There is 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, unique, disruptive or, on the contrary, highly classical, there’s room for many new actors. Well, today we’ll be talking about a trio of watches that such a microbrand could have made… Except that behind Merci Instruments is an entity that is miles away from the watchmaking scene. And yet, the three new Merci Instruments LMM-01 you 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 and collect funds for non-profitable organisations backing projects in Madagascar. It was founded in 2009 and is located on Boulevard Beaumarchais, Paris. I distinctly remember the opening of Merci because back then, I was living in the French capital on “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 bohemian-chic culture, Merci has stood the test of time and has become a Parisian institution.
In 2017, the store launched its first collection of watches, known as Merci Instruments, with the LMM-01 model (for La Montre Merci). Simple, affordable, yet respectful of traditional features, well-built and somewhat minimalist, the watch produced some noise (specifically after French President Macron was seen wearing one). The design was certainly not revolutionary but nicely executed. There’s a certain no-nonsense military flair, some classic vintage elements and, overall, you can see that some people with a love for watches were involved in its creation. It’s not a fashion-oriented watch… it has watchmaking roots. Right from the start in 2017, there were already some carefully curated elements, and the new trio of LMM-01 that has just been presented reinforces 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 now adds three new dial designs – one of them being a collaboration with another Parisian name – all elevating the original concept to 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 purpose-made wristwatches, the LMM-01 is built around a stepped case, a shape 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 – a couple of millimetres are 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, tried-and-tested Sellita SW210-1 movement. 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 three 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 monotone white with blue baton hands. The markers are very discreet, too, with metallised numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock and dots for the other indices. Finally, there is 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 sectorised tracks for a pleasant result. A mix 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 simple and graphic approach to the sector dial with an undeniable Art Deco take, characterised by a complex chapter ring with three different tracks. Also, the architectural feeling is reinforced by the large, sharp, polished Dauphine hands and the slightly odd yet attractive single marker at 12 in classic Breguet style. And although there are 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, this is 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 look drastically.
Altogether, this is a nice proposal 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 or the shop in Paris.