There no denying the importance of the microbrand scene in the past couple of years. We’ve seen so many new projects coming on stage and some with a pretty impressive sense of design. Fresh, new, disruptive or on the contrary highly classic, there’s room for so many new actors. Well, today we’ll be talking about a trio of watches that could have been made by such a microbrand… Except that behind Merci Instruments is an entity that is far from the watchmaking scene. And yet, the three new Merci Instruments LMM-01 you can see here are clearly timepieces, in a noble version of the word.
Here’s a slightly personal and rather funny story. Merci is what you could name a concept store, a retail experience that isn’t focused on a single typology of product, but more on a selection of products that could fit together as an ensemble. The goal of Merci Paris was originally to gather emerging brands and designers, as well as collect funds for non-profitable organisations helping projects in Madagascar. It was founded in 2009 and is located on Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris. And I remember clearly the opening, as back then I was living in the French capital, in a street named “Rue Bréguet” (call this a coincidence… as it was several years before I started my job at MONOCHROME), about 500 metres away from Merci. A temple of the bohemian-chic culture, Merci has stood the test of time and has become a Parisian institution.
Back in 2017, the store launched its first collection of watches, under the name Merci Instruments, with models named LMM-01 (for La Montre Merci). Simple, affordable yet respectful of traditional features, well-built and rather minimalistic, it somehow made a bit of noise (specifically after French President Macron was seen wearing one…) The design was certainly not revolutionary, but yet nicely executed. There’s a certain no-nonsense military flair, some classic vintage elements and, overall, you can say that some people with a love for watches were involved in its creation. It’s not a fashion-oriented watch… it has watchmaking roots. There were already back in 2017 some carefully curated elements, and the new trio of LMM-01 that has just been presented is certainly reinforcing this feeling.
Everest, La Nationale and The Archiwatch. Here are the three new LMM-01 models from Merci Instruments. A new sub-collection that retains most of the attributes of previous models, and now adds three new dial designs – one of them being a collaboration with another Parisian name – all elevating the original concept to yet a higher level.
The basics. All three watches, like previous models, are based on the same case, with the same mechanics and identical proportions. It’s just about the dial. Made in Switzerland (which considering the price isn’t bad at all), the first aspect to note is the case. Reminiscent of the early days of the purpose-made wristwatch, the LMM-01 is built around a so-called step case, a shape that was originally made by Patek for the Calatrava. Thin, elegantly simple and slightly instrumental, it has an undeniable charm. The case measures 38mm in diameter, with a height of 12mm – with a couple of millimetres due to the highly domed mineral crystal. L2L is fairly controlled at 46mm. The case has mostly brushed surfaces, some drilled lugs and a polished stepped bezel. The caseback is screwed, again with a tool-ish feeling. It’s slightly minimalistic yet charming and nicely executed.
Under the caseback is a well-known movement, the tried-and-tested Sellita SW210-1. This hand-wound version of the classic 2824 architecture runs at 4Hz and stores up to 42 hours of power reserve. There’s nothing particularly fancy here, but it’s good to know that the movement is made by a renowned Swiss company, is easy to service and will last for many years. It’ll do all you need and more.
Following classic designs of field watches, either in black or white, with Arabic numerals, Merci Instruments now releases 3 new dial designs that are far more complex than their predecessors. First is the Everest model, the simplest of the three. This is, by far, the most minimal of the three, with its explorer-like inspiration. The dial is mono-tone white, with blue baton hands. The markers are very discreet too, with metalized numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock, and dots for the other indices. There’s finally a very fine precision seconds track on the periphery, giving it a technical aspect. In my personal opinion, this might be the least attractive of the three… But then again, it’s all about tastes.
The second model is named La Nationale and is a classic take on the military sector dial. First of all, the dial has a two-tone effect, with brushed and matte surfaces. The hands are again blue and the dial combines Arabic numerals and railroad sectorized tracks for a rather pleasant result. A mic between field and scientific watches, this non-limited edition has great appeal.
The final model is slightly more special and results from a collaboration with Richard Ménasé, founder of The Archiwatch, a Parisian vintage watch specialist. For this edition, Ménasé has chosen a deliberately simplistic and graphic approach to the sector dial, with an undeniable Art Deco take. It’s characterized by a complex chapter ring with 3 different tracks. Also, the architectural feeling is reinforced by the large, sharp and polished Dauphine hands and the slightly odd but yet attractive single marker at 12, with a classic Breguet style. And if there are multiple references to the old days of watchmaking, it also feels like the more modern of all three watches. This edition is, however, limited to 250 pieces.
All three new Merci Instruments LMM-01 are delivered on a black nylon NATO strap, with steel hardware and quick-release spring bars. In all fairness, not the best element of these watches, and I would recommend switching to a more classic 2-piece leather strap – as you can see below, it elevates the watch quite drastically.
Altogether, this is a nice partition by Merci Instruments. These new iterations are tastefully designed and surprisingly horological in their conception. Also, the overall feeling of quality and features for the price (starting below 600 euros) is very pleasant and it seems like a well-thought formula from the Parisian brand.
Availability & Price
The Merci Instruments LMM-01 Everest and La Nationale are released as part of the permanent collection and priced at EUR 590. The Merci Instruments LMM-01 The Archiwatch is a limited edition of 250 pieces, priced at EUR 650. All are available from the Merci Paris’ website here, or from the shop in Paris.