Tomorrow will be our 4th birthday. We considered keeping it to ourselves; we really don’t want anyone to make a fuss. We didn’t even bake a cake.
What we'd like to do, however, is to give our customers and supporters an insight into the first four years of this incredible adventure. It seems an appropriate time for us to stop, reflect, and take stock – time has flown-by in a glorious flurry of design debates, box packing, obsessing over the minutiae and actual physical, stock-taking.
Our story begins on the 16th March 2015, four years ago this Saturday, when Oliver sent an email to a chap called Gordon (who he didn’t know but had stalked over the internet!) detailing his vision; to create a British designed, hand-wound, modern watch at an accessible price. Having had his eyes opened by the basic elements of his relatively expensive quartz watch (which he'd opened up to change the battery), Oliver wanted to create something with genuine value; that had been well-designed, engineered, that had a beating heart.
Original email from Oliver to Gordon on 16th March 2015
Oliver waited with bated breath for Gordon’s response; which was, initially, a polite but resounding ‘No thank you.’
“Although it was four years ago, it feels like yesterday. A stranger emailing me out of the blue to design a watch for him. My wife was eight months pregnant, I was working two jobs and I felt I had too much on my plate at that time – so I politely declined Oliver’s offer.”
However, all was not lost and after the first of many lengthy, convoluted and grovelling emails, a partnership and a friendship was formed. Initially we were known as Marlow & Henley as you’ll see from our initial Cherwell concept below (excuse the spelling mistake on the dial!), then in-turn Marloe Watches, but eventually Marloe Watch Company was soon to be born.
Original concept drawing of the Cherwell
Four short months later, on 31st July 2015, the design for the Cherwell was signed off. Taking inspiration from the prestigious university city of Oxford, where Oliver worked, and named after the River Cherwell which meanders through this City of Dreaming Spires, the Cherwell was now in the hands of our manufacturing partners.
The first ever Marloe prototypes arrived only four months later - needless to say we were a little excited when the courier pulled into the drive.
“To hold the physical object that you’ve designed, pored over for hundreds of hours, is a very emotional moment, and the Cherwell lived up to every expectation I had."
First ever shot of the Cherwell
We actually had three manufacturing partners make prototypes of the Cherwell for us so we could compare quality and see how closely they adhered to our brief and design. One stood out head and shoulders above the others – and we knew instantly which prototype would eventually become the Cherwell.
So ended 2015, and with the dawning of 2016 came a monumental month for the company; in January Marloe Watches was renamed Marloe Watch Company, and shortly after launched the Cherwell on Kickstarter. This is where we introduced ourselves to many of you. Our goal was to raise £30,000 to fund manufacturing of our initial prototype – in the end, by 25th February, 932 wonderful people had engaged with our dream, felt inspired, got involved, and pledged £179,194.
“An hour before we launched on Kickstarter Gordon rang me to suggest reducing our target to £25,000 as he was concerned we wouldn’t hit our target (campaigns need to hit 100% of their target to secure funding) – but I convinced him to stick to our guns. But not even I was prepared to see us pass £50,000 in the first hour – my wife called to congratulate us but I couldn’t speak to her as I was so emotional.”
Marloe Watch Company was, by this point, making a bit of a name for itself, and on 20th June we had an email from BBC journalist Daniel Thomas. He was putting together an article on the rebirth of British watchmaking and wanted to interview us to get a British Design perspective. Needless to say, overnight we were catapulted into watch world.
On 21st September, while Gordon continued to work remotely from his home in Scotland, Oliver moved Marloe Watch Company out of his dining room and into their very first office in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire (a stone's throw from Marlow). It was from this room that the very first Marloe Watch, a white dial Cherwell, was shipped to Tony McDonald, the first person to pledge for our Kickstarter campaign.
Day 1 of Cherwell Kickstarter fulfilment
Up until this point, Oliver and Gordon had not only been maintaining probably one of the most successful long-distance (professional) relationships of all time, but they had also never met. Everything up until this point had been done via telephone, email and FaceTime – but it was time to meet. On the 17th November, in a hotel lobby in Edinburgh, the two finally got to sit down with one another and discuss the whirlwind that was the past 20 months.
“I still find it incredible how much trust we had to put in one another to make this dream a reality. For nearly 2 years we’d never met – yet we both had unwavering confidence in one another to succeed.”
With Oliver and Gordon busy designing the Derwent and Lomond collections, and an ever-growing demand for Marloe watches, more space was needed to run the company. In January 2017 we moved into our affectionately named Dovecote Office, in Henley-on-Thames. We remain there to this day, on the banks of the river Thames, nestled in a quiet corner of the countryside.
We didn’t have long to settle however, as in February 2018 the Derwent Collection was launched. Inspired by the Lake District, specifically the beautiful and tranquil Derwent Water, it was born out of our love for traditional British watches of the 50s and 60s, with hi-dome acrylic crystals and small cases. British design was also at the heart of the Derwent collection, as every model took cues from various pieces of British inspiration - from a temperature gauge to a sundial.
Shortly afterwards, we launched the Lomond Chronoscope on Kickstarter. This was a more complex project for Marloe Watch Company – the Lomond used a stunning Sea-Gull movement with a 30-minute stopwatch – but once again it resonated with many of you, eventually raising £192,318 from 620 backers.
By now we’d learnt many valuable lessons in the watch production world – and this stood us in good stead as the first Lomond shipped 37 days ahead of schedule on September 15th, becoming the third collection of the growing Marloe Watch Company family.
Lomond Chronoscope watches being prepped for Kickstarter fulfilment
The Lomond Chronoscope was a Limited Edition timepiece of only 1,000 and was completely sold out only a few months later - making it the shortest lived collection we've ever offered.
That brings to a close the first part of our anniversary journal entry - please keep your eye our for part II, where we bring you right up to the present day - and even a little into the future!