If you’re somewhat familiar with the retail scene in Paris, you may have heard of Merci: a store on the Boulevard Beaumarchais which was originally founded with two goals in mind. The first was to provide a kind of launch pad for new and emerging designers, and the second was to establish an endowment for supporting educational projects in Madagascar. As it happens, the Boulevard Beaumarchais is an auspiciously named street for a horological enterprise; it’s named for Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, who is today best known for the Figaro plays on which Mozart’s famous opera The Marriage of Figaro, is based. However, Beaumarchais started professional life as a watchmaker’s apprentice, and is sometimes credited with the ideas for making thinner watch movements later put into practice byJean-Antoine Lpine.
Merci’s first watch design, the LMM-01 (LMM stands for La Montre Merci) is the company’s take on what you might call essentialist watchmaking: a simple, very affordable watch that nonetheless has a number of carefully curated design decisions. This is very much an industrial age approach to luxury; design, so the thought goes, needn’t be expensive and production line manufacturing techniques can, and should, make good design democratic and widely available.
LMM-01 comes in two versions: a quartz model, which houses a Ronda 513 movement with about a 45 month running time between battery changes, and a hand-wound mechanical version, which uses an ETA 2801-2 caliber. Both watches are water resistant to 50 meters, and they’re assembled in Switzerland. Cases are 37.5mm in diameter. Pricing has been kept extremely affordable; the quartz model is 190, while the mechanical model is 365 and Merci plans to make 500 of each.
The design, says Merci, was influenced by military watches from the mid-20th century and the influence is very obvious; legibility of both the opaline white dial version and the black dial version is excellent, with the polished step bezel and brushed case clearly a shout-out to watches like the IWC Mark XI. The uncluttered dial uses a combination of fonts; Helvetica for the hours, and AT Sacker for the minutes track.
Helvetica’s history is well known (it was developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger) but AT Sacker is a little more obscure unless you’re a typography maven. The name actually refers to a group of typefaces developed in the 1970s by a stationery engraver named Garrett “Gary” Sacker, and the one used in the LMM-01 watch looks like Sacker Gothic, which in turn resembles, coincidentally, many of the custom typefaces created for vintage mechanical watches in the pre-quartz era.
One of the nicer touches in the design is the use of drilled lugs, which make changing out straps a snap (as much as I hate being doctrinaire about anything related to watch design there’s always a part of me that feels like it should kind of be mandatory to have drilled lugs on a tool watch). There are a wide range of straps being offered along with the watch itself, including a two-color leather strap (which is a rather cool idea that I’m surprised we don’t see more often) braided nylon, calfskin, “roughout” (distressed) leather, denim, and of course, a NATO-style fabric strap as well.
I found the watches very appealing in person; there is something about a simple, honest, affordable watch with some thought behind the details, that’s extremely attractive. The quartz version is something that you could definitely wear with no pain just from a design standpoint, but the hand-wound model is a real treat for mechanical watch enthusiasts; there are very, very few straight hand-wound watches at this price point (in fact, hand-wound watches from modern brands are something of an endangered species these days at any price point) and the fact that Merci made the decision to make this a hand-wound watch both makes the watch more appealing, and sends a signal about how much thought has gone into creating something with lasting appeal.
The Merci LMM-01: case, 37.5mm, brushed and polished “step” design with 50 meter water resistant case. Movement, Ronda quartz 513 with 45 month autonomy or ETA 2801 hand-wound with 42 hour power reserve. 30 different straps available. Find out more at www.merci-merci.comor visit Merci at 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris.