Marloe Coniston Watch Review - Fantastic Design, Great Value, and a Hidden Surprise
When I discovered Marloe Watch Company on social media, my first thought was that this is a company that puts significant effort (and talent) into their design language. It doesn't hurt that they have a great photographer, but each of their watches have very unique, yet functional cues that stand out in a sea of new watch companies.
Upon review of their website, this is something on which they pride themselves. The Scotland-based company takes British design very seriously, and it's clear that significant effort is put into their decisions. As you would expect, they offer a handful of colors, but on some models, customers can also choose between a variety of finishes, dial designs and straps that completely change the aesthetic of each model.
In addition to great visuals, the selection of movements and materials fit the intended use of each of three models perfectly. Rather than choosing one movement to fit across all variants, careful selection was used to offer something that will allow each model to perform its job to the best of its ability.
Their highest-priced model is the $790 Haskell. It's described as an adventure watch, but its clean design would also allow you to add some color to your office attire while still looking professional. These models include a date, which is useful in office life (or if you embark on a long expedition). They employ a Swiss Sellita manually-wound movement, which allows the watch to be thinner and more comfortable when hiking for long distances (or sitting at a desk).
Thickness is less of a worry in a dive watch, and it's not preferred to continue opening and closing the crown to wind it, so the $480 Morar has an automatic Miyota 9 series in it. It eschews the date, since you are in big trouble if you are underwater long enough to need that. They also appear to have a rough surface finish, which I'd expect to be extremely scratch-resistant. Very useful for a dive watch that will get banged up.
The $320 Coniston is the most affordable, but also the dressiest of their models. It also uses a manually-wound movement to keep the watch thin, but here they have used the Miyota 8N33. I assume this helps to keep costs down, but it is skeletonized, and looks great through the transparent caseback. It also loses the date window, which was a great choice as it would have spoiled the clean dial.
The grey "Vulcan" version of the Coniston is what I selected. If you haven't already guessed, I had high expectations. Does wearing the watch in the metal live up to the image set forth by great media? Keep reading to find out!
Marloe's packaging continues the theme of providing thoughtful design and actual value to the customer. As you remove layers to access the watch, you are greeted with a number of clever messages and touches, but the packaging is made of paper and cardboard. In this price range, I don't want to pay extra for a fancy wood and leather box that will just end up in the basement. I appreciate that some effort was put into the experience without adding something that would require them to remove content from the watch to meet cost targets.
Upon reaching the watch in the box, the first thing that you'll notice is the three-dimensional appearance of the dial. The grey center is raised above a white ring, which is bordered by a sloped chapter ring. Once you take it out of the box, you'll also notice how the light plays off sharp-edged applied metal hour markers.
When on the wrist, the watch appears bigger than the dimensions would indicate. The crystal stretches to the edge of an impossibly thin bezel, making it feel more like a 42mm watch on the wrist (actual diameter is 40mm). Similarly, the case gradually flares out as it meets the edge of the bezel. This, combined with the sloped chapter ring make it look thicker than the actual 10.5mm size.
The result is a watch with a strong wrist presence that does not over power the wrist, and will still fit under a cuff.
For those of you reading this in the distant future, I am wearing the watch and writing this article while working from home because of Coronavirus. When I strap this watch on in the morning, it actually inspires me to pick out clothing that is worthy of the watch, rather than slap on the same pair of sweatpants to walk 15 feet to "work".
The Coniston's entire case is mirror polished, which adds to the dressy factor. It's also likely a good move to keep costs down and provide a premium experience. I'd rather have polished finish, than poorly-executed brushing on a watch like this.
Other than the sharp bezel, the case features soft edges. The lugs protrude straight from the sides of the case when viewed from the dial side, but angle down to allow the watch to contour the wrist. The case-back actually never touches the surface when the watch is rested on its back. The watch hugs the wrist, and I had no issues with comfort. The lug width is 20mm.
The case also narrows at the bottom to meet the case-back. Besides reducing the visual thickness of the watch, this also reduces the size of the case-back (and eliminates any unsightly gaps between the edge of the movement and the edge of the case-back window.
Considering it is their most stylish options, and forgoes automatic winding, I would love it if it was a few mm thinner. It might not be a worthy trade-off though, as the dial would likely have to lose its three-dimensional quality.
The screw-down case-back features engraving to indicate the serial number out of 1000 of this first edition version. Under the glass sits an additional ring to indicate the model name, location of Marloe's design team, and their slogan. The watch is water-resistant to 10atm (100m).
The crown is mirror-polished, but features grooves machined at angles. This makes it easier to grip, and adds some visual strength to the design. It does not screw down, which I prefer out of convenience on a manually-wound watch.
The crown has no crown guards, keeping a clean look, and making it easier to hand-wind.
The face of the crown features a polished Marloe logo on a blasted background.
As mentioned, the dial has a fantastic three-dimensional quality to it (Marloe calls it the "central plateau").
I also love that the bare minimum text was used. The dial has only the name of the company, and a subtle "Designed in Britain" proudly displayed at six o-clock on the chapter ring.
Other than at twelve, the hour markers are thin, highly-polished stick markers that catch sunlight beautifully. The top of the dial features an arabic number "12," making the watch look slightly more casual. The central plateau has a nice half circle to encompass the numbers, which also makes it easier to visually orient the watch when checking the time at a quick glance.
The grey, sloped chapter ring features small white military time markers filling the space on the flat surface. The downward slope features turquoise minute markers, with two small hash marks between each marker (catching every other tick of the 6 beats per second movement).
It's not until you turn off the lights that you discover the Coniston's party piece.
The white ring recessed beneath the dial is actually Superluminova. Besides the cool factor, I found this a very elegant way to add lume to a more stylish watch. I imagine that Marloe did not want to spoil the thin applied metal indices by adding a stripe of lume to them, so this allowed them to avoid that. They say it is BG-W9, which is pure white in the daylight, and glows a blue-green color in the dark.
In addition to adding some contrast in the day time, the white ring adds some function and wow-factor at night. It also makes the watch extremely legible at night, even if the lume has started to fade, as the tips of the hands pass over the edge of the lume. The hour markers also overlap the lume ring, making it possible to see the time in any condition.
Interestingly, the hands no have counter-balances. I have always thought that the seconds hand was required this for some technical reason, but it seems it is not necessary. It is a refreshing stylistic choice, and keeps things looking clean.
As mentioned earlier, the hours and minutes hands feature quite bright Superluminova. The lume is divided into sections, giving the rounded and tapered hands a look of strength.
As I've said many times, I love when minutes and seconds hands reach the edge of the dial. The seconds hand is not lumed, but it has an arrow tip, the edge of which lines up perfectly with the perimeter of the main dial. On the Vulcan variant it is painted in a pleasing turquoise color that matches the dial text and minute markers.
The sapphire crystal has an anti-reflective coating which appears to be only on the underside of the crystal. It blocks reflection well, without adding any colored tint when seen at angles.
The crystal has ever so slight of a dome to it. It is enough to add some character to the watch, without adding any noticeable thickness.
The crystal appears to be high quality, and is distortion-free at all but the most acute of angles.
As mentioned, all of Marloe's watches are available with a selection of straps including thin, padded, and perforated options. In most cases, the default strap chosen by Marloe is the one that I think looks best with the watch. That was true for the Coniston Vulcan, which is why I have the full grain grey leather strap.
I love it when a watch strap perfectly matches the color of the dial. The leather feels fairly soft, and it did not need an extended break-in period to be comfortable.
I did find one concern with the grey after wearing the watch. I don't own any grey leather shoes or belts! I'm not sure what the fashion rules are for matching your watch band to your shoes, but I think it would be acceptable to wear with black.
Marloe uses the Miyota 8N33 movement in the Coniston, which i think is the perfect choice. It allows the watch to be slightly thinner than if it was automatic, and gives the owner a daily interaction to give life to their Coniston. The non-hacking, 21,600 vbh beat rate, and +25/-15 seconds per day advertised accuracy are nothing special, but it's completely appropriate for a watch in this price range. The winding feeling is also buttery-smooth.
Marloe chose to spec the movement with a gold coating. I think it was an appropriate choice for a dressier watch, and it hides the fact that the movement finishing is fairly basic.
I often don't prefer a transparent case-back on watches with entry-level movements. In this case, I like it, as the movement is skeletonized, and it is not a dive watch. I expect in this price range that the Coniston could be the first mechanical watch for some buyers. The will be given a visual treat to watch the mainspring barrel rotate as they wind it, and see the balance wheel spring to life.
To cut to the chase, I can't believe this watch is only $320. If I had paid double the MSRP for this watch, I still would have felt like I had gotten a good value. Many independent (and major) watch brands are asking much higher prices for watches without the specs or thoughtful design of the Coniston. I'd love to see Marloe build the exact same watch with a higher-end movement, as I think it's worthy of it.
Before receiving this watch, I was planning to write a blog post about why I will never buy another affordable dress watch. Because I own a few nicer, but not dressy watches, whenever I've put on a watch like that, I've always felt let down. I'm always inclined to wear my Omega diver to formal events. A dress watch is for a special occasion, which is the exact time to have a special watch on your wrist. Marloe has proven that it is possible to provide value, and a special feeling at this price range.
If you've read many of my other reviews, you'll know that I often give alternative recommendations. In the case of the Coniston, I'm not aware of a lower-priced watch that offers the style and design that this one does. It's priced below a Seiko SARB or Cocktail, and delivers much more style and uses higher quality materials. I would even choose it over the much more expensive Hamilton Intra-Matic, and Tissot Visodate dress watches that I have previously given as recommendations to friends.
If you have a (much) bigger budget, the watch brand that comes to mind is Nomos-Glashuette. Like Marloe, Nomos has a very strong design team. It's not my favorite in their lineup, but the Autobahn is the model that comes to mind when comparing to the Coniston. Maybe it's the lumed ring. You'll be getting an in-house German automatic movement, but at $4,800 MSRP, you'll also be spending exactly fifteen times the cost of the Marloe. Whether it's worth is up to you (and your wallet).
What are your thoughts on the Coniston? Is there a watch that you think offers better style and value? Please let us know in the comments!