Brathwait's Inexpensive Automatic Watches
Founder Henrik Torp on keeping made-to-order Swiss timepieces accessible
With their two-style Swiss Automatic timepiece line, watchmaker Brathwait has succeeded where few can. As the collection title implies, these watches are both Swiss-made and automatic. Remarkably, however, they're also under $600. Quality components haven't been sacrificed; there's a top-grade Sellita Swiss Calibre SW 260 movement, domed sapphire crystal, genuine Italian leather strap, and luminous markers. It's a 38mm stainless steel case (in either rose gold or silver), arguably a unisex size. And each piece is handmade to order in Stabio, Switzerland. When founder and CEO Henrik Torp launched the brand, his aim was transparency. Now, in partnership with the Ronda Time Center, he's able to do so on an automatic watch.
When asked why the brand has moved in the direction of automatic pieces—at a price point a few hundred dollars more than their Quartz pieces—Torp explains that it's all about changing the industry story. "There’s a big section of the market where a lot of brands are selling the cheapest watch for the cheapest price. They've been doing this for decades. What I find intriguing is selling the best possible watch for the best possible price," he tells us, "It’s a challenge to pull that off in the conservative environment of a traditional industry. You need a partner that’s willing to keep this moving forward." Torp says they're doing so by keeping things exclusive (and in limited editions) while appealing to those who still want that traditional timepiece with a Swiss movement powering it.
The brand as a whole represents change for Torp, who once worked in a bank in Norway. After a near-death experience, he made the decision to venture out and pursue a more personal project. There was a watchmaker shop about 200 meters from his home. It closed down but was soon opened by a new owner. Through a budding friendship, Torp began to learn about the mechanics and quality components of a watch. He then spoke to factories and experts around the world. In time, Brathwait was born.
Nine hours of human labor go into assembling the movement of Brathwait's latest watches. That said, there was a development that brought the price of this movement down from 1500 to 250 Swiss franc. According to Torp, there was no incentive for brands to adjust their pricing. He, however, knew that a contemporary, slimmer business model would allow him to launch a brand that carried over the benefits of watchmaking's illustrious history. The Swiss Automatic line does take eight to 10 weeks for assembly upon ordering, but at $595 each, that's quite the bargain for a piece that's got it where it counts.
Images courtesy of Brathwait