Furlan Marri Launches On Kickstarter With A Timeless (And Affordable) Meca-Quartz Chronograph Watch
As well you may know, I have unintentionally become a fervent collector of meca-quartz chronographs. I didn’t mean to. Honestly, I never set out to make this my goal. I’m not even sure how I ended up with more than ten of them (and counting) in my collection. Perhaps I am a slave to the times. Or maybe there is something going on with this vibrant segment of the market that makes it a great place for new brands like Furlan Marri to make some serious hay…
I’ll get this out of the way right at the top. I am not suggesting meca-quartz watches are the “penny stocks” of the watch industry. Honestly, as awesome as I think these pieces are as objects, I do not regard them to be or imagine them to become good “investments”. If you want your money to make you more money, buy stocks, get into property management, or buy a ton of lottery tickets. Watch collecting (and wearing) should be about fun. It should be about passion. And, at its core, it should always be about good design.
A wise choice
And I think — in fact I am pretty darn convinced — that this is how brands like Furlan Marri (and other personal favorites like Nezumi and SYE) are having so much success. These brands don’t pretend to be something they are not. They are using these movements for good reasons.
Meca-quartz chronograph modules are a credible hybrid that has a bit more mechanical intrigue than a simple quartz movement and bucket-loads more reliability and affordability (especially when it comes to after-sales) than mechanical alternatives. It is what it is. It isn’t a pale imitation of either. Crucially, it is something new. As such, it seems almost preternaturally immune to the kind of criticism often (unfairly, in my opinion) directed at quartz technology.
That isn’t to say that meca-quartz chronograph modules get a huge amount of praise either. They kind of float under the radar. Rarely does a brand push the meca-quartz aspect of the proposition. More often, the movement becomes a moot point and the design is allowed to take center stage. For brands like Furlan Marri and Nezumi, which both draw heavily on vintage timepieces for aesthetic inspiration, this is ideal; similarly, it works for more avant-garde, challenging designers like SYE that wish to dedicate a huge percentage of the build budget to creating something physically novel.
Both strategies work
In my opinion, the meca-quartz is the ideal foundation for both approaches. And, crucially, both strategies seem to work. The results are not exactly “collectible” (at least, we can’t say that for sure given the youth of the market segment), but they are extremely satisfying from a stylistic perspective. In fact, it beggars belief in my mind that fewer established mechanical-first brands copy the truly brilliant aesthetic efforts of these up-and-coming design houses.
As soon as a new brand in the mold of Furlan Marri pokes its head above the parapet, I am right in its face with the same questions: are you going to make a mechanical version? Why am I asking? Because the second you put such a beautiful design to market, many would-be customers will come back to you with the same. Nezumi has endured the same line of questioning for years. Regrettably, offering the same kind of design/build quality at the same price when using a mechanical chronograph that boasts any kind of credibility is not easy. It is the preserve of major maisons that can benefit from the economy of scale and preferential access to movements that small start-ups cannot hope to compete with.
To my eyes, the closest thing on the mechanical market to the kind of authentic, vintage vibes offered by Furlan Marri and Nezumi Voiture, is the Hamilton Intra-Matic Auto Chrono. And yet, despite my admiration for that mechanical piece from an established credible brand, I do not own it. Instead, I own five Nezumis and am soon to own (at least) one Furlan Marri. Why?
I’m just a man
I love watches. It is probably fair to assume that all of you reading this article feel the same. If you’re just starting on this crazy journey, stick with it. It is a rollercoaster, but it is worth it. The irrational love you feel for this tiny ticking treasures will baffle you till the end of time, but it is a very rewarding hobby.
I don’t like watches because they are expensive (although I often like expensive watches). I don’t like watches because they are status-boosting items (the only status-boosting item I care for is the step-ladder in the kitchen that enables me to reach the top shelf). No, I like watches because they are the perfect blend of form and function. To me, they are science and art wrapped up together in a neat little package. If that neat little package happens to be well made and look beautiful, well, you can take my money.
That’s what we’ve got here with Furlan Marri’s first collection. Honestly, the first time I opened the box I was stunned. I’d expected it to be a lazy, half-baked clone of something I’d seen hundreds of times before in friends’ vintage collections. But it was not. It was something special. Everything about it is sharply executed. The indices are crisp and insanely well polished. The hands are actually blued, not painted, lacquered, or chemically treated. I wasn’t thrilled with the decoration on the pushes themselves (definitely my biggest negative) but I grew to appreciate even that after a day or two on the wrist.
Teased for a reason
I teased the release of the Furlan Marri in an article last month. I wasn’t a huge fan of the strap it came on and happened to have a Forstner Beads of Rice in for review, so I put the two together. The colorway I have (there are some pretty cool alternatives available on the brand’s Kickstarter, which I recommend you check out) is really versatile. It could hang with a black or brown strap with ease. I think if I hadn’t put it on the Forstner, it probably would have ended up on a black shell cordovan because it has that kind of old-school vibe to it.
So why did I tease a watch that wasn’t out yet back then? because I believe in it. I believed in it as soon as I opened the box. I had to check and double-check the price of this one, as it starts on Kickstarter at a remarkable €268. Now, during my near-20-year career in the watch industry, I have seen behind many curtains, many times. I know how much these components cost. I know the time it takes to design something like this (properly). Little things, like the newspaper delivered to journalists to present the Kickstarter launch, require effort and investment.
This is not the slickest brand presentation I have ever seen. There were errors. There were missteps. But, truthfully, the product overcame all of that for me. The effort was obvious. The passion is clear. And the watch itself? It is stunningly well done for less than €300.
Why? Why not?
If you love watch design, this is a project worth checking out. If you’ve previously stayed away from new brands because it feels more like they produce commodities rather than collectibles, I hear you, I do, but I think this is worth a look anyway. Why? Because, at this price, why not? It may not have the same provenance as a Tissot or a Hamilton, which you can pick up for roughly the same dollar, but it does have character and the kind of freshness it is rare to find at this price point with this kind of execution.
I have a few really “nice” watches. I’m talking about the kind of pieces people regard as “worthy”. I have more than ten meca-quartz chronographs because sometimes, I like to wear something that isn’t quite so valuable but is no less aesthetically interesting. Is Furlan Marri a competitor to Omega? No. It isn’t supposed to be. It never will be. But does it deserve the attention and consideration of seasoned watch lovers? I really do think so. Head over to the Kickstarter page to check out this new brand, and then hit me up in the comments with your takeaways. Do you agree, or have I finally lost the plot?