Recently I was flipping through GQ magazine's annual "Style Guide." A special issue of their magazine dedicated to helping helpless male souls "dress better" (not that the advice is all bad, but it is extremely declarative and one-dimensional - though I do realize that assertive, aggressively consultative content does sell copies). Thankfully, the issue had a section on watches, but as it turned out the section was written by fashion editors. Uh oh!. Actually, not everything they said was bad, though it left little room for 'argument.' They more or less offered a "one-size-fits-all" approach to recommending watches - which is clearly not in tune with the universe of timepiece options out there. When it came down to it they suggested getting your self a small, thin, gold watch.
'Small' seemed to be an overarching tone in the guide. It was clearly marked for novices. Not once I believe, was the term "movement' mentioned. Why is it that fashion editors in New York are afraid of large watches? They seemed to make one exception for 44mm wide Panerai timepieces, which are clearly not very large by today's standards. Anyhow, looks like the fashion elite edict that small is in. This brings me to the point at hand, my review of the MARCH LA.B AM 1 watch that is 37mm wide. A segment of the watch wearing population seems to be arguing that large it out, some people are yelling "long live the large watch." I don't know why people need to assert the existence or denial of a trend. The only person who should care what the size of your watch is... well, is you. I personally prefer "larger" watches. Not because I think it is 'in,' but because that is what I like. I have always like that. But I have sported smaller pieces in my life, and I don't have a problem with it. Can't small and large watches live together in harmony... in one's timepiece collection?
The AM 1 from newer watch brand MARCH LA.B is not a large watch by any means. The brand will be offering a 40mm wide version of it soon. So consider this review of the 37mm wide size and anything larger than that which might come out soon. I am usually very "generous in tone" with new brands, but I don't need to be with MARCH LA.B. As a new brand they have a lot of things right. Design is very cohesive and well put together. Quality is impressive, and the overall presentation is well thought out.
I sat down with the brand's co-founder Jerome Jacques Marie Mageto discuss the concept of the brand and the design. The story in interesting. In a nutshell, the founders are from France, and Jerome is the design. They previously worked on eye and watches for Quicksilver. They wanted to team up and do their own watch brand, with Jerome being the design. Jerome, while French, has had a lifelong affinity for American muscle cars (especially the Mustang), and the era which birthed muscle cars. Jerome wanted to design an elegant timepiece that was still masculine and evoked the muscle car era. Something that a well-dressed GTO Judge driver might wear with a leather jacket cira 1969. The AM 1 isn't exactly a "muscle watch," but from a design and thematic standpoint I see the brand's point and position.
The AM 1 is their major model in the MARCH LA.B collection - and it is a stand up design. Retro and still totally unique. Jerome has proved himself to be an adept watch designer. The firm was also able to team up with some stellar Swiss suppliers. Which accounts for the quality of the watches being quite high. Little things that new brands often get wrong are very well done on the AM 1. Examples include the very nicely engineered bracelet as well as pristine dial. Nods to the past are bountiful. Including the style of clasp on the strap as well as the domed sapphire-coated mineral crystal meant to look like an acrylic crystal. The design of the dial itself is totally passable as something spacey from 1967. Case further is water resistant to 100 meters.
More enjoyable little detains include the design of the crown - which is unique with its textured surface and green logo inlay (a touch more green on the dial periphery). The watch case is a very fluid design with good contrast polish and an enjoyable shape. Also note the very cool looking engraving on the back of the case that is a top with watch gears inside of it. This is one of the neatest pictographic watch logos I have seen in a while.
The standard AM 1 has a Swiss Ronda 517 quartz movement in it, but the brand does offer some version with mechanical movements. More mechanical movements to come in the future as I understand. While it is another topic all together MARCH LA.B has a special relationship with Carroll Shelby, and will offer a limited edition 40mm wide special version of the AM 1 with a automatic mechanical movement that I discuss here. The Ronda 517 is a nice three hand with day/date movement. MARCH LA.B uses custom discs for the day and date with a special font - another nice detail.
The designer has really proved himself here. Not just in concept, but as well as execution. I have seen plenty of watches that look killer on paper, only to let down in real-life. Jerome Mage being a man with an eye for style and detail, wearing a watch like this is as much about the design, as it is buying into the talent of Mr. Mage. Ideally he has the power to cast spells with a name like that.
The gap-less steel bracelet that is great looking and comfortable is really a selling point of the AM 1 - though it is available with leather straps (and in PVD gold for the case). For people who enjoy a 37mm wide watch, the AM 1 is really nice on the wrist and well designed. As I say about many timepieces, even if you don't personally like the piece from an aesthetic standpoint, it is hard to argue that it is not a good execution of what it is meant to be. It also makes for a good ladies' watch for women who enjoy the look of it. With a few different dial colors and styles, as well as various strap options, the AM 1 is well-rounded right out of the bag. Like I said. for those who simply can't pull off a 37mm wide size, a 40mm wide versions should be available soon.
The AM 1 watch comes in a well-designed travel pouch with a green velvet style lining. You can get the entire MARCH LA.B watch collection online via their web store. This specific 37mm AM 1 watch with a steel bracelet and silver dial retains for $1,090, while the entire collection ranges in price from $895 - $1,260.