Interview with Marloe Watch Company: Watches for the Gentleman

When it comes to jewellery and accessories, I am a self-confessed magpie. I’ve always had this thing for watches, as you may have noticed from previous posts and my social media posts. Watches are an eternally a timeless piece for any lady or gentleman, and to me it’s because they’re glamorous but classic too. For men, accessorizing is one of the strongest fashion statements and fortunately, Marloe Watch Company came to my attention in time for the Spring/Summer 2017 season to assist all of you male readers in a new timepiece investment. Founded by Scotsman & Englishman Gordon Fraser and Oliver Goffe, after meeting one another in an online watch forum back in 2015, these two came together and set up shop in Oxfordshire, England. Hand-wound watches aren’t on everyone’s radar, but they should be. Powered by manual, mechanical movements, each watch by Marloe Watch Company has been thought up, designed and created by this pair of gentlemen, for gentlemen.

Marloe Watch Company

Gordon Fraser & Oliver Goffe

Oliver turns the cogs; from production to logistics, accounts to marketing, he oversees the running of the company to make sure everything is going smoothly, and dabbles in the odd sketch from time to time. Gordon is the designer; from design seed to video production, manufacturing to photography; Gordon controls all design work and visual output. – Marloe Watch Company

A startup via Kickstarter, for their debut watch the British duo raised over £145,000 of pledges in the first 7 days, surpassing their £30K goal by over four times in its debut week, succeeding in the campaign with over 900 backers in February 2016. Now, The Cherwell watch is available to buy at £249 (€287), a hand-wound watch featuring a leather strap and sleek design inspired by the beautiful university city of Oxford. It features a slim yet modern-sized custom case with a large sub-dial displaying the clock & hands and a crown-winder for an elegant finish. The beauty of this range is much more than just this sleek design, but also the feature of its exhibition case-back, that allows the wearer to see every detail of the mechanics including the ‘beating heart’, which is the Sea-Gull ST36, complete with beautiful engraving too.

Since succeeding in their Kickstarter campaign to launch their watches, the second victorious was The Derwent (£329/€380). This beauty is available in four different styles, a contemporary 38mm diameter design and a high-dome custom acrylic crystal inspired by classic 1950s and 1960s dress watches. Featuring a sleek face and duo-monotonous hands on the front, the engraved back also has a porthole that displays the balance wheel smoothly oscillating back and forth, with a Miyota 6T33 ‘beating heart’ for accurate time-keeping reliance, held by a smooth leather wristband to finish.

And now the company is onto their third campaign for The Lomond Chronoscope (£449/€518.85), driving their designs further up the ladder and providing watch lovers all around the world with more timepieces to not only invest in, but to be part of the success of a fashion company. The Lomond Chronoscope will be the first of the company’s designs to feature a stop-watch, with a full exhibition case-back and the Seagull ST19 ‘beating heart’, combining the traditional with the contemporary rather beautifully.

Earlier this month I sat down with the founders and asked Gordon & Oliver a few questions, to get a better insight into their world and their views on the fashion world.

Killer Fashion: Hi Gordon & Oliver! Let’s get straight to it so! When you were younger, were watches a big thing for you, or did it develop later on?

Gordon: No! Watches irritated me; having a lump of metal or plastic chained to your wrist – no thanks. Mobile phones were just becoming accessible for me when I hit my early 20’s so there wasn’t really a need for me to have a watch as well. I liked them from afar, the design and construction, trends, novelties, but never owned any of note – maybe a Philippe Starck silicone thing was the highlight. As I started my working life after university, there was a need to have the time available outside of my phone. Thus my love and appreciation of wristwatches was born.

Oliver: Unlike Gordon, I loved watches from a very young age. My father always wore watches and I was in awe of them. He had several hand-wound mechanical Smiths Astral watches, and that’s where my love for watches began.

KF: Did you have a dream watch you always wanted, as many of us did and still do?

Gordon: My dream watch for a long time was a Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope, but now I’ve got the unfortunate dream of an A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk. I doubt I’ll ever achieve it. But it’s nice to have something to aim for though, right?

Oliver: For me I didn’t dream of owning a particular watch, I just had a love for well-designed, classic, and accessible timepieces. You can purchase some incredible timepieces without spending £20k on a Rolex, you just need to find what suits your taste and style.

KF: How would you describe the perfect gentleman’s accessory?

Gordon: Unobtrusive!

Oliver: For me, it’s about complimenting your style, it says something about you without defining you.

KF: Marloe Watch Company is a beautiful name, an ode to the town of Marlow. What made you decide this would be its name, and why the spelling change?

Oliver: I grew up in and around Marlow, and spent a lot time on the Thames rowing and swimming, so the town has always been very dear to me. The spelling change was just to give our brand that bit of independence, we’re based locally to Marlow and wanted an association, but felt passionately about having a stand-alone identity.

KF: I love the idea of traditional hand-wound watches as your signature, what made you decide upon this method?

Gordon: I think we both felt that this movement type was seen as old and out of date; I guess automatic movements are more convenient. But there’s so much history there, as well as it being the most simple of mechanical movements. So we felt it was the perfect partner to what we wanted to achieve. Plus, it’s nice to know that your small effort of turning the crown will power the little mechanical machine on your wrist for the next few days.

Oliver: The Smiths Astral watches that my father wore when I was younger were all hand-winders, and even at a young age I was in awe of their mechanics – the energy coming directly from my father with each turn of the crown. This appreciation stayed with me to adulthood, so when we decided to launch our own brand of watches it was something I felt very passionately about. We both did.

KF: The Kickstarter campaigns have been a great success, how have you found it assists in creating a community of fans for Marloe Watch Co.?

Gordon: It’s up and down – there’s a massive amount of expectation from Kickstarter backers – they are investing their money in what could be a potential disaster. I think Kickstarter has a bad reputation, especially lately, due to a number of projects that were originally successful, then failing to deliver due to mismanagement. This leads on to people feeling apprehensive about risking their money. However, we have built a reputation of great project management and communication, as well as delivering above expectation. As such we do have a community of followers who like what we do and are continuing to support us.

Oliver: The Kickstarter community is a fantastic, positive group of people who are passionate about helping companies get their products off the ground, and as Gordon says we’ve been very warmly welcomed. As we launched our first product on Kickstarter our community primarily consisted of crowdfunding supporters, but since then it has developed to include watch and design enthusiasts, but we owe a lot of that growth to that original community for promoting and sharing our products to a broader audience.

KF: That’s very interesting how it’s a little up and down. With the Lomond Chronoscope now on Kickstarter, your third watch design, do you plan on continuing this method for another few watches?

Gordon: I don’t think so – it’s great to see so much support but there’s too much discounting on Kickstarter to continue as a business model. We need to expand and flourish; it’s called Kickstarter for a reason – to get businesses on their feet! To perpetually return to that method of “sales” questions what we are trying to do.

Oliver: But we’ll be forever grateful to the Kickstarter community, without them Marloe wouldn’t exist!

KF: For other designers & entrepreneurs out there, would you recommend Kickstarter campaigns for their products?

Gordon: Kickstarter isn’t a sure-thing for anyone. It’s really, really difficult to stand out on Kickstarter as there are so many amazing, innovative ideas being launched almost daily. The absolute most important thing is to have a fully resolved, rational design and perhaps just as important, a resolved and rational business plan. But even if that is the case, projects can fail still due to lack of marketing and exposure. There’s a massive amount of secondary work required that a lot of startups miss, or they don’t commit to fully – it’s extremely time consuming and stressful. There’s a reason I have grey hair…

Oliver: Gordon’s right, it takes a lot of work but the platform is a fantastic pedestal for someone trying to enter the market with a new product.

KF: Tell me, what is your design process for each new watch?

Gordon: It varies from watch to watch. Some are conceived by a chat between us, others are conceived from something we might have seen. Sometimes an idea happens in the shower or at the dinner table. From that initial seed, I head to my sketchbook to start jotting down what’s in my mind. I wouldn’t even call it sketching to be honest – my drawing skills are a notch above my 2-year-old daughter’s! But I get the concept down, which allows me to mentally move on to the next thought. From there I head to CAD to start accurately sketching out the movement so I can think about the various parts – case, dial, hands, crystals etc. I find it easier to develop a design in CAD than I do in a sketchbook as I can stay within the realms of possibility. It’s too easy to sketch a masterpiece watch design only to find it’s physically impossible to achieve. I keep this tinkering process going until I’ve reached something I like, then render it in 3D before sending it to Oliver for first impressions. Then the conversation starts and after a few months we reach a design proposal for manufacturing.

Oliver: All our watches take inspiration from British people and places so in the very initial stages there’s a lot of conversation and sporadic sketching. Thankfully in Gordon we have one of Scotland’s best designers, so he takes all of this conceptualization and produces several concepts which we scrutinize until we’re 100% happy with the design. It has been known for me to actually sketch designs out on scraps paper during a moment of inspiration, and Gordon is still able to transform these scribbles into stunning concepts – it’s truly remarkable what he’s capable of.

Gordon: Indeed! It’s all a very long but very exciting process to go through.

KF: To me, watches are an everyday necessity. Apart from your timepiece, what are the fashion necessities you can’t leave without?

Gordon: I lead a very boring fashion necessity life… My only other daily necessity is my wedding ring. I literally can’t function without it on.

Oliver: Bags. Man bags! I have a Sandqvist rucksack that contains my life and I don’t leave home without it. It’s a beautiful piece of Swedish design and after living in Stockholm for 3 years it’s a daily reminder of my time there. But just as important is my overnight bag, which my wife purchased for me in Stellenbosch near Cape Town on our honeymoon – it was hand-made by a local tannery and it’s stunning. Everyone should own a classic overnight bag. Everyone. Including anti-fashion Gordon!

KF: Ha ha I couldn’t agree more about everyone owning an overnight bag! When you have special events to attend, what are your go-to outfit pieces?

Gordon: Depends. If it’s an event I think will be fun or open to it, I’ll wear my Kilt – not a full Prince Charlie dickie bow frilly shirt outfit, but a more subdued, jumper and tie outfit. If it’s a corporate or serious event, I’ll stick to suits and brogues. It’s nice having the facility to wear my Kilt though – a guaranteed ice breaker, if nothing else.

Oliver: I’m a jacket and chinos kind of guy and have plenty of them. Usually the style is determined by the weather, but I have a particularly special Holland Cooper jacket that I usually sport – with a pocket square of course!

KF: I love that idea of an ice breaker, and yes pocket squares & jackets are key. What do you think of smartwatches?

Gordon: I don’t hate them at all. I would love to try an Apple Watch, just to see if it benefits my day to day existence. I think probably not! It’s one step too far in the always-connected world. I have a phone that tells me I have emails; I don’t need another subsidiary device to notify me that I have emails to read on my phone. To be honest, I sometimes spend upwards of 18 hours looking at a backlit digital screen. It’s relief for my eyes to look down and see a slice of metal turning underneath that crystal.

Oliver: Personally they’re not for me. I’m a supporter of the slow-living movement so having something vibrating on my wrist that I can’t escape from is just a little claustrophobic.

KF: As classic watches are easily more timeless in comparison, what do you think of the longevity of the smartwatch life?

Gordon: Smart watches will evolve to the point where it’s all integrated. We’ll soon see a mechanical watch with smart elements – a wee notification LED or OLED screen powered by the mechanical movement. It’s bound to happen.

Oliver: I think smartwatches aren’t too different to smart phones, new ones are released all the time and consumers are constantly upgrading, so the life of your average smart watch is probably 2-3 years. But who knows, perhaps these will be classics in 50 years from now when we’re all driving flying cars!

KF: Haha now I hope we’ll see those flying cars! And caring for your watch is equally as important, what tools are key to keeping one’s watch pristine clean?

Gordon: Keeping your watch from mating with anything else is key; a door, a table, the driveway. After that it’s a microfibre cloth and if needed, a damp microfibre cloth. We are big fans of acrylic crystal, which can be polished easily to remove any wear and tear.

Oliver: My microfiber cloth doesn’t leave my Sandqvist rucksack, unless it’s being used of course!

KF: What advice would you give to a gentleman when he’s purchasing his first watch?

Gordon: Well, above all is to choose something you actually like, and can see yourself wearing – you’ll not enjoy it if you chose it solely because it’s touted as “the watch to have”. In terms of the differences in watches and prices; be aware of and understand the mystique around watches, in particular Swiss Made. Watches are metal and glass ultimately, which all cost the same, unless you’re in the realms of the smaller, more specialist companies like A. Lange, Roger Smith, MB&F, etc. You can pay insane amounts more for history, legacy, lifestyle and perceived quality, rather than actual material quality, so understand this before you choose. Also know that, once you pop the lid on watches, there’s no going back.

Oliver: My father always said to me “Love your watch as you’ll spend more time with it than anything else”, and he was right. When purchasing a watch make sure there is potential for love to bloom, if it hasn’t already.

KF: That is sound advice. And finally, which of the Marloe watches is your favourite, and why?

Gordon: We’re a young company with hopefully many hundreds more designs to go. I’m too deeply involved to be able to stand apart and appraise our designs but for the overall project enjoyment the Lomond is my favourite so far. Although the designs currently in development are quickly overtaking it.

Oliver: Personally for me it’s the Derwent Nautical, mainly because the finished product is identical to the initial sketch I made. I was standing in a small map shop in Bristol when I came across some stunning 17th Century nautical charts, and the compasses on them were stunning. I pulled my notebook out of my rucksack and quickly sketched a dial, which is now the Derwent Nautical. I’m not a designer like Gordon, so to see my inspiration so brilliantly brought to life was incredibly powerful – I never take it off my wrist!

Thank you to Gordon & Oliver for taking the time for this exclusive Killer Fashion interview. See the full collection at Marloe Watch Company

Nirina xx

Images © Monroe Watches Company

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