviting to the touch, the Galet models of Laurent Ferrier watches - galet means pebble in French - are like beautifully worn gold pebbles with smooth surfaces, chaste dials and seductive contours.

Read about the subtle colours of Laurent Ferrier watches

Celebrating the brand's fifth anniversary, Monsieur Ferrier treated himself - and his fans - to a birthday cake in the form of appetising chocolate brown dials decorating the dials of four exclusive movements. The Galet Micro-Rotor in a 39mm rose gold case is sublime. Minimalist, yet rich in texture and colour with white chocolate-toned hour markers, it is good enough to eat. Inside the smooth, round case is a superlative Laurent Ferrier movement with an 80-hour power reserve. The other watch that caught my eye in the birthday series is the Galet Square, a sumptuous 41 x 41mm cushion-shaped rose gold watch with a small seconds counter and enough style to see you through the century.

Read more about other independent watchmakers at Baselworld 2015

 

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