It has been a very interesting journey so far with Magrette. I first reviewed about their Regattare Kupe’s Voyage limited edition watch here about a year and half ago, and today I am reviewing their new limited edition Kia Kaha. In just that short time the brand has come a long way from having a good product, to an even better product. It has been fascinating to see brand’s product evolve. The Kia Kaha has numerous improvements over older models in terms of refinement and utility. Not that older Magrette watches suffer from significant problems, but rather that customers continue to get more and more for their money. The Kia Kaha shares the same basic theme which makes Magrette watches what they are – a simple, good looking case and dial, combined with beautiful hand-engraved Maori style art.
The Kia Kaha is a bit of a stealth nice watch. On the surface, its 44mm wide steel case is dark with black PVD coating, and a dial that likes to hide a bit in the case. The artistic magic of the watch isn’t revealed until after the watch is turned over, and you can appreciate the large, detailed engraving that is lovingly hand-done in New Zealand. The Kia Kaha is actually part of a sibling relationship of two limited edition watches that came out at the same time. I initially wrote about the Kia Kaha, and its brother the Kiatiaki watch here. The different in the two watches is the case back. Kia Kaha’s sibling watch has an exhibition caseback with an engraved rotor for the automatic movement, while here you get a solid steel caseback, with a larger engraving. The engraving is great, really great. I have been dutifully impressed by the handiwork of Magrette’s engraver Andrew Biggs since the first day I laid eyes on his work. His talent, in combination with the tribal, Maori style designs are extremely beautiful and visually satisfying. Wearing and looking at them feels nice, and it is even better to know that they were done by hand versus a laser cutting machine.
Good looks carry over to the dial as well. American based LUM-TEC now does many of Magrette’s dials, using their high-quality MDV GX luminant. In comparison to early Magrette dials, this is something much different. The hour indicators are cut into the dial, and there is lots of luminant applied in them and on the hands. You can see in the lume image how nice and evenly the luminant glows. There is also an embossed face on the dial in black-on-black right over 6 o’clock that is only visible in the right light. In fact, the dials are looking so good, Magrette will need to upgrade its hands. While lume on the hands is just fine, the detailing and quality of the hands themselves is due a bit of an upgrade given how well the rest of the watch looks.
Margrette uses a polished steel crown that isn’t black – which contributes to an unique look, and I think works well. The crown has an engraved Magrette logo in it. Magrette matches the look of the crown with polished, as opposed to black screws in the lugs to hope the strap in place. Of course, the caseback is also polished, as opposed to black steel. Lastly, Magrette uses a polished steel buckle on the strap. So there is lots of black and polished steel throughout the watch. This two-tone style suits the design well.
The thick black 24mm wide leather strap is all black without any tw0-tone stitching. I wonder what the watch would look like with a contrast stitched strap. The reason I mention this is that when wearing the watch, it is very dark over all. It almost feels like one of those “phantom” watches, because there is much more black than steel tone on the watch. Some people will love this look. What I can say is that unlike most phantom watches, the dial isn’t hard to read here.
The Magrette case shape and dial design that are loosely based items from Panerai and Anonimo are still faring well. Magrette uses a highly domed sapphire crystal over the dial. While legibility is there, it does create some glare and distortion when viewed from angles. My advice to Magrette is to experiment with more AR (anti-reflective) applications in the future and crystals that may help to reduce glare. Though, I should add that when looking straight on at the watch, legibility does not suffer at all.
Wearing the watch is a pleasure. The case and strap hug the wrist nicely. A quirk about Magrette watches is that when they use the large Panerai style buckle, the buckle is about as wide as the watch case. It isn’t a complaint, but an interesting quirk about the brand that adds character. Size feels just right for the case, and Magrette could even go bigger in the future. Imagine a large 48mm wide Magrette watch that has a lot of engraving all over it. That would be something special. Inside the Kia Kaha is a Swiss ETA 2824 automatic movement. Magrette like to offer dials without date windows for visual attractiveness and symmetry. The watch case is water resistant to 50 meters.
I have to mention the box that the Kia Kaha comes in. Magrette always has impressed me with their product packaging, but their newest box style is the best. It comes in a large, hand-made New Zealand Kauri wood box with a hinged top. The new design and layout is very nicely done, and the wood has a fantastic finish to it. I love the almost intoxicating smell of freshly worked wood – it reminds you of being in a timber artisan’s workshop. You’ll certainly put you nose close to the box now and again for a serious whiff of the fragrance. Really one of the best looking (and smelling) watch cases on the market – certainly in this price range.
The Magrette Kia Kaha is limited to just 25 pieces with a very reasonable price of $1,550. These go quick, but there might be a few left. The secret sauce of the watch is that you can choose to share with people the “hidden” engraving. Everyone else will just see it the attractive exterior – leaving the engraved case, your little secret. See or order the Kia Kaha watch on Magrette’s website here.