Introduced on November 19, 2020, this is likely to be one of the more affordable (and hence popular) collaboration Hodinkee has done recently, after the controversy with the Hodinkee Travel Clock .
This collaboration is my first “French-American designed-Made in Switzerland” watch in my collection. I’m not known for making “expensive” watch purchases, but with how this year has turned out so far, I guess everyone needs a little reward and pampering now and then.
My quick and dirty reasons for purchasing this watch were:
- Lovely grey dial with painted blue hands (no one is expecting thermally blued hands at this price point)
- It’s back in stock after the first batch was sold out within a week of its launch (from my observation, but don’t take my word for it). It’s the fear-of-missing-out syndrome (FOMO) from the first batch.
- Applied indices with a great typeface
- Manually wound ETA 2801-2 movement
- Sensibly sized coming in at 37.5mm by 11.0mm thick
- Individually numbered out of 1500 (for what it’s worth 1500 is a fairly large production run, but hey it’s nice to have a uniquely numbered case back)
- Fairly priced for it’s specifications and origins (Made in Switzerland, limited edition and no price premium over the regular edition)
Is the watch perfect? No, far from it but let’s go into it in my review.
Some history on Merci (copied from Hodinkee)
Merci is an independently operated and family-run concept store that was founded in 2009 in the historic Marais district of Paris. As much a specialist lifestyle brand as it is a general retailer, the company stocks everything from furniture and cookware to clothing and accessories, almost exclusively designed by the city’s creative class. The brand’s attention to detail in product development is apparent through its watches, which evoke mid-century design in an endlessly appealing way. With Merci’s watches, you’re getting a lighthearted approach to watchmaking fit for both genders, with attractive designs that offer knowing nods to the purpose-built timepieces of the past.
- Model: LMM-H01 Limited Edition for HODINKEE
- Reference: LMM-H01
- Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
- Material: Stainless steel
- Dimensions: 37.5mm diameter; 11mm thickness
- Crystal: Double domed mineral glass
- Caseback: Stainless steel
- Dial: Grey with applied Arabic numerals in white
- Lume: N/A
- Caliber: Manually wound ETA 2801-2
- Water Resistance: 50 meters
- Bracelet/Strap: Black NATO strap
- Lug Width: 19mm (quick-change spring bars included)
- Manufactured: Designed in France and New York; made in Switzerland
The hour and minute hands are simple rectangles and tapers slightly at the end while the seconds hand is a slim needle. The hands are all painted blue (hour and minute) and white (for the seconds hand), which is likely keeping in its guise as a field watch to minimise reflections from the hands in the day time.
Merci did the lengths of the hands perfectly right. The minute hand and seconds hand reach all the way to the white minute hash marks at the edge of the dial. I also note the absence of any sub-minute hash marks which would have been completely unnecessary and be a distraction for a simple time only field watch. In case you’re wondering, the seconds hand is a touch longer than the minute hands.
The dial has the model number printed at 12 o’clock position, which is usually reserved for the brand name. The model number is “LMM-H01”, which is very similar to their own model “LMM-01“, and I presume the “H” stands for “Hodinkee”. It would have been very easy for Merci to leave the “H” out and have the co-branding only found at the 6 o’clock position and the case back, both to be discussed later. However, Merci not only had the “H” incorporated on the dial printing, but also ensure that the line under “LMM-01” is right in the middle. Yes, you read that right, the little white line under the model number is right smack in the middle, when Merci could have done without a line or simply have the entire model number underlined. For the interested readers, the model number is exactly 6mm across, and the line is exactly 2mm across, with 2mm clearance on either side of it.
Above the 6 o’clock marking is a “H” within a circle, which is basically Hodinkee branding in your face, as it’s the second of three “Hodinkee” branding on the dial. From Hodinkee, “We’ve also placed a subtle, simple detail below the dial’s central axis that consists of an “H” in a circle, a nod toward historical watches issued to the British military, which required a circle with a “T” on the dial in a similar position to indicate the use of tritium”.
Below that lies the word “Mecanique” which is French for Mechanical, a nod to it’s mechanical engine. The quartz models from Merci does not have this marking on the dial.
The typeface used for the hour markers is “Decimal” which I really like. This is also unique to this collaboration model and not found on the regular Merci watches. The indices are also applied which gives it depth as seen in the “12” above. It’s not usual for Arabic hour markers to be applied.
From Hodinkee: “The typography used on the dial, for example, is Helvetica – clean and classic. The Arabic numerals on the dial, on the other hand, are Jonathan Hoefler’s Decimal, a font specifically inspired by vintage watches, and which was profiled in the Netflix series “Abstract: The Art of Design” and featured prominently on a 2019 episode of HODINKEE Radio.”
Below the 6 o’clock marker is where we can find the co-branding and the third final “Hodinkee” branding on the dial. The printing is in blue to match the blued hands.
Moving away from the dial, the watch has a completely polished and fixed bezel sitting on top of a lightly brushed case. The crystal is double domed mineral crystal, which adds 1 mm to the height.
In my opinion, the brushing of the case could have been more prominent to bring out the contrast between the polished bezel and brushed case. This would further highlight the dressy nature of this dress watch.
Lugs are completely drilled through, in-line with its field watch nature.
The crown (in second position) is non-screw down, but flat and non-obstructive. It’s also polished and completely unsigned. Winding is not an issue with this crown. There is also no ghost date position, as the ETA 2801-2 is a no-date movement.
Flipping over, we get yet another dose of the “Hodinkee” branding. This is the 4th one, including the 3 on the dial side as mentioned earlier. My watch is numbered “1134” out of 1500 pieces.
Any doubt of who designed the watch and its manufacturing origins is dispelled with this engraving on the flip side of the case. The back of the watch and the case back cover are all brushed circularly.
The back of the case also mirrors the front, with its stepped design, as shown in the photo above. This is likely the first time that I’ve seen a layered/stepped case back. Unnecessary? Definitely, but I got to give Merci points for paying attention to the details.
I do not usually talk about the packaging but I will do an exception this time as this is the first “expensive” brand new watch I have purchased in some time. the LMM comes in a cardboard box as shown above, which feels a bit cheap, but if it keeps the costs down, all the better.
Instructions are all in French.
Completely fun and novel way to present the design thoughts in a stack of 60 individually printed cards. Each card has French printed on one side and English on the other.
The watch came with a black Zulu strap with brushed metal pieces. The buckle is non-branded. You can easily buy a much better strap. Note that the lug width is also an odd 19mm. I have also taken measurements of the buckle and strap width, of which I believe that they are closer to 20mm rather than 19mm of the watch lug width. However this is not a game changer as the zulu strap is soft and will give in slightly without any noticeable unsightly “cramping” of the strap when used.
To conclude, we often hear of dress divers, but one hardly hear of dress field watches and I think that Merci did it well with this iteration. Merci paid attention to the details, having only what’s necessary and removing the rest. At the same time, they achieved the delicate balance of keeping the essence of a field watch (painted hands, brushed case, Arabic numerals, Zulu strap) while dressing up the rest (thin case, polished bezel, applied indices, blued hands, zero lume). Some people will hate the mish-mash, while others will applaud at this attempt.
I belong in the latter camp. But tone down the “Hodinkee” branding in the future please.