I bought my first “nice” watch in 2006 with the first bonus I received after 6 months at McK. It was a Panerai Luminor Marina 40mm (PAM00048) that I picked after two or three months of research and seeking opinions. I found a pre-owned version of the exact model I wanted and authenticated it with Chateau d’Ivoire, a reputable Montreal-based jeweler. After receiving the watch, I immediately got rid of the stock leather bracelet to replace it with a black diver-style rubber band. I started with an original Panerai diver band but when that was worn out, I’ve had a series of generic bands mostly purchased on Panatime.
The original plan was that would be my “sporty” watch and that I would buy a “dressy” watch later. However, I was so happy with the Marina that I never ended up buying the other watch. Anyone who knows me will tell you that this watch essentially never left my wrist for over seven years. I am still deeply in love with my Marina as I find it to be the perfect every day watch that fits well with my lifestyle. I went to school and work with it. I sailed, cycled, skied and bummed around on the beach with it. I wore it at weddings and black-tie shindigs. It worked so well for me because it isn’t too bulky (remember I have the less popular 40mm), the rubber strap is supremely comfortable and it’s rugged (I’ve banged it on more door frames that I care to admit). Most importantly, it’s relatively discreet for Montreal, where Panerai is not really a trendy brand. It’s not nearly as conspicuous as walking around with a Submariner or bulky Navitimer.
But as much as I loved my trusty Panerai, my eyes starting wandering. I started longing for a simple white-faced dressier watch that I can wear occasionally. Since I don’t have the same kind of extra cash lying around as I did when working for my corporate overlords, I decided that I didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on my new purchase. This budget constraint obviously eliminated a few of the usual suspects (IWC, JLC, etc) right off the bat.
My criteria were:
- Provenance: Real Swiss-made watch with Swiss parts and Swiss craftsmanship. Not one that was made in HK and assembled in Switzerland just to get the “Swiss Made” stamp.
- History: A manufacture with an interesting history. This eliminates a few of the newer brands.
- Movement: Solid automatic movement with at least a date
- Design: Simple white face, preferably with blue hands
- Band: Leather
- Glass: Saphire
- Case diameter: 40-42mm
- Budget: Under $1k
After looking around for a while, I settled on the automatic Marvin M117 in the Malton 160 family with white face and blue hands (exact modelM126.96.36.199). It was slightly above my budget at $1,220 but exactly fit all my other criteria.
I have been now wearing the new M117 almost daily for over two months and I am thrilled with my purchase. Let’s see why:Strengths:
- Discreet. I have received very few comments from strangers since I got the Malton. To me this is a feature, not a bug. One of my pet peeves is when people make assumptions about others based on the watch they are wearing. Yes, I like nice watches. And yes, I will also negotiate my lease agreement to the last detail. They are not mutually exclusive.
- Beautiful. Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I find the M117 absolutely stunning. To me, the proportions of the face are perfect even if the case could use a slight haircut as I explain below.
- Interesting history. Marvin was founded in 1860, went through some tough times in the middle of the last century and had an interesting story of rebirth. I sent some questions to the new owners and I will post the answers in a new post when I receive them.
- Attention to detail. Marvin watches all have some details that are fun to discover: a red marker dot at the 8 o’clock position, a stamp with the founders’ initials on the left side of the case, the Marvin crown on the stem and bracelet clasp and a red lining inside of the leather band.
- Push-button straps. The push button mechanism allows you to change the straps very easily with no tools necessary. I bought an additional black leather strap to supplement the dark brown one that comes with the watch and it is I had heard of this feature before but never seen it in action. I like it!
- Solid movement. The Sellita SW200 powering the M117 is a standard, if not boring, movement. It is essentially a clone of the ETA2824 workhorse and there is really not much to add here. It does the job, does it well and without fanfare. Expecting anything better at this price range is just not realistic.
- Great value for money. When you take into account the history and craftsmanship of this watch, I think that you are definitely getting superb value. Of course it’s all relative and I am fully aware that spending $1.2k on a watch is kind of frivolous but we all have our sins.
- Service. Last but not least, the customer service was spectacular. I emailed the general mailbox with some questions and got an answer in less than an hour. For the following two weeks, Francisco in customer service answered my follow-up questions with speed, first-class competence and empathy. I ordered the watch on a Friday and it arrived on Monday. An impressive feat for a Neuchâtel-Montréal shipment.
- Leather band. The leather band is slightly uncomfortable because the edges are too thin and not well rounded. I would have personally chosen a broader, more supple band with a better edge finish.
- Case. The case is ever slightly bulkier that I would have liked. Of course this is pure subjective but I would have preferred to shave a millimetre or two from the diameter and depth of the case. I am not sure if that is technically feasible with the size of the movement but it would have given the watch an even more refined look.
- Hands. Again this is subjective but I think feuille style hands would work better than the lancette ones currently on the Malton 160.
Verdict:I am very satisfied with the Marvin Malton 160 M117 and would recommend this watch without reservations. If you are looking for a well-built, well-designed watch with an interesting heritage but without breaking the bank, you should seriously consider the M117.
I must say that now that I have a taste of the Marvin brand, I am lusting over the M115 regulator (exact model M188.8.131.52). She is a beauty powered by a Dubois-Dépraz regulator movement and I will try to get my hands on one for a review.
Feel free to ask if I have left a detail you’re interested in. Thanks for reading!