The Best Watchmakers You Haven’t Heard Of

The watchmakers to watchmakers, these independent companies prove you needn’t require the backing of a conglomerate to get the industry ticking.

By Richard Brown 25/07/2023

It’s true, these days the majority of major-label watch brands belong to the portfolio of huge parent companies—Swatch Group, Richemont and LVMH having spent the previous 30 years feverishly acquiring large swathes of the industry. Yet, behind the household dial-names taking up jewellery-shop windows, a cornucopia of independent companies is busy producing some of the most interesting, elegant and downright bat-shit crazy watches out there. If you’re looking for a watch with real talking-point status, these are the watchmakers’ watchmakers.

F.P. Journe

F.P. Journe is the only watchmaker to have won the Grand Prize at the hallowed Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix three times over. The cinematic equivalent would be for a filmmaker to be named Best Director at the Academy Awards on three occasions. It’s an even more impressive feat when you consider that F.P. Journe is an independent brand lacking the backing of a multinational parent company. A doff of the cap.

Laurent Ferrier

Having served at Patek Philippe for 37 years—a four-decade tenure that saw him rise to creative director—you might have forgiven Laurent Ferrier for putting his feet up. Not so for this third-generation watchmaker. In 2010, aged 63, Ferrier decided that the time was right to launch a watch brand of his own. He debuted with the Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral, an elegant piece that was named Best Men’s Watch at that year’s Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix. The rest, as they say…


MB&F doesn’t call itself a watchmaker: it prefers to be known as an “artistic concept laboratory”. That’s because MB&F doesn’t make watches. Nope, what the brand makes is “horological machines”. And so we get robotic clocks, time-telling music boxes, and timepieces shaped like spaceships, jet engines and jellyfish. Occasionally, the maddest brand in watchland will come out with something you can actually wear on your wrist.

H. Moser & Cie.

The main advantage of being independent is, surely, autonomy, and therefore the freedom to pursue your dreams—regardless of how outré and commercially perilous those ideas might be. Never one to let convention get in the way, H. Moser & Cie. has, in its two-decade history, given us a mickey-take of the Apple Watch named the Alps Watch Zzzz; a timepiece with a case made of actual cheese; and an equally irreverent number from which real plants sprouted. Somehow, it works, often spectacularly—as with 2019’s Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black, which featured no hands and no hour indices. Go figure.


As British as a Beefeater eating a cucumber sandwich, Henley-on-Thames-based Bremont has been spearheading the mission to bring back mass-scale mechanical watchmaking to the United Kingdom since 2002. Two decades on, and the brand, with the backing of billionaire celebrity hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman since the beginning of 2023, is close to achieving that mission, manufacturing components for its own proprietary movement in a space-age technology centre close to the banks of the River Thames.

Parmigiani Fleurier

Michel Parmigiani began his career restoring historic clocks and watches, including many pieces from the Patek Philippe museum. After rebuilding a number of exhibits for the Watch Museum of Le Locle, in 1996 he began manufacturing watches of his own. King Charles III, a champion of traditional crafts, has proven himself an admirer, having been photographed wearing the now-discontinued Toric chronograph on several occasions.


HYT made a splash in 2012 when it became the first watchmaker to display the time using mechanical components to regulate coloured fluids inside cylindrical tubes. If you think that sounds crazy, you’d be exactly right. After a brief hiatus, HYT is back and as experimental as ever, so expect big things in the very near future.

Arnold & Son

When English clockmaker John Arnold presented his Arnold No. 36 to the Greenwich Royal Observatory for review in 1778, the clock proved so precise that it was the first timing device to be denoted a “chronometer”; and the term is still used today to signal a supremely accurate timepiece. Continuing in that vein—although now operating from Switzerland’s La Chaux-de-Fonds, instead of London’s Chigwell—is the clockmaker’s latter-day incarnation, Arnold & Son, creator of 19 proprietary movements and counting since 1998.


Last year, Speake-Marin celebrated 20 years in the watchmaking business with its first timepiece with an integrated bracelet. Inspired by architectural elements of London’s financial district—a geometric case recalls a church clock tower and the dial sports “Big Ben” hands—the sporty Ripples collection points towards a more contemporary direction for the low-volume brand. The watches might take the English capital as their muse, but the movements inside are all manufactured within the company’s workshops in Geneva.

Franck Muller

Launched in 1991 between Franck Muller and watchcase designer Vartan Sirmakes, Muller is best known for exquisite timepieces that often defy logic and land with a heavy sense of “wow”. A watch boasting 36 complications and comprising 1,483 components? Please meet the Aeternitas Mega 4. Require a ten-day power reserve? Grab yourself the Giga Tourbillon. For all the complexity and wonder—Muller is rightly known as the “Master of Complications”—there are also softer moments such as the current Cintrée Curvex collection. Muller’s edge, though, is the crafting of something new and innovative—here’s an out-of-the-box thinker who has found incredible global success with tangible anticipation framing each year’s releases, and what is, ultimately, a unique take on watchmaking and one that’s become immediately recognisable.

Richard Mille

If you had to name the most successful independent watch brand of the 21st century, Richard Mille would surely appear near the top of your shortlist. It’s certainly the only name on this register of which non-watch folk will have heard. Mostly, that’s down to the strategic sponsoring of big-draw sporting events, everything from tennis and golf, to polo and Formula 1—hell, for several years now Richard Mille has sponsored the F1 teams of both Ferrari and McLaren. Yet there’s also the watches, including a handful of timepieces that have broken records for their physics-defying, lightweight construction.

Jean Daniel Nicolas

There’s limited edition. And then there’s Jean Daniel Nicolas. The second independent brand founded by legendary watchmaker Daniel Roth—his first company, simply Daniel Roth, was established in 1988 and acquired by Bulgari in 2000—produces a grand total of just two watches a year. Having cut his teeth at Audemars Piguet, Roth spent 15 years spearheading artistic direction at Breguet. Save for springs, rubies, glasses and cases, everything inside the brace of watches produced each year by Jean Daniel Nicolas is manufactured by hand within the company’s own workshops.


Grönefeld’s first watch was a statement of intent. Resurrecting a Dutch dial-name first established by their grandfather in 1912, Bart and Tim Grönefeld relaunched the family business in 2008 with the GTM-O6. Not only was the brand’s maiden timepiece powered by an in-house movement, it was also equipped with a minute repeater—broadly considered the most challenging of all complications to execute. This year saw Grönefeld release its first sports watch proper, the water-resistant, shock-absorbent 1969 DeltaWorks. Testament to the popularity of the independent brand, the customisable collection sold out shortly after launch.

Greubel Forsey

The holy grail for any independent watchmaker is to lay claim to its own proprietary movement. To successfully design, manufacture and put into production just one “in-house” calibre is a feat of micro-engineering that typically takes years, if not decades, to achieve. Since its launch in 2004, Greubel Forsey has developed more than 20 of its own branded movements, leading to more industry awards than you could shake a quadruple-tourbillon-regulated GMT hand at.

Philippe Dufour

Manufacturing a minuscule number of watches each year by hand from his workshop in Le Sentier, a sleepy, lakeside village in the foothills of the Jura Mountains, white-haired, pipe-smoking Philippe Dufour is straight out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The Father Christmas of independent watchmaking, if you will. In 2021, Dufour’s Grande et Petite Sonnerie No. 1, the watch he used to launch his brand in 1992, sold at a Phillips auction in Geneva for US$5.21 million (approx. $7.86 million), making it the most expensive timepiece ever sold by an independent watchmaker.

Thomas Prescher

Before turning his hand to watchmaking, Thomas Prescher was a captain in the German Navy. These days, following stints at IWC, Audemars Piguet and Blancpain, Prescher creates super-complicated wristwatches—including triple-axis tourbillons and perpetual calendars—on the shores of Lake Biel. Models such as the Nemo and the Nautica nod towards his former life.

Roger W. Smith

Waiting lists for Rolex Daytonas have nothing on those commanded by watches by Roger W. Smith. Put your name down for one of the five models the company currently produces, and it could be a decade until the Isle of Man workshop is ready to ship your order (although we’re guessing Ed Sheeran and his wife Cherry, who had a pair made for their wedding, didn’t wait that long). The cause of the lag? Every single element that goes into a Roger W. Smith watch enters the company’s boutique studio as a raw material. As such, only a dozen or so timepieces emerge each year.

Armin Strom

During the 1970s, Armin Strom made a name for himself skeletonising watch hands. That talent was demonstrated in his own timepieces, which began appearing in 1984, and continues to be a hallmark of the brand today under the stewardship of Serge Michel and Claude Greisler, who used to frequent Strom’s workshop when they were kids—although the company’s penchant for skeletisation has spread from hands to the rest of the dial. The brand, boasting a handful of its own movements, produces all of its main plates, bridges, levers, springs, wheels, pinions and screws in-house at their fully integrated manufacture in Biel—more than can be said for many of the industry’s big boys.

Kari Voutilainen

You might not have heard of Kari Voutilainen, but the judges at the annual Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix have. In the 20 years since the Finnish brand’s inception, critics at that prestigious awards body have bestowed Kari Voutilainen with eight awards—the most recent in 2022 for his stunning Ji-Ku piece (Artistic Crafts Watch Prize). Few brands, even among watch-world heavyweights, can claim such a substantial, and sustained, medal haul. Interestingly, in 2021 Kari Voutilainen acquired another star of the independent watchmaking scene, Denmark’s Urban Jürgensen.


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First Drive: The Porsche 911 S/T Is a Feral Beast That Handles the Road Like an Olympic Bobsledder

The commemorative model borrows underpinnings from the GT3 RS and includes a 518 hp engine.

By Basem Wasef 23/10/2023

The soul of any sports car comes down to the alchemy of its tuning—how the engine, suspension, and chassis blend into a chorus of sensations. The secret sauce of the new Porsche 911 S/T, developed as a tribute to the 60th anniversary of the brand’s flagship model, is more potent than most; in fact, it makes a serious case for being the most driver-focused 911 of all time.

Sharing the S/T designation with the homologation special from the 1960s, the (mostly) innocuously styled commemorative model borrows underpinnings from the more visually extroverted GT3 RS. Yet what the S/T, starting at $290,000, lacks in fender cutouts and massive spoilers it makes up for in directness: a flat-six power plant that revs to 9,000 rpm, a motorsport-derived double-wishbone suspension, and a manual gearbox. It’s a delightfully feral combination.

Rossen Gargolov

Whereas the automatic-transmission GT3 RS is ruthlessly configured for maximum downforce and minimum lap times, the S/T is dialed in for the road—particularly the Southern Italian ones on which we’re testing the car, which happen to be the very same used by product manager Uwe Braun, Andreas Preuninger, head of Porsche’s GT line, and racing legend Walter Röhrl to finalize its calibration. The car reacts to throttle pressure with eerie deftness, spinning its 518 hp engine with thrilling immediacy, thanks to shorter gear ratios.

The steering response is similarly transparent, as direct as an unfiltered Marlboro, and the body follows with the agility of an Olympic bobsledder. Some of that purity of feeling is the result of addition through subtraction: Power-sapping elements including a hydraulic clutch and rear-axle steering were ditched, which also enabled the battery to be downsized for even more weight savings. The final result, with its carbon-fiber body panels, thinner glass, magnesium wheels, and reduced sound deadening, is the lightest 992-series variant on record, with roughly the same mass as the esteemed 911 R from 2016.

Driver engagement is further bolstered by the astounding crispness of the short-throw gearbox. The S/T fits hand in glove with narrow twisties and epic sweepers, or really any stretch that rewards mechanical grip and the ability to juke through hairpin corners. The cabin experience is slightly less raucous than the 911 R, but more raw than the wingless 911 GT3 Touring, with an intrusive clatter at idle due to the single-mass flywheel and featherlight clutch. Porsche cognoscenti will no doubt view the disturbance in the same way that hardcore Ducatisti revere the tambourine-like rattle of a traditional dry clutch: as an analog badge of honor.

The main bragging right, though, may just be owning one. In a nod to the year the 911 debuted, only 1,963 examples of the S/T will be built. Considering the seven-year-old 911 R started life at$295,000 and has since fetched upwards of $790,000, this new lightweight could bring proportionately heavy returns—if you can be pried from behind the wheel long enough to sell it, that is.

Images by Rossen Gargolov

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Gentlemanly Restraint 

Art and science collide in the the newly released BR03A watch collection by Bell & Ross.

By Belinda Aucott 02/11/2023

In keeping with the brand’s design salute to aviation and military equipment, the pared-back face of the Bell & Ross BR03 Automatic takes its cue from the instrumentation in cockpits. It’s unabashedly minimal and confidently masculine style is set to make it a future classic.

Faithful to the codes that underpin the brand’s identity, the new utilitarian offerings sit within a smaller 41-mm case (a slight departure from the original at 42 mm Diver, Chrono or GMT.) and has a reduced lug width and slimmer hands. The changes extend to the watch movement, which has been updated with a BR-CAL.302 calibre. The watch is waterproof to 300 metres and offers a power reserve of 54 hours.

While the new collection offers an elegant sufficiency of colourways, from a stealthy black to more decorative bronze face with a tan strap, each is a faithful rendition of the stylish “rounded square, four-screw” motif that is Bell & Ross’s calling card.



For extra slickness, the all-black Phantom and Nightlum models have a stealthy, secret-agent appeal, offering up a new take on masculine restraint.

Yet even the more decorative styles, like the black face with contrasting army-green band, feel eminently versatile and easy to wear. The 60’s simplicity and legibility of the face is what makes it so distinctive and functional.

For example, the BR 03-92 Nightlum, with its black matte case and dial, and bright green indices and hands, offers a great contrast during the day and emits useful luminosity at night.

A watch that begs to be read, the the BR03-A stands up to scrutiny, and looks just as good next to a crisp, white cuff as it does at the end of a matte, black wetsuit.

That’s a claim not many watch collections can make. 

Explore the collection.

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Timeless Glamour & Music Aboard The Venice Simplon-Orient Express

Lose yourself in a luxury journey, aboard an Art Deco train from Paris

By Belinda Aucott 03/11/2023

Watching the unseen corners of Europe unfold gently outside your train, window can be thirsty work, right? That’s why Belmond Hotels is once again staging a culinary train journey from Paris to Venice, aboard the glittering Art Deco carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express.

To celebrate diversity and inclusion in the LBTQ+ community, another unforgettable train ride is slated for 2 November.

On the journey, ample servings of decadent cuisine will be served and live entertainment will play looooong into the night. Trans-DJ Honey Dijon and Dresden’s Purple Disco Machine are both part of the disco-house line-up.

Passengers are encouraged to dress in black-tie or cocktail attire, before they head to the bar and dining carriages to enjoy their night, where they are promised ‘unapologetic extravagance’,.

Negronis, martinis, spritzes and sours will all be on offer as the sunlight fades.

So-hot-right-now French chef Jean Imbert is also in the kitchen rattling the pans for guests.

Imber puts a garden-green-goodness twist on Gallic traditions. He regularly cooks for the who’s-who. Imbert recently co-created a food concept for Dior in Paris, worked with Pharrell Williams to present a dinner in Miami, and he’s even been invited to Cheval Blanc St-Barth to cater luxe LVMH-owned property.

The young chef is vowing to create no less than ‘culinary perfection’ in motion with his own passion for fresh seasonal produce. There’ll be plenty of Beluga caviar, seared scallops, and lobster vol-au-vents.

“I want to create beautiful moments which complement the train, which is the true star,” says Imbert of his hands-on approach to delectable pastries and twists on elegant Euro classics.

“Its unique legacy is something we take pride in respecting, while evolving a new sense of style and purpose that will captivate a new generation.”

Check the timetable for the itinerary of lush inclusions here.

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From Electric Surfboards to Biodegradable Golf Balls: 8 Eco-Conscious Yacht Toys for Green and Clean Fun

Just add water and forget the eco-guilt.

By Gemma Harris 18/10/2023

Without toys, yachts would be kind of sedentary. There’s nothing wrong with an alfresco meal, sunsets on the flybridge and daily massages. But toys add zest to life on board, while creating a deeper connection with the water. These days, there are a growing number of options for eco-friendly gadgets and equipment that deliver a greener way to play. These eight toys range from do-it-yourself-propulsion (waterborne fitness bikes) to electric foiling boards, from kayaks made of 100 percent recycled plastics to non-toxic, biodegradable golf balls with fish food inside. Your on-water adrenaline rushes don’t always have to be about noise and gas fumes. They can be fun, silent, and eco-conscious.

A game of golf isn’t just for land. Guests can play their best handicap from the deck with Albus Golf’s eco-friendly golf balls. The ecological and biodegradable golf balls are 100 percent safe for marine flora and fauna, and manufactured with non-contaminating materials. The balls will biodegrade within 48 hours after hitting the ocean and release the fish food contained in their core. For a complete golfing experience, add a floating FunAir green. From $3100 (FunAir Yacht Golf) and $315 a box (golf balls).

Fliteboard Series 2.0

The future of surf is electric, and Fliteboard offers an emissions-free and environmentally friendly electric hydrofoil. Flying over the water has never been as efficient and low impact, using new technologies with less than 750 watts of electric power. This second series boasts various performance factors for all riding styles. It also features an increased trigger range from 20 to 40 degrees for more precision and control. Fliteboard designed this series for every possible foiling ability, from newbies to wave-carvers. From $22,000.

Manta 5 Hydrofoiler XE-1

Hailing from New Zealand and using America’s Cup technology, Manta 5 offers the first hydrofoil bike. The Hydrofoiler XE-1 replicates the cycling experience on the water. Powered by fitness-level pedaling and assisted by the onboard battery, top speeds can reach up to 19 km per hour. The two hydrofoils are carbon fibre, and the frame is aircraft-grade aluminium. The onboard Garmin computer will relay all the stats. The effortless gliding sensation will accompany you through a workout, exploration or just circling the boat. From $950.

Mo-Jet’s Jet Board

Imagine five toys in one: The Mo Jet delivers just that. From jet surfing, bodyboarding, and e-foiling to scooter diving. This versatile, German-built toy is perfect for those who cannot decide. The Mo-jet uses a cool modular system allowing you to switch between activities. Whether you want to stand, be dragged around or dive, you can have it all. It even has a life-saving module and a 2.8m rescue electric surfboard. Made from environmentally friendly and recyclable polyethene, it also ticks the eco-conscious boxes. Complete with an 11kW electric water jet, it charges in 75 mins, offering up to 30 mins of fun. Adrenaline junkies will also not be disappointed, since speed surges from 0 to 27 knots in 3 seconds. From $18,000.

Silent Yachts Tender ST400

Driven by innovation and solar energy, Silent Yachts recently launched its first electric tender, the ST400. The 13-footer has clean-cut lines and is built with either an electric jet drive or a conventional electric outboard engine. The ST400 reaches speeds above 20 knots. From $110,000.

Osiris Outdoor ‘Reprisal’ Kayak

Kayaks are ideal for preserving and protecting nature, but they’re usually manufactured with materials that will last decades longer than we will and therefore not too eco-friendly. Founded by US outdoor enthusiasts, Osiris Outdoor has created a new type of personal boat. “The Reprisal” kayak is manufactured in the US entirely from recycled plastics (around 27 kgs) that are purchased from recycling facilities. The sustainable manufacturing process isn’t its only selling point; the lightweight Reprisals have spacious storage compartments, rod holders and a watertight hatch for gadgets. Complete with a matte-black finish for a stylish look. From $1100.

The Fanatic Ray Eco SUP Paddleboard

Declared as the most sustainable SUP, the Ray Eco is the brainchild of the Zero Emissions Project and BoardLab, supported by Fanatic. Glass and carbon fibre have been replaced with sustainable Kiri tree wood. And you can forget toxic varnishes and resins; organic linseed oil has been used to seal the board and maintain its durability. This fast, light, and stable board is truly one of a kind, not available off the rack. This craftsman’s love for detail and preservation is another first-class quality of the board. From $10,000

Northern Light Composite X Clean Sailors EcoOptimist

One of the most popular, single-handed dinghies in sailing’s history, the tiny Optimist has undergone a sustainable revival. Northern Light Composites and not-for-profit Clean Sailors have teamed up to launch the first sustainable and recyclable Optimist. Using natural fibres and eco-sustainable resins, The EcoOptimist supports a new circular economy in yachting. OneSail also produces the sail with a low-carbon-footprint manufacturing process. From $6000.

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The 50 Best Cocktail Bars in the World, According to a New Ranking

The World’s 50 Best organisation gave the Spanish bar Sips top honours during an awards ceremony in Singapore.

By Tori Latham 18/10/2023

If you’re looking for the best bar in the world, you better head to Barcelona.
Sips, from the industry luminaries Simone Caporale and Marc Álvarez, was named the No. 1 bar on the planet in the latest World’s 50 Best Bars ranking. The organisation held its annual awards ceremony on Tuesday in Singapore, the first time it hosted the gathering in Asia. Sips, which only opened two years ago, moved up to the top spot from No. 3 last year.
“Sips was destined for greatness even before it rocketed into the list at No. 37 just a few short months after opening in 2021,” William Drew, the director of content for 50 Best, said in a statement.
“The bar seamlessly translates contemporary innovation and technical precision into a playful cocktail programme, accompanied by the warmest hospitality, making it a worthy winner of The World’s Best Bar 2023 title.”
Coming in second was North America’s best bar: New York City’s Double Chicken Please. The top five was rounded out by Mexico City’s Handshake Speakeasy, Barcelona’s Paradiso (last year’s No. 1), and London’s Connaught Bar. The highest new entry was Seoul’s Zest at No. 18, while the highest climber was Oslo’s Himkok, which moved up to No. 10 from No. 43 last year.
Barcelona may be home to two of the top five bars, but London has cemented its status as the cocktail capital of the world: The English city had five bars make the list, more than any other town represented. Along with Connaught Bar in the top five, Tayēr + Elementary came in at No. 8, and Satan’s Whiskers (No. 28), A Bar With Shapes for a Name (No. 35), and Scarfes Bar (No. 41) all made the grade too.
The United States similarly had a good showing this year. New York City, in particular, is home to a number of the best bars: Overstory (No. 17) and Katana Kitten (No. 27) joined Double Chicken Please on the list.
Elsewhere, Miami’s Café La Trova hit No. 24 and New Orleans’s Jewel of the South snuck in at No. 49, bringing the Big Easy back to the ranking for the first time since 2014.
To celebrate their accomplishments, all of this year’s winners deserve a drink—made by somebody else at least just this once.
Check out the full list of the 50 best bars in the world below.
1. Sips, Barcelona
2. Double Chicken Please, New York
3. Handshake Speakeasy, Mexico City
4. Paradiso, Barcelona
5. Connaught Bar, London
6. Little Red Door, Paris
7. Licorería Limantour, Mexico City
8. Tayēr + Elementary, London
9. Alquímico, Cartagena
10. Himkok, Oslo
11. Tres Monos, Buenos Aires
12. Line, Athens
13. BKK Social Club, Bangkok
14. Jigger & Pony, Singapore
15. Maybe Sammy, Sydney
16. Salmon Guru, Madrid
17. Overstory, New York
18. Zest, Seoul
19. Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar, Bangkok
20. Coa, Hong Kong
21. Drink Kong, Rome
22. Hanky Panky, Mexico City
23. Caretaker’s Cottage, Melbourne
24. Café La Trova, Miami
25. Baba au Rum, Athens
26. CoChinChina, Buenos Aires
27. Katana Kitten, New York
28. Satan’s Whiskers, London
29. Wax On, Berlin
30. Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires
31. Röda Huset, Stockholm
32. Sago House, Singapore
33. Freni e Frizioni, Rome
34. Argo, Hong Kong
35. A Bar With Shapes for a Name, London
36. The SG Club, Tokyo
37. Bar Benfiddich, Tokyo
38. The Cambridge Public House, Paris
39. Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
40. Mimi Kakushi, Dubai
41. Scarfes Bar, London
42. 1930, Milan
43. Carnaval, Lima
44. L’Antiquario, Naples
45. Baltra Bar, Mexico City
46. Locale Firenze, Florence
47. The Clumsies, Athens
48. Atlas, Singapore
49. Jewel of the South, New Orleans
50. Galaxy Bar, Dubai

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