I’m sure I don’t have to state the obvious, but things have been a bit quiet on the old communications front recently. Whilst our Instagram page is updated every other week now, rather than every other day, our wee journal here is also looking a bit tumble-weedy.
The simple truth of it is, we’re really busy! The Christmas period is always a hectic time for us here, making sure that orders are processed and shipped as quickly as possible, not to mention customer queries being dealt with swiftly both via email and telephone - there were days when the phone barely stopped ringing for 8 hours straight. November and December are our peak months for traffic and in 2022 we ended the year a little bit behind the 8-ball. The Coniston Auto, Tay and Sceptre projects had all fallen into Q4, despite our best efforts to stagger the productions throughout the year; Coronavirus and its long fingers have caused many down-stream issues in manufacturing for a lot of people.
We managed to navigate around the issue somewhat with pre-orders and placeholder cards arranged in quick time; not exactly the Christmas present some envisaged waking up to, but we did our best and, despite having the Sceptre arrive in November and getting it ready to sell, it was the Coniston and Tay that most seemed to be holding out for. Frustratingly, we did actually receive the stock here in the office mid-December, but owing to our quality control checks and the frantic nature of the month anyway, it was impossible to ship prior to the big day.
A New Year
The January views from our Orwell Office.
Forecasting anything can be a tricky business, especially when it comes to commerce and customer buying patterns. Experts have been warning those in retail that the first few months of 2023 will be absolute misery. The cost of living crisis, energy crisis, mortgage crisis and the continuing conflict in Ukraine are all contributing to the long road back to normality.
With a hefty dose of surprise and humility we've seen a very good January - our best since the madness of 2020. Nicola has been run off her feet and I’ve been dipping in and out, helping with the flurry of orders - we are extremely grateful and surprised to see so many of our newest launches leaving our headquarters. The Coniston Auto has seen a magnificent reception and our wee tank, the Tay, likewise. Interesting to see that some have struggled with the sizing of the Tay when they open the box, not realising its diminutive proportions despite all the information being available; we’re thinking of how to better present the size of the Tay so that folk know it really is 35mm!
Soon we will open our satellite office near Marlow - it’ll be great to have another station for people to come visit us and see what we do. Oliver is getting himself ready for the transition of some logistics and procedural elements of our business to him, and I’m readying myself for a bit more time to focus on things like this journal, our communications, and of course, design. It’s been such a complex and challenging 3 years operating a small business in such turbulent times; every week we’ve had another un-forecasted situation to try and resolve - from logistical and customs-based quandaries, to legal challenges from corporate giants - all directing our attention to places we didn’t think we’d see. But as the dust begins to settle on what has been a frantic 12 weeks or so, calmness is beginning to descend.
The Morar Project Begins
For me, most of January has been thankfully head-deep in the research process for the Morar Second Edition. I love this part of what I do, and it’s so wonderful to be discovering new things again. Sinking my teeth into a new watch design has been regenerating. Most of 2022 for me was spent controlling the productions and doing plumb zero designing - all of the collections we launched last year were designed in 2021 or earlier! We launched the Astro, Sceptre, Coniston Auto and Tay during the year, along with creating all the supporting materials - pictures, videos, blog pieces, promotional content and everything besides, and it’s been hard not putting pen to paper for so long.
My focus for the Morar project, and the research I’ve been doing, has revolved a wee bit around the history of diving, and the innovations that have manifested over the decades, but to be honest with you the bulk of that world has been done to death. I’d hazard that most people buying a dive watch these days don’t care a jot about why or how folk physically go about existing under the waves. As such, I’ve done a brief delve into the early diving era - dive dress and diving bells - but have made a quick exit into another area that has far more scope for creativity.
I’ve always had a deep respect and admiration for the emergency services and always wanted to be a firefighter; despite having no qualms with risking my life for others, it’s the human distress that halts me. I’m a hopeless empath, and I don’t think I’d be able to cope with the, at times, unfathomable suffering the emergency services are witness to. Fortunately for me, Oliver’s brother Tom is both a firefighter and a paramedic and I’ve spent enough time with Tom, and listened in awe at his experiences, to inspire me to open the Morar project up to include the living heroes amongst us.
The Morar is a dive watch ultimately, and so my approach needs to orbit around the sea. Coastguards and the Search and Rescue services are of huge interest, and I’ve been reading a lot about the history of our SAR elite here in the UK and further afield. The bravery and skill of these people is utterly captivating. The machines are fascinating too: the Westland Wessex, Westland Sea King and the latest Sikorsky helicopters have so much that can influence the direction of the Morar, and after all, the folk inside these flying life rafts require a watch that is resistant to the ultra-harsh conditions they see on a day-to-day basis.
There are tentacles that stretch outwards from these areas too. Helicopter 66 is an interesting link to the Astro project and much of the research I’ve been doing in that area is included in my process for the Morar. It’s getting really exciting now thinking of the next phase, putting pen to paper and finally getting all the ideas swimming about in my big head out into the world. I already have a few ideas for the Morar that I hope can be realised, and we have several things lined up in the coming months that will contribute to the project immeasurably.
Gordon's sketches of an early dive dress, and a UK SAR Winch Operative
I hope 2023 will be a more settled year for everyone. It’s hard enough coming out of the turmoil of Covid without facing all the other crises, and I know we are so lucky to have some semblance of balance here at Marloe, but I know too that it can turn the other direction on a six-pence.
Thank you to everyone who has continued to support us as we forge our path through this world of time, and keep spreading the word of Marloe. There are some extremely exciting things to come from us and we can't wait to show you all.