The successful social-media marketing brand MVMT, based out of my native Los Angeles recently released its first mechanical watch, and I’m looking at it today. The MVMT Arc Automatic was debuted not long after it was announced that the Movado Group — a historic name in American watch making — had purchased MVMT. That said, I’m rather certain the Arc Automatic is something they’ve been working on for a while and is unrelated to Movado’s influence.
MVMT Arc Automatic Watch Story & Concept
Even though mechanical watches, with their appeal and price-point, don’t normally mesh with MVMT’s typical customer, it is often the fact that lower-end watchmakers are drawn to releasing a mechanical timepiece. Why is that? The answer is not an easy one.
Some watch companies think they aren’t “legitimate” to consumers until they have a “serious” (i.e., mechanical) watch in their collection. More frequently, however, the genesis of a mechanical watch stems from the brand itself, and not its customers. Managers and designers of quartz watches tend to feel as though their taste improves over time. Even those people who have no history as watch enthusiasts are quickly made aware of the emotional enjoyment that comes from having a mechanical timepiece. Given that prices for automatic, and otherwise mechanical, watches are typically higher than quartz watches, companies can invest more money into the watch housing itself, not just the movement. That often results in better cases, dials, hands, and straps. Is that the case for the MVMT Arc Automatic? I think so, yes.
I respect that MVMT discovered a marketing niche that the traditional watch industry was totally ignoring. They used their experience with youth culture and digital media to create a brand personality and creative videos and photography that appeal to a hungry and aspirational audience looking to be worldly, sexy, and active while having fun. I’ve always said that MVMT would have had a far more difficult job if, for example, Swatch or Seiko used the same marketing techniques to promote their products. Alas, as I’ve written about endlessly, the traditional watch industry has either antiquated notions of marketing or an entirely dysfunctional relationship with marketing, to begin with. This has allowed companies like MVMT and their competitors to take the youth watch market by storm, fueled by the power to bypass traditional wholesale and retail channels, and because they can invest in social media, sell online, and reach a large number of their very young consumers.
I say all this knowing that many of their customers have never owned, or may not even know about, mechanical watches. MVMT seems to understand this and does a nice job of discussing the product (albeit with very brief amounts of text) on their website. Some of the typical technical specs you’d expect to see on a traditional watchmaker’s website are often missing. There is, for example, entirely no discussion of the type of movement used in the watch. Instead, their copywriting team actually did a nice job of poetically encapsulating the appeal of mechanical watches in terms that MVMT’s demographic is likely more receptive to. They use the slogan “A Modern Classic, A Kinetic Machine,” adding that “the gears that drive the smooth sweeping motion of the hands are powered by the natural movements of the wearer, revealed by a sculptural exhibition caseback.” That’s some decent marketing language, and I hope enough of their audience makes it far enough to read that. The result is MVMT actually helping to educate an entire demographic about why mechanical watches are cool. MVMT isn’t going to make them automatic watch-lovers, per se, but I think it is excellent that the brand is doing its part in helping customers mature into the higher-end timepieces that they’ll likely take interest in as they get older.
MVMT Arc Automatic Watch Design & Technical Merit
So how well made is the Arc Automatic watch? I ask this question not only because it’s MVMT’s first automatic, but because it’s a watch that will be many customers’ first automatic timepiece. The Arc Automatic’s price is relatively affordable, but it isn’t the least expensive automatic watch of its kind on the market. The brand is certainly aiming for a “premium” entry-level mechanical watch. (The term “premium” is used by a lot of today’s youth marketing culture.)
The MVMT Arc Automatic debuts in four styles, including Bourbon Rose, Jet Noir, Ivory Oak, and Iron Elm (pictured). I’m not sure that is the model I would have personally chosen, but it is what MVMT felt was good for me, and I have to admit that the light gray colors are pleasing to the eye. At a glance, the watch is respectable and familiar-looking. For me, MVMT watches haven’t ever been particularly distinctive looking, which makes sense because the brand is one of many inexpensive watches that focus on “minimalist” designs. If you look closely, you’ll notice a number of little design cues that MVMT hopes will help consumers recognize it as an MVMT. These include the shape of the hands, case-design elements and, of course, the small MVMT logo.
MVMT still has many years to go before its watches are placed in the same category as the more refined products released by more mature brands. Small areas of refinement could use attention — such as the thickness of the case or the almost-too-small window for the date — but overall, the Arc Automatic is an impressive timepiece. It is comfortable and attractive, and it does a good job presenting the movement. My biggest complaint is probably the case thickness. The watch is 13.25mm-thick (and it looks thicker), which makes the 41mm-wide case seem rather tall. Given its dressy personality, I think this is a few millimeters too thick. It is actually pretty obvious why the case is so thick, even if it doesn’t technically need to be. MVMT was trying to go for a more vintage look with a richly domed crystal (produced from mineral glass) whose contours flowed with the case, creating a sort of pebble-stone look. The very tall and domed crystal does attract a bit more than its fair share of glare from reflected light, and if you look at the case from the side you can tell the dial doesn’t need nearly as much clearance. I didn’t design this watch, so I don’t know if there are technical considerations I am not thinking about, but I would certainly strive to make the next-generation Arc Automatic thinner if it were up to me.
The steel case is well done overall, with 50 meters of water resistance and some handsome contrast finishing that eschews polished surfaces for a combination of a satin-finished and brushed surface. The lack of reflectivity on the dial and case is a good thing, in my opinion. To make the watch comfortable on most wrist sizes, the lugs are stubby and immediately point downward, which is a friendly thing for smaller wrists such as my own. The crown — with its MVMT logo laser etched in it — seems to jut out a bit, but is quite comfortable to wind or when adjusting the movement time or date. Overall, I’d say that the Arc Automatic case, for the price, has a nice level of finishing, as well as originality, while also sticking to the “minimalism trend” MVMT likes to push.
Also on the case is a mineral crystal exhibition window on the rear of the case. There you can see the Japanese Miyota (same company as Citizen) 82XX series automatic mechanical movement that powers the watch. This version of the 8215 movement has a pleasantly decorated baseplate with some machined stripes. MVMT added a bit of their “DNA” here by writing “Designed in California” on the automatic rotor. Nothing about the movement was designed in California, but I supposed it is a cool place to write this remark, a la Apple, who also uses this language on their products, which are designed, but not built, in California. The movement operates at 3Hz with about 42 hours of power reserve and offers the time and date. It certainly isn’t the most accurate movement in the world, but then again, that isn’t why most people buy mechanical watches. I’m pretty sure the movement will satisfy the intended customer.
My last point on the movement is my appreciation for the “disclaimer” language MVMT uses on their website. Right above the technical specs of the watch (a bit hidden on the page) is the salient message: “The Arc Automatic is best worn every day to keep accurate time, and should be fully wound before every wear. It’s best to keep it in the watch winder when you are not wearing it. Avoid magnets, shocks, and water exposure. In the event that water penetrates the case, repair immediately. Avoid setting the date between 9pm and 1am. Best to avoid extreme temperatures, as accuracy is compromised below -10°C and above 60°C. Best to service approximately every 3 years to ensure long-term quality performance. In the event of time-delay or other unusual occurrences, service immediately.” This will certainly go a long way in helping to explain to MVMT’s customers why, in some ways, wearing a mechanical watch is like stepping back in time, compared to their more inexpensive, albeit robust and accurate, quartz movements used in other MVMT watches.
I want to end this review by talking about the dial, which is the part of the Arc Automatic that most people will use on a regular basis. I like the applied, brushed-metal baton-style hour markers, which are adjacent to a minute track ring. It’s not a very original, but it looks pleasant. The hands are nicely done and have very thin strips of luminant on them for darkness-viewing. Symmetrically placed above 6 o’clock is a round date window. Round-shaped date windows can be appealing but they can also make the actual date numerals look squished, given that you are essentially giving a rectangular shape a circular frame. One needs to look carefully to do this, but I am the type of person who looks very carefully at these things. I also feel that the hands should have been a bit longer, as that would have made them more properly proportional. Not that most of the MVMT Arc Automatic owners will know this, but I think the dial would look a bit better with the hands being accurately proportionate. Having said all this, I don’t mind this dial and think it will satisfy much of the target demographic. My only real complaint is that legibility is somewhat hampered by the volume of glare on the crystal.
Attached to the case is a pleasant leather strap in gray, with a suede-style effect. The 20mm-wide strap has quick-release bars, which makes changing the strap and swapping it out for something else very easy (no tools needed). MVMT clearly put time and effort into making sure the Arc Automatic did not “parts-bin-share” for other models, and that it employed a level of detailing and refinement not found in other current MVMT watches. It costs about double or more than the average price of an MVMT watch. At this price, the majority of consumers MVMT normally reaches are priced out of affordability, even if they want the product. But from the perspective of a mechanical watch enthusiast, this is pretty inexpensive for a mechanical watch. The real questions are whether MVMT will be able to educate its customers in encouraging those who can afford this product to get one, as well as effectively branch out to new audiences who are more interested in automatic timepieces but haven’t yet found reasons to consider anything from the MVMT brand. It’s time for them to start making some fun, mechanically minded content for social media. Price for the MVMT Arc Automatic watch is $300 USD. Learn more or order at MVMT here.
>Model: Arc Automatic (Iron Elm color model as reviewed)
>Price: $300 USD
>Size: 41.mm wide, 13.25mm thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: If I were in a room with a lot of MVMT-age consumers and wanted to wear something they might know and find cool.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Under 25 emerging watch-lovers who grew up with social media and want their first mechanical timepiece.
>Best characteristic of watch: Likely to be attractive to its target audience, and successfully takes the core MVMT brand look and makes it feel a bit more mature.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Case feels overly thick, which takes away from its elegance and sense of design refinement; crystal reflections result in too much glare.