It’s funny what concepts brands will grasp onto to drive their designs and story. Sometimes it’s racing, other times it’s flying, often it’s just “this is what I was looking for”. Well, new British brand Marloe Watches grasped onto something I couldn’t help but find immediately appealing, if not a touch ironic. They wanted to, at least to start, make hand wound watches. They wanted to take a step back and do what once was the norm, and make classic watches with movements that need to be cranked to run. Sure, many brands have hand wound watches, but not many these days, especially very affordable micro brands, start off with that as a foundation.
So the idea caught my eye, as simple as it is. Luckily, the watches were interesting looking too. Marloe’s first offering is called the Cherwell. It’s a 43.4mm casual watch with a layered dial, unique case and crown, and a big open case back. Powering the Cherwell is an unexpected movement that both achieves their cranky goals and helps maintain a very modest price point. The movement is the SeaGull ST36, which is very similar is size and function to a Unitas, though designed and decorated to look like a 19th/20th century pocket watch. It also beats a bit faster at 21,600bph and has a power reserve of 50hrs. Considering the price of the Cherwell is £249, or around $350, the ST36 was likely the best option for using a manual wound movement.
Staying with the movement, the case back was designed to really show it off. A wide diameter crystal gives you full view of the Unitas-esque design. What stands out are the extremely long regulator, star design and decorated balance cock. All of these things give the movement and old-timey look. On one hand, that’s different from what we typically see, on the other, it’s a bit cheesy, and not exactly high-end looking. I would have preferred the safe, but sexy standards of perlage and Cote de Geneve. Around the case back you’ll find more text than usual. There is actually a quote from C.S. Lewis deeply etched around the crystal reading “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour”. I do like the effort here as case back text is often banal.
Taking in the rest of the case, the 43.4 x 48 x 12mm design is conical, getting wider toward the crystal. It’s a 2-piece design that lacks a bezel, making for a truly massive dial. Yes, it’s a big watch, but it’s in keeping with the pocket-watch sized movement within, and the lug-to-lug is fairly tame, making it more wearable. At three is an oddly shaped crown. It too gets wider away from the case, but with a concave profile, giving it an organic shape and feel. It’s also textured with twisting lines. Though a bit odd, it does feel good between your fingers and is also easy to pull out.
The dial design is really a highlight, and where the Cherwell gets most of its character. It’s a layered dial in white, black or gray (not pictured) with a tall central plateau. Coming off it are applied markers, which pass through the plateau, standing tall above the surface below. The sense of height and three-dimensionality is great, giving the dial an almost diorama feel. The markers break at 12 and 6 for a numeral at the former and a huge sub-dial at the latter. The 12 marker is a bit of a mixed bag. I think it’s a good call to have a 12 there, but the execution feels a bit off. Rather than another tall applied marker, it’s quite flat, looking a bit cheap and just off-balance.
That said, in stark contrast, the sub-dial at 6 is a work of art. It’s cut straight through the plateau, giving it sharp walls, really making it stand out. The surface of the sub-dial has concentric graining, giving it a nicely finished feel. It also has no markers or numerals, a touch I like. Active seconds are on/off indicators and give the dial some motion more than anything functional, so it doesn’t need any markings. This kept it from getting too busy or drawing away from the other dial components. The best part really is the proportioning to the rest of the dial. It’s just the right size.
Continuing the trend of minimal but textured, running from 1 – 5 and 7 – 11 are blind debossed squares, which act as minute markers. This is cool, and something I haven’t seen before. The markers are clearly pushed up through the surface, giving them a lot of depth. By being unpainted, they appear just as texture, creating a cool effect, while adding some function. As for text, below 12 reads “Marloe” and “Great Britain” and on the edge of the dial at 6 it read “Hand Wound”. The text feels appropriately sized. The “Hand Wound” is a bit unexpected on the dial, but as I said, it’s part of their brand theme. I happen to really like the typeface used (I love that ‘w’), so I found it tolerable. As for hands, the Cherwell features flat, skeletonized Dauphine shapes for the hour and minute. They are big, effective and work with the dial. The seconds is then more of a pointed sword shape that also works.
On the wrist, the Cherwell is big, but not outrageous. It’s all dial, but since the dial is subtle, the effect isn’t outlandish. That said it’s definitely more of a casual day-to-day watch than anything formal because of its size. I found the white dial particularly attractive as the sub-seconds had an almost silvery glint. Paired with normal clothes (or winter clothes as the photo shows), the watch felt at home with my typical dark colors. Perhaps a nice way to change it up for warmer months would be to throw a mesh bracelet on.
All in all, the Cherwell by Marloe Watches is a cool first entry for the brand. I do like that they had a concept and created a design that feels to be all their own. Their use of texture on the dial really made the watch sing. The movement choice might limit some customers, but at least it’s fun to look at. A good “starter” mechanical if you will, as Unitas watches have gone up in price over the years. That said, I do think their low price might be limiting them. I think everything about this watch would have come through better had it all been made at a higher price point, and with a movement to match. Here, it’s a bit like a $350 watch that wants to look like a $1,000, but in the end, still looks like $350 watch.
The Cherwell isn’t actually available yet. It’s launching on Kickstarter Tuesday, January 26th. The Cherwell is live and got funded with break-neck speed. Go here to check it out. Through KS, a limited amount will actually be available at £129 / $199, which is pretty darn cheap. So, if you’re into the watch, mark your calendar.