Meet the Pioneers Revolutionising the Art of High Watchmaking

These independent watchmakers are pushing the boundaries of horological excellence by blending tradition with innovation

By Debbie Hathway
Casper Ruud



Fleming, led by CEO Thomas Fleming, recently launched its first high-end masterpiece, the Series 1 Launch Edition. Blending Swiss precision with American ambition, this 38.5mm timepiece represents over three years of development involving top Swiss partners. Powered by the innovative Caliber FM-01 by Jean-François Mojon’s team at Chronode, and featuring hand-decorated dials by artisans from Comblémine owned by Kari Voutilainen, each model exemplifies precision and artistry. The Series 1 Launch Edition is available in rose gold, platinum, and tantalum.

Work on the Series 2, an integrated bracelet sports watch, is underway as a collaboration with three-time Grand Slam finalist and avid watch enthusiast Casper Ruud to create a lightweight, shock-resistant watch novel in design and concept. Casper has a stake in the brand.



François-Paul Journe

The concept of the FFC was inspired by a discussion between François-Paul Journe and renowned filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, who lent his initials to this creation. Thanks to the torque of the automatic Octa movement and a remontoir d’égalité that delivers a constant force, the fingers of this hand come to life every 60 minutes to indicate the time. The hand was inspired by a drawing of a prosthesis made by the famous French barber-surgeon Ambroise Paré (1509/1510 – 1590). It is made of engraved titanium to reduce the weight of the moving components to not affect the energy consumption of the calibre, the Octa 1300, launched by the Manufacture F.P.Journe in 2001.

The ultimate technical achievement is the finesse of this mechanism, which is housed in a platinum case measuring 42mm in diameter and 10.7mm thick. François-Paul points out, “The most important thing in watchmaking is what is least visible. In this case, it was a matter of getting five fingers to move with the least amount of effort.”

Roger W Smith

Roger Smith OBE became George Daniels’ first and last apprentice in 1998 after impressing him with a pocket watch creation. Establishing the Roger W Smith studio in 2001, Smith remains committed to crafting watches of unparalleled horological excellence using the Daniels Method. His company produces around 18 watches annually across all five series, with the Series 6 prototype set to debut in 2024.

Last year, Sotheby’s brought the hammer down on a record-breaking sale for the final model in the Millennium series that Smith worked on with Daniels for CHF 2 177 500 ($2 422 142).

It was completed in 2001, and specially assigned to Roger by George. Roger explains; “It was a unique chance to own a watch by my great mentor, but I also wanted to commemorate my own work on the Millennium watches, so I asked George for permission to co-sign the dial. George readily agreed and, in so doing, this watch became not only the first watch I had signed but would end up being the only watch we ever co-signed.”

Reflecting on the sale, Roger concluded; “My Millennium watch had only ever had one owner apart from me in twenty-two years, and to bring it to this auction, on behalf of the current owner, has been special… and a little emotional. I am delighted to know it has gone to the home of a collector I know was very keen to acquire it to wear as his own everyday watch rather than keeping it in a safe – which is music to my ears!”

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