When I first encountered the Marloe Cherwell, it was not a watch, it was just a concept rendering. It had a slim case with angled sides, a double domed sapphire crystal, a hand-wound movement, and -- wait. What? Hand-wound? Yes. In a world overrun with crowdfunded quartz clones, this one was going old school. I loved the idea but wondered if an uncommon movement would attract any more than a handful of watch nerd enthusiasts.
I wonder no more. Last week, Marloe http://www.marloewatchcompany.com launched the Cherwell on Kickstarter with an ambitious $42,916 goal and blew it away in no time. As of today, they have 559 backers and raised over $142,000 with 24 days yet to go. Aspiring watchmakers take note: hand-wounds will sell, particularly when they look as good as this one.
The Cherwell was designed to be classically elegant and by God, they nailed it. The dial features applied baton markers, applied numerals at 12 o'clock, a small seconds at 6 o'clock, and Dauphine hands. It is a familiar set of elements that all too often results in the bland, "elegant minimalist" face found on any number of crowdfunded quartz watches. Not so on the Cherwell. Each component has been considered and executed brilliantly, creating a uniquely attractive face.
The dial has two distinct levels, with a raised disk in the center, cutting straight across under the 12 and curving around the textured and sunken sub-dial at 6. The batons are applied to the raised section, floating above the lower, outer dial. the hands are skeletonized, adding yet another dimension. Finally, my favorite part: the tiny, dial-colored, raised squares that form the minutes index on the outer edge of the dial. The text is limited to the essentials. "Marloe Great Britain" at the top, and "Hand Wound" in an Art Deco type at the bottommost edge. All tolled, it is a marvelous dial, brimming with details that catch your attention with a whisper, not a shout. Even Mrs. Time Bum, jaded by the veritable parade of watches that passes through my hands, had to stop and admire it.
There are four Cherwell variants. I sampled the silver-white and black dials in polished cases. A gray dial in a blasted case is also offered, and a blue and polished model was just released as a stretch goal. Both the black and white dials are lovely, but I must give the nod to the white because the black dial obscures the shadow effects that make the Cherwell's dial so appealing, and the polished hands tend to disappear if they don't catch the light just so.
Of course, the case exhibits the same clean and clever aesthetic as the face. It is over 43mm wide across the bezel, tapering to the slightly smaller case back so the sides angle inward. The crown has pinched, fluted sides and a concave face. It is slightly larger than you might expect, but remember that you will be winding this one, so proper grip and positive feel are important. I found it to be quite attractive and easy to operate.
On the flip side, a display case back shows off a SeaGull ST3621 mechanical movement, a pocket watch sized unit that accounts for much of the Cherwell's girth. When fully cranked, it will run for over 50 hours at 21.6 bph. I enjoy watching mechanical movements at work, even the most prosaic and industrial, but there is something mesmerizing about engraving and decoration like that seen here. The surrounding ring bears the words of C.S. Lewis, "The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour" engraved in high relief. More common information about the model and movement is etched on the inside of the glass. The case is only rated for 30m water resistance, which is what you would expect of a dress watch.
As the watch is very wide and almost all dial, I feared it would look like a dinner plate on my 6.5" wrist, but I was pleasantly surprised. The watch is only 48mm long and 14mm thick, so it wears comfortably and slips neatly under a shirt cuff. The angle of the case sides and curve of the crystal also help to slim its appearance. Even though it is wider than my usual dress watch preference, I would have no reservations about wearing the Cherwell with a suit.
The strap is vegetable tanned saddle leather, 22mm wide, and secured with a signed buckle. It is soft and comfortable. Normally, I would prefer a tapered strap on a dress watch but in this case, the straight cut balances the watch's broad proportions.
The Cherwell has an expected sale price of $359, but early backers will get the best deals. The lucky folks who bought the initial batch for $185 each got an amazing deal, but you can still get in on the pre-orders for $270 each. Having sampled the Cherwell these past few days, I'd call it a good buy. There are precious few hand wound watches in this price range, and none executed quite like this one. For more information see the Kickstarter campaign.
Pro: Fabulous dial, hand wound movement.
Con: Maybe just a couple of millimeters too large.
Sum: Charming. The Time Bum approves.