Top Canadian Watch Brands You Should Know in 2023
Daniel Louwrens25 July 2023 | 10 min read
Canada. The Great White North. Land of Maple Syrup, wolves, and some rather interesting watches. And I know what you’re thinking, “Snow, forests, mountains, all the watches must be big ‘ol rugged ones?” – well, you’re wrong. Sure, the first one on this list happens to be a rugged offering. Still, the Canadian watch industry has looked at luxury watches and designed plenty of offerings that’ll make the average Joe or watch enthusiast happy. So, without further ado, let’s see what durable watches Canada has and what could be seen as an elegant luxury timepiece.
Canadian Watch History
We would always love to explain how a country has a rich history of watches that’ll rival that of the Swiss or Japanese, or even Germans. However, seeing as Canada was founded in 1867 and established Swiss brands such as Patek Philippe have been around since 1839, you get the idea of just how young Canada is. They’re barely old enough to have a drink.
Jokes aside, there have obviously been watchmakers before 1867, but whether that counts as “Canadian Watch History” is up to you. Regardless, clock-making was incredibly popular throughout the 1800s, with individuals like Jordan Post and the Twiss brothers being at the forefront of clock sales and manufacturing.
In 1890 the Canadian Horological Institute was established in Toronto by Edward Beeton and Henry Playtner. Warren Marrison of Inverary developed a ‘timekeeper’ based on a vibrating quartz crystal in 1927, which became widely popular in Canada and other parts of North America.
The Canadian watch market has continued to grow slowly over the last 100 years to where it is today, being important and substantial enough to get on the radar of the Swiss… That said, we kept with some of the companies you should know of, seeing as various companies online fall into the ‘fashion watch’ part of the market – not a bad thing, but a different thing to most of these brands.
6 Best Canadian Watch Brands
Marathon Watch Company
As mentioned, the first on the list is rugged. Utilitarian. Military watches that were actually worn by the military. Yup, that’s right, the Marathon Watch Company has actually made watches for both the Canadian and US military. Without a doubt, this is the most popular brand in the Canadian market, and not only do they offer high-quality pieces, but Marathon products offer something unique and interesting while keeping with the military and rugged design elements.
To highlight my favourite piece in their offering, I would have to veer towards any of the ‘Search and Rescue’ or ‘SAR’ offerings. These were developed to be used by actual search and rescue units as they delve into the woods or snow, searching for people to … rescue. The name really says it all. Advertised boldly on their website reads the words, “Engineered for the field, not your display case”.
I love the idea that something has one purpose and one purpose only. In a world full of “can be dressed up or down”, “can be worn with a T-shirt”, and “desk diver”, the SAR range takes a proud step towards utility – and stays there. That said, there is plenty of variety when it comes to Marathon watches. Whether you’d like a 36mm MSAR or a pretty imposing 46mm Arctic Edition Jumbo Day/Date, there is something that’ll suit your wrist, wallet, and taste.
One of the more interesting aspects of most of their new models is the use of tritium tubes on the dials and hands. This leads to pretty thick watches, which simply doubles down on the utilitarian approach of the entire company. They use Swiss movements, they offer a fair price, and based on the reviews, these are quality watches. I plan to buy one very soon.
Momentum is a company that is ‘owned’ by St. Moritz watch corp., which also assembles, designs, and markets the Momentum watches as well. The offerings are quite interesting and rather reminiscent of other popular models in the watch industry. Perhaps not an exact copy, but your significant other, who isn’t into horology, wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The site is brimming with promises of quality, ‘no BS pricing’, and designs that will make you stand out in the crowd. Interesting things to promise, and the company does deliver on some of these.
Firstly, their automatic range is quite limited, only containing around six offerings, but let us put the automatic snobbery aside. The Atlas Automatic is presented with a 38mm titanium case, and within sits one of the most trusted Japanese movements on the market, the Miyota 9015.
A nice little field watch that comes in at just shy of $500, and with the lightweight construction, can be worn on a daily basis. But perhaps you want a solar movement? I don’t blame you! Perhaps the new Smokejumber Eclipse 38mm (which looks eerily similar to a Hamilton Khaki) would suit your fancy and wrist. A black-ion-coated titanium case combined with a black dial creates a stealthy look, and pair it with a red strap, and you might even get a nod from Mr Wonderful himself (he’s also Canadian, btw).
Overall, the product line that Momentum Watches offers is perhaps not the ‘best’ that Canada has to offer, but it’s a start. They are doing a few interesting designs and a few … not so interesting. I would personally stick to the designs that stand on their own when looking at the price range. These are offered at a reasonable price, and the reviews agree that the quality (on those) is up to par with others at these price points.
What if mainstream or mass-production watches aren’t exactly your ‘style’? Well, Archer Watches are here to fill your Instagram feed with plenty of handmade pieces. All their offerings are produced in St. Thomas, Ontario. Sounds brilliant, right?
Well, there’s a problem. As you open the site, you are greeted with the following message, “… Secondly, due to challenges sourcing parts for my watches, I have made the decision to wind down the new watch business and focus on servicing and restoration from now on. The new watch side of my business has always been a rather small part of what I do, and the main focus has been on servicing, repairs, and restoration of watches… “. BUMMER. Regardless, it’s worth covering some of the pieces since the second-hand industry will be more than happy to help you if you want one.
Currently, the only option on the list on the website that isn’t ‘discontinued’ is the Archer Aero 45, a Flieger-style offering that looks similar to the offerings from Laco or the Big Date Big Pilot. That said, it’s a great design that fits the psychology of Fliegers perfectly. Of course, you get a sizeable case coming in at 45mm, and no precious metals here! Your Flieger comes in steel and steel only but does feature a sapphire crystal and mineral crystal case back.
The movement within is a third-party one (of course), which is the ETA 6497/6498 movements. It is unclear which is actually used. You can opt for a matte blue or black version, both with large and prominent hands that’ll help you tell the time will on your plane… or in your favourite New York bar. Some might see these as a copy of the ‘Original Four’; however, Flieger watches do all look remarkably similar. You cannot really delve too far from the design without losing it completely.
It’s a shame that they are no longer producing timepieces. I would’ve loved to see this company grow and offer more watches with that vintage look. The few online reviews available clearly state these are excellent quality and they’re available at an affordable price. Some of their dress pieces offer a unique design that looks like a combination of Breguet and Germanic timepieces, and I commend Al (the owner) for pushing himself to create a unique watch design.
Ferro & Company
With the word “Ferro” in the name, I’m imagining some rough and tumble steel models (Fe = Ferous). Boy, was I wrong. Ferro & Company seems to go after the vintage nostalgia we all feel and aim to fill the automotive-inspired part of your watch collection. They are hardly the first watch company to do this; as far as I can tell, most of modern TAG Heuer is inspired by some race or car. That said, they also offer pilot and dress options as well.
Perhaps the most famous of the bunch is the Distinct 3 GLF. Sporting a golf colours dial, you immediately know this watch takes a great amount of inspiration from Golf racing. Besides that, you have wire lugs and an onion-like crown. It is sizable, coming in at 42mm, but the snug 48mm lu-to-lug creates a better wearing experience. The dial colours are accented by a white minute track, creating a rather compelling design. To finish things off, you can opt between a quartz and Seiko NH35 movement. The other offerings are all very similar, just with a different dial and bracelet/strap configuration.
Overall, this is a pretty compelling company. Sure, they may not be the handmade watches from Archer. However, they do offer some quirky designs with different colours and decent materials. Reviews online are a hit-or-miss, especially when you consider the prices you would be paying for these watches. That said, they still offer a compelling package.
Spanish for ‘throne’, Solios is actually at the top of the solar-powered Canadian watches. Firstly, what a refreshing site. We get bombarded with about a dozen different and new websites on a daily basis; how nice to finally find one that’s not only aesthetically pleasing but also ergonomic as well. Unfortunately, the watches themselves don’t really stack up to high-end brands. There are a lot of copy-and-paste models with simple changes, but at least they have a clear vision of what and who they are.
The Solar Classic seems to be the only real offering they have. This is your typical dress watch – large dial, a thin case, and an even thinner bezel. The 400mm black dial is apparently the best seller, and there isn’t really that much to say about it. One notable feature includes the vegan leather strap, which comes in various contrasting colours to the stainless steel case. The crystal is a ‘sapphire coated’ mineral option, which is something you don’t see every day.
This brand seems a tad… ‘fashion watch-y’ compared to some of the other offerings on the list. I’m not going to say it’s a bad brand, I haven’t even held a Solios, but it feels lacklustre. There is, of course, plenty of room to grow in the future. Focus on the highest quality movements, perhaps an automatic movement, and express your interest in other dial options and you’ll start seeing the brand grow a lot faster. That said, I cannot fault them for who they are. There are no unrealistic promises made, and there is nothing to disappoint you as long as you know what you are buying. Bonus, there are about a dozen different colours available.
Let’s end with a bang! And not only because NOVO sounds like something out of Marvel, but because NOVO makes individualized watches. Yes, that’s right, a three-step process involves you sending a piece of memorabilia, and Steve (the owner) creates a watch from that. What? That’s amazing! That said, there are a few offerings that are available for you to purchase from the site, and they are stunning.
The S.S. Dominator (wow) is quite a looker. The watch is made from a supply ship that was launched on March 31, 1944, to support troops during WWII. After the war, it became a commercial ship that moved supplies all over the world. Unfortunately, it ran aground in Palos Verdes, California. After several unsuccessful rescue attempts, the ship was left to Davies Locker. Years later, members of NOVO went to retrieve parts of the ship to create this hand-crafted timepiece. What a story!
You have a hand-finished dial featuring a wave engraved into the centre of the dial, and the numerals are not all perfectly aligned, proving it’s once again this is a 1-of-1 handmade piece. Flipping the case, you also have an engraved Swiss ETA 6498-1. Sure, it clocks in at $4,000 (Canadian), but it truly is one-of-one. There are also skeleton options available, truly something that’ll make you stand out from anyone else at your next watches and coffee.
Overall, NOVO is one of the, if not the most compelling, brands on this list. They might not have the same sales as the others, and due to the prices, they will not be available to everyone. They still use third-party movements, but it’s about the look. The story. The feel. This is the contrast to Marathon, and I love it dearly. Again, they chose a route, and they stuck to it. Buy one of each, and you have a perfect two-watch collection if you ask me.
So many to choose from; by now I’m sure you have a favourite already. I know I do. Whether you’re looking for something to help you as you delve through the snow or something to complete your look as you hit the town, there is something for you. You could build a remarkable watch collection just using Canadian producers, and since there is so much history and pride to honour, this is perfect for Canadians. By far, the brand that’ll appeal to most is Marathon. They might not have the stories like NOVO, but NOVO takes eight weeks to produce a watch, and the cost is quite a bit more. Regardless, you should purchase the watch that makes you happy.
If you have enjoyed this article, you might want to check out our other featured articles that explore other countries and their unique horological offerings:
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