Sooner or later, unless you made out like a bandit with GME, we all come to the same conclusion: owning a Patek Philippe 1463 is probably out of the question. It’s too bad. The 1463 is perhaps the most objectively beautiful chronograph ever produced. It perfectly straddles the line between sporty and refined. Check that: it invented the line between sporty and refined. While to a modern watch lover the 1463 likely reads as downright dressy, particularly in its most common yellow gold case material, the reason this watch is special and historically significant is that it was Patek’s first waterproof chronograph, which in the 1940s was a true gamechanger. The perfectly balanced scientific dials featured telemeter, tachymeter, and pulsation scales in varying combinations through its years of production, lending the watch a practical usability if you, for example, work as a physician, or found yourself in a situation where it became suddenly necessary to outrun incoming cannon fire. See? Sporty.
Anyway, the 1463 is a six figure watch these days, so tough to acquire or justify for all but the 1%. Luckily, if you feel a deep connection to the aesthetic (just the aesthetic) and have a little over $ 300 left in your Robinhood account after the peak of stonks hysteria, a new Geneva based brand called Furlan Marri has a watch you might be interested in. Their debut timepiece takes the 1463 as a starting point and spins five separate dial variations out of it, each one looking like it could have just been time warped from smack dab in the middle of the 20th century.
Incidentally, if the 1463 (and vintage Patek chronographs in general) are of interest, be sure to bookmark Wei Koh’s excellent breakdown of the best of the best for Revolution, right here. Even if you’re not a buyer, the history is fascinating, and the watches are pure eye candy.
I was able to spend some time with the Furlan Marri ref. 1031A, playfully dubbed the “Havana Salmon,” prior to their Kickstarter launch, and I was impressed and surprised with just how effective this inexpensive watch is, even on someone like me, who is perhaps a little resistant to straight up homages and anything deeply “vintage inspired.” Let’s get into it.
Hands on with the Furlan Marri “Havana Salmon”
38 x 44mm
The Right Balance
Let’s get the homage thing out of the way right at the top. There will no doubt be some in our community who question this watch’s right to even exist, with the H-bomb being lobbed from all directions.
I’m on record over and over again as being far more into genuinely inspired contemporary design than regurgitations of watches from the past, but sometimes a watch comes along that features the right combination of vintage inspiration, price, and a hard to define quality that’s inherent in a watch’s branding to make it appealing even to someone relatively set in their ways.
For me, the Furlan Marri hits on all the right points. The watch it’s inspired by is virtually unavailable, for one, so there’s zero deliberation to be had about going for the homage or the original. It’s also priced well for what it is, and feels far more valuable than the completely fair asking price. And the folks behind Furlan Marri seem to be running their brand the right way, happily engaging with the watch community, providing a ton of information about their product ahead of its launch, and doing so with what appears to be some genuine good humor. They’ve leaned in to small details, have come up with a bunch of clever names for their new watches, and seem to have the confidence in their product that usually comes several releases into a brand’s life cycle. It feels like they know they’ve struck upon something that will get people excited.
It’s also inexpensive, and clearly positioned as a watch for enthusiasts who know the Patek reference it alludes to but don’t have ideas of obtaining one. I wouldn’t know first hand, but I imagine that there might even be some appeal here for people who do own that watch, or others like it. If you’re a really big Beatles fan, it can still be fun to hear a well thought out covers album, right? I think this watch might tap into something similar. But there’s no doubt that this goes down easier at a sub $ 500 price point than some of the higher priced homage watches we’ve seen recently. When you have less invested financially, it’s just easier to be pleasantly surprised, and this is a watch that you can’t help but think of as a major value proposition when you consider how attractive and well made it is. It wouldn’t work at twice the price, but at the $ 330 introductory Kickstarter price, it feels just right.
“Tasti Tondi,” and a Classic Dial Design
The Havana Salmon variant I had a chance to sample isn’t a direct copy of any particular Patek reference, but it borrows several key details from the 1463 and takes some clever artistic liberties in other areas. The “homage” element of this piece really comes through in the chronograph pushers, which share a distinctive design element of the 1463 in their unique shape and finishing. At a glance, you could mistake the pushers for those of the typical pump style, but looking closely at the top of each reveals something quite a bit fancier and more refined. The tops of the pushers have a very subtle cone shape, and are finished with a radiant, grooved pattern, which subtly reflects and complements the grooves cut into the crown. The 1463 developed it’s now iconic nickname, the “Tasti Tondi,” by virtue of these pushers, which translates to “round buttons” in English (and proves once again how much more fun the Italian language is). Furlan Marri has fully embraced the nickname, and given it to the gray and white two-toned version of this watch in their new collection, which naturally mimics the original 1463 more closely than the new brand’s other offerings – it’s the one to get if you want more of a true one-for-one style homage.
While the pushers are the little touch that is likely to most excite vintage watch nerds, my impression of the Havana Salmon ultimately rests primarily on the strength of the dial, which I just found to be an incredibly attractive color, with a layout that is perfectly proportional and suitable for a watch in this style. The dial’s focal point is the interior salmon colored section, which in turn contains the chronograph subdials in warm chocolate brown. (We’ll get to the movement details below, but will also note here that the 3:00 register is actually a 24 hour indicator, and not technically part of the chronograph). In this sector we find applied and nicely polished hour markers, Roman numerals at 12:00 and 6:00, and simple batons elsewhere (but not at 3:00 and 9:00, due to the subdials). The polished finishing on the markers is a great touch, and genuinely aids in legibility in certain lighting conditions. The other small detail that I really enjoy is the thin black ring that connects the hour markers. It serves to further accentuate the sectored aspect of the dial, and provides a line for some text that you might not spot right away between 4:00 and 5:00, which shows the reference number of the watch. This feels like Furlan Marri playing with the tradition of “hidden signatures,” and further elevates the dial design in my opinion. The typeface used, incidentally, is “Decimal” by Hoefler and Co., which is based on vintage watch typography and has been featured in these pages before.
The outer track in brown is home to a tachymeter scale, and overlaps with the like-colored subdials at their outer edges. That overlapping might be a legitimate gripe for some (similarly, the subdials overlap or completely eliminate several hour markers) but it’s at least historically correct in the context of the 1463. It’s hard for me to imagine an alternative design choice that would lead to a dial that’s equally appealing. Reducing the size of the subdials might do it, but the proportions would feel off. Additional full hour markers overlapping the subdials might make it all feel too cluttered. For me, the layout works remarkably well, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Like the dial, the case feels well conceived and nicely proportioned, and measuring in at 38mm in diameter, I think almost anyone can wear this watch and feel like it’s an appropriate size. It’s only 11.2mm thick, and because of the lightweight movement the Furlan Marri has a barely there quality to it on the wrist that’s very appealing, but in the hand the case still feels somewhat substantial and well machined. The case flanks have a satin finish, and tops of the lugs are high polished. There’s no fancy beveling here, which is not expected at this price point, but the case does feature a traditional “step” design leading to the polished bezel and domed sapphire crystal, similar to what we’ve seen from Baltic and others in their own watches inspired by mid-century styles. It’s an effective but subtle technique that adds quite a bit of character and charm.
Also worth mentioning is the design of the lugs, which curl down and have an almost apostrophe-like shape when viewed from the side. They don’t hug the wrist quite as much as you might expect – they sit virtually flush with the caseback. You might think the watch would sit tall on the wrist for this reason, but in my experience it wears with a very low profile. With the exception of the pushers, the case doesn’t really draw attention to itself and has an overall neutral aesthetic, which I think is appropriate. The dial details are the highlight of the Furlan Marri and its case doesn’t distract from them, while still providing a very pleasant wearing experience and not letting down the overall quality of the piece.
I’d guess that the most significant choice that the folks behind Furlan Marri had to make in the process of bringing their first watch to market was which movement to use. They’ve selected a Seiko meca-quartz caliber, VK64, and it achieves a few important objectives. First and foremost, it enables this watch to be targeted to enthusiasts at an attractive price. If you’re charmed by the design, a little over $ 300 via Kickstarter isn’t a heavy lift. You might even decide to pick up more than one – Furlan Marri has done a nice job of designing early bird packages that tempt customers into collecting them all.
Meca-quartz is also a functional win for Furlan Marri. While timekeeping is regulated by a quartz oscillator in these watches, the chronograph action is mechanical. Starting and stopping the chronograph feels much like any traditional mechanical chrono, and it resets with a satisfying, instantaneous snap. Imagining this watch with a full quartz chronograph movement with a chrono seconds hand that resets with a smooth but glacial glide, or ticks in one second increments, is far less appealing.
Because of the nature of the VK64 movement, the timing functionality of the chronograph is slightly limited. The 9:00 subdial counts the minutes up to a full hour, so timing anything longer than 60 minutes will be tricky. As mentioned above, the 3:00 subdial isn’t part of the chronograph at all, but effectively functions as an AM/PM indicator. That’s not a feature I’ve ever found particularly useful, and it’s even less so on a chronograph, but it’s a necessary compromise to make use of the VK64. At the end of the day, Furlan Marri is able to achieve a particular aesthetic through their implementation of the VK64, and get the tactile feel they were clearly after without charging mechanical chronograph prices. It seems to me that they had a set of priorities for this first watch and satisfied them all.
I was impressed with Furlan Marri’s debut effort and think they’ve put together a nice watch for the money that fills a need that I honestly didn’t know I had for a look-alike 1463. The Havana Salmon dial is suitably different from any existing Patek Philippe reference that I’m aware of that it wouldn’t feel cheesy walking around with this on my wrist if I chose to actually own one (full disclosure: I’m seriously considering it). Which is not to say that a more faithful rendition to an original 1463 should be avoided – it just represents a personal preference on my part.
I think it’s interesting to look at the Furlan Marri as part of the ongoing conversation we seem to be having in enthusiast circles on the subject of homage watches in general, and what gets a pass (or is fully embraced) versus what is immediately ridiculed on the forums and social media. For me, Furlan Marri’s watch feels a lot like some of the watches of Dan Henry, a brand that’s carved out a niche making well machined, inexpensive, quartz versions of highly collectible super-watches, or watches that are just rare and difficult to source. Both brands seem to approach their designs with admiration and respect for the past, and the end result is an egalitarian entry point for collectors looking to experience an iconic design without spending tens of thousands of dollars on the “real thing.” It’s tough to put a finger on why a watch like this feels different than a Steinhart playing off a vintage Rolex, but I think there’s something playful about the Furlan Marri that ultimately won me over. The details feel rewarding and thoughtful – those who buy the watch through the Kickstarter campaign will have the watch’s reference number engraved on the case, for example, and the packaging is a tasteful leather carrying case.
It’s also worth noting that according to Furlan Marri, some of the details on the prototype that I’ve been testing and you see photographed here will change for the final release. They tell me that the dial will have a brighter color tone, and that word “Chronograph” will be removed. Both seem like positive changes and reflect that Furlan Marri notices the small things, which should serve them well as they plan future releases (they say a dive watch and mechanical chronograph are both in the planning stages).
Those future watches are likely to sit at a higher price point, so Furlan Marri might only represent something in the overwhelming value category for so long. Even this meca-quartz chronograph at its full retail price of $ 475 feels like it might be steep for a new brand’s very first release, but given the opportunity to handle and wear the watch, I think it’s likely that enthusiasts will like what Furlan Marri is offering.
Furlan Marri’s Kickstarter campaign launches today, and you can find more information right here.