The trend of lug-less watches with clean and subtle dials has been going on for a few years now. Likely starting with Uniform Wares, we’ve also seen similar designs from the likes of Stock Watches from Australia and a handful of other brands around the way. That said, we always enjoy a nice minimal watch, whether modern or vintage, and can’t help but be into these often stylish designs. So, when we came across MONA Watches for the first time, just recently, we were instantly intrigued.
Inquiring more about the brand has revealed that they are much more than meets the eye. Founded and based in France, MONA came about by the chance meeting of a watch-maker and designer. Together, they developed the idea of the brand and formed MONA, which stands for Montres Originales Nardon et Ardilouze. Their goal is nothing short of trying to “reinstate watch-making in France by reclaiming a savoir-faire that has become scarce”. Their initial offering of watches, the HMS Series, are ETA quartz powered and feature elements all crafted in Europe. The watches are assembled by the MONA team in their workshop to order, allowing for a level of customization that is very uncommon.
A quick glance at their branding will also reveal that they are a bit different from other brands. Their logo, which features two crossed flags, flanked clean lettering, could as easily be for a band as a watch company. Their adverts of sorts feature hand painted watercolors and typography, giving them the organic feeling of a pour-over coffee shop. All in all, it creates the sense of a brand that is taking a different approach to watch making, one that is more personalized and service based.
The MONA HMS watches are simple and understated with clean 40 x 8.2mm French-made lug-less cases, straight cut leather straps and restrained dials. But, what makes these watches different and distinct are nuanced details. The case design is a familiar cylinder, but features a slightly thicker bezel and, more interestingly, knurled sides. The texturing is a really nice and unique detail that brings the case to life. They also seem to mix and match finishes, having steel bezels and PVD cases for an even more dynamic look. The crowns are screw down, and have a small inset dot on the end instead of a logo.
Similarly, the dials and hands are familiar, but just different enough, mixing Max Bill-esque elements with playful colors. The primary index of numerals are executed in a very small, clean font and placed close to the center, which contrasts the long and thin lines that encircle them. On the models with date function, the window replaces the 3 numeral, but is set far in (due to the movement). The omitted 3 emphasizes the location of the window which adds a strange play in composition. Under 12 is the MONA logo, which, as might be indicated earlier, I happen to quite like.
Finishing off the dial are simple, long thin block hands, with interesting coloration. The hour and minute share a base color, though the tip of the hour hand will have a contrasting color. The second hand then matches the tip of the hour. Completing the watches are seemingly beautiful leather straps in a variety of brown tones, from auburn to tan to honey. You can tell by the clean look, hearty graining, texture and deep color that these are quality straps. They also all feature quick release spring bars.
The various models with the HMS line are distinguished by their palettes, each having a unique name. The HMS Icone has a white dial with black markers and black with blue accented hands. The HMS Terra is nearly identical to the Icone, but features an earthy sand color accent. Sort of their base design, the Icone and Terra are clean and elegant. The HMS Villa has a vibrant powder blue dial with white markers and white hands with dark blue accents. Perhaps my favorite of their color-ways, this looks particularly rich on their tan leather straps. Lastly for the date free models is the HMS NOVA, which has a beige dial with black markers, and black hands with blue accents. These models run 290 Euros or about $390.
There are currently two models available with the date dial. One is the HMS Supericone, which has the same coloration as the Icone, but with added date. The other is the HMS Date Supervilla, which features a chocolate brown dial with white markers, and white hands with blue accents. This one takes a slightly different approach, with a dial color that is meant to match the gorgeous dark brown leather strap to which it is mounted. These models go for 360 Euros or about $485.
If you head over to their website, you’ll quickly notice that it’s a tumblr and has no sales mechanism. To order, you have to contact them directly, which allows you to request a different strap color, etc. This more personalized method of sales is intentional as they want to build relationships with all of their customers. The watches are then made to order and engraved with the order date. All in all, MONA seems like a very exciting and different new brand. I applaud them for manufacturing locally and assembling themselves in order to have a level of control that is atypical for small brands. Clearly, this results in higher prices, but they seem to be worth. Naturally, I hope to see mechanical watches in their future, and look forward to future designs.
images courtesy of MONA watches