The night before we launched the Morar I said to Oliver that this new watch, the one I’d anguished over for years, tweaking and tinkering and loving, would launch us into the stratosphere.
Such was the confidence I had in the design - the beauty of the thing - that it would put Marloe on the serious dive watch map. The inherently nautical form of the bezel, like a vintage diving helmet - check. The retro-inspired sizing of 40mm - how fresh - check. The weathered ocean-worn finishes - check. The technical ability despite its diminutive size; how can anyone not love that it is rated to 310 metres and only 40mm wide? - check. Colour-ways like the ocean? Check, check, check.
We launched the Morar at a time when we were a little distracted - the dust was still settling on our equity funding round on Crowdcube - and we assumed, given that we had put so much effort into the Morar project, that it would ride the incredible wave of visibility that we were witnessing, as we became the first ever customer-owned watch brand. Yet it didn’t - the Morar was launched to a few claps and a light heckle. Too small, too basic, too un-shiny; I don’t know what had happened or why. Were people looking at the same pictures as me? It was all a bit odd really, however, I knew in my heart that the design was solid and if we stick with it things would pick up. Not all our watches sell out and we don't expect them to, but the Morar was abnormally slow.
18-months later and we still love the Morar. It has almost an undercurrent existence - it sits below the ocean surface, in its natural habitat - loved and promoted by those who own them as a legitimate dive watch. But we look at them each day, the remainder we have here in the stockroom, and it breaks our hearts to know that if they were out in the world, they too would be getting loved and used and enjoyed - rather than sitting in the stock room waiting to be chosen. How can we release these fishes from the net that they’re captive within?
It’s clear now, looking back, that the Morar was always going to be an outsider. We had observed for some time how the dive watch category was driven by a very similar style - homage upon homage - mirror polished cases, contrasting bezels and snowflake hands. The Morar doesn’t have polished hands or Coca-Cola inspired colour schemes, because we approached the Morar from a functional position - what should a legitimate mechanical dive watch look like? What colours work at depth? What case finishes can withstand the rigours of deep-ocean diving? How does legibility work under the water? We didn’t want the Morar to be another tribute design to fit cosily alongside its contemporaries - we're proud of how unique and bold the Morar is, but perhaps the watch world wasn't quite ready for it yet.
The hour markings of the Morar mimic a simplified whorl shell. The biggest reason for these shapes was to give us the maximum real estate for luminous compound. Lume works on a density principle; the more of it there is, the brighter and more long-lasting it is. We wanted the best of both these features and so have created a multi-printed marking that lasts longer than any luminous compound we have seen.
The design and manufacture of the Morar is and always will be supreme in my eyes - we’ve gone beyond the level of what’s appropriate to make these watches the very best they can be, from an aesthetic and a technical standpoint. These little steel and sapphire pebbles are top-flight performers - we’ve designed them to be. But with a sense of personal deflation and a befuddled stare into the middle distance, we must now admit that the Morar project has not resonated with the market like we expected. We’ve given it the chance to shine, and it has in little bursts, but nothing that can be identified as a bona-fide success. In business these things happen - some products resonate and some don't - being designers of lifetime objects makes it all the more difficult because we know how good these objects are, but as a business we must make difficult decisions. It’s in our nature to want to hold on to them and find a way to make others see what we see. We’ve tried every avenue, so now it comes to the end, for the Morar as it stands.
We, as a business, need to realise the value that we have resting in our stockroom, because without it we are putting ourselves at risk; cash flow is a brutal, unwavering entity and we need to be especially careful in this new age of coronavirus and conflict that we don’t get caught out. Therefore, from today, the Morar as a continuing model in our line-up is no more. We are reducing the price of every Morar to £299, complete with both leather and silicone straps. It breaks my heart as the guy responsible for these little gems, but I’d far rather see them fly the nest than hold onto them for nostalgia’s sake.
The Morar is built to perform in the harshest environments - whether you're 100 metres below sea level or 1,000 metres above it. Taking its name from Loch Morar in Scotland, the deepest body of water in Britain, the Morar is designed for such depths, yet completely at home on dry land.
I’m a little emotional. The Morar was a project close to my heart and loved throughout - all good things must come to an end, and the Morar is one of our best. I guess the market just wasn’t ready to accept this outsider; this unconventional, brutal beauty. I’m not saying there will never be another Morar, because I genuinely feel this concept, design and culture has got so much potential - I think I can change a few things to make the Morar more in line with market expectations - but we have so many other exciting projects happening right now and into the following years, that it makes sense to close this chapter of our journey for now. The Morar, that dinky giant, is leaving us. I really hope you get to experience them before they’re gone.
The Morar - our Wabi-Sabi.