Based is LA and Biarritz, France, March LA.B has set out to create watches that mix the ambiance and style of 60’s and 70’s luxury with contemporary manufacturing and remarkable detailing. A quick look at their instagram will give you a better sense of this, as they mix photos of their watches with classic cars, a still from a Bond flick (Connery era, of course) and the odd Helmut Newton photograph.
While brands often attempt to associate themselves with iconic imagery to bask in the style of others, March LA.B’s watches are the first I’ve seen that actually achieve it. Quietly, they mix form, finishing, color and material to create pieces that are dark, handsome and stylish. Often, the watches we discuss on worn&wound can be categorized as rugged, slick, classic, aggressive, masculine, etc… While many of those terms still apply, the March LA.B AM3 adds a word we don’t often use: glamorous.
While authentic style gets you a long way, design, finishing and value complete a quality watch. When looking through March LA.B’s catalogue you will notice that every detail on all of their lines has been considered and designed anew. Yet, nothing is outlandish or strange. They push everything far enough to be unique and sexy, yet not so far as to feel like a gimmick. This commitment to design goes beyond formal details and into the materials and build of the watch itself.
As such, there isn’t a square millimeter of the AM3 that lacks interest. From the textured crown to the green display back crystal, there is something that catches the eye at every turn. At $1,249 this Swiss Made watch isn’t cheap, but it’s packed with quality features such as a sapphire box crystal, genuine gator rally style strap, fine finishing and a decorated ETA 2892-A movement.
Case: St Steel
Movement: ETA 2892-A
Water Res.: 100M
Dimensions: 38 x 42mm
Thickness: 12.4 mm
Lug Width: 19 mm
Crown: 7.5 x 4.5 mm
Warranty: 2 year
March LA.B has vintage inspirations behind all of their watch designs, the AM3 clearly getting its DNA from 70’s tonneau or barrel shape cases. Measuring 38 x 42 x 12.4mm including the box sapphire crystal, it’s small for a contemporary watch, but still bulky enough to be very masculine. They also added some aggressive lines and mass to the classic shape in the form of angular shoulders just past the lugs. In the end, you have a design that is sporty, yet refined. Though visually very different, it succeeds as a gentleman’s sport watch much in the way a Rolex Explorer 1016 does. Personally, I find the size to be spot on as the case is strong, but understated.
The geometry is fairly complex as there are many facets and curves all around. March LA.B utilizes this to create some interesting finishing. The sides of the case, from the flat vertical portion to the angled shoulder are fully polished, while the top surface and the angled plane above the lugs are brushed. This makes the watch reflect light beautifully, picking up reflections and hints of color from all angles. All of the edges around the case are also very crisp, which helps to define the overall geometry and emphasize the finishing.
Tucked away at 4 o’clock is one of the more intricately designed crowns we’ve come across. It’s large in diameter for a case this size at 7.5mm, but when fully screwed in, it is actually sunken into the side a bit. Rather than the typical coining one finds on crowns, they machined in a texture of rectangles with small lines running off at angles, which is a motif of the brand. This creates a decorative pattern that distinguishes the crown from the case as well as provides a nice tactile surface to grab. On the tip of the crown is a metallic “M” logo in a black lacquer dot. March LA.B must be commended for this design. There is more attention paid to the crown alone than many brands put into the whole case. It’s the type of subtle detailing that makes a watch “special” and stand out from your collection.
Flipping the watch over reveals a detail that is hidden to the public, but adds a lot of character to the AM3. The display back, which shows off an already fairly decorated ETA 2892-A, has a green crystal. While a totally superfluous addition, save that green is the brand color, it simply makes things more unique and memorable. The movement within is beautiful in its own right, and to some degree the green obscures it, but it’s hard to find fault in a detail that speaks to the brand trying to go the extra mile.
Dial and Hands
Though they don’t say it explicitly anywhere, it seems as though light and shadow were closely considered in the design of the AM3. With tremendous depth, a clever mix of surface finishes and subtle color variations, they’ve achieved a look that is handsome, mysterious and strong. The dial is simple, yet breathtaking. The surface of the dial is dark gunmetal grey with a sunburst texture that plays with light. Around the periphery is an angled chapter ring, also in gunmetal. The color is dark and smoky, contrasting the steel case nicely while not being as sharp as black, which is also available.
The primary dial consists of tall, chunky applied steel markers, one per hour, which bisect the chapter ring. The markers themselves have a drop of fancy finishing in that their top surfaces are polished until the point at which they cross the chapter ring, and then they are brushed. This creates different types of reflections as light hits them and the watch moves around in space. The sheer scale of the markers makes them very bold, giving the watch a touch of an industrial vibe that speaks to the cars that inspired its design.
On the gunmetal surface, between the markers, are small white lines for the individual minutes/seconds. They are subtle, and easy to look past, but are there should you want a reference. Additionally, in front of each of the applied markers are thin white, lumed lines that are as wide as the markers. These provide a bit more emphasis to the hour markers and also glow for low light. That said, the lume is pretty insignificant.
At 3 there is a date window with a steel frame that shows the custom date wheel beneath. For most days of the month, the date is shown as white on black. However, on the 3rd of each month the date is green. This is a little bit of branding they throw is as March is the third month of the year, green is the brand color, etc… The font they use is also a bit different than the standard.
Balancing out the window at 9 is a March lab “M” emblem. The “M” is an applied polished steel, underneath which, in white print, reads the full name of the brand. Though 9 is atypical for logo placement, it works on this dial. Just above 6 there is a large applied marker that reads “Automatic”, which is in a stylized script. It’s a nice detail, that though quite large, works with the automotive undertones and has a bit of a retro feel.
The hands of the AM3 have a unique “tuning fork” shape, that seems to be a signature of the brand. They are tapered, angular shapes that are split down the center, allowing for a line of white lume, also not potent, and a small gap. It’s an interesting design that is both aggressive and elegant. The gap acts as a pointer, which is particularly noticeable on the minute hand, as the white marker underneath appears through the aperture. The seconds hand is a simple black stick that is fairly discreet against the dark backdrop.
Movement: ETA 2892-A
Inside of the AM3 is a nicely decorated ETA 2892. This 21-jewel movement is a staple in automatics that range from around $1,000 to a few grand as it’s reliable and thin. As expected, it features a date, hacking seconds, hand winding, a power reserve of 44hrs and a frequency of 28,800. Though it is a fairly common movement, March LA.B has done a great job at dressing theirs up.
The rotor has been heavily engraved to feature a design composed of directional graining, apertures and lines, as well as an emblem of a shield full of gears. The pattern resembles the motif on the crown as well as the “M” logo. The movement below then has perlage aswell as some other texturing. Once again, their attention to detail and finishing is present.
Straps and Wearability
Keeping with the vintage vibe, though perhaps at the sacrifice of practicality, the AM3 features a 19mm lug width. This makes it a bit annoying for finding replacement or alternate straps, though 20mm ones will likely fit. Thankfully, the watch is already complimented by just about the perfect strap for its style. Made in France out of genuine alligator, this maroon/brown perforated strap is effortlessly cool. By mixing the luxuriousness of gator with the sportiness of a rally strap, the dark, masculine aesthetic of the watch is completed.
The strap is also beautifully made and detailed. It has a tapering design, starting at 19 and going to 16 at the buckle. Flip it over and you’ll find a dark green lining, which emphasizes the green case back. It’s stiff, but very comfortable as it is thin and breaks in quickly. Not surprisingly, the buckle has a unique design that reflects the styling of the case. With various facets and a mix of brushed and polished surfaces, yet a discreet size, it is one of the nicer buckles I’ve come across. The only problem with this strap is that they don’t seem to sell it as a stand-alone item.
On the wrist, the AM3 is one hell of a sexy watch. It’s a nice small, vintage size that has more than enough bulk to not feel or look diminutive. In fact, it’s surprisingly strong and bold. The 12.4mm height is tall for the diameter, which when mixed with the lack of lugs makes it seem like a steel rock strapped to the top of the wrist. It also has more weight than one expects, or feels as though it does since it is top heavy.
On my 7″ wrist, the size and proportions worked perfectly, allowing the full case and just enough strap to be visible. While the size is a personal preference, I am confident the watch would work on larger and smaller wrists as well. Though not always very important, on the AM3 the mix of the maroon/brown Gator, steel case and gunmetal dial, create a deep palette that works best when taken in altogether.
The mix of aggressive lines, elegant finishing, vintage undertones and luxurious materials make the AM3 a very versatile wear. Look sharp and sophisticated in a grey suit, cool and carefree in black jeans and boots. No matter how and where you wear this watch, it will bring style and a dose of devil-may-care attitude. As mentioned in the intro, there is also this element of glamour to the watch. It’s hard to describe, but when the watch is on your wrist, you might find yourself inclined to find a dark bar where you can drink single malt neat and see where the night takes you.
With the incredible amount of attention paid to the details of the watch, it’s no surprise that the packaging is well thought out too. The AM3 comes in a series of sleeves, boxes and containers that build up excitement and the attitude of the brand long before you even see the watch. The outer box, which has a black outer sleeve, is made of a black, gloss, lizard skin embossed cardboard that is surprisingly sexy for a cardboard box. The contents slide out in a drawer that has a rigid, green felt lined insert that contains each item in a separate space, as well as a pamphlet with some brand details.
The contents of the box are a pretty standard metal, business card sized, warranty card, instruction booklet and a leather wallet. Yes, the watch itself is contained is a rather cool travel wallet that has a patterned black leather (probably faux) exterior and rigid construction. Inside is a green felt cradle for the watch, which is kept in place with elastic bands, a felt divider and a typical set of sleeves for credit cards, ids, cash, etc… As an extra that is included with the cost of the watch, its pretty great. The large outer box you’ll likely throw away, but this wallet is very worth keeping. I doubt I’d personally carry ids and such in it, but I’d definitely use it to store my watch or protect it in luggage.
For what it’s worth, I’m pretty enamored with this watch. It’s one of the few that has come in recently that I could easily see putting in my own collection, as it isn’t like anything else I have, has style to spare and is beautifully executed. Few other watches in this price range have this level of care and detail put into every facet of their design. Nothing is haphazard and everything seems to be taken to a logical level of finish. It’s got attitude, a glamorous air and speaks to luxury in a tolerable way, but it’s also somehow restrained, masculine and brooding. Standout elements like the crown and alligator strap seal the deal.
Of course, at $1,249, it’s not an inexpensive watch, but for what it offers, it seems fairly priced. Spectacular finishing and build, sapphire crystal, alligator strap, travel wallet, customized date, ETA 2892-A movement with a heavily decorated rotor, made in Switzerland and, most importantly, unique design make for a great watch.
As an added bonus, 1% of all sales go to charities for Suicide prevention. The green line in their logo, and green color through out, is meant to symbolize life, and their commitment to this cause. Not many watch brands, for reasons unknown, implement programs that give back. So, should you be looking for accessible luxury, vintage sexiness or authentic style, the March LA.B AM3 won’t disappoint.
review unit supplied by March LA.B
By Zach Weiss