When everyone has a smartphone and easy access to high-street heroes and online giants, a locally made accessory is a conversation starter. A good watch is an investment, a statement and handy for those times when you want to put your phone away. There’s no need to shell out for a big brand: more and more Australian designers are turning out timeless pieces with surprisingly affordable price tags.

Christian Paul

Christian Paul’s founder and owner, Timothy Vincent Caruana, may reference current trends when designing his collections, but his work is driven by history and heritage, expressed with the label’s trademark marble face.

“I was inspired by the presence of marble in everything from old homes, European churches and history,” says Caruana .Wherever you see it, he adds, “Marble adds an element of timeless elegance.” It’s an aesthetic stamp that flawlessly adheres to the label’s principles: “simplicity and uniqueness that needs to flow into functionality.”

Christian Paul launched in July this year, and is now sold internationally and stocked by more than 200 independent retailers, as well as larger outlets such as The Iconic, Glue Store and Myer. The label uses a minimalist aesthetic and colour palette of neutrals and metallics, and has three collections: Grid, Marble and Luxe. However, Caruana recommends one particular piece this gift-giving season. “The Strand, black on black – at $199 it’s affordable and it doesn't matter who you get for Kris Kringle, it works at both ends of the scale: unisex; street by day or VIP by night; loud or subtle.”

Christian Paul watches start at $169, up to $249. They are available here.

AARK Collective

More into art than history? AARK Collective has the credentials, and is even stocked in galleries, from the NGV to New York’s MoMA. The label is by two design-driven Melbourne couples looking for a creative reprieve from their nine-to-five everyday lives.

“It’s our goal to inject our personality and quirk into everything we do,” says Auver Austria, creative director and one quarter of the collective. “Every component of an AÃRK timepiece is custom designed.” These watches are clean and crisp, with a careful and unusual selection of colours, shapes and details. “A lot of our influences come from fashion, art and design, so it’s about finding the right hierarchy of texture and colour to work seamlessly as part of the design.”

The label’s watches are all unisex and use Swiss and Japanese quartz movements (watch mechanisms), hand-dipped casings and soft Horween leather straps. Austria’s favourite for Christmas is the Shell White watch. “A watch is a personal object and accessory, so having a little texture on your timepiece can really add that final touch and point of interest to your outfit.”

AARK collective watches start at $139, up to $379. They are available here.

The Horse

Originally established as a footwear label, The Horse is a leathergoods and lifestyle brand owned and operated by husband-and-wife team, Amy and Scott Hawkes. Up until last year, the duo was still packing and sending orders out from its dining table. As a family-run business, Amy says The Horse’s point of difference is to welcome each customer into that family. “It’s all in the little things, [like] a handwritten note when opening your order on an embossed card.”

The company mantra is: “to magnify what is essential and edit out excess”. These timepieces are simple and practical, but made pretty with subtle details: a slight change to the shape or width of a frame, the finish of a band or print on the face. “We try not to be swayed by trends, rather always seeking to design a collection of classics made with simple, honest materials that will wear with you.”

“This year Scott is gifting The Original timepiece in Matte Black with tan leather band, and I’m gifting the Mini Block Wallet in Pale Tan – simple, chic and perfect for my everyday essentials.”

The Horse timepiece range starts at $139 for The Original collection, $189 for The Classic and $229 for The Stone, however interchangeable bands can be purchased for $25. They are available here.

The Fifth Watches

Inspired by New York’s iconic Fifth Avenue, Melbourne-based The Fifth Watches produces wristwear for both cities. Founder Alex McBride describes the collections, New York Classic and Melbourne Minimal, as grounded in style rather than trend. “Each product we design has a classic and minimal aesthetic, to keep it timeless.”

The Fifth has a unique sales model that gives an air of exclusivity to every piece. In a nod to its name, the online-only store opens only on the fifth of each month for five days to site members.

“Unlike other exclusive brands, it's not the price point that makes The Fifth exclusive,” says McBride. “It's time. People inevitably miss out due to the limited sales window but they are never excluded because of the price.”

The Fifth has developed a cult following, with 350,000 followers on Instagram. The account features wanderlust-inducing images by both the company and its loyal community of followers. “Social media has allowed us to connect with a huge number of extremely talented creators, designers, photographers, stylists,” says McBride. “Not only to promote our brand, but to create some fantastic and exciting content.”

He has two suggestions for starting 2016 on time. “The SoHo timepiece is a perfect fit for her, and the White and Tan timepiece for him. The neutral palette and striking highlights in both are seasonally fitting for our hot Australian summers.”

Watches by The Fifth start at $139, up to $199. They are available here.