Over the years there seems to be a distinct growth in the divide between those who appreciate microbrands, and those who will skim over them. Everyone is entitled to their own preferences of course but the divide in some cases, especially online, can get quite heated if past forum chatter is anything to go by.
Those who will only look twice at a Speedmaster or a Submariner seemingly will always be that way, and that is totally fair enough. But we must accept and, in many cases, appreciate just how far microbrands have come in such a short amount of time.
I remember buying microbrands just five years ago and whilst decent for the price, the quality reflected that in the QC department. Bezels were not always perfectly aligned or lumed, dials had dust specs under the crystal, case finishes were not as refined as even a bigger brand model costing even just £100 more and the off the shelf movements used were not adjusted or regulated for improved accuracy from the manufacturer’s paper specifications. People had genuine reasons to turn their noses at many microbrands back then.
Oh, how this arena has changed in just a few short years and now, perception is slowly catching up to align.
It was in December 2019 as I was browsing online for a new watch having downsized my watches earlier that year to roll with a one watch collection.
Just before that Christmas my friend Dave messaged with a link to a Marloe watch that looked rather cool. I had never heard of Marloe before, intrigued, I spent some time looking them up to see what they were and had been up to in recent years. “British Design” was their ethos, and the designs of the then range were all rather unique and distinctly Marloe. Even the Morar range, their first automatic and dive watch.
To this day each of Marloe’s watches have a story telling of their inception and taking inspiration from not only locations around the UK and sources of adventure, but also record-breaking legends in special edition models such as the Coniston Speed Edition.
Satisfied, the Morar was the one I had to go for.
The Black Edition differs only in its colourway and smaller production run of 250. Like with all Marloe watches, you can pick your preferred serial number during purchase, so I picked number 13 whilst throwing any superstitious caution to the wind, more on this later.
The watch arrived in custom outer packaging, a nice touch which has a characterful vibe.
Opening the outer box reveals an inscription:
The internal packaging is also full of character, using what appear to be eco-friendly materials it all feels very environmentally sound and a marked difference to my previous watches with big wooden hinged boxes and swathes of polished plastics and padded leather. The Marloe approach feels more like a conscious decision and aesthetic approach rather than an exercise in cost savings. The inclusion of a thick booklet telling the story of the Morar both literal and technical is a nice touch, too.
The Watch Design
The thing that appealed to me most about the Morar Black Edition was how it looked. Very different to other dive watches on the market. Marloe’s own words state their vision for this watch was for it to be different to the rest of the crowd, and this has certainly been accomplished.
The bronze plated finish was my only concern as I was unsure as to how the finish would wear over time or show the stainless-steel underneath if I knocked it against a sharp surface. Concerns were laid to rest however months down the line.
My friend Dave had also purchased one and I was able to compare the finish of a brand new one with mine and I am happy to report that whilst mine had aged slightly in finish wear, it wasn’t bad at all and had a characterful look to it.
The bezel design is something I really like about this watch. Upon first inspection it is not obvious if the bezel rotates or not as the shape and style of it is a complete integration with the case, but a glance at the side of the case shows it is a rotating bezel. Because of the thick sidewalls making up a good portion of the case sides, gripping and turning the bezel is very easy. Ergonomics have been well thought out here. There is very little back-play as well and marker alignment is perfect.
My only criticism with the bezel is the ratchet noise just sounds a bit weaker than what you expect when you first see the watch.
Looking through the sapphire crystal often looks like you are peering through a porthole on a boat or submarine, or perhaps even a vintage diving helmet, this effect is only accentuated by the chapter ring circling the inner wall giving further depth.
The Dial And Caseback
The real fun begins when day turns to night and the lume of this thing flexes its strength. Now I have owned some strong lumed watches before such as the Tudor Pelagos (Super-LumiNova BGW9) and had a Longlines HydroConquest sent away to be re-lumed (NoctiLumina) by a very skilled watchmaker in the USA (MCWW). I thought they were both incredible at initial lume brightness and then longevity, but the Morar beats them.
Not only is it extremely vivid in both blue and green hues, but the longevity of the lume brightness is in the hours, not just tens of minutes. Reading the lume specifics in the booklet confirms just why it is so good.
A custom-made lume is being used here designed for up to 5 hours of visibility and this I can believe having woken up many times in the middle of the night to notice the dial and bezel pip still glowing through the watch box glass lid.
The dial has a sand-textured finish which is not glossy but has a sheen to it as light bounces off the surface. The painted lume markers are in the shape of various seashells, a creative approach on doing lumed markers right on a dive watch!
Other than that, there is only a glossy bubble marking “310” and model designation. The dial is clean and functional otherwise.
The Morar’s strengths do not end with the lume either, the water resistance is a curious 310 metres. Why 310? Well, as the name suggests, Loch Morar in Scotland is the deepest body of water in Britain at 310 metres, so naturally this is what the 40mm case is pressure tested to. And as the Loch has famous history of being home to its own mythical monster, Morag, she has been engraved on the watch’s caseback.
The Morar comes with a thick and nicely tapering silicone rubber strap. It is both functional and fitting for the watch. They do also stock alternative leather straps a few of which are suitable for the Morar’s slightly thicker spring bar lug holes.
The real beauty in this watch however is its ability to look great on a wide number of straps from two-piece to NATO to alternative rubber and silicone.
To this end comes my second complaint, although it is more a personal and minor one. The lugs are not drilled for quick and easy strap changes. If the included strap had quick release spring bars then this would be no issue, but getting a spring bar removal tool in there every time to change strap is just waiting for one day a slight slip of the hand to happen resulting in a silver gash in the underside of the case.
To me a dive watch should always have drilled lugs or quick release spring bars on the included strap.
Powering the Morar range is the Citizen owned Miyota 9039, the date-free version of the well-known 9015, a workhorse movement. These movements sit in Miyota’s high end range of movements and were released to be a cost-effective competitor to the Swiss made ETA 2824.
This is my first watch with a Miyota movement, so I did not know what to expect on a personal level. Previous watches all had Seiko, ETA or in-house calibres. I did not know how the unidirectional winding rotor would equate to the mainspring charge effectiveness if I only wore the watch for part of a day for example, or what the rotor noise would be like as online forums claimed it to be noisy and annoying to some.
Thankfully, I found none of these things an issue. I later learned that Marloe’s watchmaker adjusts each watch and my own accuracy measurements resulted in a consistent +5 seconds a day gain which is a huge improvement of Miyota’s rated -10 to +40.
Likewise, the rotor noise and winding action were no problem. I never felt the 40 hours power reserve was being reached even after wearing the watch a few hours and leaving it on a desk some days.
The rotor noise I quite liked, to me this was a sign of character and each time I heard the rotor free-wheeling in the other direction I was re-assured that there’s a mechanical machine in there ticking away.
On The Wrist
As the 40mm case diameter might suggest, the Morar wears comfortably and looks smaller than 40mm due to the thick bezel and smaller dial window. This aspect again is a unique look. I found no problem wearing this for a multitude of events from photographing weddings to days in office meetings or dinner nights out. Because this watch is a strap monster, I simply rotated my strap options to suit any clothing choices that day.
The lug to lug length of any watch is more important than overall case diameter because the lug to lug dictates how the watch fits on the wrist and lug curves hug it. With 48mm on the Morar it’s a couple of mm longer than other watches in this range but even still due to the shape of the lugs I found no problem with how it wears on my ~6” wrist.
The crown size sometimes meant that it would dig into the top of my hand when flexing my wrist but only if I wore a canvas strap that allowed the watch to move forwards through the day whereas a rubber one keeps it just above the wrist bone.
A fantastic entry into dive watches by Marloe. A couple of negatives aside, the Morar Black Edition stands out to my eyes in the Morar range of watches. Not only is it a watch you are unlikely to see someone else wearing due to the limited numbers produced, but it is also a very capable tool watch suitable for daily life and beyond.
I also must comment on Marloe as a company. I base my thoughts on any company on how they deal with their customers both when issues arise and ongoing engagement through social media and direct communications.
My first interaction with Marloe was shortly after the Morar arrived. Within a couple of weeks, I noticed the movement would stop ticking randomly. A quick email to Marloe resulted in the watch going back to Scotland for inspection. They found a tiny piece of debris inside the movement causing the gears to jam. The movement was also re-regulated as part of this work and Marloe offered a leather strap from their catalogue for my troubles worth £50.
At later stages I requested some bronze plated buckles to fit onto my aftermarket straps, once again Marloe obliged and sent them out at no cost.
I had also joined the Marloe Watch Company Fans page on Facebook where both owners, fans and company founders alike exchange discussions.
My Marloe experience has been a wholesome one and their ongoing engagement with fans and customers has kept me re-visiting the community and journal pages and fuelled interest in the brand and its values.
This sort of experience is very rare to find with the big-name brands that only seem interested in their famous ambassadors with rarely a nod to the little guys like us!
October 27, 2020 | Robbie Khan