So How Is It?
The internet’s favorite watch company, MVMT, has quietly released its first automatic watch, the Arc Automatic. 5-year-old fashion watch brand MVMT was recently bought by Movado, and MVMT seems to be putting its newfound access to money and resources to some use, putting out an automatic watch in four different color and strap combinations. Each build is a stainless steel case, coming in at $300.
Recently, I warned against buying MVMT and Daniel Wellington watches, instead directing you towards a number of microbrands that have used ecommerce and social media to find success. This move shows MVMT may be taking a step into “real” watch making, now that is has introduced millennials to the idea of wearing something on the wrist (Apple Watches and Fitbits have also done a great job of this). It’s a classic story of disruption — start at the low end of an industry and eventually move upmarket, undercutting your competitors’ prices in the process — and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the watch industry. Watches are so unlike many other industries where true disruption has occurred: brands have built up equity over centuries, and there is certainly no shortage of demand for luxury timepieces right now. In fact, it’s almost hard to contemplate a world in which Wall Street bros aren’t blowing their first bonus on Rolex Submariners or Panerais that are way too big for their wrists. Indeed, the true luxury market for watches in the U.S. has thrived over the past few years (over $6,000), even as the under-$3,000 market has struggled.
The MVMT Arc Automatic: What We Know
Microbrand watch companies have flourished in part because of their transparency: they leave no doubt about where they source their movements from, where manufacturing and assembly takes place, and how many watches they’re producing in a series. You’ll find no such transparency on MVMT’s website. There’s no discussion of the movement inside their Arc Automatics. However, from the looks of a 30-second unlisted YouTube hype video they posted, it looks as though they’re using a Miyota 8215 caliber in the watches (Miyota is a part of Citizen Group). It’s a common movement used in accessibly-priced automatic watches, and while it won’t win any awards for beauty or accuracy, it’s certainly a passable movement. I more so begrudge the company for not being transparent in what’s inside their watches.
The watch is also fairly large, measuring in at 41mm in diameter and 13.25mm thick. It surely wears large as well, since MVMT has brought over their trademark minimalist approach to the dial, meaning there is little bezel and the dial reaches nearly to the edge of the watch.
In short, I’ve got mixed feelings about the watch, and MVMT’s approach in general. I applaud the company for introducing a new generation to wearing something on the wrist, even if they did so by selling cheap, battery powered gadgets that were made in China for a few dollars. They were never a watch company, but always just a social media marketing company that happened to sell watches. I have much the same feeling now that they’ve begun selling automatic timepieces: they’re upselling an entry-level watch movement with a trendy dial design. But if it gets more people into mechanical timepieces, then what is there really to complain about? I’ll sit around hoping their next purchase is a true timepiece with minimalist inspiration, perhaps Nomos’ Tangente or Junghans’ Max Bill.
For now though, I’ll continue to refer to the Seiko 5 line as the ideal entry-level mechanical watch. Still the only place you can find true in-house, workhorse movements at sub-$300 prices. So before you click purchase on that MVMT Instagram ad, do a little research.